Everything About Money for a Price

FINANCIAL reference books, perhaps appropriately, are not usually cheap. That's certainly the case with the three-volume, 2,621-page, New Palgrave Dictionary of Money and Finance, introduced last month by Stockton Press, New York. It costs $595.

The book's publicists argue that its worth every penny as topics like arbitrage, budget deficits, capital flight, bankruptcy, consumer credit, junk bonds, zero-coupon bonds, and the money supply have moved from the back of newspapers to the front page and TV news in the post-Cold War era.

Not every essay among the 1,008 in these volumes may illuminate the headlines, however. One example is a nine-page, equation-heavy article on the "Arrow-Debreu model of general equilibrium" - a mathematical model that helped earn Nobel prizes in economics for Kenneth Arrow and Gerard Debreu.

Most essays are more readable. One, for example, notes that L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is not only a popular children's story and film, but may be comment on the national debate over the monetary roles of silver and gold in the 1890s.

Many authors are renowned and certainly expert. And the dictionary did cost $2 million to produce.

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