Dennis Duncan with "Index, A History of the"

Live Broadcast: May 10, 2022
Presented by: Dennis Duncan
Presented in partnership with the Boston Public Library and the State Library of Massachusetts

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, lecturer Dennis Duncan offers a playful history of the humble index and tracks its outsized effect on our lives as readers, researchers, and cultural consumers. The book follows the index from German print shops to Enlightenment coffee houses, novelists’ living rooms to university laboratories, encountering along the way emperors, popes, philosophers, prime ministers, poets, librarians and, of course, indexers. Measuring the impact of this handy tool on 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. Don’t miss his illustrated presentation and insight.

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.

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