ABC of Traces of Use


It seems fitting that the first lemma of this ABC should be Amoene. For many an unpronouncable name, for me an ancestor, whose reason for heading this list lies not in the fact that she was an author  and won the first literary P.C. Hooftprijs in 1947, but in the happy circumstance that I possess a book with her name in it. Found in 1980 on a shelf on the top floor of Antiquarian Bookseller S. Emmering. Idly leafing through some books and to find this seemed at the time like a miracle, I now know that this was indeed the fact. Amoene stands for the minuscule chance that one can find an interesting trace of use in an unassuming book on an unassuming shelf. 

Handwritten ownership on front endpaper.


Lucretia Wilhelmina van Merken, David in twaalf boeken. Te Amsterdam: By Pieter Meijer, 1767. PvH.


Handwritten, descriptive note in a document. What makes a note an annotation? In chapter 12 in Paratexts (Seuils 1987) Gerard Genette gives a formal definition of a note, which is also applicable to annotation:  'A note is a statement of variable length connected to a more or less definite segment of text and either placed opposite or keyed to this segment.' (p.319). The connection between a note and the text, both in placement and content, makes a note an annotation. Annotations may be found anywhere in a book: in the margins, between the lines of the text, on interleaved blank pages and can range from one word to full page texts.

Present-day applications may range from annotations in a scholarly edition, to comments in the margins of a love letter or the daily newspaper. In fact any kind of text may be annotated.

One word in the margin.


Compendium theologicae veritatis. (Lyon: Balsarin, ca. 1498). U.v.A. call number OTM: Inc 261.

Full page annotations.


Petrus Tateretus,  Expositio magistri. (Lugduni: Claudius Davost, ca.1509). U.v.A. call number OTM: OG 67-4.

Jesuit school edition of the history of Rome with annotations on the interleaves. 


Eutropii breviarum historiae romanae. Lipsiae: G.J. Göschen, 1804. PvH.

Annotation marks

Manuscript markings (sometimes abstract) in the text.

A variety of symbols: e.g. manicules, ticks, stars, crosses, squiggles and lines drawn in the text and in the margins. Highlighting and underlining of (parts of) the text. Crossed out passages.

Manicule, single word annotation 'Nota' and squiggles in the margin.


Vasco de Taranta, Practica. (Lugduni: Joh. Trechsel), 1490. U.v.A call number OTM: Inc 388.

Attention signs in the margin and underlining in the text.


Pub. Ovidius Naso, Preclarum opus. Lugduni: Steph. Gueynard, 1508. U.v.A. call number OTM: OG 63-6172.

Elegant accolade, bears resesemblance to a manicule, alongside text.


Guilhelmus de Ockam, Tabule ad diversas huius operis magistri. (Lugduni: Joh. Trechsel, 1495). U.v.A. call number OTM: Inc 47.

Association copy

Copy of a book, which once belonged to (or was annotated by) the author, someone connected to the author, or someone of interest in his own right.

In other words, a book with surplus value due to a special link with former reader/ownership. Inevitably sometimes dependant on subjective interpretation. Is the above mentioned copy of David in twaalf boeken from Amoene's library an association copy or would it only be if it could be demonstrated that Amoene used the book as inspiration for her own work? 

Is consenus important for the definition of an association copy? 

Binder's mark 

Stamped in gilt, in ink or blind on the binding, or printed or engraved on a label; the latter usually pasted on the corner of one of the front endpapers. Binders' marks are seldom found on bindings before 1700. The three blind stamped monograms on these bindings from the Lyon corpus are either binders' or engravers' monograms.  

According to Goldschmidt 1928, p.257, 'M G R' probably is the monogram

of the artist who engraved the panel stamp for this binding.


Justinianus, Institutiones. b.w. Phreislebius, Paratitla. Lugduni: Seb. Gryphium, 1544. U.v.A. call number OTM: Band 1 E 6.

'Spes binding' by the Louvain bookbinder Jacob Pandelaert ('I P').


Thomas of Aquino, Operum, seu Summae Theologiae. Lugduni: Vincent de Portonarius, 1540-1541. U.v.A. call number OTM: OF 63-479-481.

Monogram of unknown binder or engraver 'M I'.

Andreae Alciati, Emblemata. Lugduni: 1554. U.v.A. call number OTM: OK 62-8977.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834)

Handwritten notes have been added to texts ever since the development of reading and writing, however it was Samuel Coleridge who coined the concept of 'marginalia' in 1819 in a publication on his own notes in Blackwood's Magazine.


