Edited by Michael Edson - Contributions by Barbara M. Benedict; Thomas Van der Goten; David Hopkins; William Jones; Sandro Jung; Tom Mason; Mark A. Pedreira; Adam Rounce; Jeff Strabone; Alex Watson and Karina Williamson

Recent years have witnessed a growing fascination with the printed annotations accompanying eighteenth-century texts. Previous studies of annotation have revealed the margins as dynamic textual spaces both shaping and shaped by diverse aesthetic, historical, and political sensibilities. Yet previous studies have also been restricted to notes by or for canonical figures; they have neglected annotation’s relation to developments in reading audiences and the book trade; and they have overlooked the interaction, even tension, between prose notes and poetry, a tension reflecting eighteenth-century views of poetry as aesthetically superior to prose. Annotation in Eighteenth-Century Poetry addresses these oversights through a substantial introduction and eleven essays analyzing the printed endnotes and footnotes accompanying poems written or annotated between 1700 and 1830. Drawing on methods and critical developments in book history and print culture studies, this collection explores the functions that annotation performed on and through the printed page. By analyzing the annotation specific to poetry, these essays clarify the functions of notes among the other paratexts, including illustrations, by which scholars have mapped poetry’s relation to the expanding book trade and the class-specific production of different formats. Because the reading and writing of poetry boasted social and pedagogical functions that predate the rise of the note as a print technology, studying the relation of notes to poetry also reveals how the evolving layout of the eighteenth-century book wrought significant changes not only on reading practices and reception, but on the techniques that booksellers used to make new poems, steady-sellers, and antiquarian discoveries legible to new readers. Above all, analyzing notes in poetry volumes contributes to larger inquiries into canon formation and the rise of literary studies as a discipline in the eighteenth century.



For those already beguiled by the “footnote world,” Annotation in Eighteenth-Century Poetry will deepen that enchantment. At the same time, Edson’s collection represents an interesting challenge to literary historians; partly in its conceptual and methodological familiarity and partly for the draw of its “quirky particularism,” it offers a model of literary history that not only opens onto a network of eclectic nodes, but one that might be well-positioned in a relatively early period in the age of the digital archive.

— Billy Hall, Brigham Young University

Edson’s collection will satisfy readers interested in eighteenth-century poetry, eighteenth-century editing of poetry, and the history and practice of annotation in general. In this respect, it performs an invaluable function, one that many eighteenth-scholars will wish to seek out.

— Anthony W. Lee, Arkansas Tech University, 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries of the Early Modern Era (Volume 27, April 2022).

Annotation in Eighteenth-Century Poetry