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The Annotated Edition

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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.


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    Comic Book Collections 
  • 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.
  • 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, in book form separately (Heroes And Monsters and The Blazing World). 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 Encydlopedia.
  • Neil Gaiman's The Sandman is being released in an annotated four-volume set. An interesting variation here, as the annotated version has reprinted the entire series without colour, using the original black-and-white line-art, as opposed to being a strict reprint with added footnotes.
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • 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 N.H.K. 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 the Literary Agent Hypothesis, 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Once More With Endnotes


Example of: