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The Devil's Details

A History of Footnotes


Footnotes have not had it easy. Their dominance of eighteenth- and nineteenth- century literature and scholarship was both hard-won -- following many years of struggle -- and doomed, as it led to belittlement in the twentieth century. In The Devil's Details, Chuck Zerby playfully explores footnotes' long and illustrious history and makes a clarion call to save them from the new world of the Internet and hypertext.
In a story that boasts a marvelous plot and a rogues' gallery of players, Zerby examines traditional footnotes and their less-buttoned-down incarnations, as when used by pornographers. Yes, The Devil's Details is full of surprises: Zerby hunts down the first bona fide fully functioning footnote; unearths a multivolume history of Northumberland County, England, that uses one volume for a single footnote; and uncovers a murder plot. He even explains why footnotes are like blind dates.
Carefully researched and highly opinionated, The Devil's Details affirms that delight in reading can come from unexpected places.

Michael Pakenham The Baltimore Sun [A] charming, witty history and exploration of the formal written aside.

Amanda Heller The Boston Globe In this short volume -- festooned of course with a rococo profusion of bottom-of-the-page diversions and digressions -- Zerby presents colorful examples of footnote use....A spirited defense of a little-loved and endangered species.