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Lire plume à la main

Since the 19th century, readers have learned not to write on books. The development of the public library system, the practice of passing on school books from one pupil to another, as well as new rules of librarianship gradually eradicated the habit. Reading 'pen in hand' was, however, a common practice for readers at the time of the Ancien Régime. If some contented themselves with adding their signature or some words to the title page, others filled the margins with personal observations – called, literally, marginalia. The hundred or so annotated books in the Old Library of the Centre Culturel Irlandais provide a rich illustration of this practice. The exhibition showcases a fascinating selection of such documents.

Exhibition curated by Emmanuelle Chapron who held an Old Library research bursary in 2009.

Image : Portrait de Humboldt par Julius Schrader, 1859