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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

To Scribble or Not To Scribble?

Scribble a message in the margin

By Ben Macintyre

HENRY VIII was forever scribbling in the margins of his books. This most literate king collected an extensive library, and regarded the margins of his books as useful places to demonstrate his learning, pass billets-doux to his lovers, or simply to vent the royal ire. Enraged or inspired by an author, he would pick up a pen and respond at once, in Latin; and, being a king, he didn’t have to worry about being fined for returning a defaced book to the library. On the title page of a volume challenging his divorce of Catherine of Aragon he scrawled: “The basic premise of this book is worthless,” and then threw the author in the Tower. (The poor man was later hanged, drawn and quartered at Smithfield, a forthright method of dealing with literary critics that is now, sadly, unavailable.)

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