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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2002

Book Reviews

CRC Dictionary of Agricultural Sciences

Helen Smith
Agricultural Sciences Librarian
Pennsylvania State University

Lewis, Robert A. CRC Dictionary of Agricultural Sciences. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2002. 674p. ISBN 0-8493-2327-4. $89.95 (Hardcover).

Agriculture is a broad subject area so anything that helps us in our reference work is to be commended. The 15,000 terms in this dictionary, according to the back cover, relate to "all aspects of agriculture, from traditional farming the latest developments in biotechnology and genetics." The subject coverage does appear to be slanted towards the environmental sciences. However, no detailed scope note is included so it is impossible to determine if the book meets its goals. Also, the criteria for including terms, and the resources consulted, are not described. The "about the author" section describes the author as experienced in areas of pollution and the environment, and that may explain the strong coverage of those subjects. This dictionary is easy to use with the term in boldface and the subsequent definition indented slightly. There are however, no illustrations. The terms included consist of full words, phrases, abbreviations, and variant spellings (with references back to the main entry). Phrases are often listed under the main term. For example the phrase "occult antigen" is defined in the paragraph on "antigen" along with many other types of "antigens." In some cases there is a cross reference leading from the phrase to the correct term, in some cases there is not. This listing of many phrases under one term can make some of the entries quite lengthy. Simple terms may also have long entries due to the many variant meanings that are included. There is a strong coverage of environmental issues and chemicals, with many of these entries being much more than a simple definition, actually quite encyclopedic in nature. Chemical entries usually include uses, toxicity, and history.

It is always difficult to evaluate a dictionary. If it contains the one word someone is looking for, then it is invaluable. This dictionary may be unique in its combination of agricultural terms with a strong representation of environmental terms and concepts. Although it claims to include traditional farming terms, it does not compete in that area with the John Winburne's classic Dictionary of Agricultural and Allied Terminology (Michigan State University Press 1962). This dictionary does not make it to my "must have" list, but it can be recommended for its coverage of more recent concepts in biotechnology and the environment and would be a useful purchase as an additional resource for an agricultural reference collection.

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