Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Indical Learning

Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), The History of the Worthies of England, new ed., Vol. II (London: Printed for Thomas Tegg, 1840) p. 460 (on Alan of Lynn):
Great his diligence in reading many and voluminous authors; and no less his desire that others with him should reap the fruit of his industry, to which end he made indexes of the many writers he perused.

An Index is a necessary implement, and no impediment, of a book, except in the same sense wherein the carriages of an army are termed impedimenta. Without this, a large author is but a labyrinth without a clue to direct the reader therein. I confess there is a lazy kind of learning which is only indical; when scholars (like adders which only bite the horse heels) nibble but at the tables, which are calces librorum, neglecting the body of the book. But though the idle deserve no crutches (let not a staff be used by them, but on them;) pity it is the weary should be denied the benefit thereof, and industrious scholars prohibited the accommodation of an index, most used by those who most pretend to contemn it.

Claude Raguet Hirst, The Bookworm's Table

Dear Mike,

I can't resist pointing out that Fuller's Worthies itself has no index. This want was only supplied after the author's death, with a 12-page An Alphabetical Index to Fuller's Worthies of England (London, 1737).

As ever,

Ian Jackson

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