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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Journeys End

A SCANNING of both the index and the topical guide in the International Encyclopedia of Communications 1 reminds one of the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge. In the preface there is the statement that 'The centrality of communication in human history has become clear, explaining why such varied disciplines as anthropology, arts, education, ethology, history, journalism, law, linguistics, philosophy, political science, psychology, and sociology have all gravitated toward the study of communications processes. . . .' That this applies certainly to the field of psychology is evident from comparing the encyclopedia index and its topical guide with reference books for psychology and other disciplines. Nonverbal Communication, Facial Expression, Gesture, Interpersonal Distance-all these identify with psychology. A brief glance at The Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms 2 reveals the same words, though Personal Space is the term chosen to represent Interpersonal Distance. One might assume that, though the terms are the same, each field reflects different aspects of these topics. Therefore, students add to their knowledge by exploring the handbooks and encyclopedias for several subjects. The Political Science Thesaurus II 3 includes topics like Interpersonal Communication and Nonverbal Communication. One would probably find this pattern carrying over to education and sociology. The impression is of a new field drawn together from aspects present in already existing fields, the pertinent elements being organized into a new area of learning with a different interpretation or twist.

These remarks are not meant to be critical in a negative sense of this new encyclopedia or of the area of communications. One of our thesis topics refers to the encyclopedia in the context of public opinion polls.

The volumes are generously illustrated, there is a long list of scholars who are responsible for articles on particuliar topics, and the articles are well supplied with bibliographic references. Where there are biographical sketches, the emphasis is, according to the Introduction, on '. . . those aspects of the subject's life and achievements most relevant to the study of communications.' (p. [xxiiil) The topical guide in the fourth volume organizes the 569 articles under thirty categories and a quick survey of these shows easily the many aspects of communications treated.

If one of the smallest categories in the Topical Guide is selected (Middle Ages), its content shows the extent of coverage of this encyclopedia:

Africa, Precolonial
Americas, Pre-Columbian
Crusades, The
Gutenberg, Johannes
Islam, Classical and Medieval Era
Middle Ages
Oral Culture
Polo, Marco

I. History of Printing

Silk Road
Writing Materials


1. 4 v. (New York: Oxford University Press, [1989]).

2. 6th ed. (Washington: American Psychological Association, 1991).

3. Carl Beck, ed., rev. and exp. 2d ed. (University Center for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh, [1979]).