I am reading a book on the collected works of Alexander Pope. Peppered throughout his poems are little superscript circles or degrees symbols, seen in this image of the text (transcribed below)

What do these mean?

So by false learning is good sense defaced:
Some are bewildered in the maze of schools,
And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools.
In search of wit these lose their common sense,
And then turn critics in their own defence:

  • 2
    Are there any footnotes/annotations in your text? To the side or the bottom?
    – bobble
    Apr 2, 2021 at 4:19
  • 3
    Or endnotes at the end of a chapter or the end of the book?
    – shoover
    Apr 2, 2021 at 4:59
  • 3
    Can you provide some bibliographic details? Which edition are you reading? Who are the editor and publisher? When was it published? Apr 2, 2021 at 11:27
  • 1
    The Project Gutenberg copy of An Essay on Criticism has a footnote after "Some are bewildered ..." explaining that "schools" means "systems of doctrine or philosophy." And since "wit" had four or five different meanings at that time (not all of which survived until today), I wouldn't be at all surprised if there was a footnote on the second line.
    – Peter Shor
    Apr 2, 2021 at 23:14
  • Thanks everyone, it was a dumb lack of attention to detail on my part Apr 2, 2021 at 23:17

1 Answer 1


The book I am reading is "Alexander Pope: The Major Works," published by Oxford World's Classics, with introduction and notes by Pat Rogers.

I looked everywhere in the book but the obvious section near the beginning titled "Note on the text". This section explains

Notes at the end are signalled by a degree sign in the text.

So the degree sign has nothing to do with poetry but rather is the notation used by Pat Rogers to indicate commentary given at the end of the book.


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