A Place For Everything

Few of us consider the order of the alphabet for long after we first learn it as children. Yet it is alphabetic order, its role in organization, that allows us to access centuries of thought, of knowledge, of poetry, literature, scientific discovery and discourse. Alphabetical order allows us to locate the information we need, and disseminate it further. Without alphabetical order, all the knowledge in the world would lie in great unsifted stacks of books, unfindable, unread, unknown.

A Place For Everything traces the beginnings of alphabetization, as we understand it, moving from the development of what was, in effect, a sixteenth-century proto-card catalogue, to a London bookseller who made a revolutionary breakthrough when he alphabetized his books, not by lumping all the ‘Thomases’ together (Thomas More, Thomas Smith, Thomas Elyot), but by ‘sirname’.

The alphabet itself is an ancient invention, yet alphabetical order was the organizing principle that ushered in, and made possible, the modern world. It may now be on its way out, as binary code replaces the need to know that O comes after N. It is long past time that this extraordinary development was celebrated.

Christmas: A Biography

Christmas has been all things to all people: a religious festival, a family celebration, a time of eating and drinking. Yet the origins of the customs which characterise the festive season are wreathed in myth.

When did turkeys become the plat du jour? Is the commercialisation of Christmas a recent phenomenon, or has the emphasis always been on spending? Just who is, or was, Santa Claus? And for how long have we been exchanging presents of underwear and socks?

In Christmas: A Biography, acclaimed social historian and best-selling author Judith Flanders casts a sharp and revealing eye on the myths, legends and history of the season, from the origins of the holiday in the Roman empire to the emergence of Christmas trees in central Europe, to what might just possibly be the first appearance of Santa Claus – in Switzerland! – to draw a picture of the season as it has never been seen before.

(a full bibliography of sources and chapter notes for Christmas: A Biography, can be found at  www.christmas-biography.com)

 

 

The Sam Clair Mysteries

“Flanders’ easygoing writing style, her clever plotting, and the presence of the engaging lead, Sam, who continues to impress with her nimble intellect and resilient personality…make this series more than the usual amateur-sleuth fare.”
Booklist

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