In a society and time that was bound by privileges of literacy education, the knowledge, time, and materials necessary to create marginalia were accessible to a narrow population of annotators. What can be gleaned from marginalia is a sense of annotators from an individual level to a composite scope informed by the larger context of a cultural moment and its philosophies of the act of reading. A microcosm of an individual annotator and his or her interactions with a work in a study as unique and variable as marginalia speaks to a larger cultural moment. To be well read and familiar with the classical canon was an essential part of being a courteous scholar. Through marginalia, an opportunity to immerse in peripheral marks of early modern readership presents itself. In the margins of books, traces of past readers reflect aspects of themselves, their occasions and motivations of reading, and the context of their social and historical moment.
This study focuses on five primary sources. These titles may abstractly be linked through the possibility of them having passed through the hands and social circles of aspiring scholars, gentlemen, and courtiers. An abstract early modern English library can be substantiated by the vast variety of topics between books that would have fallen into an ideal reader’s possession. The early modern annotator attempted to justify through the practice and fashionable practice of annotating their belonging to the class of the educated and well read. Although the majority of the annotators in this study remain anonymous, the identification of one prominent annotator—Gabriel Harvey—illuminates an understanding of early modern marginalia and the annotators who left their mark on a page.
Laura Michelson, ’16
Mount Vernon, IA
Medieval & Early Modern Studies
Sponsor: Michelle Herder