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Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Dictionary of Dictionaries. 2nd ed. By Thomas Kabdebo and Neil Armstrong, assisted by Elaín Ô. Síocháin. London: Bowker–Saur, 1997.418p. ISBN 1–85739–103–9.

The word “dictionary” generally refers to an alphabetical list of words, but this book has a broad scope not limited to words. As its Introduction states, the “terms of this dictionary are what have been considered to be the most helpful categories, namely, the wide variety of dictionaries, in terms of their topics or subjects.” It contains dictionaries, encyclopedias, biographies, library catalogs, and genealogies.

Works are arranged under 1,389 subject entries in alphabetical order from “abbreviations” to “Zulu”. Again, subject entries have a broad scope not limited to subject headings. The Introduction indicates the book's intention of “listing dictionaries by the name of the principal language, the main topic, or subject, or by their 'household name'." Some titles are entered as topics, such as ENCARTA, Encyclopedia Americana, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Dictionary of Americanisms, Dictionary of National Biography, Lloyd's Register, Marquis Who's Who, and New Dictionary of National Biography.

A typical entry includes a description, significant titles, and citations. As for authors, 400 new headings have been added, and the book includes some 8,000 sources. Many descriptions are useful and up–to–date. For instance, in “Encyclopedias”, the Encyclopaedia Britannica with CD–ROM and the Web site are well described.

In some entries, however, the information is dated and inaccurate. The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science is listed only up to 1983, and Who's Who in America only to 1990. We are told that the “Dictionary of American History . . . had been modelled on the British DNB — The Dictionary of National Biography”. In fact, the Dictionary of American Biography, not the DAH, was modelled on the DNB. Because of this mistake, the Dictionary of American Biography is nowhere listed.

There are a number of omissions. The Dictionary of National Biography is described — as noted above — but not the Dictionary of American Biography. New Palgrave is listed, but not its companion, New Palgrave Dictionary of Finance. Under “American Scientists”, American Men and Women of Science in physical science is described, but not American Men and Women of Science: Social and Behavioral Science. The Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences is not listed. Other biographical sources which might have been added include Current Biography and Contemporary Authors, to name just a few. The CD–ROM version of Marquis Who's Who is mentioned, but not its online database.

Many cross–references need to be added, lest readers miss a number of useful headings. For instance, “American Law” and “Law” should be cross–referenced. There are three indexes (Keyword, Author, and Title), but the arrangement of titles in alphabetical order is not always accurate.

The book's coverage is extensive, and its selection of titles is generally sound. In spite of its flaws, it is a good reference book, and is recommended for all libraries.



Tze–chung Li is Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois, U.S.A.

© 1998 Dominican University



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