Dictionary of Riddles  book cover
1st Edition

Dictionary of Riddles

ISBN 9780367262563
Published February 26, 2020 by Routledge
380 Pages

USD $130.00

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Book Description

Originally published in 1990 by Routledge, Dictionary of Riddles is a collection of nearly 1500 of the most cryptic and entertaining riddles from history. Drawn from sources throughout the world, the collection ranges from earthy medieval jokes about fleas, worms and vegetables to the sophisticated puzzles composed by literary figures from Schiller, Swift, Voltaire, Rousseau and Cervantes to Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll and J.R.R. Tolkien. The book traces the history of riddles from their origins in antiquity through the golden age of the Renaissance, to their decline into the nursery and the first few signs of their modern revival, and draws together all the strands of the riddling art. Dictionary of Riddles received a Special Commendation in Reference Review’s Best Specialist Reference Books of 1990 Awards.

Table of Contents


Part I: A Brief History of Riddles


Ancient Riddles: Sacred and Profane

Modern Beginnings 

The Renaissance and Beyond

Revival and Decline

The Last Laugh?

Part II: Dictionary of Riddles

Solutions to the Riddles


Further Reading



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Dr Mark Bryant FRSA was born in Dorset, is a philosophy graduate of London University and has a PhD in History from the University of Kent. After more than a decade as an editor in literary and academic book publishing he turned freelance in 1987, working as an editor, proof-reader, writer, journalist, lecturer and exhibition curator. Other books by Mark Bryant include Dictionary of 20th Century British Cartoonists & Caricaturists and Private Lives: Curious Facts About the Famous and Infamous.


'Fascinating...irrestible browsing.' The Observer

'... A work of true scholarship without pretension...What is black and white and read with pleasure? This book. Most highly recommended.' Library Journal

'Highly entertaining...an invaluable guide.' Sunday Telegraph

'Fascinating..Mr Bryant's riddle-history is a cavalcade of great civilizations and illustrious names...the alphabetical anthology is an eye-opener and the first to present anything like so wide a range of material...' Times Educational Supplement

'Riddles have a long history, as shown by Bryant, and may amuse. Nothing matches his scholarship.' Encounter.

'A sparkling study.' Time Magazine