Marginalia and manicules were just a few of the subjects touched upon by Leah Price in When to Read Was to Write,” a recent London Review of Books piece on William H. Sherman’s Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England. Price wrote:
Sherman replaces ‘reading’ by the more capacious term ‘use’. This rebranding isn’t just a digitally inspired euphemism. To think in terms of ‘use’ is to demote reading to one entry in a long list of things that people can do to books and with books, including searching, owning, signing, repairing and displaying. Some of these activities (the ones on which Sherman’s analysis lingers) are verbal; others are purely manual. As a result, Sherman acknowledges, marginalia are not the monopoly of literary critics: other disciplines, notable archaeology, have developed sophisticated tools with which to study material culture.
Price also makes some interesting comparisons between ‘social tagging’ and marginalia.