John Hodgson Wrote a 166 Page Footnote
John Hodgson’s 1840 History of Northumberland part II, vol III contains a single footnote about Roman walls11 In particular the Roman Wall, which I generally know as Hadrian’s Wall, but it was this footnote that established that it was Hadrian who built it. that runs from page 157 to page 322. It has its own chapters, footnotes, diagrams, full-page plates, tables, and index.22 The containing volume doesn’t have an index of its own. In the preface, James Raine writes that Hodgson’s failing health prevented him from completing that index. (iv). Its structure (including Chapter 1, which is contained in the previous footnote spanning from page 149 to 157) takes up three pages of the main volume’s table of contents.
Despite the terrifying scope of the footnote, Hodgson writes in the preface, “Though my volumes increase, I study brevity. On the Roman Wall, I have omitted much that I would have liked to have said” (vii). In The Footnote’s conclusion, Hodgson expands that he would have published 1,200 pages of material, but chose to substantially edit it down and publish it as a footnote because the small text would limit production costs (305).
Zerby (1) first alerted me to this footnote.
- John Hodgson. History of Northumberland. Part II, vol. III, 1840.
- Chuck Zerby. The Devil’s Details: A History of Footnotes. 2003.