Names, Names, Names

I stole that title from Nancy Mulvany’s chapter on the subject.

As I illustrated in a previous post, I entered the original two-page index for A Writer’s Diary into my indexing software. What a mess it is.

I mentioned that the original index is almost entirely proper names. Names are a large and complex subject in indexing. Books have been written about indexing names, chapters dedicated to them in other reference works, indexers discuss them all the time, their transliteration, how to indicate relationships, handle pseudonyms, nicknames, prefixes, compound names, titles, initials, and so forth.

Whoever made this index ignored all of that.

Dante is fine. Merriam Webster lists him that way, though the Library of Congress authority gives Dante Alighieri

Byron, Lord is not ideal, but it’s not terrible. It is how he is commonly known. But it’s not as specific as it could be, and his grandfather of the same title is in the Biographical Dictionary. I’ll give it a qualifier, and make this Byron, Lord (George Gordon)

Defoe is terrible. Could be anybody, including the contemporaneous Canadian Prime Minister. And the man had a first name. Defoe, Daniel.

Flaubert is another one-namer in this. Dostoievsky, Shakespeare, Turgenev

It’s not even consistent, the indexer entered Dickens, Charles and James, Henry and Hardy, Thomas. Is personal preference operating here? Was this index done on a train, in an afternoon?

And then we have cringeables like Hardy, Mrs. Thomas which is not only sexist (women’s rights advocates had been complaining about this usage since Lucy Stone and before), and bad indexing style, the man was married twice and which one is this?

However the indexer did enter Sackville-West, Victoria (Vita). No Mrs. for her. Because he knew her personally?

After Hardy, is Harris, “Bogey” Now I have to look up his given name. He’s not a famous man, but for this project, I have an easy cheat: the complete five-volume set of Woolf’s diaries on a shelf near my desk. Much better indexes in those, and there he is, Harris, Henry (“Bogey”)

Library science standards, which include indexing standards, have changed and become more standardized over the years, but a lot was in place by 1953. However. Time to stop pointing fingers and to start making my own mistakes. Next up: I dive in.


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