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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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Preface

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Authors who wish to render events of the past using historical writings must have patience and the willingness to be objective. These two qualities along with my passion to search for testimonies of the past in the time-yellowed documents of the ages have guided the endeavor of this book. Old books and archive documents have marked my academic path for several decades. What I found in them sometimes surpassed my expectations. The years spent in the Faculty of History, University of Bucharest prepared me for this line of investigation.

This book was gleaned from the inventory of old books in the archive of the First Romanian School in Romanian Language established in Romania, in Șchei, a neighborhood of Brașov. That archive has 10,000 old books and documents. However, I focused on those belonging to the 17th century and thus the research narrowed down to only 42 books, 29 of which included margin notes, while the rest had no annotations whatsoever. These notes on old books, whether in manuscript or in printed form, are nothing but a few lines handwritten by those who ordered the book, received it or just held it in their hands for a while. They provide information such as book price (which equaled the price of several plots of land), measures to guard against theft (curses supposed to act as restraints on book thieves), its utility (for church service or for learning writing or reading in the school in Șchei) or...

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