Blackwood's Magazine. Vol VI. November 1819. p. 197.

Coleridge was a habitual annotator, initially with the aim of sharing his reading thoughts with friends and peers. Eventually his annotated books took up such a large portion of his literary production, that one volume (itself in six volumes) of the sixteen volumes of the Bollingen Critical Edition of his collected works are taken up by Coleridge's marginalia. 

Contemporary: belonging to the same time

A contemporary binding was bound in the same age the book was printed. Contemporary handwriting is identified as being from the same era as the book, give or take a couple of decennia. Not to be confused with contemporary art, which refers to art produced after World War II.

Cropped book block

This book block has been cropped to accomodate a new binding, as a result of which part of earlier annotations have been cut off. 

12-40 kopie-s

William of Ockham, Tabule ad diversas huius operis(Lugduni: Joh. Trechsel), 1495. U.v.A. call number OTM: Inc 47. 

Date inside book

Handwritten date of ownership, usually found on one of the front endpapers, on the title pageor under the colophon.

 Date on front paste-down: 1693.


Balduinus de Beer, Den H. Reghel vanden H. vader Augustinus ghegheven door de nonnekens. t' Hantwerpen: Wed. J. Cnobbaert, 1651. PvH.

Date on title page: 1640.

14-15 kopie-2-s

Andreae Alciati, Emblematum libri duo. Lugduni: Ioan. Tornaesius & Gulielmus Gazeius, 1554. U.v.A. call number OTM: OK 62-877.

Later ownership under the colophon: 17?39?


Guy de la Pape, Lecura singularis.  (Lugduni: Sym. Vincenti, 1517). U.v.A. Call number OTM: OG 63-2955.

Date on binding

May refer to the printing date of the book, or to the year in which the book was bound.

 Printing date on spine: 1490.


Vasco de Taranta, .Practica. (Lugduni: Joh. Trechsel, 1490). U.v.A. call number OTM: Inc 388.

Binding date on front cover: 1552.


Bern. Gordonius, Opus lilium medicinae inscriptum. Lugduni: Guill. Rouille, 1550. U.v.A. call number OTM: O 62-2009.

Ex-libris, Latin for 'from the books of'

Evidence of ownership, usually on a bookplate bearing a name, motto, coat-of-arms or any other motif that relates to the owner of the book.

 Ex-libris of F. Gordon Roe with a roe-deer in the middle.


Francis Quarles, The School of the Heart. Bristol: Joseph Lansdown & John Mills, 1808. PvH.

An ex-libris is an important tool for provenance research, but also a collector's item. Collectors of ex-libris remove the bookplates from books and with that unfortunate action the evidence of ownership of that particular book is obliterated. 

Or an owner might remove his own name from the bookplate, one can only try to guess why, also breaking the chain of ownership. 

19-P1170211 2-s

M. de Gomberville, La doctrine des moeurs. Paris: Jacques le Gras, 1688. PvH.

An ex-libris may be handwritten: 'Ex Libris Jacob Lock'.


Het mergh des levens vanden Heylighen Bernardus. 't Antwerpen: Wed. Jan Cnobbaert, 1658. PvH.

Found and left where found

Refers to loose objects found in a book and left where found for future reference. 

Booklet found in a 'Prijsband'



Virgilius, Georgicorum. Liber secundus. Laid in: Isaac Casaubonus, Animadversionum. Lugduni: Antonius de Harsy, 1600. U.v.A. call number OTM: Prijs G 58.


The archetype of annotation which originated in the Middle Ages. A gloss is a brief notation of the meaning of a word or a commentary of wording in a text, meant to clarify classical studies, law and theology. Glosses were notes for and by readers and could be handwritten or printed. 


A forcefully placed ownership stamp can leave an impression on subsequent pages. 

The IB ownership below is stamped in part of the 'Collection Jacob Buyck' (1545-1599). The stamp has been attributed to Jacob Buyck's nephew with the same name, who inherited his uncle's books. The works in which the stamps are found were published 1600-1608, which would be after the death of Jacob Buyck senior. 

OTM: 973 F 31 Vivaldus - Buyck - 13.s

OTM: 973 F 31 Vivaldus - Buyck - 20 kopie.s

The pressure of the IB ownership stamp on the title-page has left an imprint on the following pages. 

