This has been the most occasioned of my references. One can get hijacked looking up something by some other entry, then another, and then another...
Just browsing through Brewer's is a fascinating lesson in history, art, culture, geography, mythology, poetry, etc. It is works like this that help round out one's education and appreciation for the richness of human foible and achievement.
Brewer's serves very well as a companion to classical literature or obscure literary references and should be your first stop in resolving such issues before moving on to more detailed and overtly scholarly works such as The Oxford Companion To Classical Literature, and so on. Brewer's is more populist and covers colloquialisms, slang terms, the true origin of common sayings and metaphors, biographical entries for famous people from Plato to Queen Dick.Want to know what a quarto is? A galosh? Or how many letters in the New Testament?
Brewer's gives one pithy definitions rooted in background history and supplies relevant cross-references - the sort of full picture unavailable from dictionaries and conveniently accessible in a summary form a full encyclopaedia is not.
As an example, under the entry Dutch one gets a definition and etymology and then the stories behind a Dutch auction, Dutch bargain, Dutch collar, Dutch comfort, Dutch concert, Dutch courage, Dutch defence, Dutch gleek, Dutch gold, Dutch nightingales, Dutch talent, Dutch wife, Double Dutch, His Dutch is up, In Ducth, My old Dutch, To talk like a Dutch uncle, The Flying Dutchman, Dutchman's breeches, Dutchman's draught, Dutchman's log, and so on. You just do not get that sort of thing from a dictionary or most other single volume reference works.
There is a later edition also available that seems quite a bit larger, but any edition of Brewer's picked up from a second-hand book store is worth its weight in gold. I cannot recommend this book too highly....Continua