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Book reviews: Hunnisett, Indexing for editors

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This review appeared in The Indexer, Volume 32 Number 2, June 2015, p. 87, and is reproduced here by kind permission.

Indexing for editors. R. F. Hunnisett; second edition prepared by Nat Alcock. London: British Records Association, 2014. 172 pp. ISBN 978-0-900222-16-0: £12.00.

Dr Roy Hunnisett (1928–2009) spent his working career at the Public Record Office (now The National Archives) and had wide experience in editing historical documents for publication. The ‘editors’ in the title of this book are academic editors of historical documents, and Hunnisett was firmly of the opinion that they were the best people to compile the index. But there is lots of interest and value here for professional indexers who need to deal with historical material, particularly medieval British local history, with useful sections on place names, on subject indexing and especially on the problems and pitfalls of indexing early personal names. First published in 1972 and reissued at various times, the book has been reviewed several times in The Indexer: by John M. Shaftesley, Vol. 8 No. 2 October 1972, pp. 125–7; by Mary Piggott, Vol. 21 No. 1 October 1998, pp. 101–2; and by the present reviewer, Vol. 23 No. 2 October 2002, p. 105. This review will therefore concentrate on the changes made for the second edition.

The main text has been reproduced unaltered apart from some changes for house style, as it was judged that ‘Hunnisett’s painstaking and closely-argued methods do not need to be altered’. The only additions are a preface to the second edition, a new 19-page chapter on ‘Computer-aided indexing’ and an updated bibliography. This now includes Browne and Jermey’s The indexing companion (Cambridge University Press, 2007), Nancy Mulvany’s Indexing books (University of Chicago Press, 2005) and the British Standard on indexing, BS ISO 999: 1996. Unfortunately there is no mention of the Society of Indexers.

Information about Cindex, Macrex and SKY is also given in the bibliography, with a warning that free or shareware indexing programs are unlikely to be much use. However, in his new chapter on ‘Computer -aided indexing’ Alcock writes that, although indexing programs are worth considering for someone preparing more than one index, ‘Their principal drawback, apart from the considerable cost, is the need to become familiar with a sophisticated computer program – knowledge that will probably have been forgotten by the time it is needed again.’ Instead he gives a detailed description of his method of generating an index within spreadsheet software, based on large-scale archive-based projects in the field of vernacular architecture. While this could be useful for someone undertaking the same type of project it is not of great relevance to a professional indexer using Cindex, Macrex or SKY. Alcock exports his indexes into Word for final processing; it would be better, though, to export them into an indexing program and thus benefit from the powerful editing and checking tools provided. Scale is not a problem, as the major indexing programs can cope with vast amounts of material.

Hunnisett’s guidance on indexing historical, particularly English medieval, material is as valuable as ever for anyone working in this field, but there is little which would justify a professional indexer who already has the original edition replacing it with this new one.

Ann Hudson
Freelance indexer and tutor in indexing

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