Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Call them pointing fingers, medieval manicules, digit indicators, fist pointers, clown hands, pilcrows or miscellaneous marginalia. They are images that people draw in the margins of books and manuscripts as visual aids and identification markers. The temptation to write in the margins span the history of printing. I have come across a couple independent samples of these charming illustrated hands in recent weeks while browsing the internets so did a bit more research and have learned that William H. Sherman, Professor of English at the University of York has even written a book on this topic published in 2008. It's called Used Books, Marking Readers in Renaissance England, and is available from Penn Press and also available here.
Sarah Werner, The Director of the Undergraduate Program at the Folger Shakespeare Library, is author of the great Wynken de Worde blogsite and has some wonderful words to say about these image fists, as she sometimes refers to them. She describes in much more eloquent language than I about these fanciful fists and she highly encourages anyone with a marginal interest in them to read Sherman's piece on this topic. With the exception of the last image below, all of these images come from the Folger Library collection according to Werner. The last image is from Amsterdam Special Collections photostream.