It can get confusing when you have several books on the go, but I think I’ve managed to keep each story separate from the others. Like this one:
Hamlet had a ponderous dream where he saw the grotesque ghost of Frankenstein’s monster. The monster demanded that he take his revenge on the nasty Heathcliff, who was married to flirtatious Juliet but in love with sweet Tess of the d’Urbevilles. Hamlet then received an important letter from jolly Postman Pat, informing him that he had received a sum of money. Hamlet believed the money had come from the obsessed old Miss Havisham, but when he falls asleep at the ancient altar of Stonehenge waiting for his arrest, he realizes his benefactor is Heathcliff’s evil brother, Claudius – the man he is supposed to kill…
While some people believe that to mark a book with ink, or to crease a corner of a page, break a spine or any other casual treatment is like book – cruelty; others see nothing wrong with making notes, underlining or marking passages.
Henry VIII was one of these people. The British Library holds a collection of books which had belonged to the King, famous for having six wives, and creating the Anglican protestant church in England. The books have his notes and markings all over them, showing us his thoughts about certain topics. Whenever he came across something he thought was important or noteworthy, he drew little hands alongside the text. As well as marking lines he thought were interesting, he also wrote love notes in the margin of a prayer-book.
Treating a book this way is not acceptable to everyone. But what would come of these books if Henry VIII hadn’t scrawled over them? The British Library would not have this fascinating, and a part of our understanding of his character would be lost.
The commentary of The British Library: The King has annotated the right-hand page in two places.
‘O Lord, save the king: and hear us in the day that we shall call upon thee’ as ‘an appropriate prayer for kings’ (pro rege oratio).
With his pencil annotation ‘concerning kings’ (nota de regibus), Henry draws attention to Psalm 20: which instructs him that, as king, he is called to ‘rejoice in the Lord’s strength and delight in His salvation.