When you open a book, do you ever read the acknowledgements?
That they’re ubiquitous is true and they vary in length: some thankfully run a mere sentence, others though, a dissertation all their own.
Then if they’re not a schmaltzy “thank you to my spouse for your patience and feeding the cat during these very annoying years”, you get a “who’s who” of academic rite—a telethon for pledges of kudos.
Every now and then though, you get one that surprises.
Take for example the six well-used pages of acknowledgement that accompany the start to 2014’s Napoleon the Great—a huge single-volume biography on the Emperor.
Author, Andrew Roberts, outdoes himself with thank you prose as interesting as his text further on. At one point he writes a cheers to:
Caroline Dalmeny for lending me a lock of Napoleon’s hair, which has sat on my desk throughout, inspiring me, and Baudouin Prot of BNP Paribas for allowing me to visit the room in which Napoleon and Josephine were married. I would also like to apologize profoundly to Jerome Treca and the staff of Fontainebleau Palace for setting off the burglar alarm in Napoleon’s throne room no fewer than three times.
It’s easy to overlook these preliminary pages in every book but I like to start with them. Sometimes they do go on like a list and I confess to breaking off into the real narrative. But now and then, there are these moments of extra value that delight.