Saturday, January 06, 2007

Mulling-Look that up in your Funk & Wagnall


I occasionally mull, and one of the subjects I mull over is the marking of books. When I was very, very young, I was scolded if I scribbled in a book. Later, in school I learned that the 11th Commandment was, “Thou shalt not mark in books”. This had a practical reason, since the books belonged to the school and were given, the next year, to another student who was similarly told not the mark the book. If you broke this commandment, of course, your parents received a bill from the school board. This would lead to harsh repercussions. After leaving high school and getting to college I could see some practical use for marking in books if, in fact, the prof had indicated some particular part of the chapter that he intended to test on. However, there was an economic side to this, since the purchase of books each semester was expensive and was often financed by reselling the previous semester’s books to the bookstore. They would markedly (attempted pun) reduce the price if they found that scribbling, underlining, highlighting*, or other sins had been practiced upon the book. So it’s never been clear to me, I often feel I bought it; I paid for it; it IS my book. Why can’t I mark it? Well on further mulling, it occurs to me that when I finish with a book I’m either going to give away, in which case my markings are no value to the receiver, or I am going to stick it on a book shelf, up on the top shelf, and probably never look at it again. My markings will be for naught. So what am I to believe, should I mark books when the urge strikes me, or should I not?

* Who am I kidding? Highlighters had not been invented when I was in school.

4 comments:

Oestre-Bunny said...

I am a firm believer that one should never mark a book, unless said book is a textbook. your markings are often usefull to the following year's pupils and make revising a hell of a lot easier.

but of course now marking books can only be temporary. instead of using actual pens or highlighters, you can be tacky highlighter strips that can be peeled off when your finished.

east village idiot said...

I am a book marker. It took a long time to get past my catholic guilt on that point. But I find that if I mark a book it helps when I refer back to it.

Marilyn said...

I STILL can't bring myself to mark up my books. Maybe because I tend to eventually give them away...and the highlights/markings might be too revealing, eh? :) My mother, on the other hand, marks up her books like crazy...which makes them hard to unload at used bookstores.

Bill Anderson said...

Mark away I say, and I do. I think that the marginalia can be the best part of some books. But I'm an inveterate reader and marker of the books I own. Oh, I usually use a pencil ... just in case I want to change that comment ....