Review by Choice Review
Well presented (with superior typeface, layout, and illustrations) and well supported by a highly distinguished roster of editors and contributors, this joint venture of Merriam-Webster and Encyclopedia Britannica covers its huge terrain with a commendable blend of erudition and energy. Amid a multitude of shorter entries, about 30 subjects receive more detailed treatment--a very sensible arrangement. Considering that nearly all the editors and contributors are from the US, the balance is as global as can be expected. While it succeeds admirably on matters of substance and authority, this work's usefulness is impaired by four factors: there is no index, making subject access problematic; the articles themselves do not contain bibliographies; the 14-page bibliography at the end lacks convenience and specificity; and none of the articles is signed. Taken together, these may relegate the work to a quick-reference role instead of a portal to more extensive research. D. R. Stewart; Princeton Theological Seminary
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
This splendid encyclopedia combines the lexical expertise of Merriam-Webster with the broad scope and reputation of its parent company, Encyclopedia Britannica, which is listed as cocreator. Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Professor of Religion at the University of Chicago, was employed as consulting editor of the project, topping the list of university-affiliated contributors. Arranged alphabetically from Aaron to Zwingli, Huldrych, the volume offers 3,500 concise entries for contemporary, historical, and legendary figures; movements; deities and supernatural characters; ritual implements; sacred scriptures; important religious places; and theological and philosophical concepts. Thirty in-depth essays provide expanded coverage of major world religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Tribal, primal, and ancient religions are also detailed. The inclusion of non-Western religious terminology is substantial, and pronunciation guides for non-English terms are provided. The text is generously illustrated with 600 black-and-white images, maps, and 32 pages of full-color artwork. The substantial number of cross-references facilitates the process of expanding knowledge of a particular concept and also encourages browsing. The encyclopedia concludes with a 14-page bibliography arranged by subject areas, such as "Sacred Writings," which are further subdivided by major religion. The bibliographic entries include classic titles like Victor Turner's Ritual Process (Aldine de Gruyter, 1995) and Erwin Fahlbusch's Encyclopedia of Christianity [RBB Mr 1 99], which is currently in production. The citations are useful for advanced research and collection development. This work is similar in focus and content to some recent publishing endeavors: the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions [RBB Jl 97], HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion [RBB Ap 15 96], Larousse Dictionary of Beliefs and Religion [RBB D 1 94], and Continuum Dictionary of Religion [RBB My 1 94]. All are worthy reference sources, but Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions is superior in layout, color illustration, and comprehensiveness. The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions [RBB N 1 98] should be noted as a companion title. The only criticism of the Merriam-Webster volume is that the entries are not signed. This title will satisfy both the general reader and the scholar and is worth having in public and academic library reference collections, especially those that do not own any of the other comparable resources.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review
Merriam-Webster has put together a marvelous one-volume, easy-to-lift-with-one-hand, desktop encyclopedia on world religions. As with many Webster's publications (e.g., The Encyclopedia of Literature and The Biographical Dictionary) the editors here have emphasized comprehensiveness (over 3500 articles) and clarity of writing--and added to these a dispassionate, nonjudgmental, and nonproselytizing reporting of religious concepts, movements, figures, divinities, and sacred sites. Edited and written by eminent scholars, this is a portable, authoritative source. Heavily cross referenced, it also includes a handy pronunciation guide, useful for pronouncing non-English words. But editorial restrictions and space limitations have led to some absurdly abbreviated entries, creating uneven or inadequate coverage. The late Reverend Jim Jones has a bigger write-up than Cain; Aum Shinrikyo is discussed more completely than the Essenes; the Tibetan Book of the Dead is explained in two sentences. In the battle between space and content, space has scored many victories; a little of everything wins out over more of fewer things. But for immediate access to authoritative definitions, this book is impeccable. Recommended for all libraries.--Glenn Norio Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.