rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 2: p. 198
Sources: Gold: A Cultural Encyclopedia
E. Richard McKinstry

E. Richard McKinstry, Library Director and Andrew W. Mellon Senior Librarian, H. F. du Pont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware

Containing 135 entries, this volume describes people, legislation, events, artifacts, and a host of other topics having to do with gold. Some of the topics are obvious (alchemy, goldsmithing, and Sutter's Mill, for example) while others may not be (SS Republic, a nineteenth-century sailing vessel that once carried gold and silver, sank, and became a treasure seeker's salvage dream, and Charles De Gaulle, who advocated using the gold standard in international finance, for instance). Some entries are on modern subjects (bling), most are historical. Still others, while highly relevant, might come as a surprise, including dental crowns. The diverse nature of what is covered signals the strength of this book.

Each well-written informative entry, in addition to its text, includes a list of further readings, many feature black and white illustrations, and some have sidebars that show quotations or contain further explanatory material. See also references point readers to related essays in the book. In addition, Gold has a lengthy bibliography of twelve pages, a comprehensive index, and a resource guide that lists sixteen worldwide organizations that are somehow associated with gold.

In encyclopedias on specific subjects, it is always possible to quibble with the choices of entries. Why include a full essay on the Golden Ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and not one on William Jennings Bryan's iconic “Cross of Gold” speech, which de delivered during the presidential campaign of 1896? On the other hand, essays on the British Gold Standard Act of 1925 and the gold standard, which the United States abandoned in 1971, are timely, considering debates in Washington in 2011 about government spending and increasing indebtedness.

Gold can be used profitably with other books, articles, websites, and library collections. My own library focuses on American decorative arts and material culture and has items on gold embroidery, gold boxes, gold jewelry, gold leaf, and gold-tooled bindings. Specific in nature and artistic in their detail, our writings dovetail with a number of topics in Gold such as casting, illuminated manuscripts, and gold lace.

Students in high school and college, as well as users of public libraries, should find much to mine in Gold, considering the scope of the book: “The content of this volume was organized to cover the most salient topics and themes related to the social and cultural significance of gold from prehistory to the present across the globe and to examine these themes from cultural, historical, social, religious, economic, and financial perspectives” (xiii).

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