Histology. An Illustrated Colour Text By B. S. Mitchell and S. Peels . ( ISBN 978-0-443-06853-9 pp139+vi, £23.99 ) Edinburgh : Churchill Livingstone Elsevier . 2009 .

In many courses the reduction in the amount of histology being taught means that there is a need for a concise histology textbook covering all the key topics in an appropriate level of detail. This book is the latest in the Illustrated Colour Text series in which a brief and relevant text on a topic is accompanied by ample illustration in full colour. It can be recommended as a readable and approachable introductory textbook covering all the major topics. For many courses it will be found to be all that is required but inevitably in some areas detail is lacking and it may need to be supplemented by additional reading. Nonetheless it is ideal as an introductory book for students on medical, dental and science courses.

The format of the book is the standard one adopted by the majority of histology textbooks. Chapters on the cell and the primary tissues are followed by chapters dealing with each body system in turn, starting with skin, blood and the immune system and bone and cartilage, and moving on to the other major systems of the body. There is an introductory chapter describing the processes of preparing tissues and interpreting images and a useful glossary at the end. Each chapter is completed by a summary of key points. At appropriate points in each chapter there are clinical notes. The book is well illustrated throughout with many light microscope photomicrographs of tissue sections stained by a variety of methods. Some electron micrographs are also included. These illustrations are supplemented by numerous, simple high-quality interpretive diagrams. The overall format of the book is attractive and the text itself is highly readable; not always the case when a concise format is adopted.

The descriptions and explanations of structure are clear and easy to follow throughout. If a reader wanted to gain a quick impression of the approach adopted, I might direct them to start with the chapter on bone, which gives an introductory account of bone structure as good as one might wish for. For another example of the clarity of the writing, readers new to the book should look at the section on the structure of the heart.

There is always a balance to be struck in a histology text between the space devoted to descriptions of structure and that devoted to the physiology of the tissues being described. This is especially acute in a concise text. Generally the chapters on body systems do provide good links between histology, physiology and gross anatomy. The chapters on digestive, endocrine and immune systems, where functions are less easy to summarize concisely, are less successful in this regard, reflecting the compromises inevitable when the length of the text is constrained. The clinical notes were useful, although the reasons for the choice of particular clinical examples were not always apparent and, to this reader, some very obvious clinical correlations were not included.

The number and range of illustrations are features to be commended and consequently this book could also serve as a laboratory manual. Generally the standard of reproduction was high, although occasionally the figures did not appear as crisp as they might be and in some cases label lines were hard to see. Legends were rather sparse and I would urge the authors to include, in any future edition, information on the stains employed, noting which structures they are displaying, and to give actual magnifications used and calibration bars on the photomicrographs themselves. The interpretive diagrams supplement the text well.

In summary, the appearance of this concise and readable histology textbook is to be welcomed and it can be warmly recommended as providing a good introduction to the subject in a format that I am sure students will appreciate.