Notes and Queries

This article is about the quarterly publication. For the newspaper column with the same title, see Notes & Queries.
Notes and Queries  
Abbreviated title (ISO 4)
Discipline English language, English literature, lexicography, history
Language English
Publication details
Publication history
1849 to present
ISSN 0029-3970

Notes and Queries is a long-running quarterly scholarly journal that publishes short articles related to "English language and literature, lexicography, history, and scholarly antiquarianism".[1] Its emphasis is on "the factual rather than the speculative".[1] The journal has a long history, having been established in 1849 in London;[2] it is now published by Oxford University Press.

The journal was originally subtitled "a medium of inter-communication for literary men, artists, antiquaries, genealogists, etc".[2] It is now subtitled "For readers and writers, collectors and librarians".[1] Its motto was once "When found, make a note of",[2] the catchphrase of Capt. Cuttle, a character in Dickens' Dombey and Son.

It is the 250th-most-quoted source in the Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed), giving 1,633 quotations, many being first evidence of a word or a particular meaning.[3]


Notes and Queries was first published in 1849 as a weekly periodical edited by W.J. Thoms.[2] It was founded as an academic correspondence magazine, in which scholars and interested amateurs could exchange knowledge on folklore, literature and history. The format consisted of "Notes" (miscellaneous findings of correspondents that they and the editors considered of interest to the readership), and "Queries" (and responses to queries), which formed the bulk of the publication.[2] The magazine has been likened to a nineteenth century version of a moderated Internet newsgroup.[4]

Many of the entries in the journal for its first seventy years were but a few paragraphs long, and occasionally as short as a sentence or two. Very frequent contributors include the Rev. Walter W. Skeat, one of the most important figures in the field of English etymology, and Eliza Gutch, founder of the Folklore Society. The foundation of such a society was suggested by Gutch through a query to the publication. Gutch contributed to the publication for over seventy years, using the pseudonym "St Swithin".[5][6]

Today, the magazine is produced as an academic journal. The articles are typically much longer than they were during the journal's early years, though they are still shorter than those of the typical academic journal. In addition, the 'Notes' now far outweigh the 'Queries', and book reviews have also been introduced. The focus is now almost entirely on literature.


There were numerous regional versions of Notes and Queries throughout Britain (e.g., Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries)[7] and three incarnations of American Notes and Queries.[8]

Notes and Queries has given its name to a number of similar columns and publications; for instance there is a regular feature under the same title Notes & Queries in The Guardian newspaper.


  1. 1 2 3 From the inner sleeve of all modern issues of Notes and Queries.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Notes and Queries, Series 1, Volume 1, Nov 1849 - May 1850, via Internet Archive
  3. "Notes and Queries : Oxford English Dictionary". Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  4. GENUKI Yorkshire Notes and Queries.
  5. Jacqueline Simpson (Editor), Steve Roud (Editor) (2003). A Dictionary of English Folklore. Oxford University Press
  6. Peacock, Max. The Peacock Lincolnshire word books, 1884-1920, Barton on Humber : Scunthorpe Museum Society, 1997, p.8. ISBN 0-907098-04-5
  7. Notes and Queries, complete set at Internet Archive
  8. American Notes and Queries, via Internet Archive
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