82 of 84 people found the following review helpful
Best choice for Brits,
This review is from: The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (Hardcover)
The question for most people looking to purchase a book of quotations is whether to get Bartlett's Familiar Quotations or The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. So perhaps it would be a good idea to compare them and see which might better meet your needs.
Both are important works of reference; both are authoritative. Bartlett's latest edition, the 17th is from 2002 while this, the latest Oxford, is from 1999 with a reprint with corrections from 2001. So both are relatively up to date. Bartlett's is a slightly larger book with perhaps 300 more pages; however the number of actual quotations is not that different. Both books quote over 3,000 authors and contain over 20,000 quotations.
The most significant difference between them, to my mind, is that in the Oxford, English authors are favored both in terms of number included and entries by, which is to be expected since the Oxford is an British publication while Bartlett's is an American publication. A quick check shows that British mathematician and philosopher Bertram Russell, for example, has more entries in the Oxford than he does in Bartlett's, whereas both Mark Twain and the Baltimore sage, H. L. Mencken, have more entries in Bartlett's than they do in the Oxford. France's Voltaire commands just about the same space in either book.
The next most important difference is that the quotations are presented alphabetically by author in the Oxford while Bartlett's presents them chronologically beginning with the oldest. Both sources give author's dates. Personally I find the alphabetical arrangement preferable because it often saves me a trip to the alphabetical "Index of Authors" in Bartlett's that I have to make before finding the author I am interested in. When one is looking for a quote by keyword, which often happens, Bartlett's is slightly to be preferred. Its Index is definitely longer (accounting for most of the difference in length between the books) and it is more extensively cross-referenced. In looking up Marx's "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" I found the quote in the Oxford from the keywords "according," "abilities," and "needs." In Bartlett's "according" did not work, but "each," "abilities," and "needs" did. So that was a standoff. However I found the Golden Rule and its source in Bartlett's without any trouble by looking under "Golden Rule" and under "do unto." In the Oxford neither "Golden Rule" nor "do unto" were in the Index of keywords. Both books give Matthew 7:12 as the source.
The Oxford has a slightly more international approach to religious texts. There is a little less of the Bible here, but more of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, and other non-Christian texts, except for the Tao Te Ching from Lao Tzu where Bartlett's has 34 entries to 19 for the Oxford.
Another feature that the Oxford has that will be handy for some is its "Special Categories" which are "Advertising Slogans" (mostly for products sold in the UK), "Misquotations," "Newspaper Headlines and Leaders," "Political Slogans and Songs," and fifteen more. These are text boxes appearing alphabetically among the quotations. Curiously they give the rather staid Oxford reputation a bit of a colloquial feel that may surprise some people.
So how to choose between these two very excellent works of reference? I like them both and if I had to part with either, I would reluctantly let the Oxford go. However if I were English I would part with Bartlett's and keep the Oxford. I really think they are that close in quality. For a secondary consideration, I would prefer the Oxford since its slightly smaller size is a bit handier, especially when balanced on one's chest as one reads in bed!
Bottom line: no serious writer (especially of literature, culture and history) should be without either this or Bartlett's. Next to a dictionary a book of quotations is my most consulted work of reference. To solve the dilemma, I recommend that you splurge and get them both!