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Bara ett index

Ett av de mer udda bokinköpen jag gjort är den 11:e volymen av den stora utgåvan av Pepys dagbok, bestående av indexet till de tio föregående volymerna. Inspirerad av den här artikeln:

When I was researching my doctorate, I read page by page through the whole of Robert Latham and William Matthews’s edition of The Diary of Samuel Pepys. The diary itself, which covers almost ten years in the 1660s, is of course extraordinary, one of the greatest autobiographical texts ever written. But that edition, in eleven volumes published between 1970 and 1983, is also a magnificent feat of modern scholarship, and the index—the eleventh volume—is simply amazing. Every person, event, subject, or object is there. Any question you might ever ask about the contents of the text is easily answered. I recently wrote a piece on Pepys and slavery, something that was at the forefront of no one’s mind forty years ago, but even on that subject the index’s categorizations and cross-references turned out to be invaluable.

What’s equally remarkable is the format of the many longer entries. In other indexes to large editions, the entries for the central characters often degenerate simply into long lists of subheadings, each followed by an offputtingly long run of page numbers. But in this case each entry is constructed as a little narrative that is a pleasure to read through in its own right. I’ve never been able to open the volume without being distracted by reading about something I wasn’t looking for. It’s such fun to use that it rather spoils you for the run-of-the-mill indexes of other scholarly editions, which can be rather a slog to work with.

Subjects and Concords“, New York Review of Books, 17 juni 2023