Documentation

Q. I have a question that I hope you will answer for me. In an academic book, how does one cite a quote that is taken from a book of quotations (such as Bartlett’s)? Does one cite the quote’s original source— Bartlett’s provides scant information about its quotes’ sources—does one cite Bartlett’s, which seems awkward to me, or are quotes found in books of quotations considered to be part of the public domain and, therefore, not in need of citation? Also, are there different rules for whether the quote is placed above the chapter title (a chapter epigraph) or part of the body of a chapter? I am working under a tight deadline and would, therefore, greatly appreciate a prompt response, if possible.

A. In an epigraph, just the name of the author of the quotation is generally sufficient. Membership in Bartlett’s guarantees such status. Add the date, if it is interesting, and the work from which the quotation is drawn, if that seems interesting as well. In text, you also need only credit the name of the speaker, but if you feel a reader might benefit from knowing more, it is appropriate to cite the work as well in the bibliographic apparatus. You can cite Bartlett’s, like this:

13. From William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Quoted in Familiar Quotations: Being an Attempt to Trace to Their Sources Passages and Phrases in Common Use, by John Bartlett (Boston: Little, Brown, 1886), 44.

Or you can track down the original source in order to check accuracy and cite the full publication facts of that source. It’s really a matter of which source you, as an author or an editor, feel would be more relevant given the context of the work in question. But outside the familiar world of Bartlett’s, it’s usually best to avoid citing something “quoted in” another work; always go to the original work if possible.

An epigraph generally goes after the chapter title and before the beginning of the text of the chapter (but before a leading subhead, if there is one), but an innovative designer could conceivably depart from that rule with success.