Friday, 13 July 2012

Marginal Marks in Books

On Monday Jeffrey P. Barton posted a question on the EXLIBRIS-List concerning how to describe various manuscript annotations to books. Jim Kuhn directed Jeffrey to The Shakespeare Quartos Archive (here), to a fabulous list of manuscript annotations in the "Encoding Documentation" section (here), based on the OED and/or Peter Beal’s Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology (2008).

Since I am a little bit obsessed with marginalia at present I thought I’d reproduce the list, make some additions, and—at some point in the future—add images of examples I encounter in works by Haywood.

Manuscript Annotations

arrow: a mark like an arrow, or arrow-head, used as a pointer

asterisk: frequently drawn as a small x-cross with a dot in each angle

asterism: a group of three asterisks placed thus (***) to direct attention to a particular passage

brace: a sign ( } or ] or > ), but may take more improvisational shapes) used in writing or printing, chiefly for the purpose of uniting together two or more lines, words, staves of music, etc.

caret: an inverted-v shaped mark placed in writing below the line, to indicate that something (written above or in the margin) has been omitted in that place

cross: two bars or lines (horizontal and vertical) crossing each other, used as a sign, ornament, etc.; mark or sign of small size used to mark a passage in a book, etc.

[dagger: †; see cross]

dash: a horizontal stroke (usually short and straight)

dot: a minute roundish mark

double oblique: two parallel slashes ( || ) or diagonal strokes ( // )

double triangle: two adjoining triangles sharing a horizontal base line

flower: the representation of a flower of more than three or four petals (which would be trefoils and quatrefoils; see below)

gnomic pointing: double inverted commas used in the meadieval and early-modern period to draw attention to proverbs and sententiae

label: a slip of paper, cardboard, metal, etc. attached or intended to be attached

line: a horizontal line, longer than a dash (and generally serving a different purpose)

manicule: hand or fist with pointing finger

marginal commas: single or double commas, sometimes inverted, used to mark a line or lines of text. Alexander Pope used a system of marginal commas and asterisks in his Chaucer and Shakespeare to indicate “some of the most shining passages.”

mathematical formulas: use only for complex numeric equations or arithmetical problems; transcribe simple numeric or mathematical annotations in full

n.b. or N.B.: abbreviation for nota bene, or "note well"

O: the letter considered with regard to its shape

oblique: a slash or diagonal stroke

quatrefoil: compound leaf or flower containing four, usually rounded, leaflets or petals radiating from a common centre

[quotation marks: see gnomic pointing, marginal commas and running quotes]

running quotes: double inverted commas used to indicate a quotation and, therefore (perhaps), something quote-worthy

scribble: a piece of random or casual doodling or drawing of unclear textual purpose, including pen trials made by writers to test a freshly-trimmed pen or a writing style

stroke: a vertical stroke (usually short and straight: | )

trefoil: a leaf, such as a clover, comprising three rounded sections

triangle: a rectilineal figure having three angles and three sides

X: the letter considered with regard to its shape

[UPDATED 19 July 2012]


david said...

I'd query your use of the term 'marginal commas' as a substitute for the better known and longer established 'gnomic pointing'.

Patrick Spedding said...

Thanks David, but you do me too much credit!

As I said in my post, this list is taken from the The Shakespeare Quartos Archive and, having never heard of "gnomic pointing," I didn't notice its absence or the possible conflation.

Having looked into it, I see that the term "gnomic pointing" dates back to 1947 (at least) and refers to a meadieval and early modern method used to draw attention to proverbs and sententiae (thus, gnomic).

The term "marginal commas" dates back to 1949 (at least) and refers to a method employed by Alexander Pope in his Chaucer and Shakespeare to indicate "some of the most shining passages."

I imagine that it is possible, by the period I am interested in (the 18C), that marginal commas might have lost the medieval and early-modern link to proverbs and sententiae, and may simply indicate something note-worthy (as in Pope).

(It is even possible that they are indebted, instead, to the running quotes used throughout the 18C, to indicate a quotation and, therefore, something quote-worthy.)

I will add "gnomic pointing" my list and will differentiate the two terms. I will also add an entry for "running quotes."

Abigail Williams said...

Patrick - this list is very useful. I'm working on the history of reading out loud in the eighteenth century - do you know of any examples of marginal marks used to indicate passages identified for reading out?