The Book Index

Centre for the Study of the Book
Bodleian Library, Oxford
22-23 June, 2017

Keynotes: Professor Ann Blair (Harvard); Professor Emily Steiner (UPenn)

‘I for my part venerate the inventor of Indexes, […] that unknown labourer in literature who first laid open the nerves and arteries of a book.’
Isaac Disraeli, Literary Miscellanies

Now that much of our reading activity begins with the Results page of a Google search, this two-day symposium will take a timely opportunity to consider how the index – the foremost finding aid of the physical book – shaped reading and scholarly method over the last eight hundred years. An academic enabler, allowing readers to synthesise texts on a scale that had previously been impossible? A prop for fakers and the lazy – see Pope’s ‘index-learning turns no student pale’? What has the index offered readers, and what can indexes – both published and reader-created – tell us about the ways that a book has been consumed?

Subjects might include, but are not limited to:

  • the emergence of the index and its refinement over time
  • indexes and genre
  • ‘indexical reading’ and ‘index scholarship’
  • reader indexes: handwritten indexes to printed books
  • the index and ‘extract reading’: commonplacing, anthologising
  • the indexer, their place in the publishing foodchain
  • the grammar of the index
  • the emergence of indexing societies and agencies
  • indexing and the novel
  • indexing technology – from slips to punchcards to hyperlinks
  • the index and the eBook

Please send proposals (250 words) for papers of twenty minutes, along with a short biographical note to Dr Dennis Duncan ( by 30 November, 2016.