Earlier this week I updated Fictional Footnotes and Indexes and fixed all the broken links, including to the archives of the wonderful journal The Indexer, which has a rolling paywall but decades of past issues are openly available. I saw some pieces by Paula Clarke Bain and remembered I wanted a copy of Index, A History of the: A Bookish Adventure from Medieval Manuscripts to the Digital Age by Dennis Duncan, for which she did the index.
I emailed Book City about getting it—it’s just out in paperback—and they had a copy and put it on hold. Then a staffer followed up to say the book had been recalled because the print was faint. It looked fine to her, and to me when I saw it, so I bought it. When I got home I saw the real problem:
All through the book, “hn” has been replaced with “Ù” (a capital U with a grave accent, Unicode U+00D9). The pages about Samuel Johnson are the worst:
By affixing illustrative quotations to his definitions, JoÙson turned the dictionary into the par excellence resource for the index-scholar—the “apotheosis of index-learning,” as Robin Valenza has put it. Nice to know, then, that JoÙson was not above a little index-hunting himself.
Aside from John and Johnson, the “hn” pair doesn’t appear at lot elsewhere, but whenever “tecÙology” is mentioned things go weird.
I can’t imagine how this mistake was introduced. You have to go to a fair bit of work to replace every “hn” with “Ù” in an manuscript written in English. It’s incredible it made it through all the publishing process and was printed and distributed.
But there’s more. Bain said in Index, A History of the: Conference Adventures of Author and Indexer (The Indexer 40, no. 3):
I was told that the US edition text was “exactly the same” as the UK version, and so there was no need for an updated index. Sadly, this was not entirely the case, as the list of figures was moved from the prelims in the UK book to the back of the US book, so bumping on the page numbers of the computer and human indexes. Normally this would not matter, as an index would not refer to itself. However, mine did refer both to itself and to the computer index, and so now those page numbers were wrong in the US edition, a fact which only came to light after publication. At the time of writing, this is getting fixed for future editions, but it was a very annoying and embarrassing situation with how exposed I am in this index.
That error is fixed in this paperback edition—except in one case I saw. One of the index entries under “Bain, Paula Clarke” is “non-robotic, superior index 309–40.” Her index runs from pages 313 to 343! I think they fixed the index by subtracting 4 from all the page numbers, to accommodate the movement of the list of figures from the front to the back, but the index is after that list, so its self-reflexive page references should have stayed the same.
I won’t be taking this back to get the replacement printing. This is a keeper. Bain and Duncan must be very dismayed with W.W. Norton, but those mistakes don’t distract from quality of the work, which seems delightful and informative. I look forward to reading it.