Follow TV Tropes


The Annotated Edition

Go To

A version of a written text, more often than not a collection of previously released material, that contains notes from the author (or someone else with insight into the work) in footnotes or sidebars.

This is very common with textbook editions of texts using foreign languages or archaic forms of English, usually to explain idioms that would never make sense to us modern, English-speaking folk. For instance, pretty much anything Shakespeare wrote has a few annotated editions. The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf, being written in Middle and Old English respectively, are also commonly available in annotated editions.

Also common with certain classic works of Literature, especially those with a reputation for being "dense." Finnegans Wake and Ulysses by James Joyce can be nearly impenetrable without annotation.

It can also serve as a way to explain creative decisions if the creator is A) still alive and B) the one doing the annotations. This variant is very common in collections of comics.

Not to be confused with the annotated videos that are created by the Annotation Station / Annoverse.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic-Book Collections 
  • Jess Nevins has a cottage industry annotating Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. An interesting variation in that his annotations are not published with the books, but first on the web, and, at least for Vols. I and II and The Black Dossier, in book form separately (Heroes and Monsters, A Blazing World, and Impossible Territories, respectively). Moore has said that the existence of these annotations meant that "we could be as obscure and far-reaching as we wanted".
    • Nevins has also posted annotations online for Kingdom Come, Top 10, The Nail, and other comics.
    • Most recently, Nevins has compiled annotations for Fables which were officially published by DC as The Fables Encyclopedia.
  • The 10th anniversary hardcover edition of Marvels contained annotations for Alex Ross' art. Marvel Comics also released a four-issue annotated reprint edition in 2019.
  • Neil Gaiman's The Sandman (1989) was released in an annotated four-volume set. An interesting variation here, as the annotated version has reprinted the entire series without color, using the original black-and-white line-art, as opposed to being a strict reprint with added footnotes.
  • Watchmen has received two of them; one is an unofficial version, while another is a large hardcover that reprints the entire book in black and white but adds many annotations and notes about the story to go with it.

    Comic-Strip Collections 
  • Bloom County: The Complete Library has annotations to explain then-relevant pop-culture references and explain who the political figures being caricatured are. Breathed himself pops up from time to time to explain character origins or thought processes, but mostly just to tell us which strips he thinks are his crowning moments of funny and which are Old Shames.
  • Calvin and Hobbes's tenth anniversary best-of book has notes from Watterson, many of which go into more detail on his assorted Author Tracts or give artistic insight.
  • Pearls Before Swine's treasury collections contain annotations from Pastis which try to elaborate on where ideas came from and detail reactions to the more controversial strips. And tell us which things he found impossible to draw.
  • A few of the Dilbert collections (usually the specialized ones) also have text commentary.
  • While The Complete Peanuts does not have annotations, there is an online set of annotations for the various volumes here: [1].

    Film Screenplays 
  • Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays has its annotations primarily focus on how the scripts of the original trilogy evolved from prior drafts. Scenes that changed in the Special Editions also had the original and revised versions placed alongside one another.
  • Ian McKellen published an Annotated edition of his screenplay for the 1995 film adaptation of Richard III, and it's an invaluable look at the process of adapting Shakespeare to the screen. It's also available for free reading on his website.

