Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


Beal, Peter. A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology, 1450–2000. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. 457 pp. Z106.5.Z7 091.094203. Online through Oxford Reference (I530).

A guide to the terminology associated with the study and documentation of manuscripts in the English-speaking world from 1450 to 2000 (but with an emphasis on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries). Some 600 cross-references cover physical features of manuscripts (including size, decorations, physical condition, and scripts); materials; types (e.g., commonplace book, indenture, promptbook); persons engaged in producing or collecting manuscripts; repositories; writing instruments; paleographical features; and the editing of manuscripts. The approximately 900 separate entries offer an etymology (where appropriate) and a definition that usually cites examples but not, unfortunately, related scholarship (which is relegated to a highly selective bibliography at the end of the volume); many entries are accompanied by an illustration (but without documentation of the location of the original). Although the volume will occasion debate about the need for some entries (e.g., Filofax and several related to mailed letters) and the exclusion of others, the Dictionary—written by one of the leading scholars in the field—offers clear guidance to the novice and enjoyment to the expert. Review: Andrew Zurcher, TLS: Times Literary Supplement 18 Aug. 2008: 29.