A Place for Everything
The Curious History of Alphabetical Order
From a New York Times bestselling historian, the “truly revelatory” (Wall Street Journal) story of how the alphabet ordered our world
A Place for Everything is the first-ever history of alphabetization, from the Library of Alexandria to Wikipedia. Once we’ve learned our ABCs as children, few of us ever think of them again, but alphabetical order plays a material role in our adult lives. From school registers to electoral rolls, from dictionaries and encyclopedias to library shelves, the alphabet has ordered our lives, often invisibly. Yet the birth of alphabetization was a constant struggle: Medieval clergy felt that its use would upend the divine order of creation; elite institutions like Harvard and Yale long ranked students by the social status of their parents, rather than ordering them from A to Z. But eventually alphabetical order triumphed.
With wry humor, historian Judith Flanders offers a fascinating history of how the alphabet ordered our world.
—Jack Lynch, Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America