    Literature Reprints 
  • The Annotated Alice, an omnibus edition of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with annotations by Martin Gardner explaining historical context, obscure in-jokes, etc. Gardner followed up with The Annotated Hunting of the Snark.
  • The Annotated Christmas Carol includes the original text of 1843 and Dickens' 1867 Public Reading Text, which had its world premiere in America and hadn't been reprinted in nearly a century. The notes include explanatory descriptions of foods, customs, legal terms, socio-economic references and so on.
  • The second printing of America (The Book) contains humorous "fact check" annotations in red ink.
  • Almost all editions of Sun Tzu's The Art of War include annotations by multiple classical-era authors, most notably Cao Cao. These make up 80% or so of the book and are normally considered an indispensible part of the text, providing far more information than the original work. Modern-era publishers will often add a second set of notes. These annotations help because even educated Chinese readers would have problems deciphering 2500-years-old Chinese, and even if they can, some of the things said in it are vague, and some context is useful, and other things require some knowledge of early Chinese history to make sense.
  • The Bible has a multitude of annotations. And these have annotations of their own.
  • Around 1970 the Classic Publishing Corporation put out a series of classical books with annotations, such as Captains Courageous and Around The World in Eighty Days. The annotations explained the meaning of words modern readers might not understand.
  • Most good editions of The Divine Comedy are heavily annotated: at the remove of 700 years or so, and given that Dante went on Author Tracts and Author Filibusters in long stretches of the work about now-forgotten Florentine politicians or abstruse theological issues, it's often very difficult to tell who's who or what Dante is on about now without extensive footnotes.
    • The first ever annotated edition was produced by Dante's son, who at one point in the Paradiso section notoriously gave up and admitted that even he had no idea what his father was talking about.
  • Leonard Wolf's The Annotated Dracula (1975) explained a great deal of background information about Dracula that most readers wouldn't know about.
  • Almost all editions of Shakespeare's plays are annotated in some fashion.
  • The Annotated Sherlock Holmes is a two volume omnibus of all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes stories, in best-guess chronological order, with lots of annotations by William S. Baring-Gould. Following the tradition of Holmsian scholarship, the annotations are notable in assuming that the stories are non-fiction and that Holmes and Watson are real people. The annotators have a tendency to chide Dr. Watson every times he makes a "continuity error" or "misremembers something" in his writings.
    • The Baring-Gould edition has been replaced since the 2000's by The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes with annotations done by Leslie S. Klinger. This addition is done in three volumes. The first two volumes cover the short stories, while the third volume covers the four novels.
  • Two Gentlemen of Lebowski's first printing was an annotated edition, to keep up the pretense of it being an authentic reprint of a Shakespeare play. (To be fair, the author did such a good job keeping the linguistics authentic that a fair number of the annotations are necessary to follow the piece.)
  • The classic long-form poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was reprinted twice: once with revised language and once with a "gloss" that explained several things.
  • Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf is only available legally as an annotated, censored edition in Germany, with entire parts of the original book missing. Annotated editions are also the common form of Mein Kampf reissues post-World War II, with said annotations generally taking time to point out the flaws in its author's logic and the danger posed by the book's rampant antisemitism, so as to avoid radicalizing modern readers the same way it radicalized its original audience.
  • Anne of Green Gables. One amusing bit is the annotating author observing that somehow Anne obtained a copy of Ben-Hur two years before it was published.
  • Many compilations of stories by H. P. Lovecraft include annotations explaining the historical context or how individual stories fit into the greater Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Gulliver's Travels - dozens of political and literary references entirely opaque to the modern reader (to the point that it's often mistaken for a children's fairy tale).
  • Don Quixote: Sancho uses many proverbs and Spanish idioms that get lost in translation. There are also many allusions to chivalrous knights, courtly love and mythology that most people are not even aware of today. Snarky volumes point out the continuity errors.
  • Anything by Thomas Hardy - the man peppered his novels with classical allusions.
  • Paradise Lost. It's probably possible without the notes, but boy, does it make life a lot easier.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • Isaac Asimovs Annotated Gilbert And Sullivan provides an exhaustive annotation for all 14 Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, including the three that nobody remembers anymore. Many of Gilbert's allusions are either particularly British or particularly Victorian, and Gilbert used the full range of the English language vocabulary as well as occasional terms from other languages. All of this provides rich annotation fodder.
    • Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare: These volumes provide an overview of many details that are otherwise lost on people who are unfamiliar with the environment in which William Shakespeare was writing. So many details, in fact, that most of the lines are absent from the book itself, making this more of a companion book than a republished copy of William's folios. Dr Asimov recommends The Signet Classic Shakespeare books to read alongside these notes.
    • "Insert Knob A in Hole B":
    • Many of Asimov's short story collections have forewords and/or afterwords to each story which provide lots of background and commentary, often as entertaining as the stories themselves. This started as Asimov's way of putting off his publishers' requests for an autobiography - since he didn't want to write one at the time, he figured he could make the notion redundant by telling his anecdotes in this form instead. He eventually caved in and wrote several volumes of autobiography anyway.
    • Tales of the Black Widowers is a collection with an introduction to explain the inspiration for the series, and an afterword for each story to explain more details about the publication.
    • The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories: Isaac Asimov writes a one-two page preface for each of the stories to add a bit more Real Life context to each of his tales.
  • T. S. Eliot provided some endnotes of his own for his poem "The Waste Land"; the poem includes untranslated quotes from various sources. Unfortunately, the endnotes are sometimes almost as obscure as the poem itself. (In a bit of Self-Deprecation, Eliot himself, in The Frontiers of Criticism, referred to the endnotes as a "remarkable exposition of bogus scholarship", claiming he started out simply intending to spike his critics by pointing out his influences before they did, and then padded them out to fill extra pages in the book edition.)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Translations are often loaded with annotations explaining all sorts of aspects of ancient Chinese culture, from date conversions to the characters' frequent references to earlier historical characters, as well as notable places where the most commonly read version of the text was significantly changed from the original. One edition has over 100 pages of endnotes, but it is an over 2000 page long novel.
  • Sometimes, non-Western literature, especially translated versions of Japanese literature/light novels such as Welcome to the NHK have endnotes to explain even contemporary references which may seem obvious to a Japanese person if they are rooted in the context of the novel, but a Western person like an American or a different English speaking person might miss. ADV comics, notably, is extremely enthusiastic with the footnoting. One time spending an entire page of text to explain how the reasoning behind the translation of a single made-up Japanese word in Tsubasa.
  • The edition of Samuel Pepys's Diary has so many endnotes they take up an entire volume, with another volume of general reference.
  • Lolita—not because it was written particularly long ago, but because it's packed with allusions and sneaky wordplay.
  • The Flashman series has this as well. The annotations play with a Direct Line to the Author, and as well as explaining the various allusions and Victorian pop-culture references, point out occasions on which the eponymous character must have been mistaken, or exaggerated for effect.
  • Jane Austen's works are available as annotated editions, which won't be necessary for modern audiences to understand the basic storylines, but certainly will help with understanding all the social criticism that went into her works.
  • An annotated version of Star Wars: Heir to the Empire was released for the book's 20th anniversary. (Not only does this point out where some of the names come from, but explains ideas that were hit by Executive Meddling via Word of God... since at the time, there was almost nothing but the original movies to go on.)
  • Celebrated bad poet Edward Edwin Foot added explanatory footnotesnote  to many of his poems, making them self-annotated editions. The footnotes generally have the effect of reducing anything approaching a poetic metaphor to blunt literalism.
  • The Complete Mowgli Stories, Duly Annotated and The Annotated Wind in the Willows, for Adults and Sensible Children (or, possibly, Children and Sensible Adults) by Markham Shaw Pyle and GMW Wemyss.
  • The Language of Literature (Grade 6): The excerpt of "The Dog Of Pompeii" is annotated by two fictional kids to demonstrate how students are supposed to be "active readers", identifying predictions, connecting, visualizing, evaluations, and clarifications.
  • Philosophy and Science Fiction: This Genre Anthology includes essays and questions to turn the stories into lessons on philosophy, edited by a philosophy professor.
  • Some of Kim Newman's books, especially the Diogenes Club series and related works, have annotations at the back, explaining bits of worldbuilding that didn't make it into the text, some (but by no means all) of the crossover characters, and Real Life references that people from outside the UK or born after 1970 might be unfamiliar with. The crossover characters are generally phrased to not break Direct Line to the Author (i.e. not "This character is from..." but "You can learn more about this person in...")
  • In 1976, American playwright, poet, and critic Walter James Miller produced an annotated English translation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that took the standard English translation of that book and ripped it to shreds, pointing out and correcting every error committed by the original English translator, Mercier Lewis. The result is a far more accurate and readable translation of this awesome classic.
  • The works of C. S. Lewis:
    • The Pilgrim's Regress added light annotations by the author (in the form of headers on every page to hint at the allegory's meaning) with the third edition, which is now the only edition in print. Lewis did this because the prevailing philosophies in Europe changed so thoroughly in the decade or two after the first edition, he feared the allegory would be completely impenetrable to readers even a few years younger than himself.
    • The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition features extensive notes from Paul McCusker, explaining numerous references to the Bible, classic literature, contemporary events, and the author's own life. McCusker also points out the philosophical or religious topics that Lewis had already discussed in prior writings or would cover in more detail in the future. He models the formatting after the aforementioned Annotated Alice, and outright credits that text as his inspiration for the entire project.

