A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order

A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order

By Judith Flanders
352 pages
October 2020
A Place for Everything is the first-ever history of alphabetization, from the Library of Alexandria to Wikipedia. The story of alphabetical order has been shaped by some of history's most compelling characters, such as industrious and enthusiastic early adopter Samuel Pepys and dedicated alphabet champion Denis Diderot. But though even George Washington was a proponent, many others stuck to older forms of classification -- Yale listed its students by their family's social status until 1886. And yet, while the order of the alphabet now rules -- libraries, phone books, reference books, even the order of entry for the teams at the Olympic Games -- it has remained curiously invisible.
With abundant inquisitiveness and wry humor, historian Judith Flanders traces the triumph of alphabetical order and offers a compendium of Western knowledge, from
A to Z.
"Fascinating... A Place for Everything rewards us with a fresh take on our quest to stockpile knowledge. It feels particularly relevant now that search engines are rendering old ways of organizing information obsolete...That we have acquired so much knowledge is astounding; that we have devised ways to find what we need to know quickly is what merits this original and impressive book."―New York Times

"Fascinating . . . truly revelatory"
Wall Street Journal

"One of the many fascinations of Judith Flanders's book is that it reveals what a weird, unlikely creation the alphabet intriguing history not just of alphabetical order but of the human need for both pattern and intellectual efficiency."

"A charming repository of idiosyncrasy, a love letter to literacy that rightly delights in alphabetisation's exceptions as much as its rules."
Financial Times

“This is an utterly charming book, packed with engrossing details.”
The Times (UK)

"A library and academic essential rather than a catchpenny popular read (that, by the way, is a compliment)."
The Times of London

"Quirky and compelling... [Flanders] is a meticulous historian with a taste for the offbeat; the story of alphabetical order suits her well."
Dan Jones, Sunday Times (UK)

"Surprising and copiously researched."
TimesLiterary Supplement