From handwritten marginal commentary and sketches to rebinding and editorial notes, the book presented in this exhibition at the National Gallery of Art are unique, because they bear personal imprints of history. Each of the books on display has been transformed from a standard mass-printed volume into a uniquely personal object. They illuminate us with insights into the texts themselves, as well as the readers who read, enjoyed, and annotated them - and the relationships between the two.
In the manuscript era, extra-large margins were sometimes provided for scholars to provide commentary, known as glosses. Early printed books incorporated these glosses along with the main text, and modern readers continued the tradition of adding their own thoughts in the margins. Benjamin Franklin, for example, was known to have penned entire debates with authors in the blank spaces of his books; other readers adorned the text with sketches and illustrations or had their books rebound and included extra material such as prints, notes, and correspondence. In several cases, the author has made editorial notes and revisions for the next edition of his book. The exciting exhibition covers all these possibilities of enriching a book with individualism and its unique history.
(Image: Annotations and sketches by Nicholas Udall in Livy, T. Livii Patavini Latinae historiae principis Decades tres cum dimidiae, Basel, 1549, National Gallery of Art Library, C. Wesley and Jacqueline Peebles Fund)