  • This practice is so common that programming languages have built in support for "comments", chunks of text that is ignored during compilation/execution. Different schools exist on how to comment code. Things in comments often include:
    • Data normally stored in source control such as the identity of the authors and a change log.
    • Formal specifications of the behavior of the code, such as valid inputs and outputs.
    • Explanatory text that is automatically extracted to build the manual.
    • Complaints about outside factors such as buggy 3rd party software, Executive Meddling, idiot users and piracy.
    • Marks such as "TODO", "BUG" and "HACK" to note known issues with the code.
    • References to external issue databases.
    • Warnings about non obvious behavior of the code.
    • Warnings about other systems and programs depending on the exact semantics of the code.
    • Explanations about particularly clever tricks.
    • Old code that is kept around "just in case".

    Webcomic Collections 
  • Bob and George has the on-site commentary, which currently goes up to August 18th, 2006.
  • The printed collections of Penny Arcade have text commentary.
  • Narbonic is a special case, in that it's available in a separate annotated edition, which came after the "vanilla" release was completed.
  • Queen of Wands did rapid-fire annotated reruns after the comic was completed.
  • In-Universe example: This Tales from the Pit comic is an annotated version of the previous comic.
  • David Willis adorns every page of his Shortpacked! collections with annotations, and scatters them sporadically about the Walkyverse collections. He also added annotations to the Walkyverse reruns, which in the early strips mostly consisted of beating up Past Willis.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Parodied (or something like parodied) in the 70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries book, offered in two editions: "Pristine" (just what it sounds like) and "Defaced":
    "...the pristine version is one of the thousands of copies of the Seventy Maxims book that the average connoisseur of 31st century printed collectibles might find themselves fortunate enough to acquire; the defaced version is the copy that CDS Sergeant Edwards handed to Private Karl Tagon on March 1st, 3035.
    Karl’s book has some mileage on it. He made notes on the pages, and on January 28th, 3093, handed it off to his son, Captain Kaff Tagon, who had it for six years, making his own notes. He gifted it to Captain Alexia Murtaugh in 3099, and she added her notes. When Murtaugh was injured in early 3100 Sergeant Schlock went through her stuff, and borrowed the book. He found a felt-tip pen, too, and treated the existing notes as permission to deploy it.
  • Two Lumps: The print collections contain notes by both the author and artist.

Alternative Title(s): Once More With Endnotes