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Cruse JM, Lewis RE. (£49.50.) Springer-Verlag, 1999. ISBN 3 540 64807 0.
The Atlas of Immunology aims to be “the most up to date and thoroughly illustrated treatise available”. Sadly the book does not achieve what it sets out to do. Many of the images by their nature attempt to illustrate clinical or clinical laboratory situations and, particularly for these, the highest quality of image is required to enable the differentiation from other often subtly different conditions. Many clinical images are given simply as line drawings—for example, a malar rash in systemic lupus erythematosis, the hands in systemic sclerosis, or a baby with an intravenous line (the image for severe combined immunodeficiency). A dermatology text would not accept line drawings of a malar rash and why should immunologists? It is as if a team of journalists have collected as many images as possible regardless of quality, content, or currency. All are printed in black and white, and the reproduction is often poor. No explanation is given to any figure, either in the text, or in the legends, which are all simple statements such as “release of sequestered antigen”. For images such as indirect immunofluorescence of salivary gland duct showing the staining pattern of anti-salivary gland antibodies labelled simply as “Sjögren's syndrome” this is especially uninformative. Even the accompanying text is now largely outdated.
This ambitious project was an opportunity for two distinguished authors to provide the reader with access to a lifetime's collection of first class images, using each one as an explanation of a key immunological concept. Each would have a detailed explanation, describing the distinguishing features, and contrasting it with similar images. As a minimum it would use colour, and preferrably would be on CD-ROM and have internet links to images so that they could be incorporated into teaching material. This opportunity has been missed.