The childhood friend of my wife works at the Centers for Disease Control - not sure if I am breaking security rules by sharing that. My marr-ginalia began at a time when the H1N1 'swine flu' pandemic of 2009 was in full swing there was media 'panic' about methods of infection spread. I started paying attention to the stains on the pages of books I took from the library and curiosity spread as it had not done before about transmission of disease, viruses, madness.
Methods of infection transmission were described by the Centers for Disease Control.
"There are forms of madness which can be caught in the same way as infectious diseases."
"Spread of infection by droplet nuclei or dust through the air."
"The infectious agent is shed by the infected host in feces and acquired by the susceptible host through ingestion of contaminated material."
"Lateral spread to others in the same group and at the same time spread to contemporaries."
"Mechanically via a contaminated proboscis or feet."
"The disease agent is transferred directly by drinking of contaminted water, travling in contaminated vehicles."
Canvas prints of my marr-ginalia with these quotes superimposed on them were bound together by sandwiching them between rough wooden sticks held together with long screws.
Marginalia is about words written on top of or items left inside the pages of a book left by readers. Marr-ginalia are stains those readers leave behind and I wonder what was experienced with the book and where? These are links of experience that join the outer world with pages that are normally protected from the environment. Books are often considered dangerous; they get burned, banned, pages ripped out and defaced because of the terrible influence they may have on the minds of the 'innocent' reader resulting in a revolution against society. Wars are fought over the words in religious books.
I love books. I love libraries. I love to open a book that appears to have been on a shelf for such a long time since anyone last looked at it. I imagine the past readers, like myself, handling the book with care. Ensuring the spine does not break. Refusing to bend the corners to mark the current reading place. Caring for the book as if it were my own creation as if it is a life to protect for its next reader.
Then I watch people who live energetically and engage physically with their books; saving their reading place by keeping the pages open and placing the book face down; eating juicy fruit over the open page and laughing at the words simultaneously; briefly engaging the book as a coaster; with the book on their laps they might be startled and get up quickly allowing the book to fall. The book is part of them for a while and so it absorbs part of those who borrowed it.
As I open a page to see a stain on the page, I begin to wonder about those people who borrowed the book before me and the stories those stains might have to tell. How old are those stains? Were they from casual encounters in a hotel room? Travels to distant lands with new foods that may not agree with the tastebuds? Flung in anger across a dinner table? A sudden nosebleed from a tumor? A sneeze from a sufferer of TB? These stains were out in the world and created long before I came to the book. What stories can they share of those who used them? Can I find a place in my world where these stains in the book resonate as much as the words?
Recommended Reading:People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. An investigation marr-ginalia bringing historical events to the current day.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Where books have life beyond the shelves and covers.