OTM: 973 F 31 Vivaldus - Buyck - 25.s

Ludoc. Vivaldo, Opus regale. Lugduni: Stephanus Guyenard, 1508. UvA call number OTM: 973 F 31.


Annotation mark in the form of a pointed hand, draws attention to a particular passage. Usually in the margin. May be handdrawn or printed. 

Handdrawn manicule.


Josephus Qvercetanus/Joseph Dechesne, Medici opera medica/Sclopetarivs. Lugduni: apud Ioannem Lertovt, 1600. U.v.A. call number OTM: OK 63-5652.

Printed manicule


Joan. Vivaldo, Opus regale. Lugduni: Steph. Guyenard, 1508. U.v.A. call number OTM: 973 F 31.

(Parts of) manuscripts used for binding

In the sixteenth century book production expanded and simultaneously the demand for bookbindings. Medieval manuscripts, written on vellum or parchment, were perfect bookbinding material. As one did not yet realize the historical value of medieval manuscripts, these vellum pages were cut up and used in various ways to reinforce spines and cover the front and back boards of new bindings. The bits and pieces of manuscript found in bindings can lead to interesting (book) historical findings.

Part of manuscript used for front cover.


Reinier Snoy, Pslaterium. Lugduni: Ant. de Harsy, 1574. U.v.A. call number OTM: OK 78-6.

Sheet of music in manuscript, cropped and used as endpaper. 


Joan. Vivaldo, Opus regale. Lugduni: Steph. Guyenard, 1508. U.v.A. call number OTM: 973 F 31.

Pieces of manuscript used to strengthen the spine.

27-06-s kopie

Ovidius, Fasti. Lugduni: Seb. Gryphius, 1550. U.v.A. call number OTM: OK 63-5170.

Strip of manuscript used to reinforce the spine.


Joan. Vivaldo, Opus regale. Lugduni: Steph. Guyenard, 1508. U.v.A. call number OTM: 973 F 31.


Like glosses, marginalia are readers' notes. Contrary to glosses, marginalia are always handwritten, not neccessarily connected to the printed text and may also be found in other places in a book, e.g. on the endpapers and title page. 

Annotations in the margin.


William of Ockham, Tabule ad diversas huius operis. (Lugduni: Joh. Trechsel), 1495. U.v.A. call number OTM: Inc 47. 

Annotations on front paste-down.


Petrus Tateretus, Expositio. (Lugduni: Claudius Davost), 1509.  U.v.A. call number OTM: OG 67-4.

Annotations on title page. 


Isaac Casaubonus, Theophrastus notationes morum. Lugduni: Ant. Harsy, 1599. U.v.A. call number OTM O 61-4366.

Marginalia are added to a text by its reader and may have various functions: commentary, reference, translation, structure and inspiration. Texts range from one word to full page texts. The general agreement is that the concept marginalia does not include non-verbal annotation marks. 



Petrus Tateretus, Expositio magistri. (Lugduni: Claudius Davost, ca.1509). U.v.A. call number OTM: OG 67-4.

Reference in the margin.


Isaac Casaubonus, Theophrastus notationes morum. Lugduni: Ant. de Harsy, 1599. U.v.A. call number OTM: O 61-4366.

Translation of Latin words into German on interleaves.


Eutropii breviarum historiae romanae. Lipsiae: G.J. Göschen, 1804. PvH.

Structure: index on front paste-down and on the free endleaves.  


Alai ibn al-Abbas, Liber totius medicinae necessaria. (Lugduni: Typis Jacobi Myt), 1523.  U.v.A. call number OTM: O 62-2955.

Inspired by Venus (?), written by Ioannes Ricius (act. 1556-?90?) on the last free endpapers and back paste-down of Alciati's Emblemata. Final four lines on back paste-down. 

32e-23 2-s

Andreae Alciati, Emblematum libri duo. Lugduni: Ioan. Tornaesius & Gulielmus Gazeius, 1554. Bound with two other titles. U.v.A. call number OTM: OK 62-8977.


Name or initials, usually on front paste-down, first free endpaper or title page. May be handwritten or stamped.

Ownership stamp and handwritten ownership dated 1628 and 1698 on title-page.

33-08 2-s

Bernardus de Gordonius, Opus latium medicinae. Lugduni: Gul. Rouille, 1559. U.v.A. call number OTM: O 62-2008.

