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History of Citations for Book

Citation Systems

Citations Systems, by which I mean the specific typographic rules for indicating where a citation is in a document and what it refers to, are today academic mechanisms for explicitly linking to references in an academic paper. They are the means through which the author can explicitly connect to external sources for further information without impeding the flow of reading, in order to further shape the experience of the reader, as the history of citations will show:

(Standage, 2013) this is from the book (Standage, 2013)

They often sounded and looked like what they were: the secret handshake known only to members of the secret society, filled with the latinate citation jargon that had grown up since the Renaissance—e.g., et seq., ibid., loc cit., op cit., et passim., viz., s.v., etc. Notation forms almost demanded repetition, which this quiver of latinisms was meant to help manage, but no number of ibids or op cits could make a page bottom citing the same work five times look any less silly and superfluous.


We can look to the beginning of printing for the origins of citation ‘systems’. The act of glossing printed documents took more than two decades after Gutenberg’s first print. In Venice in 1481, printers of Horace use the margins for commentary (Tribble, 1993) (Gilson, 2018). It was during the renaissance, with the rise of humanism that citation systems began to coalesce, to proliferate, and to disagree (Connors, 1998). Connors further points out that “?Writers were beginning to realize that they had rhetorical choices to make about their uses of notes and annotations, and that the typographic structures they chose would mark them as members of one or another kind of discourse community.”According to MIT, there are four primary reasons to cite work: To show your readers that you have done your research, to give credit to others for work they have done, to point your readers to sources that may be useful to them and to allow your readers to check your sources, if there are questions (Anon, 2020).

(Standage, 2013)

Walter Ong wrote that “print situates words in space more relentlessly then writing ever did. Writing moves words from the sound world to the world of visual space, but print locks words into position in this space. Control of position is everything in Print” (Ong, 1982). Seldom do I see more of an invitation to a duel than this statement! As the story of citations unfold, we will come across noble starts increasingly intertwined with lazy futures. Today, with digital text, we stand to extract the noble and leave behind the lazy. The question we will have to ask is “how?” and “which purpose?”

Humanism, The Renaissance & Root of Citations

Francesco Petrarch/Petrarca (1304–1374), the father of humanism, revived enthusiasm for ancient Roman thinkers (Russell Ascoli & Falkeid, 2015). They looked to accents like

His philosophy can in part be summarised as: “walking forwards in the radiance of the past,” though I cannot find any citation for this. His love of ‘the ancients’ came from what the ancients had written and hence the fuel and growth of humanism unfolded from the pages of books (in manuscript form since printing was still on a few decades away during his lifetime): “I cannot have a sufficiency of books. Indeed, I have more than I should… Books give utter delight: they talk with us… and are bound to us by lively and witty intimacy, and do not just insinuate themselves alone on their readers but present the names of others, and each one creates a longing for another” (Petrarca, 2017).

As humanism was fuelled by a Greek revival (brought about by the fall of Constantinople causing greek scholars to flee west (Hay, 1977) ), thinkers like Giannozzo Manetti (1396–1459) described the duty of humanity as being to act and to understand (Manetti & Copenhaver, 2018). This is someone who understood the value of text BTW, Manetti also wrote: “Ours are all the kinds of different languages and various alphabets, and the more we realise how indispensable it is to have the use of them, the more forcefully are we compelled to be amazed and marvel at them”.

The humanists set up schools in order to inspire the youth, external to the religious schools of the church though the humanists did not reject the church (though the writings of the ancient romans were ignored by the church since they were pagans). The humanist view of life was powered by the books. There could be no humanism without books (Davies, 2007) since it was around the books the discourse of interpretations of the ancients took place.

Sidenote from the future

We can see glimmers of this world view in Doug Engelbart and his pursuit of augmenting the human intellect and in his contemporaries, having emerged from the shadow of the Second World War with a new world of communication technologies awaiting their use.

