Words Passed Through Time

The experience of actually diving into a book and recreating the history of it was more challenging than I expected. I made it a point this time to jot down some notes pertaining to the information I needed for this assignment. Things like the book’s publication city, who the publisher was, the genre, the book’s purpose, and where the book is today filled up my notebook as I searched for the perfect book. I met up with Kelly Brown again and we went to the archives in search of a book that had provenance in it. She informed me that most schools’ libraries keep records of whether or not a book has marginalia in it – ours does not do this. So the task got a bit harder as I had to individually search each book from the archive shelves. Instantly I found myself searching for older books that I assumed people would write in. To my disbelief, I found only two books within the hour and a half I spent there that had any form of writing in them that wasn’t just on the inside cover. Finally, I laid my eyes upon a rather worn book and pulled it from the shelf. A New Political Economy was the title and as I frantically flipped through the pages, I found just what I was looking for. There were all sorts of evidence of provenance throughout the book and I felt extremely relieved.

After I managed to find the book, I talked to Kelly about the family as I recognized the donor’s name in many other books we had. She informed me of their history in Chickasha and the woman’s history at the college. Mary Hewett Bailey was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma. The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO) was originally called Oklahoma College for Women (OCW). She earned a degree in English and mathematics at OCW and taught for 42 years. It seems she was the sole owner of the book unless it was passed down through her family. This book along with many others was donated to USAO. Our school is so small that I am beginning to realize that the books in our collection are not that old. They will just be collections of those who lived here or had a history at the university. While there is nothing wrong with that, I felt disappointed that more people did not write in their books. This project did make me think differently about marginalia. I do it quite often in my books. I feel as though it’s a way of communicating thoughts that one person had about a certain text. The wonderful thing about those markings is that another person might feel differently – and that’s okay. That’s why they were written. While I wish I found more books that had provenance, I am simply happy to have found the one I did and connect it back to my university.

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