Reading: The Footnote
February 13, 2013 § 17 Comments
The first chapter of Anthony T. Grafton’s The Footnote: A Curious History traces the development and importance of this oft-overlooked, yet critical piece of hardware in the toolkit of historians and researchers. Raising it above its position at the bottom of the page, Grafton notes its development from annotation and citation in texts from the early Middle Ages as well as its critical role in the professionalization of scholarship.
Anthony T. Grafton. The Footnote: A Curious History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.
What comes to light is that importance of the footnote, which is often perceived as cumbersome and annoying by undergraduates (myself included just a couple years ago), lies in the need for historians to build their arguments on source material whose location and identity is apparent for their colleagues. In some ways, this reading connects to Booth in that both address the importance of writing for a scholarly community, and being aware of the needs of one’s reader.
In reading this chapter, note the different developments in the historical profession, as well as the ways in which citation changed.