Religious Developments

The progress of how additional information should be presented was not straightforward and not everyone was happy about including such extras, such as in this pamphlet from 1596 when citations were not standardised but simply part of the glossing of documents for extra information in general:

What, make an Errata in the midst of my Booke, and have my margent bescratcht (like a Merchants booke) with these roguish Arsemetrique gibbets or flesh-hookes, and cyphers or round oos, lyke pismeeres egges? Content your selfe, I will never do it: or if I were ever minded to doo it, I could not, since, (as I told you some leaves before,) in more than a quarter of that his tumbrell of Confutation, he hath left the Pages unfigured; foreseeing by devination (belike) that I should come to disfigure them.
Thomas Nashe

Great Bible (1539)

Early citation systems went in all directions and contained marginalia with strong political and religious agendas so Henry the Eighth (who was Catholic until he needed to remarry and then created the Church of England) organised the printing of the Great Bible (Coverdale, 1539). This bible at first completely banned any glossing since protestants wanted to shake free of the accumulation of Catholic interpretations. However, the bible’s main editor, Myles Coverdale, settled on a system of small pointing hands to indicate where there would be glossing, with endnotes. He did want to go further, with further signs, but the king did not allow this. He wanted to use a three-leaf clover to indicate “vpon the same texte there is diuersite of redynge amonge the hebrues, Caldees and Grekes and latenystes” a feather, showing “that the sentence written in small letters is not in the hebrue or Caldee, but in the latyn,” and finally the dagger, indicating that “the same texte which followeth it, is also alledged of christ or of some apostle in the newe testament” (Pollard, 2009)

Geneva Bible (1557/60)

The Geneva Bible was in English but printed outside of Britain so so did not need to be fearful of state approval and contained a large amount of glossing of the religious views of the editors, giving Protestants ample space to point out their differences to Catholicism. It was printed in a smaller size and was sold at a very low price, being affordable to even the poorest labourers (Daniell, 2003). For these reasons it became the primary Bible of 16th-century English Protestantism and displaced the Great Bible through it’s more evocative language (Boyd McAfee).

Bishops’ Bible (1568)

Changes to citation styles were part subjective and part tied to the new medium of print, with paper costs increasing and thus getting more text on a page mattered more than ever, thus leaving less space for margin gloss, culminating in the use of footnotes late 16th century when Richard Jugge, the Queen’s Printer in England who, when printing the Anglican Bible, the Bishops’ Bible in 1568 to to replace the more radical Calvinist Genevan Bible, employing footnotes as a convenience, neither as a research project or as a humanising aside (Zerby, 2007). This bible would used as the base for the famous King James Bible in 1611.

Towards Modern Times

Caricature of Citation

As time moves on from medical times, scholars gradually develop their methods and there is a growing emphasis on reliable evidence to back up every assertion (Grafton, 1997). Not everyone agreed with the utility of citations however. In the preface to Don Quixote, published 1605-1615, Miguel de Cervantes writes about his concerns over the shortcomings of the book which today some, including Harold Bloom (de Cervantes & Grossman, 2015) consider the first truly modern novel. He complains to a friend that the book is:

“dry as a bone, devoid of invention, meaner in style, poor in conceits, wholly wanting in learning and doctrine, without quotations in the margins or annotations at the end, after the fashion of other books I see, which, though on fictitious and profane subjects, as so full of maxims from Aristotle and Plato and the whole herd of philosophers that they fill their readers with amazement and convince them that the authors are men of learning, education and eloquence.” His friend replies: “…all you have to do is for in any sentence or scraps of Latin you may happen to know by heart, or at any rate that will not give you much trouble to look up.” He continues: “Let us now come to reference to authors, which other books have and you need for yours. The remedy for this is very simple; you have only to look up some book the quotes them from A to Z, as you say your self, and then insert the very same list in your book…” (de Cervantes Saavedra, 2014)

This is clearly a sentiment echoed by many students and critics of academia today.

Academic Citations

Scholarship is not done in a vacuum. Scholarship is the collective practice of building on previous work woven in rich and non-linear tapestry to create a linear academic argument as a node in the virtual academic knowledge graph, the sources of which can be followed by the next scholar to contribute to the academic discourse.

