Biomedicine in museums

Interest in book and journal marginalia grows as Google and publishers puts books and journals online

As a comment to the current weeding out of physical copies of scientific journals in many libraries around the world (because more and more older journal series are put online), Karen Reeds points out (in a recent comment on the H-SCI-TECH-MED list, #105, 2009) that there are good reasons to save the actual physical copies of books and journals with all their marginalia instead of relying on digitised copies only:

The evidence of actual use makes the marked-up copies unique and very good both for teaching and rousing public interest in the works (not to mention your library). And scholarly interest in such annotations growing

she writes and adds:

I’d urge taking a minute or two for each volume to check for signatures, marginalia, bookmarks and other indications of provenance and readers’ reactions to the works

Agree! Marginalia are sometimes more interesting than the printed text itself. But it also makes me think that such alleged scholarly interest in annotations may be growing precisely because of the progressive destruction of the paper-based literature. In other words, if Google and others had not started putting library books and journals online, and therefore induced more and more (smaller) libraries to weed out their paper copies, few scholars would be interested in such marginalia.    

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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