DA -- History and Area Studies
Winckelmann-Bibliographie Stendal: Sachkataloge der Publikationen zur Altertumskunde [Winckelmann Bibliography Stendal: Subject Indexes of Archaeology Publications]. Projekt Dyabola. München: Biering und Brinkmann, 1999 [published 2000]. 1 CD-ROM + program disc and manual (47 p.): EUR 100 [05-2-405]
The Winckelmann-Bibliographie contains publications, later printings, and collected works by and secondary literature published until 1998 on Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), the classicist and founder of modern archaeology and art history. The bibliography is based on the subject catalog assembled by the Winckelmann Society in Stendal, Winckelmann’s birth place, and made available on CD-ROM. The search interface is not intuitive and is difficult to use, but the subject catalog is searchable and browsable. Another feature is keyword searching across the title and author fields. While the CD-ROM contains most of the literature, a search in the Internationale Bibliographie der Zeitschriftenliteratur [IBZ] and the Index deutschsprachiger Zeitschriften 1750-1815 uncovered additional titles. [jm/ao]
Meyers großes Länderlexikon: alle Länder der Erde kennen, erleben, verstehen [Meyers Comprehensive Geographic Dictionary: Know, Experience, Understand All Countries of the Earth]. Ed. Ulrike Emrich. Mannheim: Meyers Lexikonverlag, 2005. 898 p. ill. 32cm. ISBN 3-411-07431-0: EUR 59.95 [05-2-406]
Diercke-Länderlexikon: Naturraum, Geschichte, Bevölkerung, Wirtschaft, Kultur, Landschaften & Städte [Diercke Geographic Dictionary: Environment, History, People, Economy, Culture, Landscapes, and Cities]. Gabriele Intemann. 2d ed. Braunschweig: Westermann, 2004. 936 p. ill. 31 cm. ISBN: 3-07-509420-X: EUR 50 [05-2-407]
Over the past two decades a major paradigm shift has occurred in the publication of geographic dictionaries. Publishers are moving from an academic focus to one catering to the world traveler. Meyers großes Länderlexikon, referred to as a "feast for the eyes" (press release), is a "ramble through the cities of the world" (foreword) and promises to explain everything that is "important and worth knowing" (foreword). The work is organized in four parts. Part 1, a 32-page overview and general introduction, presents a summary version of the introduction to Meyers großer Weltatlas (Meyers Great World Atlas—see RREA 11:169). Though superficial, the introduction does tackle complex issues such as biodiversity, desertification, and urbanization. The satellite images in Part 2 (22 pages) are captivating. Part 3 (29 pages) provides an overview of the continents. Central America is integrated into the article about South America, though the map integrates Central America with North America. Similarly, Antarctica and the Arctic are lumped together as polar regions. The articles include photos, panoramic maps, tabular data about the topographic attributes of each region, and the history of the area’s discovery and development. Small but forgiveable lapses in content and language occur, for example, the difficulty in defining the Europe-Asia border, and a reference to large areas of "black Africa" and "white Africa."
The core of this work (767 pages) offers comprehensive and richly illustrated entries for individual countries. Each article discusses area, population, life and culture, economy, and history. Some articles provide extra categories, including traffic, climate, and religion. In certain cases independent territories are either summed up in a few sentences, as with Greenland or French Guyana, or completely ignored, as with the New Zealand Territories. Inserts provide extra information, such as UNESCO World Heritage sites, short descriptions of the capitals, and other tips for readers. While this heterogeneous presentation can lack clarity, the detailed maps in each article are a highlight. Except for data on size of territory and population (with no source or date given), other hard data are lacking.
Regarding the content, the articles for each country are concise and satisfactory, but some are too brief. Most of the small countries, e.g., Benin and Botswana, and even a few large countries, are treated in only one page, while others are disproportionately detailed. Conversely, the entry for Bulgaria is more detailed than that of Switzerland or the Netherlands. Clearly, the intention is for laypeople to nourish their wanderlust, and the results are a little lopsided, such as reducing culture and life in Great Britain to the Proms at Albert Hall. More seriously, specific information about political, social, and cultural themes for large regions is lacking. For example, there is no information about the Chilean Colonia Dignidad, the problems between the radical right and the Maghrebi population in France, or the latent conflict between Macedonia and Greece. Other political themes, such as the genocide in Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, or the ecological consequences of the trans-Amazon highway, are discussed much too briefly.
The language tends to be flat but in some cases is sensational and unhelpful. The section about the Gambian economy is followed by the caption "Peanuts and Tourists," and the "Paris" comparison is overused: Beirut as the "Paris of the East," Abidjan as the "Paris of West Africa" and Libreville "the Paris of Central Africa." The "Reader’s Tips" section includes books, films, audio materials, and one web site (an Austrian exhibit [ed. note: Bhutan: Festung der Götter / Fortress of the Gods – http://www.bhutan.ethno-museum.ac.at]. The recommended readings range from solid reference works for historical and geographic literature to some rather absurd suggestions, like dime novels.
The 2004 edition of the Diercke Geographic Dictionary takes a different approach, foregoing most general introductory information. The country articles are in most cases comprehensive. Entries for countries are organized alphabetically (although the Democratic Republic of Congo is indexed under "D" instead of "K" for Kongo. South and North Korea are treated in one article, which the editor justifies by citing "their centuries of shared history."
The editor curiously states that timeliness in a work like this is not the highest priority. The copy deadline was August 1999, and this edition appears to be wholly unchanged since then. Later events, such as East Timor’s independence in 2002 and the unrest and regime change in Haiti in 2004, are not included. Statistical data are taken from the Fischer Weltalmanach [World Almanac], but unfortunately there is no mention of which edition.
The articles in Diercke, unlike those in Meyers, are consistent throughout and cover ecology, history, population, economy, culture (but regrettably not politics), and countries and cities worth seeing. Climate charts and excellent, large-sized photographs of tourist attractions are included, as are descriptions of their geographic characteristics. Diercke provides fewer extra topics but includes more details than does Meyers, e.g., the conflict in Northern Ireland and the ecology of the Congo’s tropical rainforests. General maps for each individual article are lacking; if readers want to locate places mentioned in the text, they must resort to the map section in front. "Physical geography" includes topography, climate, and vegetation, but not geologic or geomorphologic derivations. Information on populations lacks desired topics like systems of education. Country history surveys are comprehensive. Discussions of culture are narrow but include a sound overview of the literature, art, music, and folklore of each country, with few inaccuracies or omissions in the short descriptions of national literatures. Some economic activities such as Gabon’s crude-oil exports and Malawi’s tobacco economy are not mentioned, and the entries for banking in Switzerland and the tragedy of "blood diamonds" in Sierra Leone are too short. The bankrupt and ecologically destroyed Pacific Republic of Nauru is portrayed as economically booming, and the assertion that Brazil has "virtually achieved the standard of industrialized countries" is misleading. This volume also provides information for tourists not limited to UNESCO sites and includes detailed descriptions of country and regional assets, thus offering a selective but mostly accurate account.
Neither the Meyer nor the Diercke geographic dictionary may completely satisfy readers’ expectations. Readers who are looking for entertaining tourist information would be well served by Meyer. Those looking for more fundamental background information and information about serious concepts should choose Diercke. Both works would be worthwhile acquisitions for public libraries. [jh/jmw]
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Last update: March 2009 [BG]
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