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Medieval West - Reference Sources: Encyclopedias and Subject Dictionaries

This is a guide to reference sources on the medieval West: guides to the literature, periodical indexes, encyclopedias/dictionaries, atlases/maps, biography, book length bibliographies. Last updated 06-13-2023

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - General and History

Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages.  Main D 117 .O92 2010

Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Main D 114 .D5 1982, v. 1-13

Old now, but a classic work in its time.  

Lexikon des Mittelalters, Main D 101.5 .L4, Bd. 1-9

Cantor, Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Remote Storage D 114 .E53 1999. One volume, by a senior scholar and author of many books on the medieval period.

Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages  Main D 114 .E53 2006 v. 1-2

Trade, Travel, and Exploration in the Middle Ages, an Encyclopedia.  Main HF 1001 .T7 2000. This is an introduction to the history of travel, exploration, discovery, and mercantile activity in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the New World. Mix of short and long entries, all signed, on topics, persons, and places cover from the fall of the Roman Empire and the so-called "Age of Discovery" and the end of the 15th c. Bibliographic references with each article and a general bibliography at the back. Chronology, too.

Broughton, Dictionary of Medieval Knighthood and Chivalry, Concepts and Terms.  Main  CR 4505 .B76 1988  Includes concepts, terms, biographical sketches on people and places, and information on medieval events which readers are likely to come across in their reading of history and fictional works on the medieval west. Appendices include genealogical charts for English and French rulers, a topical list of entries, and a bibliography. Further reading references in the entries are keyed to the numbered list of bibliography references in the appendix.

Medieval Jewish Civilization, an Encyclopedia. Main DS 124 .M386 2003. Jews in medieval times absorbed elements of both Christian and Muslim worlds, acculturating without assimilating. As a result, their contributions in many fields were significant. Entries from one column to several pages in length on topics, persons, and places, often with longer further reading lists than in many encyclopedias.

New Dictionary of the History of Ideas  Main CB 9 .N49 2005 6 vols.

Dictionary of the History of Ideas   Very useful for reading up on philosophies, ideas, and the authors associated with them. 1975 from U. of Va.

A Global Encyclopedia of Historical Writing, Main, D 13 .G47 1998 v. 1-2. Useful for studying either historians writing in medieval times, or historians writing about medieval times since then. Read about authors, find a list of works by the author, and obtain further reading suggestions. Also has entries for old and new forms of writing about the medieval period, for example, chronicles.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology. Main U 37 .O94 2010 v. 1-3

New Cambridge Medieval History, Main D 117 .N48 1995 v. 1-7. A multi-volume text on the medieval period. Online edition is 2004.

Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe, Main D 102 .O94 1988. Similar to the above, but only one volume and with pictures. Using this or the New Cambridge... or one of the dictionaries or encyclopedias might help you choose a topic or get some ideas of how to narrow a topic to make it doable.

Aries and Duby, eds. History of Private Life, Main, HN 8 .H5713 1987. A text. v. 1 From Pagan Rome to Byzantium. V. 2 Revelations of the Medieval World. For topic ideas, narrowing them down, and reading up. Also available in French.

Encyclopedia of the Black Death

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Women

Reader's Guide to Women's Studies, Remote Storage HQ 1180 .R43 1998. Although titled "Reader's Guide" is more of a one volume dictionary, albeit with several further reading references at the beginning of each entry. Topical and biographical entries.

Women in the Middle Ages, an Encyclopedia Main HQ 1143 .W643 2004 v. 1-2.  Over 300 entries with baisc and in-depth information on individual women and on broad topics relating to the experience of women in Europe and elsewhere between the 2nd and 15th centuries. Guide to related topics near beginning of the book. Extensive bibliographic references follow the articles in two sections: primary sources and secondary sources.

Lawler, Encyclopedia of Women in the Middle Ages, Main HQ 1143 .L38 2001. Online ed. is 2007. Both topical and biographical entries, with further reading references.

