Closing the Circle

May 14-19 saw me back at Somerville to photograph further marginalia in the John Stuart Mill Collection.  I took roughly 6400 pictures of 5500 individual examples of marginalia found on 2500 pages in 91 bound volumes that, collectively, account for 21 new titles, all French.  It was a return to the beginning of the project in some ways, as I advanced to within only two three-volume novels of Alexis de Tocqueville’s De la démocratie en Amérique, which was the very first book I photographed back in July 2015.  Both John Stuart and James Mill’s hands were evident, along with others whose identities may never be known.  Only a handful of books in French and Italian, along with Mill’s collection of German literature, remain.

Albert D. Pionke, Project Director

A March Back to Oxford

Earlier this month, I was pleased to return to Somerville College to gather further data from the John Stuart Mill Collection and to present at the Annual John Stuart Mill Seminar.

Over the course of a week, I took 5480 photographs of just over 2000 individual pages in 224 volumes that, collectively, comprise 59 new titles for a future update of Mill Marginalia Online.  With roughly 80% of the collection now photographed, the end of the project’s data collection phase is gradually coming into focus.  I estimate that three more trips will be sufficient to capture images of all remaining pages with marginalia.

This year’s Annual Seminar featured introductory remarks highlighting the ongoing marginalia census being continued by Jane Macintyre, as well as papers from Dr. Jeremy Fix of Keble College, Somerville Emeritus Fellow Julie Jack, and myself.  Philosophy was the unifying discipline this year, with Mill’s Utilitarian consequentialism contrasted with  Kantian deontology as the basis for identifying moral agents and patients (Fix), his solution to Zeno’s paradox in the System of Logic (1843) reconnected with its Aristotelian roots (Jack), and Mill’s marginal responses to Henry Home, Lord Kames’s Elements of Criticism (1762) revealed for the first time and in the light of Mill’s subsequent publications on their shared subjects of perception, memory, and cognition (Pionke).

The following slide captures Mill’s generally critical reaction to Home’s Elements of Criticism:

Unmentioned by title anywhere in Mill’s published works, Home’s Elements nevertheless prompted Mill’s unpublished attention, which is, of course, precisely the point of digitizing his marginalia.

This effort at digitization gained a new collaborator in late 2022, as my longtime Oxford partner Anne Manuel retired and was succeeded by Sarah Butler as Somerville Librarian.  We met for the first time in person in March, when Sarah organized the Annual Seminar, generously listened to my rhapsodies about the importance of nonverbal marks, and generally created a welcoming and productive atmosphere for a frenzy of photographic work.  Here we are, taking a brief breather amidst Mill’s books:

Just beyond Sarah’s left arm are the works the Jules Michelet, the last author whose books I photographed on this March 2023 trip.

Albert D. Pionke, Project Director

Welcome to Mill Marginalia 2.0

After over two years of work on three continents, much of it completed during a global pandemic, I am pleased to announce that the redesigned Mill Marginalia Online is now up and running.

The differences from a user’s perspective are subtle: a single button now allows anyone to download the project’s full metadata to date, rather than having to do so one book at a time; and critical introductions are now grouped together and accessible via button on the Home screen rather than pinned directly to their specifically associated Volume pages.

Behind the scenes, however, almost everything has changed. Newly rebuilt in WordPress, MMO no longer requires a resident code ninja to update and maintain, which fact has finally allowed the data set to return to growth.

The new site features a fresh 8000+ examples of marginalia, representing almost the entirety of Mill’s extensive Classics collection. There is also a new multi-part critical introduction to George Grote’s History of Greece, which is perhaps the most extensively annotated title in Somerville’s Mill Library. The now-26,000+ marks and annotations represent the roughly one-half of the total books remaining from Mill’s Blackheath library.

And there’s more on the way! Mill’s English books of literature, history, botany, and other subjects are currently being processed. Stay tuned to learn when you’ll be able to review on-the-page responses to Boswell, Bulwer-Lytton, Butler, Byron, and that’s just the B’s.

Albert D. Pionke, Project Director

Dating Mill’s Marginalia

At long last, after three years’ absence, I was very pleased to return earlier this month to Somerville College, where I found the Mill Library serenely unchanged by either global pandemic or international conflict.  Resuming my photographic collection of marginal data, I progressed from the east to the west side of the library’s south-facing window, thereby moving from the last remnants of ancient Greece into Mill’s collection of comparatively modern and to-him contemporary English literature.  Over five days, under the benign glare of new studio lights, I took over 5500 photos of over 2500 pages in over 100 volumes, about which more in future postings.

