Chicago-Style Epigraphs and Sources

Section 1.37 in the Spotlight

An epigraph is a short quotation at the beginning of a book or chapter or article that sets the tone for what’s to come. It’s often from a famous source, but it doesn’t have to be.

The source of an epigraph is usually given on a line following the quotation, sometimes preceded by a dash. Only the author’s name and, usually, the title of the work need appear; it is not customary to give a full citation (but see 14.52).

Epigraphs are treated like block quotations in that quotation marks are not used around epigraphs. Also like block quotations, epigraphs are often set in a smaller typeface and indented from the right or left, and sometimes italicized.

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Photo: The half title of volume 1 of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, De l’Esprit des loix (Geneva: Barrillot & Fils, 1748), detail. The epigraph, “. . . prolem sine matre creatam” ( “. . . a child brought forth without a mother”) is from Ovid’s Metamorphoses 2.553. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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