A book for those liking to save the best for last

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The Independent Culture

To most, indexes are the worthy but dull lists that lurk at the end of a book. But, after 575 years of their existence, an anthology of indexes has been published in an effort to persuade Britons that an alphabetical contents listing can be just as diverting as the pages of text that precede it.

To most, indexes are the worthy but dull lists that lurk at the end of a book. But, after 575 years of their existence, an anthology of indexes has been published in an effort to persuade Britons that an alphabetical contents listing can be just as diverting as the pages of text that precede it.

The 160-page book, published by the British Library, includes 71 indexes considered to be the best of their kind and takes readers on a chronological journey, starting with the 1427 edition of St Augustine's On the Art of Preaching.

Hazel Bell, the author of Indexers and Indexes in Fact and Fiction, said: "There is no doubt that through the ages there have been some great indexes; they are works of art. They can be read as pieces of humour – in some cases intentional, in others unintentional."

The anthology includes a 19th-century listing of banned erotic literature. Another entry is taken from a travel guide, Greek Island Hopping, published last year. The sole entry under "U" in the index reads: "U will find the only u's in Greece are sheep."

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