The International Journal of Indexing

posted by Sarah Pavis   Nov 20, 2012

“The index of a book. Sometimes it’s, uh, not great, you know? But like, eh.”

That about sums up my thoughts, and I’m guessing most people’s thoughts, about the indexes of books.

But not everyone. No, for the Society of Indexers, book indexes are a topic that holds endless fascination. And I do mean endless.

The Prime Minister of the UK wrote to the Society of Indexers at the society’s founding back in freaking 1958.

I can scarcely conceal from you the fact that I am at present somewhat occupied with other matters, so that I cannot say all that comes into my mind and memory on the subject of indexing.

Nice dodge, Mr. Prime Minister.

One of the longest running features of the society’s publication, The Indexer, is its reviews of indexes which are snippets culled from book reviews that pertain to the book’s index.

Finally, the four-page single-level index is a joke. In a book entitled Satan, what possible use is the entry ‘Satan’ with 84 undifferentiated page numbers, or ‘Devil’ with 102, or ‘demon’ with 79, out of a total of 190 text pages? You’d think a scholar would know the importance of a good index.

The reviews of indexes are only a small part of the publication. They also regularly publish articles that meditate on what it means to be an index, defend indexing, and a look at the history of indexing societies.

I really hope the Society of Indexers is actually a front for some creepy Eyes Wide Shut sex cult because the possibility that people have been earnestly compiling and discussing indexes for 54 years is too depressing to contemplate.

The complete December 2012 issue of The Indexer isn’t available online, but you can buy it for only $17.89. For 52 pages of reviews and discussions of indexes? A bargain.

If everyone buys it and leaves reviews about the index of the book of reviews of indexes, I can review your index reviews and combine them into a review of reviews of reviews of indexes in index form that— HELP PLZ SEND ORIGINAL CONTENT ASAP I’M DYING OF RECURSIVE CURATION ASPHYXIATION.

(via @ftrain)

UPDATE: The Society of Indexers are not a creepy sex cult and are in fact a serious society as is proved by them having a twitter account.

Jason told me to stay away from politics but he never mentioned the partisan kerfuffle I’d encounter by taking a cheeky view of indexes.

For all the fans of indexes, here’s a short story in index form written by J. G. Ballard which was originally published in The Paris Review. (thx mylesnyc)

I’ll go back to engineering with my indices and leave the indexers their indexes.