A Place For Everything
‘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
The non-fiction I most enjoyed . . . an excellent subject, carried out with exemplary care and authority. -- Philip Hensher * Spectator * Judith Flanders . . . likes Christmas (I think), but she loves reality and its awkward, amusing facts. (A previous book of hers, Inside the Victorian Home, is deep, bright and encompassing.) * New York Times * [An] entertaining biography . . . Following the fine tradition of light entertainment Christmas books, Judith Flanders provides lots of trivia . . . However, there is much more to it than that. Flanders is a respected social historian, best known for studies on Victorian life, and the strength of this warm book lies in its quiet erudition. * The Times * A well-researched account. There are more footnotes here than there are presents under a Rockefeller Christmas tree. Indeed, the book is stuffed with facts - enough to satiate even the most ravenous postprandial taste for quizzing. * Sunday Times * Praise for Judith Flanders' previous book, Christmas: A Biography: 'A catalogue of colourful information, and as surprising an assortment of items as any you might find heaped up under a tree.' -- Lucy Hughes-Hallett * Observer * Judith Flanders has a knack for making odd subjects accessible . . . In A Place for Everything, the popular historian paints alphabetisation as one of our most radical acts. . . Flanders retains a sense of fun . . . finds contemporary resonance in humanity's search for order. * i * Judith Flanders's A Place for Everything presents itself as a history of alphabetical order, but in fact it is more than that. Rather, as the title suggests, it offers something like a general history of the various ways humans have sorted and filed the world around them - a Collison -level view of the matter, in which alphabetical order is just one system among many.' -- Dennis Duncan * The Spectator * One of the many fascinations of Judith Flanders's book is that it reveals what a weird, unlikely creation the alphabet is. -- Joe Moran * Guardian * A library and academic essential. -- Libby Purves * The Times * 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 * Marvellous . . . I read it with astonished delight . . . It is equally scholarly and entertaining. -- Jan Morris
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