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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Marginalia Caesaris

Posted by Adam Roberts on 01/27/07 at 04:00 PM

Trivial stuff. this, yes, but it entertains me.  I’m talking about some marginalia I found in the copy of the Loeb Caesar’s Gallic Wars I recently picked up in a second-hand bookstore.  It’s the 1958 edition with H J Edwards’s translation facing the Latin text, with lots of beautiful two-tone, fold-out maps.  And it is copiously annotated with the blue-ink marginalia of a previous owner of the book: a strong hand, indicative, I feel, of a forceful individuality.  Speaking generally I love reading the annotation of previous readers in the second hand books I buy; any number of insights could be contained in the scribbles.  And these marginalia are very nice.

A couple of the comments are nicely fatuous.  For example: Caesar begins his account, as every schoolchild knows, with the statement that all Gaul is divided into three parts. This, together with ‘veni, vidi, vici’, is surely the most famous thing Caesar ever said.  The Loeb left hand page gives us ‘Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres’.  The right hand page gives us ‘Gaul is a whole divided into three parts.’ Above this my annotator has written, in large and forceful letters:

Gaul ÷ 3 parts

Why on earth would he need such an aide memoire?  Is he, like, an idiot, that he could read ‘Gaul is a whole divided into three parts’ and ‘Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres’ and then put the book down thinking, ‘right, Gaul. That was an eleven-part division of … um…’

Better are the maps.  These have added piquancy in our current terrorism-hysterical age, but I find something most peculiar about what this guy (I assume it was a guy) has done to the maps in the Loeb edition of Caesar’s Gallic Wars.  Here’s an example:

It’s not just the slightly insane memo-to-self: ‘study this map very carefully’, it’s that spy-land injunction ‘be able to reproduce the above quickly and accurately’.  Presumably it was some exam-room strategy, but what if it wasn’t?  What if the marginalia-guy was a 1950s terrorist planning a guerrilla assault on Berry-au-Bac?  Now not all the maps have this sort of scary scribbling on them.  There’s nothing on the maps about the campaigns against the Helvetii for instance; or the maps showing the invasion of Britain.  But on the map of the battle of the Sampre we get the same earnest automessage.

How close, I wonder, did the French Republic in the later 1950s come to being overthrown by a classically-trained Che Guevara figure, leading legionnaires into war and possessed of the ability to scribble out detailed battle maps from memory quickly and accurately?

And on an entirely unrelated matter: the 1958 Loeb vol contains a handsome frontispiece photograph of a bust of Caesar.  The photo is protected by one of those tracing-paper inserts.  And on the tracing paper insert is printed the following:

Which is to say … the frontispiece is not of Caesar at all.  Which surely makes us question (a) why it was included in the first place, and (b) why the disclaimer goes into such extraordinary and irrelevant detail?  What’s Professor Furtwaengler to us, or we to Professor Furtwaengler?  It really is curiouser and curiouser.


Comments

This reminds me of the copy of Barthelme’s The Dead Father I found in a church basement sale. Whoever owned it before me was clearly mourning the death of his own father, as he’d written “For Papa” and birth and death dates on the title page.

Of course, he didn’t seem to find what he was looking for. His annotations, endlessly searching for meaning and symbolism in a book that’s frustratingly evasive about “fathers” (offering archetypes like “The Roan Father” and “The Fanged Father” along with the titular dead father, a giant figure with a leg made of mackerel salad being dragged across the landscape) were at first wince-worthy, and, by the end, downright sad. “Where is mother?” etc.

By Carrie Shanafelt on 01/27/07 at 04:48 PM | Permanent link to this comment

So what you’re saying is, I should indicate—by reproducing samples of her handwriting, if possible—what’s mine and what’s Spivak’s?

That said, I’m confused at where the insert ends and you begin in that last paragraph.  The idea that you’re not the first one to think this “curiouser and curiouser” is even more enticing.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 01/27/07 at 04:59 PM | Permanent link to this comment

We’re missing some scans on this post, right?

By Carrie Shanafelt on 01/27/07 at 05:11 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Yes, I think we are.  Adam?  Honey?  Stop fiddlin’ with the Photoshop already…

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 01/27/07 at 05:16 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Dammee.  The scans come out alright on my server.  I’m looking at them right now: two lovely maps and a Note on the Frontispiece:

This bust was purchased by the British Museum in 1818 but in 1932 the authorities acknowledged that it was a forgery (probably of the 18th century) and removed it from the Roman Galleries.  Its authenticity was first questioned by Professor Furtwaengler, whose opinion was supported by Mrs. Strong in her book on Roman Sculpture, published in 1907.

So nobody else can see those things, no?  Is it just me?  Am I hallucinating?

By Adam Roberts on 01/27/07 at 05:23 PM | Permanent link to this comment

They’re here now!

By Carrie Shanafelt on 01/27/07 at 05:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam, you’re not hallucinating.  As soon as I went to the Blogger address, they started appearing for me too...which has something to do with how they were cached on your computer.  However, I’ve moved them to flickr.  Do they work now?

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 01/27/07 at 05:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

And I’m glad they’re here. They are insane and delightful.

Is it possible that some professor gave “reproduce these maps quickly and accurately” as an assignment? They have the flavor of a first-year undergrad forced to take notes.

By Carrie Shanafelt on 01/27/07 at 05:32 PM | Permanent link to this comment

They’ve come out fantastically huge, too, which I feel adds to the effect.

