A Modest Request (Kleine Bitte)


If someone borrows a book from the library, let’s say Marx: whom does he want to read? He wants to read Marx! Whom does he most certainly not want to read? He certainly does not want to read Herr Posauke. But what has Herr Posauke done? Herr Posauke has scribbled all over the book. Shame!

Whether one should scribble all over one’s own books is a different question (cf. On Scribbling in Books, Book Margins and Book-Related Artifacts, inaugural dissertation of Dr. Peter Panter, presented to the University of Saarow-Pieskow, dedicated to my dear parents.) You can do what you like with your own books, but how should you treat those of others? The Prussian State Library, to which one should grant as much as the costs of a medium-sized infantry division, to enable it to become a modern library, should defend itself vigorously against those with the bad habit of ranting all over borrowed books, and that’s the only way of putting it. „Oh, ho!“ „Completely wrong, see Volkmar, p. 564.“ „Idiot!“ „Bravo!“ „No, N. did not reject this theory at all!” “Ignorant cheek!“

What is this all about? First of all, it is cowardly to attack the author: he is not there, and cannot defend himself. Secondly, it puts the next reader completely off his reading: one doesn’t feel like starting at the top left-hand side if something that one doesn’t know is underlined at the bottom right-hand side. The eye becomes nervous, and looks away. If we have underlined it ourselves, we already know the book, and that is completely different, but a library book belongs to everyone, and everyone should treat it properly and respectfully. Municipal and academic libraries both suffer from this bad habit. All of us who cannot afford to buy all our books, suffer from it. It is like leaving your picnic rubbish in the woods.

A modest request to library borrowers. Let other people write the margin notes: don’t do it yourself! Don’t draw all over the books, it is not nice. Make your comments, by all means, but not in the books, but rather out of them! Don’t criticize the author in the margin, write to him.

Herr Privy Councillor Goethe, Weimar, that’s all the address you need, the letter will be delivered. Frick[1] will make sure of that.

And stop drawing all over the books. Have you got that? Don’t do it any more!

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Frick. On 23 January 1930 Wilhelm Frick was appointed State Minister of the Interior and of Education in the coalition government of Thuringia, being the first Nazi to hold any ministerial-level post in pre-Nazi Germany.

Author: Kurt Tucholsky

Published in: PantrTigerCo Tucholsky Panter, Tiger & Co. TuchoReader Tucholsky Reader


One thought on “A Modest Request (Kleine Bitte)

  1. Pingback: Those who love books, steal them (and do other things as well) | lib{cache

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