Online Assignment #3: Book Traces


  1. Search the library catalogue for books published between 1820-1923 from the library stacks (not special collections) based on a certain topic (see list of topics below). Look through these books to find one with marginalia (annotations or marks) or inserts from the 19th century. Take pictures of up to five instances of marginalia or inserts in the book, fill out the information about your book and its marginalia, including the “description” field, on, upload your photos, and submit your entry.

NOTE: If you have looked through 20 books from the 19th century without finding marginalia, you may stop searching, but you must still write a blog post.

  1. Write a 300-word blog post about the traces you found; provide information about the book it occurs in (title, author, publisher, etc.), describe the traces, include pictures of them, and include the link to your book on Book Traces. Explain what the traces have to do with the topic of the book and the pages on which they appear. If a trace includes a name or date, look up the person or date and provide any relevant info you can find (use Google). Here are sample blog posts about Book Traces written by undergraduates at Davidson College:

If you cannot find any traces of previous readers, explain what search terms you used to find 19th century books, give some sample titles of books you looked at, and give some guesses about why books with your selected topic does not include any evidence of earlier readers.
The blog post and Book Traces submission are due by 9/30 by 8pm (6% of final grade).

USEFUL TIP: Book Traces states that participants have had the most luck finding markings in books from the PR or PS call numbers (British and American Literature), but it also recommends French and Spanish literature, history, religious texts, and philosophy.

Sample Traces:

Marginal notes, inscriptions, owner’s names, any other type of writing, drawing, bookmarks, inserts, clippings pasted into the book, photos, original manuscripts, letters.

Search Terms (grouped by category) in STL catalogue (

  1. Literature, Poetry (or “Poetical Works”), Shakespeare, Impressions
  2. Women
  3. Antiquities
  4. Music (or Songs), Theater (and Theatre),
  5. Art, Fashion
  6. Travel, Empire, England,
  7. Sport
  8. Science, Mathematics
  9. Law
  10. Religion
  11. History

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