As we have seen, until the late ninetieth century, the author’s or editors would ‘gloss’ a document with further information, be it guides to reading or references to external texts. The term ‘gloss’ comes from the Late Latin ‘glossa’, meaning obsolete or foreign word which would require an explanation, though the term came to refer to the explanation rather than the text in the body of the document. Over time, references would evolve from being embedded to footnotes by the 1800s and into endnotes in the middle 1900s while transitioning in academia from books to journals in the mid 1800s, with increasing levels of specialisation into different professional fields (Allen, Qin, Lancaster, 1994).

What emerged was a split between citation styles of two categories, by how the citations appear in the document: Either by Author-Date, where the name of the author is shown in brackets followed by the year of publication, or through Author-Number, where the citation is referred to by a superscript number or a number in hard or soft brackets. All the variants concern how the document appends a list of all the sources, called ‘References’ or ‘Bibliography’, displays the cited sources (varying with punctuation, casing of titles, and italic). This has of course no bearing on digital retrieval of the sources, they are purely cosmetic to indicate different professional memberships.


1881 Harvard

In 1881 what came to be called the ‘Harvard Citation Style’ (author date with alphabetical Bibliography) was introduced in a paper on embryogenesis of the common garden slug, Limaxcampestris by Edward Laurens Mark, director of Harvard’s Zoological Laboratory. According to an article in the British Medical Journal (Chernin, 2009) in 1945 however, the name was likely applied by an English visitor to Harvard, though this is not confirmed. The system was original for use in a scientific paper but it’s worth noting that the catalog system used in the Library of Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology used–and uses–author, year and title filing. The system has varied greatly by who uses it however, something we see today in the myriad of ‘correct’ Harvard styles (Gillett, 2014)

For example, then the main documented version is the American Psychological Association style (Association, 2007) (discussed below) however, The Modern Languages Association (Anon, 2009) includes the author’s name, but no date. Some authorities on citation styles (Pears & Shields, 2005) refer to ‘The Harvard System’ but have separate sections on APA (discussed below) and MLA styles. Others (Neville, 2010) however understands the problem with the term and refers to British Standards Institution instead (Institution, 1989).

On the timeline, it was only in 1959, almost 30 years after the first version of the publication manual (Bentley & et, 1929), that the APA adopted The Harvard System and changes have accumulated ever since, with a good overview at

Although the Harvard style originated in biology and is still used by some biology journals, including Cell (Anon, 2020), it is now more common in humanities, history, and social science.

1906 Chicago Manual of Style/CMOS

“The history of The Chicago Manual of Style spans more than one hundred years, beginning in 1891 when the University of Chicago Press first opened its doors. At that time, the Press had its own composing room with experienced typesetters who were required to set complex scientific material as well as work in such then-exotic fonts as Hebrew and Ethiopic. Professors brought their handwritten manuscripts directly to the compositors, who did their best to decipher them. The compositors then passed the proofs to the “brainery”—the proofreaders who corrected typographical errors and edited for stylistic inconsistencies. To bring a common set of rules to the process, the staff of the composing room drew up a style sheet, which was then passed on to the rest of the university community.

Even at such an early stage, “the University Press style book and style sheet” was considered important enough to be preserved, along with other items from the Press’s early years, in the cornerstone of the new Press building in 1903.”

CMOS was published in a 203 page volume in 1906, under the title Manual of Style: Being a compilation of the typographical rules in force at the University of Chicago Press, to which are appended specimens of type in use. Changes in the manual are outlined here, with information taken from the official CMOS website, : The 13th edition (1982) finally makes the name The Chicago Manual of Style. This edition was the first to address the use of computers and word processors. The 14th edition (1993) addressed more systematically the role of computers in writing, editing, and publishing. The 15th edition (2003) for the first time, was created with the help an advisory board to help them address the cultural and professional shifts brought about by the web. The 16th edition (2010) “brought Chicago style fully into the digital age”.

