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.