'Dennis Duncan has done a great service to all bibliophiles by
writing this scholarly, witty and affectionate history' Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves
of us give little thought to the back of the book - it's just where you
go to look things up. But here, hiding in plain sight, is an unlikely
realm of ambition and obsession, sparring and politicking, pleasure and
play. Here we might find Butchers, to be avoided, or Cows that sh-te Fire, or even catch Calvin in his chamber with a Nonne.
This is the secret world of the index: an unsung but extraordinary
everyday tool, with an illustrious but little-known past. Here, for the
first time, its story is told.
Charting its curious path from
the monasteries and universities of thirteenth-century Europe to Silicon
Valley in the twenty-first, Dennis Duncan reveals how the index has
saved heretics from the stake, kept politicians from high office and
made us all into the readers we are today. We follow it through German
print shops and Enlightenment coffee houses, novelists' living rooms and
university laboratories, encountering emperors and popes, philosophers
and prime ministers, poets, librarians and - of course - indexers along
the way. Revealing its vast role in our evolving literary and
intellectual culture, Duncan shows that, for all our anxieties about the
Age of Search, we are all index-rakers at heart, and we have been for
eight hundred years.
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