The other day I read this tempting Nugget of Nerdy Knowledge in Prospect, a UK magazine that’s not supposed to be for illiterates.
“Early indexes, concordances and distinctiones had been around for a long time before the index blossomed into something like its modern form. It was the arrival of printed page numbers that helped firm things up. At the Bodleian Library, [Dennis] Duncan gets his hands on the first extant example of the printed page number, in a short sermon produced in Cologne in 1470, and describes it as ‘the most intense experience that I have had of the archival sublime’.”
Ha! It took me approximately 12 seconds to pull up an image of a Chinese printed book (an edition of the poems of Du Fu) with page numbers from some 250 years previous, https://www.loc.gov/resource/lcnclscd.2014514276.1A000/?sp=3&r=-0.067,0.247,1.362,0.558,0
And I make no claim for this book’s being the first of that kind. Sorry, Duncan, your “archival sublime” was grape juice mislabeled as Thunderbird.
My personal dream is to teach in a classroom where that kind of myopia doesn’t get off easy— where “the earliest one I know about” isn’t the same thing as “the earliest one in the world.” Or “the best,” “the greatest,” “the most significant,” etc., in the world; a classroom, in short, where we all know that there is a lot of history outside of what we’re used to seeing presented as History, and that such history is accessible and discussable.
But on that, more in another post.