So that I don’t hang, draw and quarter you for writing in a book; or Beautiful bookmarks

by Anna Blanch on May 26, 2010


I love books. I have mixed feelings about annotating them. Pencil is okay, but only if you don’t decimate the page by underlining every single line. Pen is not okay. and if you are one of those people who highlight works of literature I might have to subject you to being hung, drawn and quartered. As for articles, I’ll quote Rhett and say “Frankly my dear, i don’t give a [flying sword fish]” what you do – even the dastardly highlighting is in play – in fact i’ve done it myself often. I’ve been using the annotation, sticky note, highlighting features of Adobe Acrobat Professional lately – because I have an Electronic Library and i don’t want to kill anymore forests than is entirely necessary – and though it doesn’t rival the hardcopy experience (indeed, i’m still learning to read on a screen) it is a helpful alternative to printing out reams of paper you will never look at again!



The idea of reading Ben Johnson’s annotations in a copy of Quintilian sends me to a happy place as does knowing that the witty annotations of certain famous authors show they didn’t take kindly to the printed word of their contemporaries are preserved for the rest of us to chuckle at heartily. Reading William Gladstone’s copy of Nesbit’s Leaves of Life was one such happy moment! I wrote about that here.


Post it notes are not the archivists idea of low impact, but they are better for books than folding down corners to mark your or writing in Pen to link annotations to a specific locations. It won’t make the scholars in 200 years or more happy – but who knows if they’ll care about what i did with books, or if the physical specimens actually still exist! There are some fun post-it-note designs available now (I like the different size ones, especially the 1/4 size ones, otherwise i end up ripping the big ones into strips and i’m sure it annoys my office mates!). There’s even an electronic version to prevent all those sticky notes from ending up layered on the end of your computer screen


However, and now we are getting to heart of the matter, some bookmarks just warm the cockles of my little research heart…


Grass. Blades of Grass.


My fall back for when I’m wanting to take notes while reading are the ol’ faithful yellow post-its.


I like those beautiful metal and heavy weight bookmarks, but the reality is that they aren’t very practical and when you read alot, beauty and utility are a must!


My day to day are the simple (available from Walmart/Tesco) see through tabs (they usually come in 4-5 colours in a pack). They don’t come out in photocopies and they are reusable. Plus they are cheap. Like really cheap. and for situations where I don’t want to take notes at the time like during a first read or marking up for quotations I’d like to use in a paper or article. Simple is often best.

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image: (book heart) Microsoft Clipart
(Blades) GreenMarkers 
Anna Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD student in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. She’s not feeling great today and so needs all the beauty – even if it is in the form of bookmarks – she can get!!

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