The Value of Footnotes – Do You Read Them?

What an interesting day it’s been!  Today while I was the process of putting away 50+ pages of Capital, I know a record in one day, I began to notice the increase in footnotes and their length.  While I know footnotes can be of some importance, they have, in my opinion, been quite valuable in my reading of Marx’s first volume of Capital.

These footnotes provide some additional background/contextual information that may be relevant to the point that Marx is making at the time.  In Chapter 10 alone, some of the footnotes may encompass the entire page!  Some of the information I’m scratching my head on, others I’m like, yeah I get what that information is conveying.

In college, and in my reading in high school, if there were any footnotes/end notes, I would generally ignore them.  However, now that I’ve been reading a lot of the classics in the last 2 years and some change, I have found myself reading the footnotes and/or end notes with more frequency.  I noticed I was picking up the habit when I began reading The History of the Peloponnesian  War by Thucydides.  It then picked up from there, with my reading of The Divine Comedy, The Prince, The Communist Manifesto, etc.

Most of the footnotes in Capital have been devoted to other works of political economy, publications, acts of Parliament, etc.  Other footnotes have dealt with the difference in translation from German to English, which, as we all know, can be varied depending on how the translator ultimately decides to interpret the text.  Essentially, I have found the footnotes to be of importance and have provided the additional information to help me better understand the material.

Do you read the footnotes/end notes in your reading?  Do you typically find them useful to your further understanding of the work?


About Jeremy

Husband, book lover, Civil War Buff. If I could read for a living I would, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills!

11 Responses to “The Value of Footnotes – Do You Read Them?”

  1. I love footnotes. I always read them.

  2. I have a “love/hate” relationship with footnotes. Depending on the book I always read them, but recently I was reading Lolita and had to go out and buy another “un-annotated” version because there were so many footnotes that it took away from the enjoyment of the work.

    • I don’t think I’ve found one of those books yet where the footnotes have taken the enjoyment from a book. I can imagine the disappointment though with having to fork out additional money for another copy.

  3. I never read footnotes in college all that much, but as an adult I’ve fallen in love with the new translations of Russian novels like Anna Karenina and Dr. Zhivago. Since I don’t know Russian history or Russian very well, the footnotes are well written and they add to the book.

    • Anna Karenina is such a great read! I remember reading it after my mother told me about a version that was featured in Oprah’s Bookclub. I’ve always wanted to read Dr. Zhivago. Russian history is probably some of the most interesting history out there.

      • Oh, you read Anna Karenina! The same couple who translated the one that was featured on Oprah’s Bookclub just made a new translation of Dr. Zhivago! It was just released this year. I think you may have another book to add to your list, soon… 😉

      • I think I definitely do have something to add to my list then! Thanks for the info on the new translation!

  4. I usually feel compelled to read the footnotes, which are usually distracting and somewhat annoying. They can be sometimes very interesting and helpful.

    Tossing It Out

  5. When I was studying at undergrad I totally ignored them but now when I’m reading academic stuff, I always refer to them. I think half of the useful stuff I get is from the footnotes. When reading for personal pleasure I normally refer to them, unless it becomes clear they’re not adding anything and interrupting the flow of things. But basically I’m a fan.

    • Kath, I don’t think I’ve ever ran into a case of footnotes interrupting the flow of things. Generally speaking, I do enjoy the added information they provide. I sure hope I don’t get a book where footnotes interrupt the flow of the book, not sure if I’d like that very much at all.

      • It’s probably an indication of how much of an impatient reader I am rather than and indictment of the footnotes, to be honest! 😉

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