Historians have long complained that there is not a cumulative index to the Society's publica? tions. An index covering the first fifteen volumes of Transactions and five volumes of Miscellanies was prepared by Albert M. Hyamson (a past-President of the Society and Honorary Editor of its publications) and published after his death in 1955. Useful as it was, that Index was by no means comprehensive since it was prepared by combining the indexes, which were themselves somewhat sparse, of the individual volumes concerned.
Since Hyamson's index appeared, the Society has pursued a vigorous publication policy. Between 1955 and 1977 no less than ten volumes of Transactions and five volumes of Miscellanies have been published; a further three Transactions and Miscellanies have been published since 1977 but have not been included in the present index. Moreover, the 1955-1977 volumes include numerous lists of individuals which are of considerable importance to scholars in the field. Thus, combination of all this material into one index became one of the great desiderata of Anglo-Jewish historians.
The need having been established, work on a cumulative index was started and proceeded for several years under the direction of Geoffrey Whitehill until he died in 1971; and afterwards in the capable hands of John M. Shaftesley, himself the Society's editor and a former President of the Society of Indexers. Progress was, however, lamentably slow. Shaftesley was in failing health and, after his death in 1981, it was decided to make a determined effort to complete the index as soon as possible. Accordingly, professional indexers using word-processing equipment were engaged to transfer the bulky material already available on to discs, as well as to index those volumes that had not been done. It was intended that the work of the professionals should be carefully supervised but this proved impossible. The desirable close liaison did not materialise and the unsupervised work advanced rapidly. The resulting print-out was disastrous and only marginally improved by a re-run instigated by the Society in the hope of recovering something from the wreckage.
Indexing is a craft with precise rules which have to be followed. If it is to be of any real use to the user, an index must be both complete and consequent. The print-out failed in both respects. There were still sections that had not been indexed at all and, since these lacunae were apparently haphazard, it was not easy to determine where the gaps occurred. 'But the principal failing', as Lewis Carroll would have observed, was that the whole project was 'snarked' by the quite extraordinary procedures adopted by the professionals. One of their tasks had been to incorporate the large number of names appearing in the lists in Miscellanies VI into the Cumulative Index. This was done without comparison with earlier entries. Indeed, the indexers employed could not have done this because they did not have and made no effort to obtain access to a complete run of the Society's publications for