Before IROB died a not entirely unexpected death, I had started discussing a concept I have labeled “biblio-sentimentality.” Biblio-sentimentality is the emotional attraction to books that have inscriptions, notes or items inside them that causes me to purchase such books, even when the content of the book may not be meaningful to me. I divide the items that inspire biblio-sentimentality into three categories: ephemera, or items left in books that have nothing to do with the book itself (which I discussed in this entry); inscriptions, which can be from the author or messages to a gift recipient; and marginalia, which includes notations in margins in books as well as highlighting and underlining. We often see books with particularly compelling items that tug at our biblio-sentimentality and we have to buy the book. We worry that the book is sad or lonely. We feel we need to rescue it.
(Mr OTC and I are well-matched in our near-animist capability of seeing emotions in inanimate objects. We see a well-loved book and think it is miserable because it was parted from its reader. We finally bought a new car after driving a 17-year-old Honda until the wheels nearly fell off and when we left it at the dealership I was afraid the car, a she-car, would be bereft because we abandoned her for a shinier and more reliable replacement. We frequently try to appease our home, which has eldritch elements that at times seem threatening but can be tamped down if we keep our complaints to ourselves.)
This entry will show a couple my favorite examples of marginalia in my collection.
The first is actually a hybrid of sorts, an excellent example of marginalia and book customization. This edition of Liber Kaos is Mr OTC’s book and he bought it because it just seemed nuts that someone who took this much time to reinforce a book binding would willingly get rid of it.
The book just seemed too personalized to have been left at the used book store for anything other than a very dire reason. Someone carefully measured out near-equidistant spots for holes, took an awl and carefully punctured the cover and pages, and laced waxed twine through the holes. I’ve never seen a book customized this way and it points to a reader who, at some point, felt this book to be very important.
I don’t think we have too many examples of customized books but I also have swathes of books that I haven’t examined in a while and sometimes Mr OTC slides books into shelves before I am able to inspect and inventory them. But in all my time in book accumulation, I haven’t seen this sort of careful alteration.