In the Personal Archive

A library is not an archive. And yet, notes scrawled in the margins of a book, personal notes, smeared ink, newspaper clippings, bookmarks, or index cards used in their place – all these things have inherent value, and their materiality is unyielding. A museum might well take them into its stores to study and protect them. In a used copy of Archeology of Knowledge, I come across an anonymous reading history in the form of underlined passages I might otherwise have missed; I am learning through another: my reading companion. The anonymity smooths the process. I do not need to engage. That nonchalant and almost bashful comment when you lend someone a book: “Ignore the markings.” The statement tries to circumvent vigilant reading while downplaying the gesture of lending something (to you, in fact). Threads snared in a knot, reading in the archive mode. Which is to say, a loving mode. And so, we are left with the whole range of activities that come with inheriting a library, and the reluctance to lend out books: the writing in the margins, the dogeared pages – this is the archive of reading.