Posted in Book Stuff

writing in the margins, from quill to ebooks

According to the marginalia scholar H. J. Jackson, the golden age of marginalia lasted from roughly 1700 to 1820. The practice, back then, was surprisingly social — people would mark up books for one another as gifts, or give pointedly annotated novels to potential lovers. Old-school marginalia was — to put it into contemporary cultural terms — a kind of slow-motion, long-form Twitter, or a statusless, meaning-soaked Facebook, or an analog, object-based G-chat. (Nevermind: it was social, is my point.)

The author goes on to speculate and fantasize about how marginalia could similarly be shared in the electronic age. My reaction to his excitement over a twitter-like sharing of marginalia is one of overwhelm. How much can a person absorb? But read it for yourself and let me know what you think.


Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

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