Merriam-Webster's Visual Dictionary: Second Edition

Merriam-Webster, Editor
Under the direction of Jean-Claude Corbeil. Merriam Webster, $39.95 (1112p) ISBN 978-0-87779-151-5
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Not since Saussure have signifier and signified been so happily in cahoots. Adding to the 2006 edition "more than 2,000 new and updated illustrations," the latest iteration of Merriam-Webster's Visual Dictionary is a wonder to behold. Divided into 18 "themes—" including astronomy, clothing, society, earth, and animals—this reference volume offers crisp, clear illustrations for each of its entries (and component parts), enabling readers to envisage cutaways of detail-intensive things like jet engines, toilets, synagogues, and honeybees, as well as more abstract topics, such as painting techniques, museums, and musical notation. While spatial limitations dictate the guide be less than exhaustive (furniture gets just a handful of pages), Corbeil and company do a remarkable job in terms of breadth and editing, interweaving bar code readers and URLs, as well as a quick study of roofs and a litany of coffee makers—all without overwhelming readers or leaving them feeling cheated. Visual learners, curious kids, and those new to English will likely get the most out of the book, but even the curmudgeonliest know-it-all will be mesmerized by this engaging and informative work. Illus. (Oct.)
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