I also joined Drs. Anne Manuel and Helen McCabe and Professors Menaka Philips and Roger Crisp in presenting at the Annual John Stuart Mill Seminar.  Here, a heady mix of the evolving history of the management of the Mill collection, Mill’s complex relationship with a variety of pre-Marxian socialisms, his more recent role as “essential” (and also too-simplistic) referent for all things liberal, and an overview of ten newly acquired letters (most unknown to and therefore unpublished in the Collected Works) written by Mill between the 1830s and 1860s, was leavened by tea, biscuits, and cake.

My own presentation concerned Mill’s marginalia in his friend, George Grote’s History of Greece (1846-56).  Comparing the individual pages featuring marginalia in Mill’s first-edition personal copy with the corresponding pages of all subsequent editions through the 1862 “new” edition, as well as the text of each of Mill’s annotations with the letters he wrote home to an ailing Harriet during his 1854-55 trip to Italy and Greece, I was able to approximate when and in what spirit Mill contributed his handwritten additions to Grote’s already-lengthy text.  My findings, summarized in the following bullet points, reveal that Mill must have read and annotated volumes I-XI at least twice:

  • Firstly, after their 1st edition publication, [almost certainly prior to their review], and definitely before any revised editions
    • Vol. I & II: March 1846 – [April 1846] January 1849
    • Vol. III & IV: April 1847 – [June 1847] January 1849
    • Vol. V & VI: December 1848 – [March 1849] March 1851
    • Vol. VII-VIII: February 1850 – [March 1850] December 1851
    • Vol. IX-XI: February 1852 – [October 1853] March 1856
  • Secondly, after Mill’s trip to Italy Greece (December 1854 – June 1855), and before Grote’s proofs for the November 1862 edition

Incidentally, volume XII need only have been read once, after the March 1856 1st edition, since it appeared after Mill had returned from his trip (to which none of the marginalia in volume XII refers).  In any case, in contrast to the earlier volumes, which feature nearly 150 textual emendations made in response to Mill’s generously offered editorial advice, Grote made no changes to his final volume in response to Mill’s marginalia, which he may or may not have ever seen.

Those interested in the data behind these findings may wish to read the new Critical Introduction to Grote’s History of Greece, co-authored by myself and my most recent RA, Riley Hines and forthcoming on Mill Marginalia Online in April (we hope).  In the meantime, expect more marginal news in this space.

– Albert D. Pionke, Project Director

John Stuart Mill’s Marginalia on John Stuart Mill Now Available

I am pleased to announce a fresh upload of data to Mill Marginalia Online.  The roughly 2500 new examples of marginalia include all those found in the works of both James and John Stuart Mill.  Most of these were clearly made by JSM himself, with an eye towards future republication, whether in Dissertations and Discussions or in subsequent editions of A System of Logic or Principles of Political Economy.  Although nearly all are accurately noted in the University of Toronto Press’s edition of the Collected Works, being able to see Mill’s careful revision of his own prose in his own hand lends a certain immediacy and vitality to these moments of textual history.

The front flyleaves of bound volumes of The Examiner from 1831, 1832, 1833, and 1834 provide a particularly clear example of Mill’s curatorial impulses towards his own publications, written in his most legible hand.  The following appears in the 1834 volume:

Front flyleaf, The Examiner, 1834

Obviously proud of his relatively early work in the newspaper, Mill has gone out of his way to record every paragraph, notice, and article that he contributed.  Some of the items listed seemed to him significant enough to revisit in the margins, and this latest set of images captures every copyedit, revision, renumbering, and doodle that he made.

Also present are translations of Mill’s work in French, Italian, and German, most with inscriptions from their respective editors.  These include volumes received after Mill’s death, at which point the inscriptions shifted their addressee to Helen Taylor, Mill’s stepdaughter, late-career amanuensis, and guardian of his intellectual legacy.  See, for instance, the half-title page of Said Carnot’s 1875 French translation of La Révolution de 1848 et ses Détractures:

Half-title page, La Revolution de 1848 et ses Detractures

Most of the pages in this book remain uncut, indicating that for all Carnot’s “respectful homage,” Helen Taylor did not read it.  She did, however, preserve it among Mill’s books, making it available for digitization today.

My thanks to Patrick Motley for his perseverance in uploading this new material, to Riley Hines for her meticulousness in looking over the data, to Kaitlin Wright for making the original transcriptions, and to everyone involved with the project for their patience and good humor in the midst of global anxiety.

—Albert Pionke, Project Director