Women's Studies Encyclopedia, Main  HQ 1115 .W645 1989, v. 3. V. 3 has a series of articles on medieval women: (noble/lay, peasants, religious, treatment of rape in literature and law, urban). Some further reading references.

Duby and Perrot, eds. History of Women in the West, Main HQ 1121 .S79513 1992 v. 1-2. A text. V. 1 From Ancient Goddesses to Christian Saints. V. 2 Silences of the Middle Ages. For topic ideas, narrowing them down, and reading up.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Medieval England

Medieval England, an Encyclopedia, Reference, DA 129 .M43 1998. Topical and biographical entries. See women, women and the arts, women in middle English literature, women in old English literature. Both primary and secondary further reading references.

Historical Dictionary of Late Medieval England, 1272-1485, Main DA 175 .H56 2002. Biographical and topical articles with further reading references. See women, marriage, monasticism. Also has a subject index.

New Arthurian Encyclopedia, Main DA 152.5 .A7 N48 1996. Comprehensive and critical treatment of Arthurian subjects, artists, and works, both medieval and modern, in all languages. Deals with Arthuriana of all periods, from earliest legends and texts to the present.

Palgrave Dictionary of Medieval Anglo-Jewish History  Remote Storage DS 135 .E5 P36 2013
Overview of history of English medieval Jewry.  Key statutes and other documents in chronological sequence from 1136-1290.  Three categories of subject entries: 45 topographical entries on major communities.  Biographical entries.  General interest entries on synagogues, women, libraries and books, manuscripts, relief, seals, expulsions, usury, herb gardens, community, treasure, etc.  Bibliography.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Medieval France and Italy

Medieval France, an Encyclopedia, Reference DC 33.2 .M44 1995. Topical and biographical entries. In English. Paragraph length to 2 page entries conclude with one or more bibliographical references for further reading. Some black and white illustrations.

Dictionnaire de la France Medievale, Main, DC 60.6 .F38 1993. Topical and biographical entries. In French. See femme, mariage.

Medieval Italy an Encyclopedia  Remote Storage DG 443 .M43 2004 v. 1-2

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Medieval Germany

Medieval Germany, an Encyclopedia Main  DD 157 .M43 2001. Covers society and culture of German- and Dutch-speaking Europe from c. 500-c. 1500. Signed articles on major persons, places, historical occurrences, artistic and technological accomplishments, intellectual developments, and daily life range from less than a column to several pages. Further reading references.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Medieval Scandinavia

Medieval Scandinavia, an Encyclopedia Main DL 30 .M43 1993. Covers Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway from the migration period to the Reformation. Signed articles range on persons, topics, and places, from a long paragraph to several pages in length and include extensive further reading references.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Classics and Late Antiquity

Oxford Classical Dictionary  Main DE 5 .O9 2003

Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization  Remote Storage DE 5 .O92 1998

Late Antiquity, a Guide to the Postclassical World Remote Storage DE 5 .L29 1999. Has chapters on religious communities, the good life, habitat, among others. This is followed by a dictionary portion with both topical and biographical entries. Late antiquity is the period roughly 250-850 A.D

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Religion

New Catholic Encyclopedia, Main BX 841 .C25 2003 v. 1-15. Use this to learn the Catholic viewpoint on medieval topics.

Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church  Main BR 95 .O8 1997. Online ed. is 2005. The finest one volume reference work in any language on a single religion. Over 6,000 entries, on people, saints, places in Christianity in Europe and Britain, topics, glossary. Many bibliographical references.

Oxford Companion to Christian Thought  Main BR 95 .O84 2000. Longer entries than the Oxford Dictionary just above, but not as many. Briefer bibliographies. A guide less to facts than to the movement of ideas. Survey articles on historical periods, regions, national traditions. Articles on individuals and religious orders.

Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Remote Storage BR 162.2 .E53 1997 v. 1-2. 1,245 entries cover from the life of Jesus to the 7th century. Entries for persons, places, doctrines, practices, art, liturgy, heresies, schisms. Brief definition, identification, or characterization followed by antecedents to the subject and chronological or topical development of the subject in early Christianity. Main patristic sources used are listed at end of article.

