Precedents So Scrawl'd and Blurr'd: Readers' Marks in Law Books


The Counter-Reformation leaves its mark. The medieval gloss to Gratian's Decretum (a foundational text of canon law) presented no problem to the Church until the Protestant Reformation. Among the glosses targeted in a guide for censors, Censura in glossas et additiones iuris canonici (Rome, 1572), were these on penitence. One of the expurgated passages says "Neither contrition of the heart nor confession by the mouth are sufficient, but only the grace of God," a much-too-Calvinistic assertion for Catholic censors.

Gratian. Decretum Gratiani. Venice: Luca-Antonio Giunta, 1514.

People have added to books by writing things in them; they have also taken things away, by deleting things they find offensive or unsuitable. Mutilation is another way of giving a book an individual history, albeit perhaps a rather negative one.
        David Pearson, Books as History (2012)