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referent for all things liberal, and an overview of ten newly acquired letters (most unknown to and therefore unpublished in the Collected Works) written by Mill between the 1830s and 1860s, was leavened by tea, biscuits, and cake.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

Pandemic Publications, Part Three: Once More Unto the Burgersdijk, Dear Friends

My third and final 2020 publication was co-authored with my co-PI, Emma Wilson, and appeared in a special issue of Nineteenth-Century Prose dedicated to Mill.  It focused on the volume catalogued as Francis Burgersdicius’s Institutionum Logicarum, which is actually two books printed together, Dutch schoolman Franco Burgersdijk’s textbook Institutionum Logicarum, published in 1660, and his successor Adriaan Heereboord’s Hermēneia Logica, published in 1663:

Burgersdijk title page
Title Page of Franco Burgersdijk’s Insitutionum Logicarum
Heereboord title page
title page of Adriaan Heereboord’s Hermeneia Logica

Each contains an independently paginated preface and main text, with Institutionum Logicarum featuring 24 pages of prefatory material and 357 pages of main text, while Hermēneia Logica offers 6 pages of prefatory material and 311 pages of main text. With roughly three-quarters of the collection now surveyed for handwritten additions, one half of which have been photographed, and one quarter transcribed and uploaded, I can say with some confidence that the book contains the second largest number of individual examples of marginalia of any single volume. In all, 351 of its pages contain at least one mark or annotation, with 1568 total instances.

Over one-third of this total is represented by 576 examples of neatly handwritten numerals. Some of these examples contain multiple numbers separated by periods, however; when these numerical chains are broken into their constituent links, the total quantity of marginal numbers increases to 611. These can be found in three of the four independently numbered sections of Institutiorum Logicarum: 21 in the first set of prefatory pages; 251 in Burgersdijk’s main text; and 339 in the main text of Heereboord. The numbers appear in two forms, with and without a decimal tenth added (i.e., 19 and 19.1). Since when multiple individual numbers appear together in the same annotation they are also separated by periods, this convention only added to the marginalia’s initial inscrutability.

Ultimately, Emma and I were able to discern that the more than 600 handwritten numbers in Burgersdijk’s Institutiorum Logicarum provide an elaborate system of marginal cross-references. Just under 95% (580 of 611) of all numerical annotations in the book lead one to corresponding annotations on the pages referenced by the original numbers. Numbers with a decimal tenth added to them lead one to pages in the other, independently paginated portion of the main text.

page image with handwritten marginal numbers
p. 15 of JS Mill’s personal copy of Burgersdijk, with hand-written numbers in outer margin

Thus, page 15 of part one, pictured above and authored by Burgersdijk, includes, from top to bottom, the handwritten numbers 11, 71, 7, 66, 117, 22.1, 18, 43, 12.1, and 24.1.  Similarly, pages 11, 7, 66, 117, 18, and 43 of part one contain a handwritten “15” in the margin, whereas pages 22, 12, and 24 of part two, authored by Heereboord, all feature “15.1”; moreover, each of the pages referred to by page 15 also contains additional numbers that, on the basis of other subjects, lead one to further pages.

Of the remaining 31 numbers for which there are no apparent corresponding pairs, 21 appear in the prefatory pages of Burgersdijk’s half of the volume.  Here, they provide page numbers, odd numbers only, in the top corner of pages that are otherwise only identified by their section headings (i.e., “Dedicatio” or “Præfatio ad Lectorem”), allowing for marginal cross references between these now-numbered early pages.  Alas, the final ten numbers resisted all of our efforts to decode them.

Nevertheless, sorting out the function of 601 of the 611 marginal numbers allowed us to compare the printed text adjacent to Mill’s handwritten numbers, concentrating for the purposes of our article on those appearing in Burgersdijk’s half of the volume.  In so doing, we discovered that, even in his tweens, Mill was already embarking on the intellectual trajectory that would ultimately result in his own System of Logic (1843).  His marginal numbers allowed him to move quickly between, to cite only a few examples, 1) similar passages exhorting a sound logical education as the basis for the correct and upright running of a nation, 2) Burgersdijk’s hierarchical classification of logicians into a “first,” “second,” and “third” class, as well as other ways of structuring learning about logic, 3) the Dutchman’s definition of logic, 4) his enumeration of the four instruments of logic (definition, division, syllogism, and method), 5) his connection between the practice of logic and the development of lasting intellectual habits, and 6) his taxonomy of causes, including his differentiations between “proegumenic” and “procatarctic” causality.

Constructing this dense network of marginal numbers was, undoubtedly, an enormous amount of work. It is also work that would need to be done while the book was fresh in one’s mind, perhaps with the aid of now-lost handwritten notes, as the range of cross-references spans the entire volume, in 80 instances pointing out corresponding passages in the separate treatises written by Burgersdijk and Heereboord, respectively. Whenever the numbers were added—and this is a chronological detail that we are likely never to be able to pinpoint—they were a significant addition to a text already crowded with evidence for Mill’s close engagement and sustained dialogue.

