Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Saints Preserved: An Encyclopedia of Relics

Saints Preserved: An Encyclopedia of Relics
Saints Preserved: An Encyclopedia of Relics by Thomas J. Craughwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won this book in a giveaway. I would like to thank Cindy for the chance to read and review this copy.

My first perception is that it is organized very efficiently and the bibliography is sufficient for such a work. I would love to see an index for quick reference and/or an appendix with a list of each Saint's patronage and feast day. I'm sure all Catholics know these details by heart but for a non-catholic it would be beneficial. However this does not detract from the book itself.

*More review to follow*

I finally finished this book. I took my time with it because I was reading other books as well, fiction, and I wanted to take in this book slowly. I thought this book was good for what it intentions were, the treatment of the subject matter was professional.

My general complaints about the book stem from my interest in what the relics themselves look like and more information on the relics/saints themselves. I also had a tiny issue with the bibliography and citation methods.

My first complaint is a minor one and could easily been tossed in the "oh that really doesn't matter" rubbish bin, but I will address it anyways. I would love to see more pictures of the relics throughout the book. I can understand though that finding pictures of the relics may be difficult. Many churches/cathedrals/museums/wherever else keep their relics and valued possessions locked away from prying eyes. That being said the book at times did not inform us what particular relics were listed as the saints. For example: the section on James the Lesser (died c. 62) states only where the relics are enshrined and not what they ARE. I was able to find that one of the relics attributed to James the Lesser is in fact his head. I may be morbid but I would like to know what the relic in question is and not just that there is a relic. I don't mind the lack of pictures/illustrations of the relic, but not knowing what it is could have been alleviated by those pictures when the description was omitted.

My next complaint is that I would love to see an appendix or more than one in the book. I think one or two pages of information at the back of the book would be beneficial to those wishing to use it as a reference. My suggested appendixes would include: A list of Saints by time period; A list of saints by patronage; A list of saints by Feast day; A list of saints by geographical location; and a list of saints by relic type. I understand that the patronage and feast day are listed at the end of each saint's section but a way to quickly look up a saint by these two attributes would be appreciated.

My final complaint is about the author's primary and secondary source citation. I think it would have been very beneficial to have footnotes or at least some manner of citation other than just the bibliography. As a history student I know that when writing historical research your reader can have a hard time cross-referencing your sources if you fail to use footnotes and just type out a bibliography. The reader/researcher would have to look through the list of sources on the bibliography one by one in order to know which one deals with a particular saint. But if the bibliography was organized in a research friendly manner this problem could be easily solved.

This book was a great basic reference for those studying the history of the Catholic Church, a particular saint, and/or those who are wishing to convert to Catholicism. I loved design of the cover, the halo over the "A" was a little cliche but still acceptable. The simplicity of the design gives the book a reference worthy appearance.

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