Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. How would you cite marginalia in a published item in footnotes and bibliography? I want to reference a published nineteenth-century auction catalog that has handwritten purchase prices and buyers’ names. The catalog is now held in a public library so has a shelf number. With thanks.

A. Marginalia doesn’t count as a source in the conventional, citable sense any more than the ancient outline of the base of a mug on a page of vellum from a thirteenth-century transcription of a tenth-century Icelandic saga would count as one. You’d cite the saga, not the stain. Quote, discuss, and analyze the marginalia in your text, but cite the auction catalog as its source. If the catalog might be difficult for readers to find from the title and other bibliographical details alone, add information about its location to the end of the citation (e.g., “A copy of the catalog, with marginalia, is in the collection of . . .”).