Tome and Tomb

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Marginalia—Book Doodles as Works of Art

Ever look at the format of older books? After you pick up a handful, you’ll likely realize that compared to modern novels, there was a lot of white space in the margins.

This was commonplace in the days of letterpress printing, and likely a necessity of the process. But even before movable type, when books were completely transcribed, there was quite a wide margin between the end of the text and the end of the page. Interestingly enough, monks would often fill this space up too; not just with text, captions or footnotes, but also with works of art.

In an ancient manuscript of Homer’s Iliad, the famous “A scholia” contained commentaries that are, in part, some of the most fundamental sources of information on poems pertaining to the Matter of Rome.Marginalia’s a bit of a lost art form these days, reserved for Mad Magazine and high school textbooks, but its history is both fascinating and impressive.

Some of the first…

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