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2002 articles 1986 articles

'Fortescue': the British Museum and British Library Subject Index

F. J. Hill

Abstract

THE publication of a further fifteen volumes, covering the years 1971-5, brings to a close the Subject Index of books added since 1880 to the British Museum Library and the British Library, which was begun by G. K. Fortescue and is still widely (though not officially) known by its originator's name. After service in both the mercantile marine and the Royal Navy, George Knottesford Fortescue entered the British Museum in 1870 through the influence of his uncle, A. C. Tait, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was one of the Principal Trustees of the Museum. In 1884 Fortescue was appointed Superintendent of the Reading Room, in which capacity he soon became aware of the difficulties attending a subject approach to the collections by readers. To meet their needs in the field of contemporary publications, he devised the Subject Index, which he continued to edit after his appointment as Keeper of Printed Books in 1899, until his death, on the point of retirement, in 1912. Since then the work has passed through numerous hands; the increased volume of accessions has called for a group of indexers, while the field of subjects has extended ever wider. Nevertheless, the Subject Index has continued throughout to bear the mark of Fortescue's hand and thought.

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