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University Libraries’ newest exhibit highlights what we find left behind in rare books

Mimi Calhoun
January 27, 2023

Ohio University Libraries' newest exhibit is now on display and ready for viewers to enjoy on the fourth floor of Alden Library. “Meetings in the Margins: Encounters with Readers and Owners in Rare Books,” has been set up to showcase select items from the Libraries’ Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections’ Rare Book Collection and will be up until May with a digital exhibit is also available. Materials such as handwritten notes, mementos like pressed flowers and bookplates are just a few of the items viewers can see.

text, letter
A stained and well-worn version of “‘The Eclipse,’ for Hotel and Home Cooking, Suitable for Rich and Poor,” written by Mrs. H.J. Hawhe is one the items on display. The book was printed in Columbus, Ohio and contains extra handwritten recipes for food as well as health.

Miriam Intrator, special collections librarian, curated the exhibit with the intention and purpose of evoking conversation and curiosity over what people can learn from what others leave in their books. Marks and items left behind by readers and owners can help tell a person’s story and provide background that one may not initially think about when encountering rare books.


Pictured to the left is an annotated and marked manuscript page from the “Decretales,” originally written by Pope Gregory IX during the 14th Century. Notice the multiple hand-drawn hands pointing to different sections of the text.

“In some cases, what we find provides enough information for us to reconstruct the story of the relationship between the book and the person who left something behind,” Intrator wrote in her descriptive text accompanying the exhibit “In other cases, as in a scrap of fabric, we are left with more questions than answers [such as]: Did this have particular meaning or just serve as a handy bookmark?” 

The various items found pressed between the pages allow for conversation about what people leave behind in books and give viewers a chance to reflect on how they interact with books and other objects in their lives. Intrator provides thought-provoking questions in the exhibit for viewers to think about in terms of what to consider about objects left behind.

“How do we leave our mark?” Intrator wrote. “What do we want our descendants or future researchers or the curious to know about us?” 

For more information, contact Miriam Intrator at
Photos by Charlie Nick / Ohio University Libraries