AL -- General Encyclopedias

Populäre Enzyklopädien: von der Auswahl, Ordnung und Vermittlung des Wissens [Popular Encyclopedias: Concerning the Selection, Arrangement, and Transmission of Knowledge]. Ed. Ingrid Tomkowiak. Zurich: Chronos-Verlag, 2002. 306 p. ill. 23 cm. ISBN 3-0340-0550-4: SFr 48 [03-1-018]

This collection of 13 essays deals not only with popular encyclopedias, but also with prose texts and museum collections that have an encyclopedic character or function, from the period of the Arabic-Islamic Middle Ages to the Internet-based encyclopedias of the present. Each essay is accompanied by an extensive bibliography of both primary and secondary sources. There are two general essays that discuss the history of encyclopedias and the manner in which information in them is organized. [sh/ldl]

Enciclopedia universal ilustrada europeo-americana [European-American Universal Illustrated Encyclopedia]. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe. 26 cm. ISBN 84-239-4500-6 (complete work) [03-1-019]

(Basic work). 1–70. [1907] –1930. EUR 50
Apéndice 1–10 [Appendix 1–10]. 1930–1933. EUR 50
Suplemento 1934–1999/2000 [Supplement 1934–1999/2000]. 1935–2001
Apéndice A–Z [Appendix A–Z]. 1996. xii, 1,495 p. ill. ISBN 84-239-7591-6
Index 1934–1996. 1998. xli, 1,370 p. ISBN 84-239-4367-4
Apéndice 1934–2002 [Appendix 1934–2002]. 8 vols. 2003. xx, 7,129 p. ill. ISBN 84-670-0243-3: EUR 997
Atlas mundial [World Atlas]. 1997. 448 p. ill. 37 cm. ISBN 84-239-7651-3
Atlas de España [Atlas of Spain]. 1998. 252 p. ill. 37 cm. ISBN 84-239-8789-2

The “Enciclopedia Espasa,” as it is cited, is one of the most comprehensive general encyclopedias of the 20th century. The original volumes (which appeared from 1907 to 1930), as well as its appendices and supplements, have been repeatedly reprinted and are still in print today. In addition, it contains a world atlas and an atlas for Spain. It is the work to which one turns when seeking detailed information on people and places of Spain and Hispanic America. Although it also functions as a lexical dictionary with etymologies in seven languages, it is now hardly used for that purpose, because more modern Spanish dictionaries are available.

In its appendices and supplements it is particularly rich in biographies and necrologies, as well as articles on countries brought up to the current state of affairs. The multiplicity of volumes makes it difficult to use, and perhaps the greatest lack is that there are no bibliographical entries after the first appendix was published. For information on Spain and Hispanic America, however, this encyclopedia remains a good source. [sh/mjc]

Finland: A Cultural Encyclopedia. Ed. Olli Alho, Hildi Hawkins, and Päivi Vallisaari. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 1997. 352 p. 26 cm. (Finnish Literature Society Editions, 684). ISBN 951-717-885-9, ISSN 0355-1768: $126.95 (hardcover)

An RREO Original Review

This reference tool about Finnish culture is not only rich, but also very entertaining. The editor-in-chief, Olli Alho, thinks that the book “will be useful as both a travel guide and a traditional encyclopedia.” Indeed, this volume is definitely recommended for those who are planning a trip in the Scandinavian country. It offers at the same time somewhat less and much more than a traditional travel guide. You will still need a travel guide for finding out exactly how and where to travel—and how to find a good Finnish sauna—but you will have a much broader familiarity with the state, culture, landscape, and its people if you browse this book.

Yes, the landscape, too: forests, lakes, and snow are definitely parts of Finnish culture. We learn not only that the forest has been the foundation of life of Finnic peoples, but also that “it is approached with respect, but timidly: man is a guest, who does not have any self-evident rights over the forest.” The “land of the thousand lakes,” as this country is often called, also has “73,001 islands of more than one square meter off the coast of Finland.” The Finnish way of life is closely related to this unique environment, and has preserved its close ties to nature, despite rapid structural changes in society.

It is refreshing to read a country encyclopedia where the authors are able to examine their culture critically, both from within and without. The reader starts sympathizing with Finns upon learning about their mentality “in which rusticity, individuality, pride, and vigor co-exist with urbanity… The result is independence, defiance, and self-sufficiency, but also lack of self-esteem, social insecurity, and maladjustment… The Finns are closed and weigh their words carefully, but when they have indulged themselves with alcohol, become noisy revelers, and, eventually, fanatics.” The Finnish mentality is such that a “collectively charged super-ego watches over the actions of a weakly independent and fragile ego.”

Especially interesting among the entries are those that describe everyday life and customs. From them readers can get a really good picture of the characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses of the inhabitants of this Nordic country. Readers would be advised to start the book by looking up entries like “mentality,” “customs,” “food,” “wood,” “forest,” “death,” “wedding,” “childhood,” “coffee,” “sexuality,” and “snow.” These would establish a foundation to continue with the few Finnish word entries: “sauna,” “sisu” (inner strength), and “puukko” (sheath knife).

Readers will find plenty of information about the most famous historical personalities and rich cultural heritage of Finland. Interesting details enrich the entries on familiar names and terms, such as the Kalevala and Kanteletar, the Sami people and culture, shamanism, Elias Lönnrot, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Alvar Aalto, the Finlandia Hall (where the historical cornerstone meeting of the 1975 Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe was held), Jean Sibelius, and Paavo Nurmi. And we find descriptions of famous contemporary Finns as well: the pianist Olli Mustonen, the conductors Salonen and Saraste, the soprano Karita Mattila—to name only a few musicians who are well known in the USA.

The entry “history” describes a country that until 1809 was part of the Kingdom of Sweden, and then until 1917 belonged to Russia. Thereafter occurred a miracle: a skyrocketing social and economic development, the basis of which was a highly educated population, changed Finland from a backward peasant country into a highly industrialized and developed Scandinavian welfare state in less than a century. This striking progress is interesting in every detail. It is almost incredible to read that “two—thirds of all Finns regularly use library services,” with 1994 data showing 20.2 loans and 12.4 library visits per year per inhabitants. It is partly attributable to the large distances between settlements in the country that Finns have been in the forefront of communication and information technology during the last century. The trademark Nokia and the widespread use of digital telephones are evidence of this pre-eminence. Finland’s pioneering role in building the information society has most recently wrought an even more dramatic change in Finnish life.

The Finnish Literature Society (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura), a major cultural center, has given English-speaking users an important reference tool. It should have its place on the reference shelves of public as well as academic libraries.

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Last update: March 6, 2006 [BG]
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