Because Cather's letters are so allusive—to people, artistic works, events of the day, and places—informative annotations are particularly important to this edition, and each letter is fully annotated. We provide concise factual, rather than interpretive, annotations, as editorial apparatus is not the appropriate place for critical commentary. We focus our annotation research on subjects not broadly known by most readers, such as Cather's family and personal friends. We only lightly annotate well-known subjects, like Julius Caesar or the Titanic, and those annotations focus on Cather's connection to the subjects. Given the electronic environment of our publication, we intentionally avoid extraneous annotation of material that can be found very easily through a simple Internet search except as it relates specifically to Cather.
Three categories of annotations—people, places, and works—are handled distinctively within the edition. Biographical annotations are written in such a fashion that they can be repurposed across multiple documents. A core annotation is available at every mention of a name in the corpus, and it includes brief biographical details for that person and a succinct description of Cather's relationship with them. In many cases, we also include a photograph of the person in the annotation. Place annotations allow users to see the regularized forms, and works have a simplified bibliographic entry. These foundational annotations are facilitated through our authority file system, described in the Introduction to the edition. For every letter that requires more specific explanation about one of these categories—for example, when knowledge of a specific episode in a person's life illuminates a letter, or when Cather's relationship to a particular work needs to be made clear—we write individualized annotations attached to specific documents.