Mary Beard stands up for readers

The article ‘Democracy, the footnote test’ in this week’s TLS* contains two interesting observations, one general:

‘It is not a bad rule of thumb in modern ancient history writing that the more space the footnotes occupy, the less likely they are to prove what they are supposed to’

and one on an edition of Cicero:

‘If you want further proof that the reader has not been top of anyone’s mind here, reflect only on the system of abbreviations. Throughout the book, the abbreviation for Cicero is “C.” (with a full stop). The abbreviations used for two of the medieval manuscripts of the text are “C” (without a full stop) and “Cv” (with a superscript ”v”). It’s all technically correct, but you couldn’t get more confusing of you tried.’

And for Beard’s own struggles with footnote references, see her blog.

* TLS no. 576 (6 September 2013) pp. 8–9

Not a spice company

Reading alumna Rachel Bray is part of a new London book design company, J.Schwartz & Co.

Ed to ’ead

Is it just me, or is that Ed Miliband staring out of the University of Reading’s newly acquired Beckett MS, just below James Joyce? I think we should be told.

Arte povera

The radio show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue features messages announced on a fictional 'laser display board'. Railway car-parking contractors APCOA have, it seems, installed exactly the same Humphrey Lyttelton-approved model at Oxford station.

’Tis pity it’s an apostrophe

Here is a list of contractions (and one Arabic word) from which require an apostrophe at the start to indicate the omission of a character (or a breathing). Word and InDesign will incorrectly set these as opening quote marks unless you run a check for them. I show a sample InDesign grep query at the end of this post which you can customize for your text. Note that you will have to indicate both lower-case and capitalized variants – and that, for example, you might want to automatically correct 'em but manually check 'Em just in case it is a familiar form of Emily rather than a contraction of Them.

'Id al-Fitr
's Gravenhage
's Hertogenbosch
'T is
'T was
'tween deck
'tween decks

Find: ('|‘)(?=(tain’t|Tain’t|tis|Tis|twas|Twas|twere|Twere|em|er)\b)
Replace: ’

More Ngram fun

In 2010, I posted a not-too-serious analysis of typeface mentions in the Google corpus using the then beta Ngram Viewer. Having read about statistical parsing of novels, I thought it was time to play with it again, this time plotting the eclipse of Stanley Morison by Jan Tschichold. But then I found that William Morris eclipses them both …

Jan takes over form Stanley circa 1997

Mmmn, William peaks in 1900!