1937 Turabian At the University of Chicago

In 1893 Kate Larimore was born in in Chicago. Even though she was academically inclined she could not continue into higher education due to illness. Instead she became a secretary and typist. She got married to Stephen Turabian and became a secretary at the University of Chicago, where she became responsible for dealing with records of doctoral theses for which, in 1937, she eventually wrote a ‘slender pamphlet’ (Anon, 1987) to help the students get their presentations to the correct academic level. It would would eventually become the Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, the source that documents the parameters of the style commonly known today as ‘Turabian’. The work was the result of frustration, as she told a newspaper in 1958: “I learned early that modern young people have ideas of their own on grammar and punctuation. I also soon discovered that I was talking to a blank wall when I talked about parts of speech. They didn’t even understand me.” (Turabian, 1987). Her Manual for Writers (Turabian, 2018) is still going strong, with over 9 million copies sold.

It is worth noting that her manual is not the same as the CMOS though it does follow it closely (Anon, 2020). Her first edition corresponded to the 10th edition of the CMOS and the 9th edition of her manual corresponds with the 7th edition of CMOS.


The American Psychological Association (APA) style is a variant of Author-Date used in most social sciences courses.


The Modern Language Association (MLA) is the principal professional association in the United States for scholars of language and literature. is a style of documentation that may be applied to many different types of writing.The MLA Handbook grew out of the initial MLA Style Sheet of 1951 (MLA, 1951).



The numerical system comes from the medical profession. The style shows only a number in the body text, either in hard or soft brackets or superscript or in brackets superscript. In 1978 a group of editors from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), had a meeting in Vancouver, Canada, resulting in the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals (URMs), based on an earlier tradition now largely lost in the mist of time, with no citations available.

Where we are today : A Mess (and you can quote me)

Even though there are two main citation styles, thousands of citation styles are in active use today (Barbeau, 2018). For a list of the major systems refer to, a list which includes, but goes into further subcategories: ACS Style Guide, AMA Manual of Style, AP Stylebook, APA Style, The ASA Style Guide, The Business Style Handbook, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, The Chicago Manual of Style, Citing Medicine, The Elements of Style, The Elements of Typographic Style, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, IEEE style, ISO 690, MHRA Style Guide, The Microsoft Manual of Style, MLA Handbook, The New York Times Manual, The Oxford Guide to Style/New Hart’s Rules, Scientific Style and Format (CSE style), The Sense of Style and Turabian: A Manual for Writers.

And yet, these systems are still not commensurate with our current and future increase in media (Durant, 2014), there are many issues still to be resolved, such as how to adequately cite different digital media.

Digital Citation Systems

Digital Citations Systems exist both to augment the users’ ability manage their research literature, which can clearly be a good thing They also exist because PDF documents, whether old or modern, very rarely contain any useful metadata and the name of the PDF document has no bearing on the document’s title, authors or anything else. This can be seen on any document downloaded from the ACM Digital Library for example.

The Portable Document Format (PDF) grew out of an environment of competing digital document formats. Designed by Adobe co-founder John Warnock’s ‘Camelot’ project team in the early 1990s, it became an open standard in 2008. The vision was to create a document format the user could virtually ‘print onto’ and which then could be viewed on any device (Anon, 2015) . This is the reason PDFs are generally ‘frozen’, this is by design. “It was always part of the plan to first accurately capture the look of the document, and then extend the format to capture the most important aspects of the document’s structure” (Warnock, 2003). The result was complete success.

Many solutions exist for getting the citations done in exactly the way the institution or publisher demands, including printed or digital guides for APA, MLA, Chicago and Harvard and the myriad university and institution variants (as shown above), as well as Citation Management software (see below), plugins for word processors and the TeX system to let the author also be the typesetter.

The major Citation Management Systems available today are EndNote by Clarivate Analytics, a large analytics company, includes a macOS client, RefWorks by Ex Libris is web based and is part of a large suite of tools, Zotero is free and open-source with a macOS client and Mendeley by Elsevier, the latest service.

