Book Reviews

O’Neil, Maryadele J., Heckelman, Patricia E., et al., Eds. The Merck Index; an Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals, 15th Edition. Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK, 2013. Various paging and indexes, ISBN: 978-1-84973-670-1 (Hardcover).  $150.

This familiar essential reference has appeared in its 15th edition. Several changes have been made and the first to be noticed is that although it’s still The Merck Index, it’s now published by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). The previous Merck Index staff prepared this edition but publication and preparation will henceforth be by the RSC. As previously with the 14th edition, a purchase also provides a one-year complimentary (i.e. free) subscription to the web version ( > 11,500 monographs), which will be updated quarterly. However, there is no CD provided for the 15th even though the price has been increased by $25.

As for the content, there are > 10,000 monographs covering 18,000 substances (some monographs describe additional related substances) and > 3500 monographs have been updated. To the approximately two dozen Supplementary Tables have been added non-proprietary pharmaceutical name stems which should prove very useful to consumers. An increase of 50 brings the total number of named organic reactions to > 500. Cross indexes include Name, CAS Registry Number (CAS RN), chemical formulas, and biologic or therapeutic activity.  Monographs list the Merck Index name and, depending on availability, synonyms, trade names, CAS RN, molecular weight and formula, elemental analysis, toxicity data or references, and preparation references including patent numbers.

The web version can be searched by using two modes: quick and primary. Quick searches can be performed on names, molecular formulas, or molecular weights. Primary searches are more advanced and also include searches of almost any data or information in the database. Either exact or range searches can be performed for data elements. Structure of searching is available, by exact, substructure, or similarity.

Purchase of a print copy is highly recommended for a wide range of students, teachers and researchers. In addition to print copies, libraries should consider acquiring access to the online files. For pricing, contact the publisher.


Smith, Michael B. March’s Advanced Organic Chemistry, 7th Ed., John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, N.J., 2013; pp 1-2047 + xxv, ISBN 978-0-470-46259-1 (Hardcover).  $125

Continuing a practice made from at least the 5th and 6th Editions onward, Appendix A of the 7th Edition of this massive text describes the literature of organic chemistry. Both the print and electronic primary and secondary literature are covered. Primary sources include both journals and patents. Secondary sources include titles listings (Current Contents, etc.), abstracts (especially CA), Beilstein, and data tables (Heilbron, Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Merck Index, etc. Several categories of reviews are covered. Literature searching is covered extensively, both by use of printed and online sources. Included in the latter are online searching in general including STN, SciFinder, Science Citation Index (SCI), journal articles (CASSI et al.), and Reaxys.

Overall, this Appendix is a fair primer, at least for print sources, and has been updated from the 6th Edition. However much of the online coverage is erratic and even erroneous.  The recommended method for searching printed Beilstein is described. Gary Wiggins’ book, Chemical Information Sources (but not the Wikibook successor), is finally cited as describing both print and online searching. Most of the links for the CAS Registry System are no longer active and the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) file cited is no longer available.  SciFinder and SciFinder Scholar are no longer separate entities. The first two paragraphs of the SciFinder section instead describe STN. The online section on SCI instead mostly describes the print version and SCI is erroneously described as not available on STN. The emphasis on literature searching in a basic text is to be admired, but better coverage and updating is required for future editions.

While I was at it, I briefly reviewed the rest of the text. The book is extensively referenced and coverage of the literature is quite current. More than 20,000 references are cited, 5500 of them new. Chapters 1-5 cover organic chemical structure, 6-9 cover mechanisms, and 10-19 cover reactions. Aimed at the graduate course level, it’s also recommended for an advanced undergraduate course. The emphasis on reactions should be an aid to synthesis planning. Admittedly several specialized areas of organic chemistry (terpenes, steroids, etc.) are covered very little or not at all, but students should have enough experience to find the appropriate coverage in books or reviews.

This book will be a welcome addition to my organic chemistry bookshelf (very dated). A big improvement compared to my graduate school days when one had to consult several additional texts to get this advanced material. I do intend to initiate some corrective measures with the author, per his invitation.

Bob Buntrock
Orono, ME