More footnote dilemmas and the rewards of laziness.
As you will know if you read my last post, this week has been dominated by footnotes -- first losing them, then redoing the damn things, then finding them again (so time spent re-doing them rather wasted). But that is not all. If you are interested in the kind of mind-dumbing minutiae that writing a book entails, then read on. You have been warned.
The problem of being at this stage of finishing the damn thing is all the decisions that can be put off no longer, and all the inconsistencies you find. One of the ones that the "loss/finding" debacle revealed was the total inconsistency all the way through in referencing Plutarch's Lives. OK, this isn't exactly a life threatening issue, but it has to be got RIGHT.
There's no difficulty with the main chapter divisions ("Plutarch, Cato Min. 21" and the like is fine). It's in the subsections ("Plutarch, Cato Min. 21. 2") that the mess lies.
I discovered that sometimes, in some chapters,I gave the reference according to the Teubner edition (that was when I was being a proper pukka academic -- for those of you that haven't come across them, Teubners are high class German editions with no translation, just unadulterated hard-core Greek or Latin). But sometimes I gave them to the Loeb edition (that was when I was being a bit lazier -- Loebs are rather less pukka but have a handy parallel translation). Now that wouldnt matter, of course, except that they divide the subsections differently ("Plutarch, Cato Min. 21, 2" in the Loeb is NOT "Plutarch, Cato Min. 21. 2" in the Teubner., and so on.)
Every single bloody Plutarch reference in the book (and there are 100s) would have to be checked again.
Inevitably I wasted an hour or so, trying to decide which system to use, going backwards and forwards between the two options. To give the Teubner reference would look a lot more "professional" . . . but face it, many more people who chose to look the reference up would go to the handy old Loeb, and be repeatedly irritated by what looked like a "wrong" reference. Errr....?
Then, of course, an idea struck (why it hadn't struck before God only knows). Did I actually NEED to put the subsections in at all. I mean Plutarch's "chapters" aren't all that long -- most of them about a page of Greek text (and they weren't, as you will have worked out, a creation of Plutarch himself, but the systematization imposed by modern editors). Why not just stick at "Plutarch, Cato Min, 21", and forget the subsection and mislead noone. True, sometimes I am trying to point to just one particular sentence; but better to give someone a page of reading, than an apparently misleading reference that will just make them cross.
And for me, the good new is that instead of checking them all again, I just go back and delete the subsections.
The next dilemma isn't quite as sorted, but almost I think. I have to use the name/date system for modern references in this book. So not "See M Beard, The Roman Triumph, Cambridge MA, 2007, 25-6", but "See Beard 2007, 25-6". Some people hate this, but for me it works well enough for really recent work (except when you discover that the prolific author has written 2 things in the same year, and you have to go back and start putting "1992a" and "1992b" in all the right places).
Where it really annoys me is with eighteenth and nineteenth century books. I can't bear seeing references to Pride and Prejudice which say "See Austen 1995, 78-89", referring to the latest Oxford Classic or whatever, when dear old Jane was long dead (and anyway it gives the impression that she wrote the book after most of the critical commentary on it). On the other hand to say "See Austen 1813, 54-67" is pretty useless, as who has the first edition to hand to look up the page references.
Now writing on Roman Laughter, I dont actually have the Jane Austen problem, but I do have the Thomas Hobbes problem. "Hobbes 1969" for The Elements of Natural Law (1640) just looks daft to me, but actually its the 1969 edition by Tonnies that people will have in their local library. I started off saying "Hobbes 1969, 105-6 (original edition published 1640)" which was clear but very cumbersome in a note where there is a lot of such things. So I think I have now decided to go back through and have that in the first ref only, then after that put "Hobbes 1969 , 105-6". Sound a good plan?
If you are well and truly bored by this now, I am not surprised. But just remember it is how I am spending almost all my waking hours.
But occasionally I AM taking the comfortably off, middle-aged academic's way out of my difficulties. The other day, I realised that I had forgotten to go and check the 1890 edition of Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his Godson (I had done the Letters to his Son, but missed the later collection). It was in the Rare Books Room of the University Library -- 15 mins bike ride away, then I would have to order it up, equip myself with a pencil (no pens allowed in Rare Books), do the checking, come back.. probably a minimum of 75 mins round trip. Hang on I thought, may be I can just BUY it on the web.
Just look what arrived. A lovely, handsomely bound (if very slightly battered) numbered edition (no 237 out of 525), including a facsimile of one of the letter, that was so good that at first I took it for an original.
Worth rather more than the £11.99, I should say. Laziness amply rewarded.
(Quite why I WANT Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his Godson is another matter -- except for that one reference to smiling and laughing... but you never know.)