The Footnote: A Curious History

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9780571196012: The Footnote: A Curious History
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Many books offer footnotes to history; until now, however, no one has dedicated an entire book to the history of the footnote. But the footnote matters, as Anthony Grafton shows in this lively and erudite study, for it offers empirical support for the stories we live by. Its own story is neither so simple nor so reliable as historians like to believe. It is the creation of a varied and talented group, one that includes almost as many philosophers as historians, and numbers among its celebrated practitioners Swift, Pope and Gibbon, Rank, Hume and Hegel.

At a time when popular historians are busily abandoning footnotes and novelists are as eagerly acquiring them, The Footnote shines new light on many dark recesses of literary and historical scholarship, and on the foibles and deviousness of scholars through the ages.

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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.

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. �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" �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"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. 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 " 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 Online " 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 " [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 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 " 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 " 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 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 " [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"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 "

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9780674307605: The Footnote - A Curious History (Paper) (Cobee)

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ISBN 10:  0674307607 ISBN 13:  9780674307605
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