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
'Thousands of enlightenments … rolls up its sleeves and gets down to business …'. Time Magazine
'The entries are succinct, the range formidable, and the illustrations are on the technological heights.' The Independent
'Editor Crystal brings impressive credentials to the encyclopedia … Scientific and technical subjects receive considerable attention … a substantial Ready Reference section provides much compact information in tabular form on a wide range of subjects, including space exploration, the earth, major religious festivals, the nations of the world, political leaders of various countries, weights and measures, names and titles, awards, and sports.' Kister's Best Encyclopedias (USA)
' … the essential facts are instantly available … better written, more concise and intelligent.' The Daily Telegraph
'… a massive production and very thorough … the work is to be praised as a triumph of publishing technology as well as for sheer intelligence and rigour of co-operation between Crystal and his associates.' Anthony Burgess
'An impressive achievement …' Good Book Guide