One possession I cherish is the anthology of Shakespeare’s works that my mother used as a university student. Published in 1927 by The Literary Digest, it is tiny compared to the Riverside edition I used as an undergraduate. The book contains no annotation except for my mother’s name and the date, 1954, so it is curious to me that she held onto the book for so long. In contrast, my Riverside edition has highlights in two different colors and annotations that I am sure are direct quotes from my instructor about theme, character, and context. But my marginal notes also reveal an engaged reader who underlined both lines I loved and passages I thought were important.
I wonder if these two texts demonstrate how annotation is a relatively recent development in reading. I have books that I owned back before I was a university student and remember feeling that it would somehow deface the page to underline words or write in the margins. Perhaps this is because I bought very few books and so transferred my respect for library books to the texts I owned.