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Why Do We Quote?

Ruth Finnegan


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1Let me start by expressing my gratitude to the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Sociology discipline in the Open University not just for research support but also – even more treasured – for their long-continuing warm colleagueship. I also acknowledge with thanks the many libraries and archives from whose resources I have benefited, above all the British Library, the Archives of the Oxford University Press, and the Open University’s Library, that unfailing support over so many years, both on the spot and through its amazing electronic resources and its great Inter Library Loan service. I have been fortunate indeed in my long association with the Open University, its staff and its ideals.

2I have very special thanks to the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex and its staff who assisted so generously and patiently in this work (especially Fiona Courage, Jessica Scantlebury and Dorothy Sheridan) and, above all, to the wonderful panel of Mass Observation writers for their thoughtful, full and challenging responses to the autumn 2006 Mass Observation ’Directive’ about quoting and quotation. Their perceptive commentaries underpin this book.

3I also acknowledge with real gratitude the help I have received from friends and colleagues, as well as from scholars who responded in a spirit of generous scholarly cooperation to queries over the internet. Those who have contributed to the long genesis of this text are legion, whether by direct suggestions, by sharing their resources, or just – and this too was greatly appreciated – by their active interest or quiet encouragement. They are too many to list individually but let me at least thank Karin Barber, Anna Bonifazi, Bill Bytheway, Tom Cheesman, the late Desmond Costa, John Miles Foley, Graham Furniss, Marie Gillespie, Michael Hancher, Werner Kelber, Michael Knibb, Elizabeth Knowles, Robert Murray, Chris Nighman (special thanks for his expert assistance on Manipulus florum), Martin Orwin, Anne Seaton (whose email comments are always a delight), Amy Shuman, Paul Smith, Brian Street, Rosalind Thomas, Jason Toynbee, Mark Turin, Brian Watson, and David Wilson. I recall too with great appreciation the friendly reception and constructive comments I received at the American Folklore Society Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City in 2004 where I first dipped my toes into this vast subject in a nervous plenary lecture. I am also extremely grateful to the publisher’s anonymous reviewer whose thorough reading and advice saved me from many errors. May I also thank those who have helped me with the illustrations and with IT problems generally: in earlier years John Hunt (still a source of support), more recently Sue Searle and, especially, the ever patient Fleur LeCroissette, the IT wizard in the Open University’s Social Science Faculty. And to these thanks let me add, as ever, my appreciation of the huge contribution by David Murray, not just his photographs and his active support but also for the many paths, intellectual and other, that we have shared over the years.

4I must not omit to voice my appreciation of Open Book Publishers. It was their unusual combination of vision and realism that drew me to them in the first place. It has also proved a pleasure working with them, in personal as well as professional terms.

5In more formal vein I acknowledge with gratitude the many permissions to reproduce copyright material. For the illustrations: Curtis Brown Group Ltd, London on behalf of the Trustees of the Mass Observation Archive (Figs 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3.1); The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford (Fig. 4.8: MS Bodley 819 fol 16; Fig. 4.9 (2): Ms Bibl b 2 (P) f14); Durham Cathedral (Fig. 4.9 (1): C.IV.8 fly leaf); The British Library Board (Fig. 4.9 (3): Additional Ms 11878 f 45v; Fig. 5.2:; Fig. 5.6: 1460.a.32 title page; Fig. 6.3: BL Images online 021635; Fig. 8.1: YA.1995.a.2049 title page; Fig. 8.4: T.1948 (1) title page); the Secretary to the Delegates of Oxford University Press (Fig. 5.1); Bibliothèque nationale de France (Fig. 5.5: BnF Ms lat. 15985f4r); The Penn Museum (Fig. 5.8: object # B6139); Dr Sara Shneiderman (Fig. 6.1); The Walters Art Museum Baltimore Maryland (Fig. 6.4); The Trustees of the British Museum (Fig. 6.6); The Houghton Library, Harvard University (Fig. 8.3: *93HR-7045). Also sincere thanks to David Wilson (Fig. 4.10), David Murray (Fig. 4.11) and Kenneth Cragg (Fig. 6.2) for their courtesy in allowing me to reproduce material in their possession, to Brigid Duffield for her calligraphic gift (Fig. 1.1), to David Murray again for his photographs (Figs 1.3, 1.4, 7.2) and to Mark Cain ( for his design (Frontispiece and Fig. 7.3). For textual material: the Secretary to the Delegates of Oxford University Press for permission to reproduce material from the Oxford University Press Archives and the Modern Quotations Dictionaries Survey; Faber & Faber for the poem ’This Be the Verse’ by Philip Larkin (first published in Philip Larkin High Windows, Faber & Faber, 1974); and, with very special gratitude, Curtis Brown Group Ltd, London on behalf of the Trustees of the Mass Observation Archive for allowing me to reproduce extensive quotations from the material produced by the panel of writers responding to the Mass Observation Archive Directive sent out in autumn 2006, material which forms a key element in this volume: my heartfelt thanks both to the Trustees of the Mass Observation Archive and (let me repeat) to its panel of writers.

6Clearing copyright permissions is a tedious and irksome task, but I would like to express my thanks not only to the organisations concerned, but also to those individuals whose humanity and warmth added a touch of enjoyment to the process, in particular Gordon Wise of the Curtis Brown Group, Catherine Turner of the Durham Cathedral Library, Ruth Bowler at the Walters Art Museum, Martin Maw of the Oxford University Press Archives, and Auste Mickunaite of the British Library.

7In a few cases copyright holders could not be traced or did not respond despite our efforts. The publishers would be glad to hear from any that have been omitted.


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