Thursday, January 7, 2010

Historical Dictionary of Architecture.(Book review).


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This is number 29 in Scarecrow's series of Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. All previous numbers (for example, Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction Literature, 2004, and Historical Dictionary of American Theater: Modernism, 2007) have been strictly limited by time, place, or genre. So the attempt to cover thousands of years of architecture from a wide range of cultures in some 360 pages seems doomed to sacrifice depth, comprehensiveness, or, more likely, both. Author Palmer, professor of art history at the University of Oklahoma, acknowledges that her selectivity "overlooks a number of extremely gifted artists and outstanding structures." There is no main entry for Renzo Piano, to cite one notable omission. She has, however, "especially aimed to make the historical entries capable of standing alone and, if taken all together, of providing a sufficient history of architecture for the general reader."

The core of the dictionary is 288 pages of alphabetical entries covering major architects; famous buildings and building complexes; building types; materials; movements and styles; and architectures limited by region, culture, or time. A central section of black-and-white photographs illustrates many of the major architectural monuments covered, from Stonehenge to Le Corbusier's Notre Dame du Haut. Other features include the author's introductory historical essay, a chronology, and a bibliography, the latter generously subdivided and preceded by a bibliographical essay. The essays are clear, informative, and well written. Unfortunately, the unexciting format does not do justice to the quality of the articles.

Recommended, but not a first choice, for academic and public libraries. For a far more comprehensive one-volume source (but still skewed toward Western cultures), librarians should consider James Stevens Curl's stylish Oxford Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (2d ed., 2006).--Craig Bunch

Named Works: Historical Dictionary of Architecture (Reference work) Book reviews

Source Citation
Bunch, Craig. "Historical Dictionary of Architecture." Booklist 15 Feb. 2009: 106. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Jan. 2010. .

Gale Document Number:A194549072*****
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