Encyclopedia of Monasticism  Main BL 631 .E63 2000 v. 1-2. A conspectus of monastic life, past and present-its practices, doctrines, lifestyles, spiritualities and art. Articles on persons (founders, reformers, scholars, mystics, etc.), places (monastic histories of countries, cities, and individual institutions), Roman Catholic monastic orders, and themes (historical, sociological, theological, liturgical, gender, artistic, musical). Signed articles range from a page to several pages in length and include bibliographic references.

Latourette, History of Christianity, Remote Storage BR 145 .L28 c. 2. A text on the history of Christianity, for reading up on the topic. See esp. pp. 269-688, which cover from 500 to 1500. Many chapters cover various topics of medieval Christianity: monasticism, popular religious movements, thought, parish life, public and private worship and devotion, the crusades, efforts to revive and purify the Church at various times.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Philosophy

Encyclopedia of Philosophy Reference B 51 .E53 2006   Link here is to v. 1.  Set has 10 volumes, each with own entry and link in Books and Media.  Search the title in Books and Media to obtain links to other volumes.  Very unhandy!

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Reference, B 51 .R68 1998 v. 1-10

Oxford Companion to Philosophy  Main B 51 .O94 2005

Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Reference, B 41 .C35 1995.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Language

Oxford English Dictionary, Reference, PE 1625 .M7 1989. Print version of the OED Online, described above. Attempts to record all English words, including obsolete ones, dialect terms before 1500, and archaisms, as well as a considerable number of scientific, technical, and slang terms, used since c. 1150. Words obsolete by 1150 and dialect terms new after 1500 are excluded. Emphasizes standard British usage and vocabulary, it admits meanings and senses used in English worldwide. Entries are based on several million excerpts from written works, primarily belles lettres. Typically entries for main words include 1) identification, pronunciation, part of speech, specification of vocation, status, earlier spellings, inflected forms; 2) morphology, with etymology, history of the form, and notes on the history of the word; 3) signification, with senses organized from earliest to most recent; 4) dates illustrative quotations listed chronologically. Each grammatical form of a main word has a separate entry.

Middle English Dictionary, Main PE 679 .M54. Print version of the text in the MEC, above. A Dictionary of Middle English from c. 1100-1475. The only complete dictionary of Middle English. Indispensable for study of Middle English and for explication of the literature of the period.

Anglo-Norman Dictionary, Main PB 1 .M43 v. 8 A-O/U and P-Z. "The purpose of this dictionary is to facilitate the reading and understanding of a wide variety of texts written in the French used in the British Isles between the time of the Norman Conquest [1066] and the late 15th c." Contains quotations to illustrate usage, rather like OED, but does not trace first known appearance or historical development by means of these quotes. There is a list of works quoted at the beginning, which could be useful in identifying primary sources.

Latham, Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources, Main Oversize  3 West PA 2891 .L28. A dictionary of the Latin language used in Great Britain from c. 500- c. 1550, but excluding personal and place names, as well as Irish sources before 1200. Covers Welsh only selectively. Classical Latin works used with little change have brief entries. Fuller treatment given to Postclassical words and usages. Entries provide basic meaning(s) and are accompanied by an extensive list of quotations to illustrate nuances of meaning. Indispensable for interpreting early British writings in Latin. Not yet completed. Use Revised Latin Word-List from British and Irish Sources, Main, PA 2891 .L3 1965 for parts of the alphabet not yet finished.