Initials 'E L H' on title page.

34-02 2-s

Xenophon, La Cyropedie. A Lion: J. de Tournes, 1555. U.v.A. call number OTM: Band 1 A 18. 

Two examples of famous ownership:

'Marcus Fuggerus' on front paste-down.


Claude d'Espence, Traicté contre l'erreur vieil et renouvellé. Lyon: J. de Tournes, 1548. Bound with two other titles. U.v.A. call number OTM: Band 1 H 18. 

'Ex Libris Wenceslas Hollar Bohem Ao. 1644' on title page.

36-11 2-s

Bernard Salomon, The true and lyvely historyke purtreatures of the vvol Bible. Lyons: Jean of Tournes, 1553. U.v.A. call number OTM: OK  62-8867. 

It should be possible to verify Marcus Fugger's (1529-1597) handwriting in Espence, as also ownership by Wenceslas Hollar (1607-1677) of the English edition of the 'Le Petit Bernard'. Since the latter was sold to the University of Amsterdam in the 1960's by a reputable antiquarian bookseller and Hollar was working and living in England in 1644, which could be the explanation for possessing an English edition of this originally French illustrated bible, the attribution might be trustworthy, nevertheless the names written in these books could also have been forged. Provenance research is inevitably and continually confronted with the issue of authenticity. 

Ownership mark on binding

On the front and/or back covers and/or on the spine. Embossed or stamped, in gilt, coloured or blind. An ownership mark on a binding can be a coat of arms, monogram, name, initials, or device. 

Coat of arms of Willem van Oranje (1533-1584).


Xenophon, La Cyropedie. A Lion: J. de Tournes, 1555. U.v.A. call number OTM: Band 1 A 18. 

Monogram: 'H D' or 'H C'? 

Assumed to be the initials of Henry II (1519-1559) 'H' and those of his mistress Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566) 'D', but could also be interpreted as the initials of Henry II 'H' and his wife Catherine de Medici (1519-1589)' C'. 


Sebastiano Serlio, Extraordinario Libro di Architettura. Lyon: Jean de Tournes, 1551. U.v.A. call number OTM: Band 5 C 6. 

Name of the owner on binding: 'JAC. AUGUST THUANUS' within coat of arms of Jacques-Auguste de Thou (1553-1617).

38b-P1170556 kopie-s

Joannes Gorraeus, Hippocratis Coi medicorum omnium principis. Parisiis: Christianus Wechel, 1544. Bound with five other titles.  U.v.A. call number OTM: Band 1 A 16.

Unidentified initials 'I M' on back cover.


Thomas of Aquino, Problemata. Lugduni: Jacobus & Fransiscus de Giunta, (1520). 

U.v.A. call number OTM: Ok 62-9772. 

Three interlaced crescent moons, device on books from the library of  Diane de Poitiers


Sebastiano Serlio, Extraordinario Libro di Architettura. Lyon: Jean de Tournes, 1551. U.v.A. call number OTM: Band 5 C 6. 


Paste-downs line the inside of the front and back cover of a book. They are blank when leaving the binder and are used by owners of books for ownership marks, information on the book and its author, scribbling notes, trying out pens etc. Paste-downs can harbour a wealth of information on the reading and ownership history of the book. 


Xanthus Paginus, Hebraicas institutiones. (Lugduni: Ant. du Ry, 1526). U.v.A. call number OTM RON A-5304.

Potential pitfalls

Ambiguous assumptions. Interpretation. Illegibility of the marginalia and ownership marks. Incomprehensible system of annotation marks. Reliability of attributed ownership. 

Price paid

Price paid for the book, sometimes accompanied by the name of the seller and the year when acquired. Usually on one of the paste-downs. Acquisition data give insight into the development of a collection. 

41-22 2-s

Bernard Salomon, The true and lyvely historyke purtreatures of the vvol Bible. Lyons: Jean of Tournes, 1553. U.v.A. call number OTM: OK  62-8867. 

Shelf mark

Shelf and other identification marks, old and new, are important clues for tracing the ownership history of a book. Usually on the paste-downs. 

Front and back paste-down of the same book. 



Le Psaultier/Le miroir du penitent/Les prières. Lyon: Jean de Tournes. 1559/1549/1543. Three volumes bound in one. U.v.A. call number OTM: Band 2 D 12. 

© pvanholthe 2011-2017