Special Collections recently acquired two first editions of Dylan Thomas’ poems that were formerly owned by the scholar and professor William York Tindall. (Specifically, Thomas’ New Poems, 1942, as printed by New Directions; and his Selected Writings, 1946, also printed by New Directions). Tindall annotated these copies extensively, leaving behind a running commentary on virtually every single poem printed in them. Although best known for his scholarship on James Joyce, he also published a volume on Dylan Thomas, A Reader’s Guide to Dylan Thomas. The marginalia in Tindall’s copies of Thomas allows one to examine his critical and scholarly interpretations in process.
Special Collections houses a great number of books with manuscript annotations, ranging from the fifteenth century to the present. Annotated books – regardless of whether or not their annotators can be identified – can provide a great deal of information about reading patterns and the ways in which texts were interpreted and received. In some cases, annotations also indicate how much (if it all) people actually read their books. (In this case, Tindall did in fact read his books in their entirety. There are plenty of other books in the collection that begin with very extensive marginal commentary, only to have those notations vanish midway or earlier, after the reader apparently lost interest in what he or she was reading).
Many of the annotated books in our collection are identified as such under the “notes” field in our library catalog. Useful search terms to use when looking for these items include “marginalia”, “annotations,” and “annotated.”