Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. How should one cite a reviewer’s blurb from the back cover or front matter of a book in a footnote? Thanks!

A. Cite the book, not the blurb, just as you would for any text that you either quote or paraphrase or otherwise refer to. And tell your readers where in the book to find the blurb, which you could do either in the text or in a note.

For example, you might quote from Simon Winchester’s blurb on the back of the dust jacket of the Ballantine hardcover edition of The Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams, and include the following footnote:

1. Simon Winchester, praise for Pip Williams, The Dictionary of Lost Words (New York: Ballantine Books, 2021), back of dust jacket.

Winchester’s name and “back of dust jacket” could be omitted if these details are mentioned in the text.

If you instead (or also) quote from the shortened version of Winchester’s blurb that appears in the opening pages of the Ballantine paperback, your footnote might look like this:

2. Simon Winchester, praise for Pip Williams, The Dictionary of Lost Words, trade paperback ed. (New York: Ballantine Books, 2022), third page (unnumbered).

Had the praise pages been counted in the pagination, you would have cited page iii—even if that page didn’t have a page number printed on it. But in the Williams paperback, the first page with a number is page xiv. Counting back from there, we can figure out that the half title is page i. The praise pages begin before that, so they can’t be cited with an actual page number.

Note that the Winchester example is of a blurb, or praise from an individual usually solicited by the author or publisher. Typically, such blurbs appear in first editions, before any reviews have been published; the front matter of a paperback reissue typically includes excerpts from published reviews (the Williams paperback includes both). Either can be referred to as “praise.”

Finally, that statement about the paperback edition in the second footnote above isn’t normally included; usually, only a numbered or revised edition is specified (see CMOS 14.133). But in this context, specifying the paperback edition will be helpful. (We adapted it from the edition statement on the copyright page: “2022 Ballantine Books Trade Paperback Edition.”)