As we still do today, medieval readers liked to mark, with a pen, passages they deemed important, useful or entertaining. While we tend to draw a thin vertical line next to the text, in medieval books this practice is often far less subtle. The pages above are from a 14th-century book with Cicero’s Paradoxa stoicorum. A reader from the 15th century was apparently very fond of this text. As he read it he marked important passages in a variety of ways. The two above are most remarkable: in one case he drew an octopus whose wide-spread tentacles “grab” an important passage; in the other he drew a variation on the widely-used pointing finger: a hand whose long fingers are twisting and turning in an attempt to mark a long passage. The parallel between the two is striking: the tentacles are like fingers, the fingers like tentacles.
Pic: Berkeley, Bancroft Library, BANC MS UCB 085 (Italy, 1350-1400). More information about the manuscript here.