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The Footnote - A Curious History (Paper) (Cobee) Paperback – 1 Apr 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; unknown edition (1 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674307607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674307605
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 390,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

The struggle over what history is and how it should be told affects even such a constant convention as the footnote. As Anthony Grafton tells us in his entertaining study The Footnote, this tool of scholarship is just that: a tool that marks the professional from the amateur. "Like the high whine of the dentist's drill," he says, "the low rumble of the footnote on the historian's page reassures: the tedium it inflicts, like the pain inflicted by the drill, is not random but directed, part of the cost that the benefits of modern science and technology exact." There are some scholars, Grafton avers, who consider the footnote an anachronism meant to distance people from their pasts. Conversely, there are some who wage war on other scholars through the medium of their notes. In any event, Grafton opines, the footnote will prevail, protecting works of scholarship from assault as surely as armour protects a tank. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"The Footnote" tells how all those interesting tidbits migrated to the bottom of the page.

Anthony Grafton has written a fascinating book about this important, though often maligned, scholarly apparatus...Historians of all stripes will profit from reading Grafton's history of historical research and writing (often called historiography) and especially from his detective work tracing history of the footnote, this vital academic detail which so many take for granted.

ÝAn¨ excellent book..."The Footnote" is the study of an appealing, rather overlooked aspect of intellectual and cultural history. Yet it is also much more: an investigation into the historical imagination, a quick tour of 'the culture of erudition' and, not least, the most recent intellectual entertainment from one of the most learned and enjoyable scholars now at work. -- Michael Dirda "Washington Post"

ÝIt's¨ hard to imagine a defense of the footnote by any historian with the least sense of style. Yet here it is: " The Footnote"author, Anthony Grafton, is an anomaly in the American historical profession: a deeply learned scholar known for exacting work on the transformations of classical learning in early modern Europe and a sprightly writer capable of communicating his enthusiasm to anyone willing to listen. Mr. Grafton not only defends the footnote as a guarantee of the value of the historical currency. He also portrays it as a bulwark against tyranny. -- Mark Lilla "Wall Street Journal"

The Footnote tells how all those interesting tidbits migrated to the bottom of the page.

[An] excellent book... The Footnote is the study of an appealing, rather overlooked aspect of intellectual and cultural history. Yet it is also much more: an investigation into the historical imagination, a quick tour of 'the culture of erudition' and, not least, the most recent intellectual entertainment from one of the most learned and enjoyable scholars now at work.

A curious history, indeed. Few accoutrements of scholarship have been as denigrated as the lowly footnote, as this lively and fascinating narrative demonstrates...The footnote, as [Grafton] correctly and convincingly points out, is critical to the scientific nature of historical writing and therefore reflects both the ideology and technical practices of the craft. "The footnote" confers 'proof' that the historian has visited the appropriate archives, dusted off the necessary documents, and consulted and exhausted the secondary literature. It is, in short, a badge of legitimacy. The reader familiar with Grafton's work will recognize the author's extraordinary range and familiarity with German, French, English, and Italian historical writing from the early modern period to the late 20th century. Grafton has, in fact, written a sly work of historiography, a kind of celebration of the gritty details of scholarly exploration, and not merely a chronicle of the despised footnote.

A witty and characteristically erudite book...Grafton's subject, apparently so trivial in itself and yet potentially so enlivening, offers cause for somewhat uneasy mirth. We may recall the toilers of "Gulliver's Travels", who sought to make sunbeams from cucumbers. Not surprisingly, the pages of "The Footnote" are peppered with human folly.--David McKitterick "New York Times Book Review "

Mr. Grafton has produced a delightful gem of a book that will appeal to many tastes. He displays an extraordinary level of erudition, is extremely readable, frequently witty and provides a guided tour across almost two thousand years in the development of Western scholarship. Needless to say, his own footnotes are a model of their kind. Above all, the author is neither boring nor pedantic.--Keith Windschuttle "Washington Times "

[An] excellent book..."The Footnote" is the study of an appealing, rather overlooked aspect of intellectual and cultural history. Yet it is also much more: an investigation into the historical imagination, a quick tour of 'the culture of erudition' and, not least, the most recent intellectual entertainment from one of the most learned and enjoyable scholars now at work.--Michael Dirda "Washington Post "

A witty and characteristically erudite book... Grafton's subject, apparently so trivial in itself and yet potentially so enlivening, offers cause for somewhat uneasy mirth. We may recall the toilers of "Gulliver's Travels", who sought to make sunbeams from cucumbers. Not surprisingly, the pages of "The Footnote" are peppered with human folly.--David McKitterick "New York Times Book Review "

[It's] hard to imagine a defense of the footnote by any historian with the least sense of style. Yet here it is: "The Footnote"'s author, Anthony Grafton, is an anomaly in the American historical profession: a deeply learned scholar known for exacting work on the transformations of classical learning in early modern Europe and a sprightly writer capable of communicating his enthusiasm to anyone willing to listen. Mr. Grafton not only defends the footnote as a guarantee of the value of the historical currency. He also portrays it as a bulwark against tyranny.--Mark Lilla "Wall Street Journal "

[An] excellent book... "The Footnote" is the study of an appealing, rather overlooked aspect of intellectual and cultural history. Yet it is also much more: an investigation into the historical imagination, a quick tour of 'the culture of erudition' and, not least, the most recent intellectual entertainment from one of the most learned and enjoyable scholars now at work.--Michael Dirda "Washington Post "

