In the old days a footnote earned every bit of its glamour by working hard, right there on the page with all the ordinary sentences. That's why the timing and wording and spelling of the notes were all so good—the footnotes had a real relationship with everybody else on that page. And if a word dropped out during the typesetting process, well all the other words just pulled together so that the reader wouldn’t notice. Sometimes a footnote would even run upstairs and fill in for an absent sentence, then dash back to the bottom of the page in time for its own cue. But they didn’t mind, because in those days footnotes took pride in their exceptional talents and got pleasure in being part of a team that could fill out a nice page. This may be hard for today's hotdogging hypertextual accoutrements to understand, because they’ve probably never known what it was like to be part of that kind of family.
[from The Golden Age of Text, by Hugo Barneezles]
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Copyright © Jonathan Caws-Elwitt. This page revised February 12, 2009.