Posted on by & filed under annotations, talks.

The Take Note online exhibition (November, 2012) has some amazing and beautiful works. I previously wrote about the conference as the history of mobile writing, and there’s also good coverage of the event in the Boston Globe: Hidden in notes, the secrets of history. Here I’ll tour through some of my favorite aspects of the online archive.

A human and his coauthor, a machine:

Philip Drinker, the inventor of the iron lung, and early pioneer of the New Aesthetic:

Image of a book page containing wavy lines from an iron lung, with human annotations along the side

“Note-taking” by machine: annotated output from an early iron lung: Exhibit

Handmade iconography:

I love the way these hand forms from 1463 are both cartoonish (human) and regularized (iconic).

A sample from a Hebrew medical text, with hand-made arrows in the shape of small hands, and marginalia

Charming hand-made icons highlighting passages of note in this Hebrew medical text

A textbook example:

Today we think of useful annotation space as being only available in the margins; here a textbook on Virgil was designed for students to write their own interpretations between the lines of the poem. (It would seem that 16th century students did not sell their textbooks at the end of the semester, but their 18th century peers apparently did pirate them.)

The writing between the lines of the poem are paraphrases in “easier” Latin, and the notes on the right are the student, 15 years old, glossing difficult terms

Turtles all the way down:

This treatise on note-taking emphasized the value of random access to notes, and so recommends that readers bind slips of papers inside their volumes.

Detail showing an etching of a book containing slips of notepaper

User notes inside the volume (Placcius, 1689)

And finally, a case for digital annotations:

You can turn them off.

"I'd REALLY like to meet the person who did all these underlings and comments and see if he or she found what he was looking for"



  1.  A brief history of mobile writing (1500-1700) | Digital publishing and technology posts from the team at Safari Books Online