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Marginalia: Six Personal Libraries

Royce, Josiah. The Conception of God: A Philosophical Discussion Concerning the Nature of the Divine Idea as a Demonstrable Reality. New York: Macmillan, 1897. WJ 477.98. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Personal copy of William James.

Marginalia provide unique records of the reader’s experience. Offering insights into how and why a reader reads, marginalia take many forms. These range from glosses on difficult words or passages and lengthier notes on the meaning of a text, to illustrations and personal marks used to denote passages of particular interest. While marginalia are often highly systematic, they are also as individualistic: every reader’s engagement with a text is unique. Marginalia shed light on the mental, emotional, and intellectual process of reading, as well as changing historical patterns of reading practice.

Selections from Harvard

Drawn from the holdings of Houghton Library, selections include works with marginalia from the personal libraries of notable literary and cultural figures, notably Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, John Keats, Herman Melville, and Hester Lynch Piozzi.

The Reading collection does not include extra-illustrated works, works with printed glosses or annotations, or works whose handwritten annotations are corrections of typographical errors in the printed text. Not every page in every work contains marginalia. In certain cases, the absence of marginalia may be as significant as their presence.

Refer to the Register of Marginalia in Items in Personal Libraries as a handy reference guide to the sequence numbers where marginalia are present in each volume.

Browse works containing marginalia by:

Thomas Carlyle
Ralph Waldo Emerson
William James
John Keats
Herman Melville
Hester Lynch Piozzi