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The Cambridge Encyclopedia
ISBN 0521790999 / 9780521790994 / 0-521-79099-9
Publisher Cambridge Univ Pr
List price $60.00
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Remarkably, the fourth edition of The Cambridge Encyclopedia manages to improve on its impressive predecessors. This is no small feat when you take a look at some of the reviews previous editions have garnered: The Daily Telegraph declared that "the essential facts are instantly available ... better written, more concise and intelligent"; the Independent on Sunday felt that it is "as comprehensive as a single-volume encyclopedia can hope to be"; Time Magazine wrote of "Thousands of enlightenments"; and the Mail on Sunday purred about "a superbly organised reference book."
The editorial content is clear and wastes no words. It manages to be accessible without over-simplifying, to a remarkable degree. Take the entry on Aesop as an example. After a pronunciation guide, we read:
"(?6th-c BC) Legendary Greek fabulist. He is supposed to have been a native of Phrygia and a slave who, after being set free, travelled to Greece. The fables attributed to him are anecdotes which use animals to make a moral point and are, in all probability, a compilation of tales from many sources. The stories were popularised by the Roman poet Phaedrus in the 1st-c AD, and rewritten in sophisticated verse by La Fontaine in 1668." There are cross-references to "fable; Greek Literature; La Fontaine; Phaedrus."The same clarity and economy are maintained consistently throughout the whole vast tome. And it is massive: there are about 40,000 "separately identified people, places and topics" with thousands of those useful cross-references to link entries together, a 24-page colour atlas section, and 800 black and white illustrations to back up the text. The book really does succeed in its aim of being a standard reference for "home, school, library or office," useful for both adults and teenage students. --David Pickering [via]