Academic journal article et Cetera

The Footnote: A Curious History

Academic journal article et Cetera

The Footnote: A Curious History

Article excerpt

Anthony Grafton. The Footnote: A Curious History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Footnotes have had their detractors. Noel Coward said reading one was like having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of lovemaking. Voltaire's position was "Woe to details! Posterity neglects them all; they are a kind of vermin that undermines large works." But for modern historians, footnotes are essential to document and refine their arguments and the intelligent reader can use them as a source of extra erudition. And extra erudition is what you will get if you read Anthony Grafton's fascinating and informative book about the role of "the lowly footnote" in the study of history.

The book begins in the Berlin of the brilliant nineteenth century historian Leopold von Ranke, who is credited with the invention of documented history in its modern form. Going backward to antiquity and forward to the twentieth century Grafton shows us that footnotes are more than just weapons that pedants use to snipe at each other in scholarly works or that graduate students use to make evident they have put in lots of work on their dissertations. …

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