Classic Books Annotated by Famous Authors


Readers come in two editions: those who write in their books, and those who don’t. No matter which you are on your own time, there’s great pleasure to be found in paging through marked-up copies of other people’s books — particularly when the original owners were famous writers themselves. Whether scribbled or printed, snide or appreciative, an author’s annotations give equal insight into the book and the reader, and double as yet another reason to buy physical books. After the jump, check out the marginalia in the books of a few great authors, and add any stellar examples you find missing in the comments.

From Sylvia Plath’s copy of The Great Gatsby. [via]

Mark Twain’s improvements to the title page of Plutarch’s Lives of Illustrious Men. See more here.

The first page of Vladimir Nabokov’s copy of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Read more of his notes here.

Christopher Hitchens’s cheeky notes in his copy of The Great Gastby. “Another dubious one-liner (but see Charles Ryder on his missus)” / “First mention of ‘careless people’ (better than car-less)?” See more here.

From page 594 of David Markson’s copy of Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia: “Oh, Jesus. Plus that he’s probably horny….plus that he’s used to homosexuality in a womanless world at sea.” See much more here.

The inside cover of David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Players by Don DeLillo. See more of Wallace’s extravagant marginalia here.

From Herman Melville’s 1837 copy of The Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare. “Here is forcibly shown the great Montaignism of Hamlet.” See much more Melville marginalia here.

Jack Kerouac’s annotated copy of Dostoevsky’s An Unpleasant Predicament. [via]

Charles Darwin’s notes in Colonel Charles Hamilton Smith’s Dogs, volume ten of the Naturalist’s Library, published in 1840. See more here.

From John Updike’s copy of Barry Hannah’s Geronimo Rex: “too much throwing up.” [via]