By Adam Roberts on 01/27/07 at 05:40 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I love the frontispiece note.

The exam hypothesis reminds me of

http://timesonline.typepad.com/dons_life/2007/01/exams_are_getti.html

on century-old classics exam questions like “Describe with a sketch-plan the Circus Maximus at Rome.”

By on 01/27/07 at 05:48 PM | Permanent link to this comment

On marginalia, I’ve never been bashfull about this. I have little compunction about marking up books, though I’m more economical about it than I was in my youth. And I also like to make up an “index” to interesting passages that scrawls across pages in the font matter. But, while I do revisit some of the annotations and marks indicating importance, I don’t revist most of them. From this I’ve informally concluded that the mere act of making the marks is the important thing; actually using them at a later time is secondary—though, on occasion, quite convenient and important. Just why this should be so, I do not know. Perhaps that’s what’s going on in those apparently pointless annotations you’ve reproduced for us, Adam.

By Bill Benzon on 01/27/07 at 06:40 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m ashamed to say that half of my marginalia is substantive commentary, while the other half is stuff like “Learn to make rice pudding, not the runny kind.”

By Carrie Shanafelt on 01/27/07 at 06:59 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Well, so the question that occurs to me, Carrie, is how many others make similarly irrelevant marginalia. What’s the rhetoric of marginalia?

By Bill Benzon on 01/27/07 at 08:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Bill B, I’m with you: that’s why I don’t bother to make my marginalia legible.  By the way, did anyone notice that on the second map it actually says “carefully and quickly” rather than “quickly and accurately”?  Weird.  And yes, insane and delightful.

By Dave Maier on 01/27/07 at 11:46 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"The frontispiece is not of Caesar at all.  Which surely makes us question (a) why it was included in the first place”

It’s a forgery, but probably a forgery of the “Caesar’s-head” typum. Sort of like all the Venuses - there’s no “authentic” one, so even a forged one “looks” just as much like Caesar. For all we know.

The rhetoric of marginalia is interior monologue, unless you’re Shadi Barch (sp.?), in which case it’s indignant scorn for the author, and easter-egg cryptic messages to future generations of grad students.

By on 01/28/07 at 12:31 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam,

Great post. I always find marginalia fun. I have a set of dusty books called the Delphian course that is packed with notes and letters from an ambitious feminist autodidact from a century ago.

In your case, maybe the guy found it in the bookstore last summer and he is an avid Military role playing gamer.  The “General” was sitting around his lonely apartment mapping out his conquest, writing with a bold hand to remember the strategies to conquer his friends. Then he found a girlfriend and the book ended up with you.

By Christopher Hellstrom on 01/28/07 at 01:17 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Maybe he was working on a time machine.

By David Moles on 01/28/07 at 03:51 AM | Permanent link to this comment

On unrelated statuary matter:
Chateaubriand’s René: One day, as I was walking in a large city, I passed through a secluded and deserted courtyard behind a palace. There I noticed a statue pointing to a spot made famous by a certain sacrifice. I was struck by the stillness of the surroundings; only the wind moaned weakly around the tragic marble. Workmen were lying about indifferently at the foot of the statue or whistled as they hewed out stones. I asked them what the monument meant; some knew little indeed, while the others were totally oblivious of the catastrophe it commemorated. Nothing could indicate so vividly the true import of human events and the vanity of our existence. What has become of those figures whose fame was so widespread? Time has taken a step and the face of the earth has been made over.
Chateaubriand’s note: At London, behind Whitehall, the statue of Charles II.
Irving Putter’s note: He was apparently deeply affected by this statue, and has written about it elsewhere, adding that Charles II is pointing to the spot where his father Charles I was executed. In reality, it was a bronze statue of James II, the brother of Charles II.
(from old Pale Fire musings)

But what does it mean to say the frontispiece is not of Caesar at all?

By nnyhav on 01/28/07 at 11:36 AM | Permanent link to this comment

The scans are really wonderful. It reminds me that one of my favorite assignments, when I teach ESL in the summers, is having students find “annotated” books in the prep school’s library, and write a narrative about the author and their scribblings.

Well done, Adam!

By Joseph Kugelmass on 01/29/07 at 12:40 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I came across a hilarious piece of marginalia in an early 1900s work on the Niagara Falls by Winthrop (J.W.) Spencer. (Evolution of the Falls of the Niagara)

The book is inscribed to:
B.F. Taylor,
in admiration of his good work cited here with the regards of the author. Jan 15, 1908.

Not surprisingly, there are many notes in the margin. As the book begins to touch upon the work of Taylor, the notes become more pointed: “wrong”, “not clear”, “pshaw!”. It culminates in a magnificent drawing labeled “Shame!” showing a stick figure being pushed into a gorge (the Niagara, one presumes.) View the scan here.

Enjoyed the post, it reminded me that I have been meaning to see if Taylor or Spencer were of sufficient interest to anyone in academic geology that they would want the book.

By on 01/29/07 at 06:43 AM | Permanent link to this comment

A zealous student, I’d say.
‘“I shall begin at the beginning,” said the D.H.C. and the more zealous students recorded his intention in their notebooks: Begin at the beginning.’ (Brave New World)

By on 01/31/07 at 03:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The scans are really wonderful. It reminds me that one of my favorite assignments, when I teach ESL in the summers, is having students find “annotated” books in the prep school’s library, and write a narrative about the author and their scribblings.

Great post.

By Berrytree on 03/06/08 at 08:40 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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