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Scraps of Thought: Margin Notes in Old Romanian Books


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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The margin notes made in old books provide information that is important for fields like classical history, history of mentalities and perceptions, geopolitics and cultural studies since they reflect aspects related to habitats, socio-economic features of specific areas and communities, social categories such as the elites holding the power to influence the whole community and culturally influential leaders. This book is based on the information provided by the 17th century documents belonging to the Romanian community in Șchei that are now in the archives of Brașov. These documents have never been republished, which lends originality to the current endeavor. Out of 44 documents analyzed, 29 contain margin notes, whereas 14 bear no annotations whatsoever. Even though there are much more documents in the inventory dating back to the 17th century, they could not be consulted because of their deteriorated condition before being included in the archives or because of damage resulting from fire.

The information gathered upon the consultation of the above mentioned documents is organized in four chapters.

The introductory chapter outlines the most important, as well as the most recent research on old Romanian books that are archived in various places in Romania that underpin the guidelines for this book. In this respect, there are two major contributions worth noting: those of Nicolae Iorga and the team from the Romanian Academy.

Nicolae Iorga focuses his research on areas rich in old Romanian books. Concerning the old books from Transylvania...

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