Monday, July 08, 2019



F.L. Lucas (1894-1967), Style (London: Cassell & Co Ltd, 1955), p. 131:
But in recent years, especially in America, there has grown up a system of annotation neither intelligent nor considerate. Instead of putting notes at the foot of pages, it jumbles them in a vast dump at the back of the book. No normal reader much enjoys perusing a volume in two places at once; further, though he may find his way, if he has the patience, from the text to note 345, he may have a tedious search to find his way from note 345 to the relevant passage of the text. For this type of author has seldom the sense, or the courtesy, to prefix his notes with the page-numbers concerned. Consequently it may be suspected that five readers out of six either skip the notes altogether or skim through them in a lump, if they are interesting enough, without looking back at the text.

The case is different with commentaries on great literature, like Homer or Sophocles or Shakespeare. Fine writing deserves fine printing; a page of poetry is not enhanced by a rubble of scholia at the bottom; therefore such commentaries appear better at the end. But footnotes are not commentaries; and most books are not great art. Accordingly there seems much to be said for a retmn to the older system of putting footnotes at the foot of pages, not in a sort of boothole at the back.

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