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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, Spring 1962

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NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XVIII, No. 1, Spring 1962

FOLKLORE MARGINALIA IN OLD TEXTBOOKS
Robert H. Woodward

THE STUDENT-COLLECTOR of folklore is usually directed by his instructor to his own recollections, to the members of his family, to his peers, and to his adult acquaintances. While these sources of information are, of course, fundamental ones, the student should be cautioned not to overlook written records that might be available to him. Even the box of old textbooks in the attic could prove a fruitful source for the lore of his forebears, particularly if they utilized the margins and blank pages for their non-academic notations.

Textbooks, apparently, have always borne the brunt of their owners’ ennui, misdirected attention, and artistic aspirations. Margins were designed to be doodled in and written in. They provide ample room for notes to and from one’s school chums, diary entries, snatches of songs, favorite lines of popular poetry, Bible texts, autograph verses, and parodies. A case in point is a textbook—The Leading Facts of American History—used by Christa Valentine in the small town of Pendleton, in central Indiana, in the early years of the 1890s. The notes to and from her schoolmates, as well as the diary entries, which are sprinkled unmethodically through the volume, touch upon matters forever dear to a young girl’s heart—young men, school affairs, disappointment, anticipations—and record life rather than lore. The songs and poems reveal the persistence of the Civil War tunes into the nineties and the popularity of Victorian poetry in the guise of folk wisdom....



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