This revision of Herman Melville A to Z (2001) is an addition to the publisher's Critical Companions series. Part 1 is a biography of Melville. Part 2 has entries on many of Melville's publications, including summaries and publication history, and for the more substantive works, critical commentary, entries on characters, and brief secondary bibliographies. The third section contains encyclopedic entries on people, places, publications, and events. The fourth section is made up of several appendixes: a chronology, a primary and secondary bibliography, selected contemporary reviews, selected letters between Melville and Hawthorne, and a genealogy extending from Melville's grandparents to his grandchildren.
A-Z entries ranging from Abolitionists to Zionism are the meat of this volume. Highlights include the whaling ship Acushnet, on which the author served; Melville's pseudonym, .A.V.; entries on Flogging and redestination; and even an entry on Copyright describing Melville's signing a petition to Congress in 1852. Many entries focus on people in Melville's life, including a host of writers and thinkers who influenced him, a wide circle of acquaintances, and around 30 relatives.
Enhanced by black-and-white illustrations, the book is made easier to use by an extensive index and cross-references between parts 1 and 3. Changes from Herman Melville A to Z include new critical-commentary sections, an updated bibliography, and revisions to the biography and suggestions for further study as well as the new contemporary reviews and selected letters in the appendixes. The separation of Melville's works (currently part 2) from the entries on related topics (currently part 3) is an improvement over the previous volume, as is the grouping of entries on characters under the publications in which they appear. The significance of revisions to the critical commentary outweighs the lack of changes to other entries now in part 3.
An excellent addition to an already strong series, recommended for high-school, public, and undergraduate collections.