We accept it as a given of scholarly writing that 'the text persuades, the notes prove.' But this form of narrative architecture was created at a particular time by particular men to fill particular needs. And this unlikely and lively book presents the story of its creation. Anthony Grafton tells when, where, and why historians adopted the two-tiered structure of writing.--Barbara Fisher "Boston Globe "

This is not a reference book to be consulted but an excursus to be savored, by a writer with a studied sense of style.--Cullen Murphy "Slate "

A witty and characteristically erudite book Grafton's subject, apparently so trivial in itself and yet potentially so enlivening, offers cause for somewhat uneasy mirth. We may recall the toilers of "Gulliver's Travels," who sought to make sunbeams from cucumbers. Not surprisingly, the pages of "The Footnote" are peppered with human folly.--David McKitterick "New York Times Book Review ""

[An] excellent book "The Footnote" is the study of an appealing, rather overlooked aspect of intellectual and cultural history. Yet it is also much more: an investigation into the historical imagination, a quick tour of 'the culture of erudition' and, not least, the most recent intellectual entertainment from one of the most learned and enjoyable scholars now at work.--Michael Dirda "Washington Post ""

The unwashed read the text, the learned check the footnotes. This, after all, is just what Grafton has taught us to expect. Grafton's footnotes, however, are short on polemic and long on accolades They illustrate Grafton's generous spirit, and they call attention to the one use of footnotes that he conspicuously fails to discuss: praise instead of polemic. Grafton's own irenic practice is a model of decency. But if his footnotes are not so much fun as Gibbon's or Bayle's, his lively and searching text most assuredly is. For a pioneering discussion of these points, see A. Grafton.--G.W. Bowersock "New Republic ""

A richly faceted story that interweaves the changes in the regard for and uses of the footnote with general developments in history writing As Grafton traces his steps backward to the Renaissance with its admiration and imitation of ancient models, the world of the footnote emerges as one far more complex than expected In the face of the seeming solidity of the text, the footnote serves as a reminder of the contingency of life as well as the precariousness of the text's construction.--Ernst A. Breisach "American Historical Review ""

A charming, intelligent volume that traces the footnote's development as a literary and historical device "The Footnote" is an astonishing piece of scholarly writing, not least because it allows us to reconsider a subject that might charitably be called idiosyncratic, or even obscure. What makes the book work is Anthony Grafton's ability to write for a lay audience, to merge the ephemera of historical research with an accessible, nearly anecdotal, style.--David L. Ulin "Chicago Tribune ""

Grafton argues convincingly that the history of the footnote is also the history of how scholars through the ages have evaluated, organized and presented information "The Footnote" vividly evokes what it was like to conduct serious research in an era before Lexis-Nexis, "Who's Who" or even daily newspapers.--Adam Goodheart "Civilization ""

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Format: Paperback
The immense detail that Anthony Grafton goes into can be very off-putting for the casual reader, who is likely to be slowed down by his constant use of academic terminology. Grafton's method of storytelling is also slightly confused. It leaps around from example to example, covering centuries in a few lines without any clear indication of his argumentative route. It takes a while for Grafton to stop discussing the history of primary source research and to start analysing footnotes.

However, the points he raises are hugely informative. His examples from the entire spectrum of historical study do give the book a very good depth. He focuses on a few key names where necessary, like Ranke and Gibbon, to show the contributions of people who have had an enormous affect on the history of the footnote. The book does give a very good insight into the history of the footnote.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book for a specialised purpose, so I probably didn't give the book a fair shake. Grafton writes engagingly, but, if you have read any of his books, you will know how he writes. This one is no different. It's mainly about the renaissance period and afterwards. Some of the references are to tertiary works, rather than primary sources, NB.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not the book I expected. Having read the chapter on footnotes in Kevin Jackson's Invisible Forms (2), I was looking for a book on the history of footnotes. Instead what I got was a book on the use of footnotes in the writing of history. Despite this, I found this book fascinating, although it may be of more interest to historians and to students of historiography.

This book's scope is wider than the use of footnotes. It is concerned with the use of sources by historians and their documentation of this use. Classical historians may have epitomised the writings of others in the text but there was no tradition of referring in detail to their sources. Later, when manuscripts moved from scrolls to book form, they may have been glossed, commented upon and annotated, but these could be placed anywhere: above the text, in the margins or as footnotes. With the coming of the printed book decisions had to be made about annotation; was it required, and if so, where to put it. The fashion for footnotes arose in the late 17th and early 18th century, particularly for legal texts, philology and novels. This fashion then influenced the historians.

THE BOOK: As would be expected, the author makes full use of footnotes in this book. Most pages have at least one. They vary from short references to other books or articles to detailed references with quoted text in English or German, Latin or French. The non-English quotes are not always translated into English (3). It has 7 chapters and one Epilogue spread over 235 pages and a short 5-page Index.
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Format: Paperback
I'm doing my PhD (18th-century print culture) and this book was a really good insight into how footnotes came to be what they are today. It is quite detailed, though, so maybe not something you can just dip in and out of for fun - unless you're a bookworm like me.
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Format: Hardcover
A masterful, scholarly, and surprisingly lively account of the development of the modern footnote, this slender volume offers fascinating insights into the nonlinearity of the page. Highly recommended.
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