News: Index to be added to 2nd printing of Penguin Jazz Guide

Penguin Books have confirmed to us that the index to the Penguin Jazz Guide – “The History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums was “omitted from the first printing of the Jazz Guide but it is being added to the second.”

Reviewers have been hugely positive about the book, and have mentioned this problem delicately:

Peter Quinn wrote: “the lack of an index means that you’re forever thumbing through the contents pages to find this or that recording.”

Ian Mann wrote : “Perhaps the authors decided on this course of action to enhance the element of surprise when the reader stumbles across a totally unexpected recording, like the Acker Bilk referenced above.”

Links to both of these reviews are below.

Geoffrey Winston bought a copy, and describes his experience of the book:

“On publication day, 4 November, I was thrilled to receive The Penguin Jazz Guide, via Amazon. I have, however, been less than thrilled when trying to use the book as a reference book.

“This has nothing to do with the content, which is of the exceptional quality which has always been associated with the collaborations of Brian Morton and the sadly missed Richard Cook. It has nothing to do with the presentation as 1001 best albums (about which Morton has anticipated debate). It is much more basic. THERE IS NO INDEX…. unless I have a misprinted or faulty copy, of course.

“The lack of an index makes it very hard work to find any specific reference or entry- enough to drive one insane. The only listing of the musicians and recordings is in the massive 21 page list of contents, which are presented in the sequential order in which each of the 1001 entries appears, along with its page number. The final page of the book, p730, is the final text page describing a Joe Locke recording.

“The book is split up in to chronological sections (about which there was some agonising, one reads in the foreword), so, to find out if any single musician or recording is included in the book, you have to scan the whole contents list in the eras with which they are associated – no easy task for many musicians.

“Not only that, there is no helpful articulation of the chronological order in which the entries are presented within each era. Recording dates are tucked away in the credits, and can span sessions over months, and are not what the reader will be looking for, generally, anyway – so, if you are desperately searching for a specific recording, or musician, within an era your frustration is compounded, as there are no short cuts to finding what you want, as it is not presented alphabetically – which would have been a much easier way to negotiate each section.

“So … when I want to find out about Red Garland, or Alexander Von Schlippenbach, Martial Solal or Derek Bailey (as I did this evening), and specific recordings that they have made, where do I start looking – and how do I know if the musicians or their recordings are included in the book, without an index, and a better thought through logic within the chronological breakdown?

“If a musician is represented by more than one recording (hinted at by an irritating superscript serif ampersand by the heading – trying to be clever and stylish and failing on both counts because it’s the wrong context in which to employ this typographic affectation), the process is equally frustrating, and you need to follow the footnote which gives the other recordings and page numbers in order to track down other recordings by the same artist.

“Is this Penguin being miserly, cutting the cost of a professional indexer. Or did nobody on the editorial side bother to think this through beyond obtaining the raw material? What about presenting the information clearly, logically and in a navigable format, with, above all, the essential index in place?

“Trying to use this book as a the valuable reference source it should be just becomes an intensely irritating experience, on which I have now given up. Penguin – please enlighten me.”


We forwarded this commentary to Penguin, who have sent us the following reply:

Dear Sebastian,

Thanks for forwarding this to me. I’m afraid that the index was indeed omitted from the first printing of the Jazz Guide but it is being added to the second. I’m very glad that your reviewer enjoyed the book otherwise.

Yours sincerely
G… L….

Peter Quinn’s review from theArtsDesk

Ian Mann’s review from the JazzMann

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. Penguin's response glosses over two key issues:

    1) What happens to the buyers of the first edition who, not unreasonably, expected an easily navigable and fully indexed reference publication from the start, so will want to buy the second edition which will include an index which the publishers admit was omitted from the first printing? As it is clear that the intention was to include the index in the first edition, do Penguin expect those buyers of the first edition to shell out twice for the privilege of gaining the missing index in the reprint?

    2) Penguin have admitted that they are responsible for omitting the index, but they have not explained how or why the omission occurred.

    Could Penguin please address these important points.


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