On Olde Books

Old BooksAs I studied for last week’s message on Matthew 22:34-40 (a text every Christian needs to consider often), I found myself scribbling notes all over my copy of “The Ten Commandments” by G. Campbell Morgan. Now, it’s an old book. I decided to check out when it was printed. The answer? 1901.

So I ask you: do I mark it up or not? I mean, it’s a book, and I want to study from it. On the other hand, it feels a bit like graffiti to mark up a 100-plus-year-old book. I was so bothered about defacing my 1895 “Soulwinner” by Spurgeon that I shelved it and bought a cheap paperback.

What’s a guy to do???

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14 Responses

  1. Seriously- How does marking up a book help you?

    I don’t work like that. I can’t bring myself to write in a book. Underline or highlight, maybe… but even then, it’s hard.

  2. I don’t write anything in my books.

    However, what good is that book on a shelf? Books are meant to be used and if that means writing in them, go for it!

  3. Wow, guys. I’m shocked! If I haven’t scribbled, I feel like I haven’t read.

    I have a “conversation” with the author. I might write “great” for something that is…well…great. I might write a “Q” for a quote I’d like to write down for future use, or draw a stick figure “candle” next to a good illustration, or an “X” when I disagree. I might even say “ridiculous” for things I think are nuts. And if a point brings something to my mind (a cross reference, etc.), I’ll note that. If I’m particularly disciplined, I’ll write down “reflections” in the white space at the end of a chapter.

    Mercy, fellas. You don’t know what you’re missing. ;)

  4. I deal in out of print books and am well aware that an unmarked book commands a higher price and that some people will NOT buy a book with underlining or other marks….But, to me, these books are tools. I mark in mine, including my Bibles. Just recently I bought my first copy of Olford’s ANOINTED EXPOSITORY PREACHING, having read parts of a friend’s copy and determining that I had to have a copy. The one I purchased was like new and signed by both Olfords. I started reading it and in my excitement was constantly reaching for the highlighter…..but could not bring myself to mark in this pristine book………So, I bought a second copy. Put the nice one on the shelf and now use a run-of-the-mill copy for study. How crazy are book people?

  5. I have started to use some of the blank pages found at the end of most books to list important or insightful sections of the books I’m reading. I’ll list the page number and a short blurb. That way I can keep the main body clean while still making notes.

    I would never write in a 100 year old book.

    I’ve also started to make sure that I alway use a paper bookmark, rather than dog-ear the corners as I read through a book.

  6. I mostly underline or highlight. But I do write from time to time (memo to publishers: make bigger margins). I write mostly like Chris does, to mark a good point, or question, perhaps a comment about something that I think needs to be adjusted. That way, when I go back later to read or reference, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

    The danger is that the read through is not thoughtful, or complete. You have a tendency to skip to the underlined, highlighted, or handwritten notes. But that is the nature of laziness … so just say no.

  7. I guess it depends on the person and the purpose of owning the book. I have an 1828 Bible handed down to me by my grandfather who got it from his great, great, uncle. My opinion is that I should write in it for those who will read it in the future. But if I had an old book I was keeping to sell … now that would be a different story. Another thought, if you don’t like writing in the book, is writing the thoughts in a notebook, journal, or … blog, so that others could learn from what you’ve learned.

  8. I just highlight what I consider the most important points so that later I can flip through and find them easily. If something is especially helpful, I tag it with one of those cool little colored sticky bookmark thingies. Occasionally I write notes if I need to.

  9. hey, Chris, I ONLY mark up Piper books. Guess what kind of marks they are???

    seriously, I am such a bibliophile, I can’t bring myself to even mark up my wide margin Cambridge. I used to mark my books, but the older I get, the less I do it. I keep a folded sheet of paper and make my notes there. I also have a Wizcom pen scanner to scan in significant things from books that I want to use. And I use Dragon Naturally Speaking to read in significant things from commentaries into my study files.

    Marking up book??? Man… I can’t do it anymore.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  10. I actually leave my books better than when I bought them! My home library looks like a Borders bookstore: like they’ve never been read. Summa diploma from grad school, read every text, never marked in any of them, and sold the books back for full price as if they’d never been read. I say it’s a gift [or I need serious professional help: my wife thinks I’m wacko]! With so many folks not reading [or even knowing how], books are becoming somethings almost sacred! Any note taking, let it be done on a separate notebook/padfolio like Andy said.

  11. Wow, guys. Not marking in your books is like…like buying new furniture, then covering it with plastic so it doesn’t get dirty. I know people do it, but…why? What are you saving them for?

    (The “hands off old books” part I get. The rest? Uh-uh.)

    Idea: maybe this would be a good criterion on which to develop a new taxonomy for fundamentalists. Where’s Joel when you need him???

  12. Interesting. :) Reminds me of the stories of John Adams–a great bibliophile who not only believed in marking up his books, but left some for posterity which, in some instances, had more of his own words scribbled in margins, front papers, and end papers than that of the author himself.

  13. well, Chris, I don’t believe in covering my car’s seats, I believe in wearing them out myself. I don’t believe in covering my furniture, I want to see it develop holes … hopefully longer than 6 mos! But… man, if you don’t understand why you don’t write in books, then you just won’t understand. It’s one of those oida kind of things, intuitive knowledge…

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  14. Nice, Don. Throw in the oida. It works every time. :)

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