PositiveTimes Literary Supplement (UK)Few books begin by drawing the reader’s attention to a general lack of enthusiasm for their subject matter. Simon Garfield’s good-humoured history of the encyclopedia does just that ... He makes a good case, taking delight in the nuggets of treasure he unearths and sharing them generously ... The journalistic mode suits the author better than the demands of his historically focused discussions, which rely heavily on quotations from a relatively small number of academics. His chirpy style also occasionally grates ... Still, this is an infectiously enthusiastic history, inspired by genuine affection
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... the real pleasure of Portable Magic is its function as a sort of biblio-biography: a portrait of the author in books, or at least a guided tour by a celebrated craftswoman to the tools of her trade ... The thematic arrangement of the chapters makes for some pleasingly giddy pairings ... transhistorical interpretation at its most revelatory. It doesn’t always come off: on occasion, the historical sweep can have a flattening effect ... On the whole, though, it’s difficult not to be swept along by the book’s energy, which is akin to that of the best late-night dinner party conversations. The prose helps...There’s also a sense of humour.
PositiveTimes Literary Supplement (UK)A good indexer must have a clear sense of the terrain, the imagined user, and what they need to find their way. To illustrate this point, Duncan includes two indexes in his own book, one by a professional indexer and the other by a software programme. The computerized version is a headache-inducing jumble ... In contrast, the index by Paula Clarke Bain is a joy, full of selfreferential gags ... Duncan proves an amiable companion on what his subtitle aptly refers to as a \'bookish adventure\'. We join him in the archive ... He does well to squeeze meaning out of his source materials, alert to subtle shifts of tone in these apparently functional bits of text. Whistle-stop introductions to the printing press and the construction of early books make this work useful as an introduction to book history in general as well as indexes in particular.
Andrew Pettegree and Arthur Der Weduwen
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Despite this staggering range, the authors manage never to seem in a rush, or to skimp on incidental detail ... Holding it all together is a keen eye for stories of individual lives that are representative of something larger ... The authors convincingly present this development as part of a trend: even as libraries democratize the luxury of reading, successive generations of social elites fight a rear-guard action to retain control over access to knowledge ... One striking lesson to be learnt here is that many creators of libraries fail to come out of their travails looking terribly virtuous. The collector’s impulse can become an addiction ... Pettegree and der Weduwen’s sweeping history records the lofty highs of human culture, but just as memorable are the grubby lows of human nature.
MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Flanders is regrettably light on the literary uses to which alphabetical order has been put ... Still, A Place for Everything is surprising and copiously researched.