Selections from the Prose Writings of Matthew Arnold, annotated by former University of Virginia President Edwin Alderman on the left, compared to a pristine copy downloaded from Google Books.

Hidden in Plain Sight

June 27, 2016

Three librarians from the University of Virginia described their Book Traces project, an effort to discover uniquely modified copies of pre-1923 books in the circulating collections of Alderman Library, in a Sunday program sponsored by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services. Arts and Humanities Director Christine Ruotolo explained that the university has a long-standing tradition of emphasizing book history and bibliography and, because many of their books were originally donated by distinguished faculty and notable families in the Charlottesville area, many of them have potentially valuable modifications by their former owners—marginalia, inserts, inscriptions, annotations, and even doodles that can have evidential value for humanities scholars.