I am working on editing and revising a 100 year old text for re-issue and running into several concerns. The one I will deal with today concerns citations and deciding whether to use anonymous or unknown and how to cite it. Throughout the work, the author liberally intersperses verses of poetry without referencing anything. I have been able to track down most of them but am left with about fifteen that I just cannot find. I do not like the idea of using ‘anonymous.’ They have an author. I just don’t know who it is.
Whichever way I decide to go, I still do not know how to cite it. All the references I can find are for citing an entire work. These would all be an unknown work by an unknown author on an unknown date, etc. At the same time, there would be a noticeable gap between Milton and Shakespeare if I didn’t put anything. Suggestions?

  • 2
    Maybe you could start by editing and revising your 7 hour old question. Put "Anonymous" and "Unknown" in quotations marks, for example, and capitalize them (in the body of your question). And what is the "it" you want to cite? As you write it ("whether to use anonymous or unknown and how to cite it"), you want to cite the unknown, but I believe you want to cite an unknown source. I hope that you put more care into editing your text than you did writing your question.
    – user5645
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 9:51

1 Answer 1


Since you are editing an existing text, you will probably let your readers know that you did so, for example in a foreword or addendum, and in that explanation you could simply explain that you have added sources where you could find them. Where the source couldn't be identified, you would then simply mark them as

"Source unknown".

I don't know how you are searching for the sources of the poems, but I hope you are aware that many published texts are not available online and cannot be found through a Google search. You will have to locate and browse the original publications of the time. Otherwise your efforts will seem amateurish to those that are familiar with the texts you accidentally do not know.

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