cover image The World in 1492

The World in 1492

Jean Fritz. Henry Holt & Company, $19.95 (168pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-1674-1

In this hefty collection of essays, these distinguished authors have written about the continents with which they have a particular affinity. Each geographic area is viewed as of five centuries ago, and each writer creates logical divisions for his or her subject--e.g., the material on Africa is divided chiefly by countries that existed in 1492; on Europe, there's more discussion of city life and rich vs. poor people. The book's audience gets a global feel not only for the fateful 15th century but also for how past history affected the region (the aftermath of the Ice Age on population formation, for example). In Africa readers visit the advanced urban center of Zimbabwe, while in Asia they can navigate along with Cheng Ho, whose voyages to Indian ports and the African coast eclipsed Columbus's in scope. This gracefully presented compendium admirably accomplishes its worthy goal of creating a world-wide context for travel in 1492. Vitale's multifaceted, thematically bordered paintings at the beginning of each chapter present vivid images of each region. Indigenous maps, woodcuts and reproductions of art and artifacts round out this handsome package. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)