—Albert Pionke, Project Director

A Second Pandemic Publication

In April 2020, the second of three new publications on Mill’s marginalia appeared in ILCEA4, the Revue de l’Institut des langues et cultures d’Europe, Amérique, Afrique, Asie et Australie, which put out a special issue on international Digital Humanities research (  My contribution, “Handwritten Marginalia and Digital Search: The Development and Early Research Results of Mill Marginalia Online,” sought to introduce the journal’s international audience to Somerville’s John Stuart Mill Collection, the ongoing collaborative effort to digitize its marginalia, and Mill’s specific marginalia in Alexis de Tocqueville’s De la Démocratie en Amérique (1835-40) and Auguste Comte’s collected works, including Cours de Philosophie Positive (1830-42) and Système de Politique Positive (1851-54). 

The scope of this article thus allowed me to acknowledge the important previous work undertaken to assemble Charles Darwin’s Library and Melville’s Marginalia Online, both of which were models for Mill Marginalia Online.  I was also able to recognize two of the granting bodies supporting our digitization efforts, the NEH and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, to talk about the exciting early discoveries made in Mill’s library, and to attempt a technical description of the project suitable for non-technical readers.

The specific marginalia in Tocqueville and Comte’s works was selected for its importance in nineteenth-century intellectual history and to appeal to the journal’s many French readers.  Mill also annotated very differently in response to Tocqueville and Comte.  The former prompted a relatively small number of significant verbal comments, often skeptical, in response to his then-friend’s analysis of America’s great social and political experiment in representational democracy and over-determining expressions of public opinion.  These are in contrast to his published encomiums concerning Democracy in America.  Mill’s much greater number of marks in Comte’s works are, as detailed in my previous post, much briefer and appear undertaken to support his very public critique of Comte’s intellectual legacy.

Mill arguably did more than anyone else to introduce his countrymen to the ideas of both Tocqueville and Comte.  His reviews of 1835 and 1840 elevated Tocqueville’s concerns about “the tyranny of the majority” and the tension between liberty and equality to the forefront of subsequent debates over the character of England’s emerging democracy.  And, as he himself recognized in his Autobiography and as subsequent historians of sociology have endorsed, Mill “contributed more than any one else to make [Comte’s] speculations known in England” (CW I.271).  However, as the marginalia in his personal copies of both men’s work attests, Mill initiated this intellectual leavening of British intellectual history with radically different methods of reading and annotation.

—Albert Pionke, Project Director

Progress in/and a Pandemic

There is nothing quite like personnel changes followed immediately by a global pandemic to upend one’s original plans for project updates, whether of the technical or narrative variety. However, with a new upload of data drawing ever closer, I am pleased to welcome Riley Hines and Patrick Motley to Mill Marginalia Online. Riley replaces the intrepid and invaluable Kaitlin Wright, who has graduated from UA, as the project’s newest research assistant. She has been eyeballs deep in Mill’s Classics collection since August 2020, deciphering marginalia in English, Latin, and Greek, while also discovering a new form of underlining, which we hope to feature in a future upload and metadata upgrade. Patrick replaces James as the Alabama Digital Humanities Center’s IT Technical Specialist; although, James has generously remained only a consult away as Patrick settles into his new role.

Unfortunately, travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic have prevented me from planned visits to the friendly confines of Somerville College and the John Stuart Mill Collection for the collection of fresh photographic data. Not altogether idle, however, I have produced a number of articles about Mill and his marginalia that are beginning to make their way into print.

Appearing first, at the beginning of 2020, was “Mill, Comte, and the Literature of Sociological Critique,” the first chapter of The Socio-Literary Imaginary in 19th and 20th Century Britain: Victorian and Edwardian Inflections (Routledge). This essay seeks to place the 917 marks and annotations found on 685 pages of Mill’s copies of nine different titles by French positivist and inventor of the term “sociology,” Auguste Comte, in the context of both their decades’ long relationship and Mill’s statements about the complementary functions of Art and Science in his System of Logic (1843). In a nutshell, although Mill was initially impressed by Comte’s scientific achievements—in fact, the first edition of the System of Logic was primarily responsible for introducing those achievements to the English-speaking world—he became progressively more suspicious about Comte’s social prescriptions and more impatient over the Frenchman’s bizarre obsessions, with the number thirteen for example, finally offering a devastating critique of both on the basis of both Science and Art in Auguste Comte and Positivism (1865).

The marginalia scattered unevenly throughout Comte’s works, over 95% of which are nonverbal marks, record Mill’s research for this later published work. They also suggest, indirectly, that the only very lightly marked and annotated copy of Comte’s Cours de Philosophie Positive (1830-42) may not be the original edition that Mill recorded reading with great assiduity in his letters from 1837, 1838, and 1841. Perhaps the London Library holds this unrecognized treasure of marginal proportions!

Subsequent posts shall feature additional recent publications.

—Albert Pionke, Project Director