In the distinguished tradition of its Encyclopedia of the Renaissance (1999) and Dictionary of the Middle Ages (1982-1989), Scribner has published an encyclopedia that is even grander than these award-winning works. Europe, 1450 to 1789 spans the mid-fifteenth century, a period of relative stability following the chaos of the late Middle Ages, to the French Revolution. The focus is on Europe within the context of world history, including meaningful developments in the arts, religion, politics, exploration, and warfare. Alphabetical entries range from broad and expected topics like the Enlightenment and the Renaissance to the more narrowly defined, such as Advice and etiquette books, Balloons, and tulips. Cross-references are numerous, and each signed entry is followed by a bibliography and see also references.
The 1,100-plus entries range in length from half a page to eight pages, and the number of bibliographical references from a few to 40. Major topics are represented by extended, in-depth essays, but the more tangential entries Concubinage, Sanitation, Virtue are also informative. More than a third of the entries are biographical. The first volume contains a helpful 120-page chronology dividing notable subjects into three categories "Art and Architecture," "Drama and Music," and "Literature and Scholarship." Volume 6 has a "Systematic Outline of Contents," so users can locate all entries under a broad topic like "Law," "Religion," or "Science." Each volume lists the contents of all volumes in the set (though there is only one index at the end of the last volume), and each includes the same six maps representing major political changes during this period. Overall, there are 90 archival maps in the set. Gorgeous illustrations are sprinkled throughout, including an eight-page color section in the middle of each volume. Breathtaking reproductions of paintings provide a good argument for print encyclopedias over their online counterparts. Landmark pieces of art and architecture are also splendidly exhibited. Additionally, there are 750 black-and-white illustrations.
This user-friendly encyclopedia attempts to bridge "the gap between researchers and nonspecialist readers" in covering the early modern era. Another goal, as the introduction explains, was to include subject areas often ignored until recently women's roles, Judaism, Islam, Eastern Europe, Africa, and "how ordinary Europeans lived and thought." This is a fine set, from its beautiful physical appearance to the scope and depth of its coverage. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
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