In the flood of single volume encyclopedias of information on as varied subjects as archacology, biology, anthropology, this is exceptional, not only in content but in handling. For here is ""the saga of early exploration and discovery"" and a fascinating story it is. One gets a sense of a world opening up to the intrepid adventurers, the greedy merchants and traders, the seekers after rare commodities. You get a realization of immense technological advance, as the invention of the wheel extended the range of travel, and cross country routes were added to sea and river. Archaeology has thrown light on the buried history of the ancient incident world. The writings and records of ancient geographers, historians and the like take on new and exciting meaning. Greek legends and legends of the Norsemen find their roots in half-realized facts. The Roman Empire, far flung over the known world, by conquest, and exploration reached north, south, east and west. In the Americas history was in the making and recording as the Vikings penetrated long before Columbus, and age old runes were found in many places. The mystery of the Kensington Stone gets full treatment. The extent of the contacts between South America and the Pacific land areas proved links across the Pacific. Roots in words, knowledge of ocean currents, records left in runes, letters, reports -- all point not only to the Vikings, but possibly to the Germans, Danes, Portuguese pre-dating Columbus. The 13th and 14th centuries found travellers in far reaches of the world. The Far East lured travellers early, and the Crusades were chiefly important in opening up the Near East to traffic. Oriental cultures made their impress on the relatively backward European cultures. Africa too began to be penetrated:- the Portuguese of the Middle Ages were discovering the sea approaches, while Northern Africa was opened to trade by Florentine and Neapolitan merchants, and Carpini and Ruysbroek penetrated the interior. Vast scholarship is evidenced in knowledge of the sources, but the result is absorbing reading for modern travelers and students alike. Choice by Book of the Month for March may bring this to American readers with success measurable to that already experienced in Europe.