A work listing "heretics, organized heresies, and schools of thought or key ideas that were judged heretical," the "Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics" provides an alphabetically arranged overview of the key heretical movements and individuals from roughly the time of Jesus' crucifixion to the sixteenth century. Not counting cross-references, the work features 127 entries ranging from "Abelard, Peter" to "Wycliffe, John". Entries vary in length from just over 50 words ("Concorezanes") to close to 5,000 words ("Albigenses, Albigensians"; "Gnostics"; and "Witchcraft"). A few illustrations--primarily reproductions of woodcuts or other artwork--are scattered throughout the volume; a 10-page subject index completes the work
Clifton, a free-lance writer who has been a contributing editor to the journal "Gnosis" and editor of a recently released volume on witchcraft entitled "The Modern Craft Movement" (1992), has written a work clearly intended for the general reader and not the scholar. His well-written introduction provides a survey of the various heretical movements throughout the history of the Christian church up to the time of Luther, at which point "the line between heresy and reform grows faint." (It is odd, however, that an entry is not devoted to Luther himself.) The entries are written in a manner that assumes virtually no knowledge of the subject matter. For example, in the "Tanchelm" entry, the author parenthetically defines the Holy Roman Empire as "chiefly a German empire" and Flanders as "an area chiefly within present-day Belgium." The use of bibliographies at the ends of entries is also omitted "in order to keep the text uncluttered and more accessible to the casual or nonspecialized reader." Unfortunately, this makes the work of limited value to those trying to find additional information on a given subject. Such users must instead scan through the 58 items of the unannotated bibliography in the back of the volume
Most entries in the book under review may be found in such larger works as the "New Catholic Encyclopedia" or the "Encyclopedia of Religion", both of which also feature more extensive bibliographies. The specificity of subject matter in the "Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics" duplicates information already available in many libraries, and the lack of bibliographies limits the work's usefulness as a first-choice source. Nevertheless, it is a unique volume that high school, public, and academic libraries that cater to clients interested in church history may wish to consider as a secondary source of information.