2022 Index A History of The

If you have followed my freelance Game Editing career, you might have heard me discuss or seen me post about researching and writing indexes for either tabletop rpgs. The Pugmire rpg was my favorite to work on, as I was given some liberties to be creative with it. I really enjoy the process of reading a book so thoroughly and so many times you gain a feel of its flow, the knowledge it contains, and how to organize and cross-reference that information into a meaningful, useful, and pleasing index. Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan humorously and and factually delves into the history, the creative uses of, and the modern applications of indexes.

Cover of the book Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan

A playful history of the humble index and its outsized effect on our reading lives.

Most of us give little thought to the back of the book―it’s just where you go to look things up. But as Dennis Duncan reveals in this delightful and witty history, hiding in plain sight is an unlikely realm of ambition and obsession, sparring and politicking, pleasure and play. In the pages of the index, we might find Butchers, to be avoided, or Cows that sh-te Fire, or even catch Calvin in his chamber with a Nonne. Here, for the first time, is the secret world of the index: an unsung but extraordinary everyday tool, with an illustrious but little-known past.

Charting its curious path from the monasteries and universities of thirteenth-century Europe to Silicon Valley in the twenty-first, Duncan uncovers how it 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.

If you love flipping to the back of a book to find an index so you can delve into a topic that interests you. If you are disappointed, like I am, when you find a large book, especially a book like a roleplaying book or other reference style book, that is missing an index or has a poorly fleshed out one. If you are curious about the mechanics and history of writing. Then seek out a copy of this book and read it, don’t just flip to the index.

On My Shelf: Index, A History of the

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