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Index, A History of the

mike carey

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I tossed up whether to put this here or in 'Random.Random' but here won. The link below is to an interview with the author of the book (yes the title of this thread is the name of the book).

How did they start (twice at about the same time in the 12th century, as it happens), what are they for, what do they do? Indexes allowed people to use books as references rather than something to read or meditate on. Can they be subversive, or are they simply utilitarian? The book cites two subversive indexes, so they can be both.

The discussion becomes something of a meta-narrative on literature.. Novels don't usually have indexes because you tend to read them from start to finish, and once, then 'take them to the charity shop', but if a novel, or set of novels becomes canonical they come to need an index. And since it was commented on in another thread, the speaker uses the word 'metonymy': a human indexer will know that No 10 and Downing Street mean the same thing as prime minister, a computer indexing program will not.


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16 hours ago, poolboy48220 said:

I've read novels that have a cast of characters, and a glossary too - mostly science fiction.

7 hours ago, WilliamM said:

Also Marcel Proust and James Joyce perhaps 

3 hours ago, poolboy48220 said:

it's where I learned the phrase "Dramatis Personae" 🙂

I've seen editions of Russian novels that have similar lists, although they tend to be a crib sheet to remind you of who is related to whom rather than take you to places in the book where they are mentioned, so not quite the same thing as an index.

A true index might be for works like those of Tolkien, as mentioned in the podcast, or the Harry Potter series where people want to go to specific parts of the sets of works.

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