These systems are all based on using their internal databases for the actual work, with any imported PDFs being stored for the user to read and annotate but the data about each PDF is in the database and is no appended to the PDF. A repercussion of this is that these are closed systems with only explicit import and export options to move bibliographic data around and annotations, such as simple highlights, do not have a value in search; for example, a user cannot search documents based on highlighted keywords.

These limitations are explicitly what led to my development of Reader to take advantage of the visual-meta approach, as shown in this promotional demo for visual meta: and this demo of the most current version, 1.5: The aim of the visual-meta design is to bypass the cosmetics of citation systems while presenting citations in the manner institutions prefer while providing richer interactions through documents having more knowledge about what they contain and how they connect.

Issues with Citations

Over the course of scholarly research sources will be found which inform the scholar’s work. There are also cases where the work informs the citations where the scholar needs to track down potential sources to cite, which is a useful academic pursuit since such sources can both strengthen the scholar’s position but also show problems if sources end up stating as much. There is an issue for the author where the question is who to put the ‘spotlight’ on; themselves or to find someone of greater authority to back up their point (Nicolaisen, 2008). Citations can of course also be used to give the author’s themselves the spotlight by citing the author’s own prior work (Hyland, 2003), (Van Noorden & Singh Chawla, 2019). On the subject of authors, there is also the problem of papers being submitted with authors being listed but not having had an impact on the work (Fong & Wilhite, 2017). Studies of errors in citations are frequent (Buchanan, 2014), (Spivey & Wilks, 2004) and not new (Small, 2010). Further issues include how citations have moved away from a focus the network of knowledge and ‘epistemic validation’, towards their use as a set of metrics oriented around evaluating and rewarding certain kinds of academic performance; in other words ‘impact factors’ (Burbules, 2015). This has even resulted in citation cartels (Bogazzi, 2017). These issues are cited as reasons why students struggle with citations (Bailey, 2019). A practical issue is that the guides can cost quite a lot, for example ‘Recommendations for citing and referencing published material’ costs £110 (Butcher, Drake, Leach, 2006) and is not available in the University of Southampton library, at least not at the moment. It can also be too easy to insert a citation without reading the paper, such as through my own word processor Author where the user simply needs to paste the DOI into the document and a citation will automatically be created. I believe that this is progress of course, but it only augments part of the process. For these reasons, and general unhappiness with the citation systems, as shown in my Survey, there are calls to update citation systems (Carpenter, 2014), (Dunleavy, 2014).

21st Century Citations

So where do we go from here and how can we go from here? We have to start with accepting that we are living in a technological constraint of PDF and a social constraint of academic cosmetic traditions. The first thing we can do is to improve PDF viewer software to present the text in whatever way the reader prefers to see it, including the style of citations. We can further provide the ‘magic’ of digital substrate to use Alan Kay’s language (Kay, 1989), to augment the way the reader can interact with the citations in the document, to sort the connective tissue of what we may think of as real and useful citations from the gristle of padding and lazily copied lists.

To go forward we need to collectively define what we mean by citations and what we want it to be. I suggest the basic proposition that: The core act of citing is to present in some form knowledge external to the document at hand, for any of the reasons mentioned in the introduction to this section.


Since citations are based around the concept of addressing a document (giving information to help the reader track down a document) rather than addressing a location as hyperlinks do (to where a document might be, on a shelf or server), hypertext linking as implemented today has only had a limited direct impact on citations. Identifier systems (ISBN, DOI etc.) have taken on the role of indirect links for citations where a user can click on a link and a service will show where the document is located.


Academia is document oriented, not link oriented as a consequence of the peer review process–the scholars work product is the academic article so they will be judged by the quality of the work and the quality of the publication the work was presented in, hence the low rate of academic blogging. Blogging removes the quality control and shine of a peer reviewed paper but still leaves the academic open for criticism, and as a consequence many academics feel they would need to put in the same amount of work on a blog post than a paper so why bother.


