Index, A History of the: A Bookish Adventure from Medieval Manuscripts to the Digital Age


Product Details

$30.00  $27.90
W. W. Norton & Company
Publish Date
6.33 X 9.33 X 1.16 inches | 1.31 pounds

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About the Author

Dennis Duncan is a lecturer in English at University College London. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, and the London Review of Books, and he is the coeditor of Book Parts. He lives in London.


Entrancing.... Every page has things I didn't know, or hardly realized I knew from a lifetime of looking things up. Master the use of the index and you have access to all knowledge."--Christopher de Hamel, author of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts
Erudite, eminently readable and wittily titled...[U]shers the reader smoothly, even soothingly, along a fascinating, immensely pleasurable journey through previously uncharted terrain.--Margalit Fox, New York Times Book Review
Smart, playful....Duncan has written such a generous book, attentive to the varieties of the reading experience.--Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
An adventure, and 'bookish' in the most appealing sense...From ancient Egypt to Silicon Valley, Duncan is an ideal tour guide: witty, engaging, knowledgeable and a fount of diverting anecdotes.--Steven Moore "Washington Post"
Entertaining and erudite...In an unexpectedly high-spirited book on indexes, the fun continues to the very last page.--Barbara Spindel "Christian Science Monitor"
Gracefully learned, often witty and enlightening.--Ben Yagoda, Wall Street Journal
A decidedly fun history...Dennis Duncan's enthusiasm for the subject matter shines through the many witticisms and illustrations as he shows how something so seemingly small has been so vital to western literature.--Erica Ezeifedi "BookRiot"
Enlightening and entertaining...Duncan mixes humor and scholarship to brilliant effect in this accessible deep dive.-- "Publishers Weekly (starred review)"
Sparkles with geeky wit and shines with an infectious enthusiasm...Always erudite, frequently funny, and often surprising--a treat for lovers of the book qua book.-- "Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"
A seemingly niche and esoteric subject, the index becomes, in Duncan's hands, a minor miracle. Index, A History of the is not only about books...but about the nature of reading and about how we understand, categorize and engage with the world.--Kate Wiles, History Today
As Dennis Duncan's charming book shows, though today they suggest fusty libraries, indexes were once a novelty.-- "The Economist"
Duncan proves an amiable companion on what his subtitle aptly refers to as a 'bookish adventure'...[U]seful as an introduction to book history in general as well as indexes in particular.--James Waddell, Times Literary Supplement
Dennis Duncan's fascinating study of the origins of the index offers subversion, whimsy -- and hope.--Houman Barekat, Financial Times
Dennis Duncan gives us not only a history of the index, but an essay on human folly...[A] terrifically rewarding and also timely book.--Frances Wilson, The Oldie
Masterful...[B]oth an entertaining and edifying journey through index-history and a spirited defense of the index (and indexers) in the technological age.--Michael Delgado, Prospect Magazine
Dennis Duncan has done a great service to all bibliophiles by writing this scholarly, witty, and affectionate history. By rights 'Books, love of' ought to have a page-long entry in the index.--Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Backmatter has never enjoyed such a spotlight; sure to amuse bibliophiles and casual readers alike.-- "Library Journal (starred review)"
Dennis Duncan's history--from Socrates to software--along with Paula Clarke Bain's peerless index, is witty and personable throughout, and also serves as a sneak attack on the search engine. It's safe to say that you will never take an index for granted again.--Mary Norris, author of Between You & Me and Greek to Me
[A] witty and wide-ranging study...[Duncan] is adventurous as well, often writing as if academic research were as revved-up as a Formula One race.--Peter Conrad "The Guardian"
What a surprise to discover that the plain and humble index has such an intricate and rollicking history! Dennis Duncan gives us a learned grand tour from ancient times to the almost present in the design and uses--and cunning abuses--of what is still the most sophisticated search tool ever devised. Instruction, passim! Entertainment, idem!--David Bellos, author of Is That a Fish in Your Ear?
Engaging...Duncan draws rich parallels to anxieties surrounding our own 'age of search' and makes an impassioned case for the continued relevance of the human-crafted index.-- "The New Yorker"
A learned and playful study, by British academic Dennis Duncan, of a textual machinery so successful it's become almost invisible.--Brian Dillon "4Columns"