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Index: Quod vide

Looking up Chinese metaphysics.

Robert McHenry: ‘The question of how best to organize the information in an encyclopedia has no settled answer. Ought there to be a few long articles covering broad areas of knowledge, thus emphasizing the interconnectedness of things (but then the question of organization emerges again at the article level), or a great many short ones focusing on the specifics and the details, or a mix of the two?’

Refer Madness.

Robert McHenry: ‘It is perhaps telling…that in his prologue to the book Lynch uses the words “information” and “knowledge” an equal number of times, but when, in the epilogue, he turns to Google and Wikipedia, he writes “information” twelve times and “knowledge” not once.’

The art of the cross-reference.

Robert McHenry: ‘To a degree, the set of cross-references in a text comprises a sort of index-on-the-installment-plan (remembering that to index something is to point to it). They are more useful in being right there in the text, thus immediately informing the reader that the text has more to say on the present matter, but they are less useful in being blind to the reader’s detailed needs.’

Merriam’s ‘harmless drudges’.

Robert McHenry: ‘I found the hush uncanny. I had come from the Chicago offices of Encyclopædia Britannica, where a very large and often boisterous staff had just finished work on the 15th Edition and where the influence of events of the late 1960s (political conventions, assassinations, riots, and the counterculture) had been inescapable.’

Black snow fell in France.

By ROBERT McHENRY. WE OFTEN SAY “as white as snow,” but the Japanese, repeating the phrase on January 31, 1925, laughed; and on December 6, 1926, the French thought of the expression and howled. For on the given date, snow fell on Japan and it was gray; and at the cited time, snow fell on […]

Keats in the Ninth.

REFERENCE BOOKS HAVE, by convention, editors rather than authors. And not surprisingly editors will on rare occasion permit themselves a comment. These rules are, of course, subject to exception. Some reference works have many authors, each commissioned by the editor to write something in their particular areas of expertise. In modern practice the editor will […]

See, infra.

Robert McHenry: ‘In this column I propose to deliver myself of sundry thoughts about and experiences with reference works, in general and in the particular, without program and in the sure and certain knowledge that I shall be in error some part of the time. So skepticism is, as always, in order, but I will hope for the genial skepticism that I have mentioned elsewhere.’