These days, I am reading The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I had started reading it several years ago but didn't make it past the first few chapters. Now, I am determined to read it through.
The edition I am reading is a Harper & Brothers 1922 edition with warped boards and yellowing pages. The first thirty pages or so are distinctly marked with a spill--coffee or tea or stump water, I'm not sure which. My favorite "feature" about this edition is how it was treated by its original owner--Bunny McClelland. She signed it on the opening end sheet.
Below her signature, Bunny McClelland has noted the key characteristics of the main characters. And all through the book, she has underlined unfamiliar words and defined them in the margins, which is helpful because otherwise I wouldn't know that soi-disant means would-be or that purlieu means haunt.
At the bottom of page 121, when Hardy references Correggio (a name I am inclined to skip over because I don't want to have to read with Wikipedia at hand), there is a penned note that reads: "Antonio Allegri (1494-1535). Italian painter--noted for vivid & impulsive expressions & pose." There, now I don't have to look him up. It's like Crib Notes from the past, like some school girl in 1922 did a little bit of research, and now I can read my book in peace.
I imagine that Bunny is no longer alive, that if she were old enough to read The Mayor of Casterbridge in the 1920s, then she would be at least 100 today. I also imagine that Bunny was a pretty conscientious student because her notes run all the way to the end, and I haven't run across sketches of her teachers like in some of the older school books in my collection. And imagine that Bunny wouldn't mind that her old book is in such bad shape, since she didn't mind writing in it in blue ink. And I imagine Bunny is similar to Elizabeth-Jane, new and inquisitive resident of Casterbridge, who wonders about her newly acquired beauty and social position. Bunny wrote that Elizabeth-Jane is considerate, sensitive, and patient.
Here is The Martyrdom of Four Saints (1523) by Correggio. I went ahead and looked him up anyway.