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Ex Libris Marshall McLuhan

November 25, 2011

I thought I would share some of Marshall McLuhan’s signatures with you. Marshall signed his name in many of his books. Early on, in his time at the University of Manitoba, and also at Cambridge, he would include more information:

In these photos, you can see several things. Marshall varied his signature from M. McLuhan to H. M. McLuhan, to H M McLuhan, to Marshall McLuhan.

In his university days, he generally included additional information such as school and program, and (more often in England) the place he bought the book. Sometimes a bookseller’s invoice is tucked in between the pages.

I suspect there were several reasons Marshall put his name in the books he purchased. He would lend them out on occasion, so he wanted to make sure people knew whose book it was. I’m sure also some sort of pride of ownership played a role.

It is very convenient for me, and future researchers, that Marshall McLuhan’s handwriting changed over the years. Because of that, we can ballpark-date much of his annotation/marginalia; because of that we can track his changing interests, his intellectual development.

For example, we can look at a book which he purchased in England in 1935 and made notes in over the years. Marshall’s was a Working Library. He went back to his books, and made new insights each time. So we can see what was notable to him in the 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, etcetera.

Indeed, sometimes he would write a note about this change. In one volume, he wrote in the early 1930’s a few short sentences on morality, and added a postscript a few years later with some embarrassment for his earlier thought.

As I am almost at the end of my initial catalog of the library, and have a fairly good sense of the artifact as a whole, so many implications are becoming clear which I would not have imagined, such as being able to get a sense of intellectual development – and many other things which I hope to post about and share in the future.

Thanks for reading,


As a post-script, last week I was in Porto Alegro, Brasil, for a conference with Eric McLuhan, and was asked to give a small presentation on the work I’ve been doing with Marshall’s library. Though I had to throw it together last-minute, I spoke for over an hour about the experience and implications for scholarship. It was very satisfying for me personally, and I’d like to thank the amazing people at PUCRS: Eduardo Campos Pellanda, Carlos Gerbase, Magda, Julliana – all the other staff and students who welcomed us and were so accommodating.

I am hoping to make more presentations in the future to share this resource, and to fund further my research. If your institution would be interested in having me present, do get in touch.

Thanks again,


6 Comments leave one →
  1. Poli permalink
    November 25, 2011 2:48 pm

    Congratulations on your initiative!

    It was great to have them here in Brazil with us and be able to exchange experiences so cool!

    Are always welcome and continue your search with this interesting search Andrew, can be sure that it will still bring you many joys and many exciting experiences!

    Polianne Merie Espindola
    PhD student in communication

  2. Sue permalink
    November 25, 2011 4:24 pm

    Your father (Eric) could have written the Trinity Hall signature!

  3. November 25, 2011 11:30 pm

    Good luck with this endeavour Andrew.

    I have been in the coach house at a certain era when most of his books had already been removed and have been in the McLuhan archive at FLIS/UofT not much there either.Very glad to see all the new life added to his work cropping up.Big man big influence.Over and out!

    Terry Mockler,
    Delray Beach Fl.

  4. Nelson permalink
    November 29, 2011 7:27 pm

    Hmm. I have several books that belonged to Mr. McLuhan and that he signed. None of the signatures are anything like your examples though. I would be happy to provide you with a sample.

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