Sunday, February 19, 2012

Margin call

Barrett’s connection to the old papers was becoming more than simply technical. It was emotional. He detected life in them. He once found the imprint of a person’s thumb on a page in a Renaissance book. “Maybe the papermaker was rushing to fill an order, and grabbed the corner of the sheet too firmly,” he said. “To me, that fingerprint marked the sheet with the humanity of the person who made it. I could feel his presence.” — "Cellulose Hero," Mark Levine, NYT Magazine, 2/19/12


From the time I came to the palace as a child, each morning and evening I exchanged letters of greeting with my parents, and many of those letters should have remained with my family. However, upon my departure, my father cautioned me, “It is not right that letters from the outside should be scattered about the palace. Nor would it be proper for you to write of anything at length aside from simple words of greeting. It would be best if, after reading the news from home, you wrote us on the same sheet of paper.” As he instructed, I wrote to them on the top margin of the letters that Mother faithfully sent twice each day. Father’s letters, as well as those of my brothers and sister, were answered in the same way. Father also cautioned my family not to strew the letters from the palace about the house. Thus my family gathered all my letters and, at regular intervals, washed away all that was written.* Hence, none of those writing remained in my family’s possession.

—The Memoir of 1795, The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong (transl. JaHyun Kim Haboush)

*Washing away the ink with water was the standard way of obliterating what was written. Paper was then reused.

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