It was a grand birthday and I’m in the mood to count my blessings (by which I mean presents) today. I’ve not had many books (though I’m still hopeful of a few more – my last bout of Christmas shopping from amazon is yet to turn up and that might well contain some odds and ends for personal use, I’ve also been led to believe there are a few more parcels with my name on which are coming round for tea and mince pies at the weekend.)
The blond has really outdone herself present wise this year though and I’m not sure how either of us will ever top this one as the perfect present. She has an awe inspiring assortment of dictionaries and there are a few in her collection which I’ve long coveted chief amongst which is the Oxford paperback reference ‘A Dictionary of Popes’. How can I express how pleased and excited about this I am? The Scottish one understands – I was hard pushed to get it back off him, but even the blond was slightly surprised at how taken I was with it. I’m quoting the product description from amazon in full here:
“This fascinating dictionary gives concise accounts of every officially recognized pope in history, from St Peter to Pope Benedict XVI, as well as all of their irregularly elected rivals, the so-called antipopes. Each pope and antipope's entry covers his family and social background and pre-papal career as well as his activities in office. Also, an appendix provides a detailed discussion and analysis of the tradition that there has been a female pope. This new edition reflects the very latest in papal research and contains additional information in the further reading sections of each entry, making the book an even more useful starting place for research into specific pontiffs. The entries are arranged chronologically making this a continuous history of the papacy over almost 2,000 years. It reveals how, for much of that history, spiritual and temporal power have been inextricably mingled in the person of the pope. A fascinating read for students of theology and history, as well as the general reader with an interest in Christian history.”
If that sounds appealing you know where I’m coming from, if it doesn’t – well I’m sorry but I’ve rather wanted this book for a long time and I’m very happy to have a copy of my own (new and updated to include the present pontiff). I love books like this not so much for their reference value, although that’s a serious bonus, but because they’re so good for dipping in and out of. A juicy pope (or saint) is hard to beat for a thrilling story; I think it very likely that there will be a Pope of the month feature here in the very near future...