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Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Standing up for footnotes
Here is a classic Gertrude Himmelfarb screed, from 1991 -- an early cry in the dark -- against the triumph of endnotes over footnotes, and the confusions such typographic layouts lead to. (Worse, she says, are those books by historians, aimed at a popular audience, that eschew notes altogether.)
Irony watch: When this piece was reprinted in a collection of Himmelfarb essays (this one, I think), the footnotes were replaced by ... end notes.
It's worth remembering that footnotes aren't just about sources; they are an art form unto themselves, and have been for centuries before David Foster Wallace arrived on the scene with his patented amplifications and re-thinks. Keep burying them in the back of books and there's no incentive to make them interesting.
EARLIER: Putting endnotes in their place