Adding your own notes to your own print-out of an old book

There is a German textbook which is unavailable for purchase, although still in copyright.  I need access to it.  So I borrowed a copy from the library, and for the last week I have been copying it.

In days of yore, this would leave me with a pile of photocopies.  Today I merely create a PDF of the raw page images and get that printed in perfect-bound form by  It’s rather easier to handle that way.

So I’ve put each page in turn on my scanner, hit the button, got an image at 400dpi in black and white, and so on, for hundreds of pages.  Then I went through the pages and turned the alternate ones the right way up.  Then I cropped all the images down to a little larger than the text block in the middle.  Then I came out of Finereader, and ran ImageMagick on the .tif files, first converting them to .png, and then padding them each with whitespace on all four sides, to make them crown quarto size.  Finally I used Adobe Acrobat to gather up all the .png’s into a PDF of the right size for printing.  All well and good.

But perhaps I should do more.

You see, German is not my best language.  So what I will do, once I get the book-form, is go through it and write notes in the margins.  These I have made deliberately large for just this purpose.  Important pages will get turned down.  The table of contents will get a scribbled translation next to it.

But maybe I should type up some of this now, and just dump it onto the page images.  So underneath the section titles “Dichtern” I should add “(poets)”? 

Maybe I should go further.  I could perfectly well intersperse some more pages.  I could type up the translation of the table of contents that I have made, and interleave that with the PDF pages.  Possibly there are other things I could do. 

The book is also over 600 pages.  That makes a very thick, heavy book.  But nothing in the world stops me dividing that PDF into two 300+ page volumes, and printing them separately.

I don’t quite know what to do.  On the one hand I’d like a copy of the book, as is.  On the other hand, tampering with it might be useful.  Or it might just be annoying.

What to do?


2 thoughts on “Adding your own notes to your own print-out of an old book

  1. Except for different technology, I imagine a scholar in 1200 would have had to make similar decisions.

  2. Yes, it is remarkable how we are moving out of the era of print and back into something resembling the manuscript era!

    I decided not to, in the end. The book was ordered today.

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