Read an actual note by Cliffs Notes’ Cliff

Did you know that the Cliff in Cliffs Notes was an actual person?

Clifton Keith Hillegass started and ran the company (as he once suggested, you pronounce his last name by remembering, “That’s not a cliff, but a Hill-I-Guess”). He started by buying the American rights to Canada’s Cole’s Notes guides and expanded from there. Though the company has since changed headquarters, Cliff ran it from Omaha, Nebraska during its most successful years. He read a little bit of everything (though he had a soft spot for sci-fi).

For a publishing impresario, Cliff’s written output is surprisingly small. He didn’t write the summaries of classic books, preferring to hand them off to editors. He did leave a note at the bottom of each book which read, “A thorough appreciation of literature allows no shortcuts.” but that was it. The absence of many notes makes this piece particularly rare: it’s Cliffs Notes’ Cliff’s note.

Cliffs Notes Cliff's Note

It reads: “Dear Andrew: In some way your letter was misplaced—my apologies. Enclosed find card and picture. Indeed I have had a few fan letters. I am more than satisfied if the Notes have been of help. All my best, Cliff.”

If you want, you can even buy the note. But the main thing you should remember for the test? The man behind the world’s most famous notes had bad handwriting.

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