Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Oxford University Press has a wonderful list and a maddening web site. In looking for a Christmas present for a relative, I requested the Oxford World's Classics, sorted in reverse alphabetical order by author. When the page loaded, I remembered that I had seen on my previous visit that OUP gives one books in order by author, but without the author's name. This is all right, if one can remember a name here or there, but unfortunately
  • In a few cases, the database puts a "de" into the last name--for de Stael, de Maupassant, and de Camoes, but not for de Montesquieu or de Lafayette.
  • the program provides a straight character-comparison sort, using the default comparison by which lower-case letters sort after upper-case letters, and so de Camoes follows Zola. No doubt this leads to some trouble among the Macs and Mcs also.
I would not necessarily expect the programmers to think through the question of comparisons, for they can be tricky, particularly when one deals with foreign languages. However, I do think that somebody might have noticed the silliness of providing a sort on author's name when that name itself is not displayed.


  1. Not having the author's name makes books with titles like "Selected Works" a lucky dip. I put in my hand and pulled out the selected works of ... Galileo. Well, why not?

  2. An interesting point, and I congratulate you on your luck. I do like coming on the unexpected in used bookstores and book sales, and for that matter any bookstores. I suppose that OUP bothered me partly because I had a particular book in mind, partly because I work with computers and am sometimes astonished at the decisions other people (possibly including me, 15 minutes ago) make.