A Place For Everything

Judith Flanders

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04 February 2021
9781509881581
368 pages
Synopsis

'A delightfully quirky sturdy . . . [Flanders] is a meticulour historian with a taste for the offbeat; the story of the alphabet suits her well . . . Fascinating.' Sunday Times

Once we've learned it as children, few of us think much of the alphabet and its familiar sing-song order. And yet the order of the alphabet continues to play a major role in our adult lives. From school registers to electoral rolls, from dictionaries and encyclopaedias to library shelves, our lives have been ordered from A to Z. Long before Google searches, this magical system of organization gave us the ability to sort through centuries of thought, knowledge and literature, allowing us to sift, file, and find the information we have, and to locate the information we need.

In A Place for Everything, acclaimed historian Judith Flanders fascinatingly lays out the gradual triumph of alphabetical order, from its use as a sorting tool in the Great Library of Alexandria to its current decline in prominence in the digital age. Along the way, the reader encounters a wonderful cast of characters,from the great collector Robert Cotton, who catalogued his manuscripts by the names of the busts of the Roman emperors surmounting his book cases, to the unassuming sixteenth-century London bookseller who ushered in a revolution by listing his authors by 'sirname' first.

'One of the many fascinations of Judith Flanders' book is that it reveals what a weird, unlikely creation the alphabet is.' Guardian

Marvellous . . . I read it with astonished delight . . . It is equally scholarly and entertaining.

Jan Morris

Quirky and compelling . . . She is a meticulous historian with a taste for the offbeat; the story of the alphabet suits her well . . . Fascinating.

Dan Jones, Sunday Times

A library and academic essential.

Libby Purves, The Times