Saturday, December 22, 2018

John Stuart Mill's paper dolls

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Albert Pionke, Professor of English Literature at the University of Alabama, has written an article for The Conversation on the marginalia to be found in John Stuart Mill's library:
Like many serious readers, Mill read with pen or pencil in hand, marking passages he found interesting, protesting against premises and conclusions he judged facile, and sometimes summarising his own thoughts in annotations on unprinted pages.
Mill's annotations are now the subject of an international research project: Mill Marginalia Online.

I was struck, however, by a more human discovery in one of Mill's volumes:
tucked between pages 674 and 675 of Arnoldus Vinnius’s Institutionum Imperialium – a weighty and much-reprinted history of Justinian law – are two paper dolls, with a third waiting between pages 866 and 867. ... 
But the question is, whose dolls were they? Printed in 1665, the book is old enough to have been in the Mill family library when the young John Stuart was tutoring his sisters. Left in the library at Blackheath after his death, it might also have served as a toy depository for Harriet Taylor Mill’s daughter Helen (Mill’s stepdaughter) about whose childhood relationship with Mill we know very little.

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