Sam Leith, In our Google era, indexers are the unsung heroes of the publishing world, The Guardian, Thursday 30 March 2017
Today, the Society of Indexers – the industry body for those professionals (for which, full disclosure, I have the honour to be honorary president) – turns 60 years old. It celebrates its “anniversary, diamond”. “What?” you ask. “Who?” you wonder. No surprise. Indexers are like badgers: they are seldom sighted in the wild, they do their work in the darkness, and when you see one it’s usually because they’ve been run over by an 18-wheeler.
Also, which is well worth remembering, a good index is often very funny. Those of us who take an interest in such things – and I think there should be more of us – end up hoarding favourites. Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality (volume two) contains the cherishable “Elephants, as example of conjugal virtue, 17”. A 1995 book on the computer contains a deliberately circular reference (normally an absolute no-no): “Loop, endless: see ‘endless loop’”; “Endless loop: see ‘loop, endless’.” JG Ballard wrote a short story called “The Index”, which was the index to an imaginary book; the late David Miller used it as the index to his anthology That Glimpse of Truth: The 100 Finest Short Stories Ever Written. And as my colleague in the society, Paula Clarke Bain, who blogs about comedy indexes, recognises, the indexes to Alan Partridge’s memoirs are at least as funny as the body text.