For the collection of short stories, essays, biography, and poetry, see Marginalia (collection). For the international convention on documents, see Apostille convention.
This piece of Wahrheit und Dichtung by Melchior Kirchhofer has pencil notes that might have been written by Josef Eiselein.
The Glosas Emilianenses are glosses added to this Latin codex that are considered the oldest surviving phrases written in the Castilian language.
A page from an illuminated manuscript with painted marginalia

Marginalia (or apostils) are marks made in the margins of a book or other document. They may be scribbles, comments, glosses (annotations), critiques, doodles, or illuminations.

Biblical manuscripts

Biblical manuscripts have liturgical notes at the margin, for liturgical use. Numbers of texts' divisions are given at the margin (κεφάλαια, Ammonian Sections, Eusebian Canons). There are some scholia, corrections and other notes usually made later by hand in the margin.


The scholia on classical manuscripts are the earliest known form of marginalia. Fermat's last theorem is the most famous mathematical marginal note.[1] The first recorded use of the word marginalia is in 1819 in Blackwood's Magazine.[2] From 1845 to 1849 Edgar Allan Poe titled some of his reflections and fragmentary material "Marginalia."[3][4] Five volumes of Samuel T. Coleridge's marginalia have been published. Some famous marginalia were serious works, or drafts thereof, written in margins due to scarcity of paper. Voltaire composed in book margins while in prison, and Sir Walter Raleigh wrote a personal statement in margins just before his execution. Beginning in the 1990s, attempts have been made to design and market e-book devices permitting a limited form of marginalia.

"Marginalia" by Edgar Allan Poe appeared in The Democratic Review, July, 1846, published by Thomas Prentice Kettell.

Recent studies of marginalia

Marginalia can add or detract from the value of an association copy of a book, depending on the author of the marginalia and on the book.

Catherine C. Marshall, doing research on the future of user interface design, has studied the phenomenon of user annotation of texts. She discovered that in several university departments, students would scour the piles of textbooks at used book dealers for consistently annotated copies. The students had a good appreciation for their predecessors' distillation of knowledge.[5][6][7] In recent years, the marginalia left behind by university students as they engage with library textbooks has also been a topic of concern to sociologists looking to understand the lived experience of being a university student.[8][9]

Writers known for their marginalia


  1. Singh, Simon (1997). Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem. Fourth Estate Ltd. ISBN 0-385-49362-2.
  2. "marginalia". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. "Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Marginalia". Retrieved 2009-11-22.
  4. Poe, Edgar Allan. "Marginalia", The Democratic Review, July, 1846, Vol. XIX, No. 97, Thomas Prentice Kettell, New York, page, 30.
  5. "Seeing the picture - Crowdsourcing annotations for books (and eBooks)". Blog. University of Iowa Libraries. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  6. Cathy Marshall. "From Personal to Shared Annotations" (PDF). Texas A&M University. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  7. "Social Annotations in Digital Library Collections". D-Lib Magazine. 1998-03-24. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  8. Attenborough, F. (2011) 'I don't f***ing care': marginalia and the (textual) negotiation of an academic identity by university students, Discourse & Communication, 5(2): 99-121
  9. Attenborough, F., Stokoe, E. (2012) Student life; student identity; student experience: ethnomethodological methods for pedagogical matters, Psychology, Learning & Teaching, 11(1): 6-21.
  10. Jackson, H. J. "John Adams's Marginalia, Then and Now" (PDF).
  11. "A Book I Value: Selected Marginalia Samuel Taylor Coleridge". Princeton University. 2011-06-29. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  12. "Reading Markson Reading". 2010-07-26. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  13. "Melville Marginalia Online". Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  14. Park Bucker (2003-12-11). "Princess Daisy: A Description of Sylvia Plath's Copy of The Great Gatsby". University of South Carolina. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  15. The Mark Twain House and Museum (2010-01-08). "Mark Twain's Marginalia". Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  16. "Harry Ransom Center". University of Texas. Retrieved 2011-07-03.


External links

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