When I went to the San Diego Shakespeare Society’s open reading of King Lear at the Central Library last Sunday, I stopped, as usual, at the Friends of the Library book sale. Thanks to its volunteers, the Central Library’s book sale is open daily, unlike my local branch, which holds a big FotL book sale once a month.
I’m always on the hunt for my preferred editions of Shakespeare’s plays. This outing, I bagged two Signet Classics: Macbeth and Julius Caesar.
As you can see, my old copy of Julius Caesar is coming apart, which happens with paperbacks. It’s Caesar Unbound. I can’t complain, though; it was in pieces when I scooped it off the free books shelves at my local branch library.
I paid $1 each for my new-to-me books. They’re in nearly perfect condition, and might look unread but that the Caesar has one page dog-eared, Portia’s plea to Brutus in Act 2, Scene 1. Why there, I wonder: did it have a special meaning to the former owner or was it merely where he or she stopped reading? That’s the great thing about buying used books, you get your own journey plus someone else’s.
My old copy of Julius Caesar might not be in good enough condition to donate, even though I was quite happy to give it a home as-is. My old copy of Macbeth poses a bigger problem, because it has my penciled notes from different times in my life, plus notes from at least one owner before me. I’m not attached to the book, but I want those notes.
So, I dove back into Macbeth to transcribe them into the new copy, and it was like opening time capsules.
My first set of underlining and notes, from when I was a 20-year-old in school, relate mostly to the play’s themes and are probably received insights; the prior owner noted similar things, which in some cases I merely circled. My later highlights and notes tend to relate either to business or to characters’ emotional states, and mostly reflect my own thoughts at various times. I also found myself capturing three or four Folger footnotes related to Elizabethan practices and folio variations.
So my new copy of Macbeth isn’t just an edition I like better; it’s an edition I’ve made my own.