Category: Reviews (Page 1 of 2)

The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought (1977)

That word “modern”, of course, always raises problems. As soon as you label a book as “modern” it appears outdated very quickly. So the Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, first published 1977, now looks very dated. Nonetheless, a title that survived three editions (1977, …

How not to find things with Pevsner

Pevsner Bedfordshire cover

I hesitate to criticize Pevsner’s Buildings of England series; I have used the books with immense pleasure for many years. Pevsner appears not only to have seen everything, but to have an informed and perceptive (and often pointed ) comment about what he sees. However, …

Histropedia – a new way to visualize history?

Histropedia is a site that enables you to create timelines from Wikipedia entries.  According to the two founders of Histropedia (a very klunky name, which makes me think of histrionics), it is “a new type of website that will transform the way we visualise history”. …

A Brief History of Encyclopaedias – too brief, and not brief enough

Andrew Brown: A Brief History of Encyclopaedias

(Hesperus, 2011)

Anyone who includes spoof encyclopedia titles on the book cover (A Complete Guide to Dysslexia), and starts a book about encyclopedias with a joke can’t be entirely dismissed. Andrew Brown starts his book as …

Tom McArthur, Worlds of Reference (1986)

Tom McArthur’s book is essential reading in the world of reference, although perhaps that is faint praise for a subject that has so few books dedicated to it. However, reading the book is tough going. The author makes it difficult for us to reach the …

The real drama of the Encyclopédie

Le roman vrai de l'Encyclopedie   I’ve been reading about the French Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert, in the lovely illustrated Gallimard Decouvertes volume authored by Francois Moureau, which he entitles Le roman vrai de l’Encyclopédie [ The real novel of the Encyclopedia], first published 1990). The book itself  rather …

103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates

Everyone remembers the memorable subtitle of Sellar and Yeatman’s 1066 and All That. The two “genuine dates” are of course 55BC and 1066. It was true when the book was written (1930) and today that these are the two most remembered dates in English …

The Biographical Dictionary of Film – the book that metamorphosed

The remarkable (and almost accidental) nature of this book was revealed very clearly quite by chance, in David Thomson’s obituary of the publisher Tom Rosenthal, who died in January 2004. In it he described the genesis of the Biographical Dictionary of Film:

I had been

What is better than A to Z?

Hollier cover

Denis Hollier’s collective work A New History of French Literature (1989)  has a conventional-sounding title, but is anything but conventional in its arrangement. Instead of a chronological narrative, which is what the title suggests, or an A to Z listing of people and movements, which …

An illustration of how not do to it


An Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture: sounds like the perfect combination, a book combining text with pictures just when you need it. Compiled by two experienced architectural writers, it looks authoritative and attractive. From the Preface:

The present Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture 800-1914 is a

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