Print Awards 2016

 The judging panel couldn’t decide between two titles for the Commended award in the print section, so we have given the Commended award to both titles.

railway 

A search on Amazon reveals a very large number of railway atlases for all or parts of the UK. So how do we judge a new one? What makes one atlas different, more informative, useful and approachable than others?   We felt that the Railway Atlas Then and Now achieved what it set out to do in a clear, straightforward and very informative way.

Basically, the atlas consists of double age spreads with on the left-hand side a map of the railway groupings in 1923, and on the right-hand side the situation in 2012. It is the clarity of presentation that is most impressive; the maps themselves are very clear, as is the legend for each pair of maps.   The 2012 maps identify current lines, closed or dismantled lines, roads, walkways, stations on closed lines that are now museums, shops or bed and breakfasts. Web addresses are included where appropriate, and two gazetteers make locating specific lines and stations very easy.

Because there is such large quantity of information included, this sometimes results in the print being too small. Occasionally, more detailed inserts must be placed on nearby, instead of adjacent pages. But these are minor criticisms. For anyone intrigued by the history and development of the railway infrastructure of the country, this work is an excellent and essential addition to their collection.

Railway Atlas Then and Now, 2nd edition by Paul Smith and Keith Turner, published by Ian Allen at £20 is COMMENDED in the 2016 Information Services Group Reference Awards.

shakespeare1

2016 being the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we might have expected some nominations, given the number of books being published in 2015 and 2016 – and we weren’t disappointed when four titles came up. In the area of Shakespeare studies, a lot of work has gone into making the Bard more accessible and understandable to a wider audience, and we felt that The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary did just that.

Compiled by a renowned expert in the English language and a Shakespearean actor, the Dictionary brings together over 4,000 difficult words used in the twelve most performed and studied plays. The definitions are clear and show where words are now out of use, whose meaning has been changed, ones that Shakespeare made up, and names of antiquated or fictional people and places. The plays, acts and lines where the words can be found are given. Usage notes and theatre notes provide the background information.

The overall arrangement of the work is alphabetical. There is a very clear and comprehensive introduction, making use of the dictionary very easy. There are also short sections on Shakespearean grammar and pronunciation, and his use of French and Latin. But perhaps the most unusual and entertaining part of the book are the illustrations. They are fun, almost comic-like but each with very clearly defined focus – the subjects range from swords and daggers, ships, music and hats, and they tell you what you want to know.

This book is for students studying the plays, and for adults who want to understand more of what they are hearing and seeing. It is easy to use and handle and has an attractive cover. It is unusual and fun and can be used as a straight reference work or, as one of the panel commented, ‘a good browse’.

The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary by David and Ben Crystal, published by OUP at £12.99 is COMMENDED in the 2016 Information Services Group Reference Awards.

tibet

We come across many beautiful books whilst judging these awards but few go beyond the coffee-table type to be considered good, solid reference works. A Historical Atlas of Tibet is one such work. It is the work of one man who put in 12 years of research and 8 years of mapmaking into the process. What we have is an atlas covering the cultural and religious sites across the Tibetan plateau, from Palaeolithic time to the fall of the Qing Empire in 1911. The 49 double page maps are superb, clear and colourful. Each map is complemented by a succinct essay, as well as old photographs, tables, graphs, plans and modern photographs. Throughout, information is expertly distilled and delivered with impressive scholarship. With each map, the sources, both western and Chinese, consulted, are listed. There is a good index, a clear contents page and a helpful how to use section.

This is a pioneering work, the first comprehensive work focusing on Tibet as a cultural and linguistic realm. A book students and scholars have been waiting for and an absorbing work for anyone interested in the highest places in the world.   The quality of the book production is high and it is excellent value for money.   Looking at the work from a purely historical atlas-based perspective, this must be one of the best examples produced so far this century.

A Historical Atlas of Tibet by Karl E. Ryavec, published by University of Chicago Press at £34 is HIGHLY COMMENDED in the 2016 Information Services Group Reference Awards.

shakespeare2

And now we return to Shakespeare.   When it was first published in 2001, The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare was considered an accessible, authoritative and comprehensive work for the research student, general reader and playgoer.   The second edition builds on this, to become an even more thorough and indispensable reference work. The arrangement is a basic A to Z, with a central section featuring detailed studies of each of the plays.

Entries in the alphabetical section range from the very short and informative to longer, in-depth coverage.   The book covers all Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets with their associated history and geographical and cultural references.   Shakespeare’s family, acquaintances and people and places in his life are included.   There is material on the Shakespeare legend and Bardology, the theatrical and literary context of all his works, theatrical history of the plays, editors and editions and Shakespearean performance and influence around the world.

But of course, the main focus is on the works. Each play is outlined act by act and scene by scene, plus details on the principal characters, places and songs.   Related ballet, music, opera, film and fiction adaptations are detailed. All in all there is an impressive range of topics for understanding the plays, performance history and the place of Shakespeare today.

There are over 100 illustrations, a chronology and comprehensive bibliographies which include forthcoming items. The editorial team comprises many very well-known academics from the world of Shakespearean studies.   The whole book is beautifully designed and laid out with high quality production. A handsome book with a long shelf life – both physically and intellectually.

The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, 2nd edition, edited by Michael Dobson, Stanley Wells, Will Sharpe and Erin Sullivan, and published by Oxford University Press at £40 is the WINNER in the 2016 Information Services Group Reference Awards.

Refer 32 (3) Autumn 2016

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