Alphabetic order as an ordering device has been already used in the 1st millennium BCE by Northwest Semitic scribes using the Abjad system. The first effective use of alphabetical order as a cataloging device among scholars may have been in ancient Alexandria. In the 1st century BC, Varro wrote some alphabetic lists of authors and titles. In the 2nd century AD, Sextus Pompeius Festus wrote an encyclopedic work with entries in alphabetic order. In the 3rd century, Harpocration wrote a Homeric lexicon alphabetized by all letters. In the 10th century, the author of the Suda used alphabetic order with phonetic variations. In the 14th century, the author of the Fons memorabilium universi used a classification, but used alphabetical order within some of the books.
In 1604 Robert Cawdrey had to explain in Table Alphabeticall, the first monolingual English dictionary, "Nowe if the word, which thou art desirous to finde, begin with (a) then looke in the beginning of this Table, but if with (v) looke towards the end." Although as late as 1803 Samuel Taylor Coleridge condemned encyclopedias with "an arrangement determined by the accident of initial letters", many lists are today based on this principle.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) basic Latin-script alphabet consists of the above 26 letters