Use: Animal and Vegetable Physiology

There is a good deal of physical evidence regarding the history of the specific copy of Animal and Vegetable Physiology: Considered with Reference to Natural Theology by Peter Mark Roget held in the Special Collections of Colby College’s Miller Library. First of all, the inside covers of both Volumes I and II contain a handwritten bookplate which reads, “Loomis 1839.” Both volumes have this inscription written in them in pencil, but in Volume I “Loomis” was re-written in pen in the same script as the words, “Waterville College Library.”

Inside cover of Volume I

According to its online library entry, this book was acquired by the college during the period 1821-1867. The book itself was not published until 1836, so based on this fact and the writing inside the cover, it is most likely that the book was acquired by Waterville College in or after the year 1839. There are several other interesting indications of this copy of Animal and Vegetable Physiology’s time as a library book:

Inside back cover of Volume I
Title page of Volume II. Indicates that this book was kept in Alcove 3, Shelf 11 of the Waterville College Library

As far as general wear and tear, these books appear to have seen a lot of use. Their bindings are very worn, especially that of Volume II, which is nearly falling apart. This difference in quality of binding leads me to believe that Volume II has seen more use than its counterpart.

Binding of Volume II

Furthermore, both volumes have significant staining throughout their entirety. In their middle sections, many of the pages are completely covered with some kind of stain, and in Volume II, there are several pages with a more specific, independent stain. Regardless, the stains look more or less the same in both volumes, indicating that whatever happened to them likely happened equally to both, and at the same time.

Examples of stains in both volumes. The spotty stains in the second picture are known as “foxed” stains, which can occur when a book is held in a damp environment. 

Another interesting piece of physical evidence in these books is the presence of several slips of paper in between some of the pages. There are a few blank pieces of paper situated at the top of some of the pages, and several other spreads have bits of newspaper tucked between them. Given the orientation of these slips, it appears likely that they were used as bookmarks. One of the newspaper slips actually rises above the top of the paper.

These copies of Animal and Vegetable Physiology also contain a good deal of marginalia. In the introduction to his book Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England, William Sherman discusses different kinds of marginalia found in books. He mentions that oftentimes, books contain marginalia that does not have anything to do with the specific text itself. There are very few examples of unrelated marginalia in this copy of Animal and Vegetable Physiology, but there are some:

Doodle in Volume II, also with another slip of newspaper in between the pages
More doodles

Sherman goes on to discuss marginalia that directly relates to the text. He specifies the term “annotations” (rather than the more general “marginalia”) to indicate “a body of writing that not only accompanies a text but directly engages with it” (23). This text has many annotations, including some that are nonverbal, and others that are verbal. Someone nonverbally annotated several of the diagrams in Animal and Vegetable Physiology:














Someone appears to have been sketching this diagram of an eye in the blank space next to it (top right)

On page 294 of Volume II, a handwritten note can be found. Someone reading this book inserted a question relating to the content of this chapter, which is on hearing. The individual underlined the word “water” on this page to indicate what he or she was referring to with this question.

See underlining of “water”
Is water sufficiently Elastic to (?) the vibratory motion necessary in the production of sound?

Whoever annotated this text was clearly actively engaged in his or her reading, given the specific question found on page 294, but also the specificity and astuteness of other annotations throughout the text. What I find to be the most interesting marginalia in this book is the large number of corrections that the annotator made to the printed words. The individual who annotated this book caught several errors in the printing, including an incorrect page number, incorrect footnote symbols, incorrect figure labeling, and more. Here are several examples of corrections made in the text:

Correction of the symbol used for the second footnote on this page
This is actually page 158 in Volume I, and someone struck through the “185”
Correction of the figure number
Correction in the text

Of all the corrections this individual made to this text, the following is especially interesting. In a footnote in Volume II, the text refers the reader to a diagram on page 182. The annotator corrected this, writing “132” in the margins; however, this was also wrong. The diagram can actually be found on page 133.

Corrected text
Actual location of referenced figure

Given the extent of these annotations, it is clear that whoever made them read both volumes of this text all the way through. This work was perhaps that of a Waterville College librarian. Overall, Colby College’s copy of Animal and Vegetable Physiology: Considered with Reference to Natural Theology has a lot of very interesting evidence of use, including general wear, indications of ownership, and marginalia.