Dictionary of Old English, Remote Storage PE 279 .D53 1992 and Microforms PE 279 .D53 1992 (4 fiche) and Microcopy Guides PE 279 .D53 1992. Use all pieces together. Excludes personal and place names. Three types of entries: common words (have full entries); rarer words (have exhaustive entries); and grammar words (have special entries). Full entry includes headword, grammatical details, variant spellings, occurrence and usage information, definitions, illustrative citations (keyed to the accompanying List of Texts and Bibliography of Editions and to Abbreviations for Latin Sources and Bibliography of Editions). Has Latin equivalents in the same manuscript, typical collocations, and reference to the Middle English Dictionary, English Dialect Dictionary, Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, and Oxford English Dictionary. Omits etymologies. Imprecise about the upper chronological limits of Old English language. Invaluable.

Bosworth and Toller, Anglo-Saxon Dictionary,  Remote Storage with Suppl and Addenda in Main PE 279 .B5 v. 1-2. Most complete Anglo-Saxon Dictionary available in print form. Entries include parts of speech, definition, Latin equivalents, illustrative passages, etymology, and cross references to variant and related forms.

Le Grand Robert de la Langue Francaise, Dictionnaire Alphabetique et Analogique de la Langue Francaise, Main Oversize 3 West PC 2625 f.R552 1986 t. 1-9. "A historical dictionary of the French language, giving, for each entry: etymology, definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and cross references to words with related meaning. Extensive quotations from French writers, selected to clarify usage and trace historical changes in meaning. Sponsored by the Academie Francaise."

Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Francaise, Main PC 2580 f.D52 1992 v. 1-2. "Includes words from 842 CE to the present. Entries provide a detailed history of each word and dated examples of use, earliest to most recent, with examples of change in meaning."

For additional old French dictionaries in our collection, consult our French Language Dictionaries research guide, the section called Dictionnaires d'Autrefois.  

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Literature

Oxford Companion to English Literature, Main PR 19 .O94 2006. Online ed. is 2009. Short entries on people and topics, with minimal further reading references.  

Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, Main, PR 255 .C35 1999.

Greenfield, New Critical History of Old English Literature, Remote Storage PR 173 .G73 1986.

New Pelican Guide to English Literature, Vol. 1 pt. 2, Medieval Literature, the European Inheritance, Remote Storage PR 85 .F6 1982 v. 1 pt. 2.

New Oxford Companion to Literature in French, Reference., PQ 41 .N48 1995 Short entries on people and topics, with minimal further reading references.

Dictionnaire des Litteratures de Langue Francaise, Main, PQ .D533 1984 v. 1-4. Covers medieval literature to contemporary times. Signed entries. Entries on topics, authors, themes. Entries for major authors are very full and include bibliographies.

Feminist Encyclopedia of French Literature, Main PQ 149 .F47 1999. Topical and biographical entries with bibliographical references for further reading, including both works by the authors and works about them and their works.

New History of French Literature, Main, PQ 119 .N48 1989 (rpt. 1994). In English. A French language edition in Main, PQ 119 .N4814 1993.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Science

Encyclopedia of the Black Death

Sebastian, Dictionary of the History of Medicine, Main R 121 .S398 1999. Short biographical and topical entries with no bibliographies.

McGrew, Encyclopedia of Medical History, Main, R 133 .M34 1985.

Chronology of Medicine and Related Sciences, Main, R 133 .M717 1997. See pp. 9-15.

Grant, Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages..., Main, Q 124.97 .G68 1996.

Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, Main, Q 125 .S32 v. 1-3. A significant author in the history of science field. A text, for reading up on topics. See esp. v. 2 part 1 and vol. 3 parts 1 and 2.

Duhem, Medieval Cosmology, Theories of Infinity, Place, Time, Void, and the Plurality of Worlds, Main, BD 512 .D813 1985. A new edition of one of the earliest works on history of science.

Lindberg, Beginnings of Western Science, the European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B.C. to A.D. 1450, Main, Q 124.95 .L55 1992.

Kibre, Studies in Medieval Science, Alchemy, Astrology, Mathematics, and Medicine, Main, Q 124.97 .K53 1984.

Hurd-Mead, History of Women in Medicine, from the Earliest Times to the Beginnings of the Nineteenth Century, Main, R 133 .M35 v. 1. A text, for reading up. See esp. chapters 2-7.