A Cultural Encyclopedia
by Shannon L. Venable
April 2011, 315pp, 7x10
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38430-1
$94, £70, 79€, A135
eBook Available: 978-0-313-38431-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Gold has long been valued, revered, and assigned mythical properties in nearly every culture in the world, and has served as the basis for currency for countless societies. Just the word itself implies perfection, crowning achievement, purity, and wisdom—”golden era,” “gold medal,” “golden years,” “heart of gold.” What makes this material so special?

This encyclopedia provides detailed information about the historical, cultural, social, religious, economic, and scientific significance of gold, across the globe and throughout history.

Gold has been an intrinsic part of human culture and society throughout the world, both in ancient times and in the modern era. This precious metal has also played a central role in economics and politics throughout history. In fact, the value of gold remains a topic of debate amid the current upheavals of economic conditions and attendant reevaluations of modern financial principles.

Gold: A Cultural Encyclopedia consists of more than 130 entries that encompass every aspect of gold, ranging from the ancient metallurgical arts to contemporary economies. The connections between these interdisciplinary subjects are explored and analyzed to highlight the many ways humankind’s fascination with gold reflects historical, cultural, economic, and geographic developments. While the majority of the works related to gold focus on economic theory, this text goes beyond that to take a more sociocultural approach to the subject.


  • Contains more than 130 A–Z entries on the significance of gold worldwide, from antiquity to the present, from an interdisciplinary perspective, as well as sidebar entries
  • Provides unique details and remarkable scope of facts in each entry along with direct references to and examples of primary source materials
  • Photographs and illustrations of the use and significance of gold as varied as Ca' d'Oro in Venice, royal crowns, filigree, Italian florin coin, Hatshepsut, Rumpelstiltskin, Wat Traimit, and modern "bling"
  • Extensive bibliography including monographs, scholarly articles, newspaper and magazine articles, primary source documents, and online resources
  • Detailed subject index as well as list of entries and guide to related topics
Shannon L. Venable, veteran writer and educator, is an authority on the economic and social implications of luxury and wealth. Widely published, Venable's research has encompassed a vast range of topics in her respective fields, covering, among other areas, political aspects of conversion to Christianity during the 4th century, the significance of sumptuary legislation in medieval and Renaissance Italian city-states, and the late-20th-century emergence of sophisticated debt instruments in global financial markets. A long-time editor and writer for Historical Abstracts, Venable presently leads annual history and culture programs in Europe as founder and director of Arte al Sole. As proprietor of an editorial and writing services agency specializing in history, lifestyle, and travel, Santa Barbara, California-based Venable is a passionate advocate for the study of history and society.


"Overall I found this both an informative and often entertaining work on a less usual subject for an encyclopedia. It will be a useful resource, certainly in school, college, and undergraduate collections and for the general reader."—Reference Reviews, June 20, 2012

"With the current price of gold hitting relative highs, this A–Z encyclopedia is as timely as it is involving. . . . Designed for both the researcher and the general reader, Gold serves both audiences equally well. Though reference works exist on specific aspects of the use of gold, this general treatment is unique and suitable for both public and college and university libraries."—Booklist, September 1, 2011

"Intriguing, surprisingly addictive, and quite likely the only reference work on this topic. Appropriate for larger public and academic libraries and where there is a need/interest"—Library Journal, July 1, 2011
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