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Cover Quote: January 2023

A history of the index is really a story about time and knowledge and the relationship between the two. It’s the story of our accelerating need to access information at speed, and of a parallel need for the contents of books to be divisible, discrete, extractable units of knowledge. This is information science, and the index is a fundamental element of that discipline’s architecture. But the evolution of the index also offers us a history of reading in microcosm. It is bound up with the rise of the universities and the arrival of printing, with Enlightenment philology and punchcard computing, the emergence of the page number and of the hashtag. It is more than simply a data structure. Even today, faced with the incursions of Artificial Intelligence, the book index remains primarily the work of flesh-and-blood indexers, professionals whose job is to mediate between author and audience. The product of human labour, indexes have produced human consequences, saving heretics from the stake and keeping politicians from high office.

- Dennis Duncan
Index, A History of the, 2021
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