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A Meander through the History of Indexing. By Peter Duncan 2010. First “Indexes”. Cannon of the Gospels e.g. Lindisfarne 7 th Century Masoretes 10 th Century Stephen Langdon (1150-1228) Knowledge of the Alphabet. First Printed Indexes Invention of printing 1456.

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A meander through the history of indexing

A Meander through the History of Indexing


Peter Duncan


First indexes

First “Indexes”

  • Cannon of the Gospels e.g. Lindisfarne 7th Century

  • Masoretes 10th Century

  • Stephen Langdon (1150-1228)

  • Knowledge of the Alphabet

First printed indexes invention of printing 1456

First Printed IndexesInvention of printing 1456

  • Alphabet important part of technique

  • Specialization & commercialization

  • Peter Schoeffer (ca. 1425-1503) regards his books as being superior better because they have indexes

Peter schoeffer ca 1425 1503

Peter Schoeffer (ca. 1425-1503)

First printed indexes named

First Printed Indexes Named

  • Dating not so clear Epistolae Hieronymi (1470?) List of first words of each section

  • Clearly dated: Turrecrematta Expositio Psalteri (4 Oct 1470) printed by Ulrich Han List of words of each double sheet

  • Undated possibly earlier: Augustine De arte praedicante (146-?) Two editions produced by Furst and Schoeffer

First named indexer bernardo machiavelli 1428 1500

First named indexerBernardo Machiavelli (1428-1500)


His son



Sixteenth century indexes

Sixteenth Century Indexes

What an index is, is not clear

  • Table of the contents?

  • Alphabetical list of subjects?

St john chrysostom commentarium 1554

St John Chrysostom. Commentarium (1554)

St john chrysostom commentarium 15541

St John Chrysostom. Commentarium (1554)

Toscanelli observationi di virgilio 1568

Toscanelli. Observationi … di Virgilio (1568)

Toscanelli observationi di virgilio 15681

Toscanelli. Observationi … di Virgilio (1568)



Theatrum orbis terrarium




Theatrum orbis terrarium




Theatrum orbis terrarium


Seventeenth century

Seventeenth Century

Plan of the book and indexes where we would expect them

Thevenot travels 1686

Thevenot. Travels (1686)

Thevenot travels 16861

Thevenot. Travels (1686)

Important indexer samuel pepys 1633 1703

Important indexer: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703)

Eighteenth century

Eighteenth century

Indexing format recognizable

The ladies magazine or entertaining companion for the fair sex vol 7 1776

The ladies magazine or Entertaining companion for the fair sex. Vol. 7, 1776.

Advertisement, an extraordinary one

Dead, select dialogues of the letters from the, to the living

Dissipation, dangers of

Dullness, humourously [sic] described

Fair sex, effusions in praise of them

Fans, moral reflections on them

I’ll tell you what, a fable of

Mistake, a terrible one

Perseverance, in point of love

Virtue in distress

Important indexer alexander cruden 1699 1770 a complete concordance to the holy scriptures 1737

Important indexer: Alexander Cruden (1699-1770) , A Complete Concordance to the Holy Scriptures (1737).

Nineteenth century

Nineteenth Century

Professionalism begins?

But first the Same old thing

The ladies monthly museum vol 6 1801

The ladies monthly museum. Vol. 6, 1801

The ladies monthly museum vol 6 18011

The ladies monthly museum. Vol. 6, 1801.

The ladies monthly museum vol 6 18012

The ladies monthly museum. Vol. 6, 1801.

Similar index entries to previous

Affability and gentleness, essay on, 45

Affectation, the destruction of beauty, 127

Aigrette worn by the Queen on her birthday, described, 217

Duties due to Society, 474

Words, remarkable ones, 429

Notes and queries vol 1 1849 50

Notes and queries. Vol. 1, 1849-50.

Anecdote of a peal of bells

Bald head, defense of

B. (J.M) on finkle or finkel

- -on howkey or horkey

- -St. Winifreda

Black broth, Lacedaemonian, was it coffee?

Curious custom

--symbolic custom

Notes and queries vol 1 1849 501

Notes and queries. Vol. 1, 1849-50.

Depinges, what are they?

Ed., what are deepenings?

Hints to intending editors

Limb of the law on a maiden assize and white gloves

Mess (A) meaning of

Singer (S.W.) on the Dodo queries

--Dodo replies

To endeavour oneself

Use of coffins 

Fiske darwinism and other essays 1893

Fiske. Darwinism and other essays (1893)

Bow-wow theory

Buckle, H.T., his History of civilization, 43his death at Damascus, 211;

-- his mental impatience, 212; his lack of subtlety, 214

Electric girls, 129

Fasting girls, 130

Heredity in book-making, 350; Mr Buckle’s loose talk about heredity

Louis XIV., his injurious influence on science and literature, 193

Title pages, slovenliness of, 349

Virtue and pleasure

Wallace, A.R., on causes of man’s intellectual supremacy, 38, 46; his surprising credulity as to spiritualism, 127

Professional indexing

Professional indexing

  • Indexing Society, 1877-90

  • Mary Petherbridge

Petherbridge indexing as a profession for women good housekeeping 1923

Petherbridge . Indexing as a profession for women.Good housekeeping. (1923)

“There are four stages in indexing:

(a) The writing of the slips;

(b) The alphabetical listing of them;

(c) The critical editing and its attendant research;

(d) The proof reading, which must always be done by the indexer personally.”

Hilaire belloc 1870 1953

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

Belloc marie antoinette 1909

Belloc. Marie Antoinette . (1909)

Boston, British man of war arrives in harbor of, to impose tea tax, at same hour as Louis XV.’s death, 72

D’AIGUILLON, Duc de, chief Minister at end of Louis XV.’s reign after Choiseul’s fall, made by the Du Barry, 55,58,59; receives grant of public money on dismissal in the modern English fashion, 83; Fall of largely due to Marie Antoinette, 84

Elizabeth, Madame, Marie Antoinette’s relations with, 122; brought to Paris by mob in Days of October, 230, 231

Belloc marie antoinette 19091

Belloc. Marie Antoinette . (1909)

Joseph II., son of Maria Theresa, first association with her in the empire, 23; hastens the conclusion of Marie Antoinette’s marriage, 30,31; accompanies Marie Antoinette for the first day on journey to Versailles before her marriage, 36 his insufficient character, 103; his ignorance of La Marck and Lavoisier, 105 his ludicrous misjudgment of French military power, 105; his Bungling in religion, 131

MADAME. See Adelaide

Madame Elizabeth, her passage of arms with Pétion, 287-288; watches sun rise with the Queen before attack upon the palace, 320.

See also Elizabeth.

Charlotte yonge 1823 1901

Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901)

Lewis carroll 1832 1898

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

Friedrich nietzsche 1844 1900 portrait by erickarla

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)Portrait by Erickarla

Beatrice webb 1858 1943

Beatrice Webb (1858-1943)

Georgette heyer 1902 1974

Georgette Heyer (1902-1974)


“This is not a profession to be taken up casually. Only a real student can hope to make a success of it; but to that privileged student the work is a delight”


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