A curious history

 

Inside a book about footnotes. 

Over time, however, the writing of footnotes usually loses its flavor: the thrilling claim of membership in a mysterious new profession, the bold assertion of one's right to take part in a learned dialogue, degenerates into a mere routine. Historians for whom composing annotations has become second nature like dentists who have become inured to inflicting pain and shedding blood-may hardly notice any more that they still extrude names of authors, titles of books, and numbers of folders in archives or leaves in unpublished manuscripts. In the end, the production of footnotes sometimes resembles less the skilled work of a professional carrying out a precise function to a higher end than the offhand production and disposal of waste products.

(The Footnote. A Curious History. By Anthony Grafton.)

 

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