Friday, May 24, 2013

Virginia Woolf's reading notebooks

Woolf kept a diary. She also kept draft notebooks for her novels and the essays she wrote alongside them. The reading notebooks are a third kind of notebook, more casual than either of these. Volume 19 is a notebook with cardboard covers, reinforced inside and out on the spine with cloth. Two pairs of metal grommets on the front and back permit it to be bound with laces (and there is a very heavy shoelace attached here, though no longer binding the pages). Inside, are over 100 loose pages, each with two holes. This permitted Woolf to unbind pages from old notebooks and pull old notes as she was revising and expanding essays—for her Common Readers, say. As Silver points out, this can make dating notebooks extraordinarily difficult, as a single notebook (like notebook 26) may contain pages from 1919, 1920 or 21, 1926, 1928, 1935, and 1938.

- Anne Fernald