James Mussell, ‘Bad Indexers are Everywhere’: Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, Indexes and Archival Dreaming’
My talk is going to address an often overlooked part of the periodical: its index. Part of the apparatus that turns a set of issues into a volume, I’m going to the argue that the index meant that the periodical, unlike the newspaper, was invested in a book-like archival future. However, the quality of the indexes published with periodicals varied considerably and a reader could only search one volume at a time. If indexing was a way of managing abundance, then the forms of periodical indexes fell short of perfect recall. Over the course of the period there were various schemes to remedy this – Palmer’s Index to The Times Newspaper (1868-) for instance, or Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature (1882) – but each index imposed its own forms upon the periodical archive that, inevitably, meant that it fell short too. Historical knowledge, I will argue, emerges from the broken dreams of bibliographical utopia.