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Scraps of Thought: Margin Notes in Old Romanian Books

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Mariana Borcoman

Scraps of thought analyses notes in medieval books from the archive of the First Romanian School from Şcheii Brașovului, the Romanian settlement outside Brașov city walls. Merchants, craftsmen and wealthy people financially supported St. Nicholas Church and the school on its premises. Families of scholars, formed in the school of Şcheii, preserved the light of books and Romanian Orthodoxism in the region. The notes in the books reveal an educated society, passing on fragments of their way of thinking. We learn about unusual weather conditions, covenants for preserving the moral norms, information regarding the meeting of the priests in the area and especially the curses that were meant to protect the books. The study shows the medieval book as a written medium which included glimpses of life, fragments of human emotions and events.
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Chapter I. Introduction

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Chapter I. Introduction

Old Romanian books are highly treasured artifacts that mirror Romanian spirituality and hence any research endeavor focusing on them needs to be understood within that framework.

First, the role and spread of printed and handwritten books must concern any research in the field of old books. On one hand, there is the printed form that required technical personnel and a printing press. On the other hand, there is the manuscript that entailed hours and hours of hard work on the blank pages.

Second, margin notes in old books are but one direction in the field of research. They are historical sources for dates and events that otherwise might be forgotten in the absence of other sources and which augment the picture of a past age. These notes introduce readers to the people who had access to the book by buying, donating or writing it. Researchers are able to acquire dates and information on people revolving around a cultural center. These brief annotations were made by owners who were fond of books and who took interest in the events around them.

The notes on book margins can render the image of an age. In this respect, their varied nature and contents provide information on book circulation, the community the book reached at a given moment in time, historical events or personal experiences (of rare beauty and distinction), or unusual weather phenomena that were closely related to people’s preoccupations. When all...

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