Citations are a category of connection which the author wants to make clear but since the source is not inside the document, connections may break over time, with either implicit or explicit links and as such a key aspect of citing becomes that of Addressing. In the ‘Timeline’ section of the book I am editing’ The Future of Text, I have added events without explicit links or citations but I have checked that searching based on that text results in useful sources to check the veracity of the items–in other words explicitly supporting implicit links:

21st Century Academic Corpus is in Crisis

The academic corpus today is dead and barren copies of trees; it is more like a corpse. In order for a work environment with more freedom of movement and more opportunities for seeing the material in different ways to emerge, the material needs to become materially better. A developer of the hugely popular large world multiplayer game Crysis said in an interview in Edge magazine (since gone through many names and owners) many years ago that making AI ‘bots’ was not hard if you work to make the environment aware of itself and what its characteristics are. He used the example of a virtual piece of wood. How much force is needed to break it? Can it be seen through? Can it be burned and so on. This is an approach taken for decades now in the computer games world and it is time we take approach into the academic corpus to really augment the academic discourse: Let the documents know more about they are, what their origin is, what they contain and how they are connected. This can translate to academic citations by letting the source documents ‘know’ what they are; who created them (i.e. how to cite them), what they contain and how they are formatted in order for the bots/AI and humans to interact with them as though they are a virtual information landscape and not just frozen pixels.

Initial Suggested Requirements for Improvement

Having gone through the history of citations, in moving forward, the requirement based on the use of citation systems over the last decades become clear:

1) User-Creator : Make the process of citing quick and easy (for a basic trained user, as all interactions I work on aim to be–if someone is not interested in learning how to use tools I cannot build tools for them)
2) Technical : To enable the core act of citing in the most efficient (not resource intensive) and robust manner (useful over time and over changes in technology)
3) Institution : Have the final citation system presented according to their current requirements (though I have to admit that my personal hope is that the ‘club’ aspect of citations will lessen in importance over time)
4) User-Reader : Make the process of checking citing quick and easy (through retrieval of sources and useful views of connections)

It would seem that modern computer system are capable on delivering on all these counts–and many efforts have been put into place to deliver on these requirements but it is clear from my user survey and dialog with academics that we are nowhere near where we need to be.

However, these are my perspectives and I believe it will be important to gather real user requirements. I therefore suggest that a next step for my PhD work should be to solicit academics to find their definition of what they want citations to be, by creating a survey with elements to choose from and freeform text to enter for further information.

‘21st Century Citations’ Survey

These are questions regarding how academic documents present sources as citations:

• How important is:
The visual formatting of citations in academic documents?
The robustness of the addressing mechanism to make sure cited sources can be located?
That the citation system will work long into the future?

• Would you prefer if:
Citations were set in a neutral format but could be displayed in any format (Harvard, Chicago etc.)?

• Do you think:
You spend too much time formatting citations?
Students spend too much time formatting citations?
Many students have a hard time getting it right?

• Do you think that you and your students would benefit from being able to:
Quickly add robust citations?
Not have to think about formatting for different publications or institutions?
Quickly verify if a cited source is correct?
Click/hover over a citation in-body to see a card with all the citation information?
Click further to see a summary and analysis of the source document?
Click further to access sources quickly?
See the citations in a graph view (of a style of your choosing)?
Instantly see what citations are part of a pre-set list of works for your field (collated by you), and which citations are different, in order to easily see if the student has covered the major works?
Copy text as normal from a document and paste as citation, which will then be formatted automatically on exporting to PDF?

Hegland, 2020.

Relation to my own Research (only a note here, for further section in full document)

In my work I address the act of citing from the explicit and implicit perspective. Explicit citations are improved through the visual-meta system, which I aim to demonstrate the utility of in this thesis. I also design and implement for implicit linking, such as Doug Engelbart referred to as example a word’s entry in a dictionary (Engelbart, 1962) through the ‘Liquid’ tool.

For my PhD work it is the visual-meta that is of relevance to this history as it evolved out of an increasing awareness of the schism between a naive view of ideal citations would be and the realities of academic identities and PDF technical limitations for end users:

illustration. Hegland, 2020.

London is hot today

Egypt is also hot today

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