Library Journal - Library JournalThe American Spectrum Encyclopedia is an attractive and authoritative quick-reference work intended chiefly for home use. The 17,000 brief entries, which average 14 per page (or 100 words each), are complemented by 3800 illustrations, most in color. In addition, a 48-page color atlas of the world is appended, along with a historical chronology, the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and lists of U.S. presidents, Supreme Court justices, national parks, etc. In most cases, the text is admirably up to date; for example, the article ``Apartheid'' concludes, ``The 1990s have brought greater freedom to the nonwhite people and the hope of total dismantlement of the system.'' On the negative side, the encyclopedia (understandably) lacks depth; there are some questionable omissions (nothing on adoption, Nadine Gordimer, R.B. Kitaj, or Philip Larkin); cross-referencing is sometimes inadequate (e.g., the article ``Uranus'' lacks a reference to ``Voyager Program''); and controversy about people tends to be avoided (e.g., Charles Dickens's liaison with Nelly Ternan). The American Spectrum Encyclopedia competes directly with the Cambridge Encyclopedia ( LJ 9/1/90) and the updated edition of the Random House Encyclopedia ( LJ 11/15/90), both single-volume tomes of comparable reference value. The largest and most respected such work, the New Columbia Encyclopedia ( LJ 7/75), is now quite dated, but a new edition is scheduled for 1993. Libraries would be wise to wait for that work instead of investing in the American Spectrum. -- Kenneth F. Kister, author of ``Best Encyclopedias,'' Tampa, Fla.
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