Some four hundred years after the first edition of Cervantes’ Don Quixote hit bookstore shelves, I hold in my hand a Penguin Classics edition of Cervantes’ most celebrated tome. It’s in paperback. It’s translated by J. M. Cohen who, I have learned, has done a lot for Penguin. Cohen also wrote the introduction to the text but, as a general rule, I don’t read introductions until I have finished the book.

My copy of Don Quixote, as it stands with the intro and everything, was first published by Penguin in 1950. My copy is the 40th printing, I think, and I’m not sure of the year the book left the printers (it was, incidentally, printed by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc. It is set in Monotype Fournier).

I bought the book used at an independent used book store in Nebraska called A Novel Idea. A Novel Idea has a cat named Silas. Silas has a brass bed, a leopard printed couch, and other furniture. He stares at you from the storefront window as you pass by. If you mouth to him through the glass, he’ll mouth back.

I paid three dollars for the book, which is marked on the first page in pencil, lightly, as used bookstore owners are wont to do. I thought three dollars was a fair price for the 940 page book.

Over a month ago, I started reading the book–first with Cervantes’ prologue, then the first chapter, then I got sick, then school got more difficult, etc (needless to say, I haven’t read it for a while), I absently wondered about the markings–in blue ink–left by the book’s previous owner. Chapters had asterisks beside their numbers in the T.O.C. (32-35, 39-41, 45-47, 51-52, etc) and some even had two asterisks, like chapter 33, or “The Tale of Foolish Curiosity” and 45, or “The Truth about Mambrino’s Helmet.”

In the actual text, for instance, in the prologue to the first part, I noticed whole sections underlined. On the first page, there was a section underlined: “But I, though in appearance Don Quixote’s father, am really his step-father, and so will not drift with the current of custom, nor implore you, almost with tears in my eyes, as others do, dearest reader, to pardon or ignore the faults you see in this child of mine. For you are no relation or friend of his. Your soul is in your own body, and you have free will with the best of them,” and the underlining stops, mid-sentence, ignoring the bit about being a “lord in your own house as the King is over his taxes” (which, in my mind blatantly challenges the charge of the aforementioned free will! Or maybe it’s not a challenge and I’m reading too far into it? I think I’m not far enough into the book to get a clear judgement on Cervantes’ words, so my complaint is neither here or there). Deep, dark neat, straight-edged lines in blue.

Later, in the prologue yet, single short sentences are underlined. Sometimes just a word or a name: Caus. Ovid. Bishop of Mondonedo. Medea. Virgil. I wondered, while reading, did s/he underline the words on first reading? Was it used for a class? Why did they find it important to underline at all? Hm.

Okay, this is getting long. I’m a long-winded person, so I have a tendency to go on. But before I go, I have to mention the cover. It is an illustration to Don Quixote by Gustave Dore.

I have to study for a test. I’ll take the test Thursday. I’ll continue reading after.