Five minutes with… Hilary Bird

How many cookery books have you indexed?

I have no idea! Hundreds, in a long career.


Do you index other sorts of book?

I also index books on art and architecture, and before the pandemic I did travel guides and exhibition catalogues.


How long does it take to index a ‘normal’ cookbook?

How long is a piece of string? It’s impossible to be precise because there are so many variables, especially how much space there is for the index. A very small index can take longer than a bigger one if you have to keep paring it back to fit, but most average cookery indexes would be a day’s work or less. I use an indexing programme to put my list of entries into alphabetical order and do the preliminary editing.


What can authors do to fill your heart with joy?

Long restaurant-type recipe titles can make life very difficult because they will make the lines run over, thus effectively cutting the index space in half. So – short recipe titles! Plus enough space to make a good index is also a real treat.


Is it true that you now have another indexer in the family?

Yes! My daughter, Vanessa Bird, has been indexing for many years now. She learnt her alphabet helping me file cards before I got a computer. Originally my husband Richard taught me to index, so we are a true indexing dynasty.