The proliferation of encyclopedias and dictionaries in every field raises questions concerning the scholarly purpose and economics of these enterprises: Who stands to benefit from them most, and who can afford them? A new encyclopedia of medieval Italy distills for the current moment the latest canonical judgment of editors and authors about which subjects merit scrutiny and how much weight they should receive in a reference work intended to be consulted rather than read from cover to cover. The process of interdisciplinary collaboration results in a collective portrait of medieval Italy containing some surprises, only a few of which are pleasant.

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