A description of this book says that it is not history as we understand the term today. That should not detract from someone's being interested in it. In the day when so many history books are a penance to read through--especially one of this size--roughly 600 pages including notes and index--having all the taste of styrofoam, this one is fascinating reading. Essentially, it is a history of the Cistercian order put together by a Cistercian, Conrad of Eberbach, at the turn of the twelfth century into the thirteenth, using documents and inteviewing "those who were there." The book, composed in Latin and known as the "Exordium Magnum" was directed to a Cistercian readership. There are factual statements, corroborated by brief footnotes, of foundations of monasteries and the leadership of abbots, as well as citations of ancient documents, many of which survive to this day. "The Great Beginning of Citeaux" (named for the first monastery) likewise contains many accounts of marvels and miracles which, combined with the factual reportage, are directed towards inspiring those ancient Cistercian monks and leading them to persevere in what then was an even more austere ascetical life than today's Cistercians (and Trappists, a reform of the Cistercians) endure. Some readers will have trouble accepting the accounts of miracles and marvels, but that difficulty speaks more to immersion in the materialism and cynicism of the present times than the supposed gullibility and "superstition" of the ancient monks. One more positive thing about this book is that the chapters are reasonably short--running about 20 pages in well set typeface--so that one can still get much enjoyment out of the book even if one does not have much time to spare for leisurely reading every day. This is a fine book, another in the Cistercian Studies series, and the translators and editors have done a great thing in making these fascinating stories available to the public at large.