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Prepositions are still very difficult for me.

Why is "on" used instead of "in" in this sentence?

This library has the definitive collection of books on ancient Egypt.

I have no idea. Why is that?

Thanks for your help in advance.

  • Advice: some are logical, others need to be memorized. Books on [a subject] should be memorized. – Lambie Nov 28 '18 at 16:07
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This 'on' is basically short for 'on the subject of ...'

a collection of books on ancient Egypt = a collection of books on the subject of ancient Egypt

a collection of books in ancient Egypt = a collection of books which is physically located in Egypt

  • Also books on ancient Latin = books on the subject of ancient Latin, whereas books in ancient Latin = books written in the language of ancient Latin. – FumbleFingers Nov 28 '18 at 15:14
  • @FumbleFingers also a good point. – kandyman Nov 28 '18 at 15:14
  • There are other possible meanings for in in such contexts (books in the Industrial Revolution = books written / being circulated at that time) - but apart from the absolutely literal books on my bookshelf, I can't offhand think of any other possible meanings for on here. – FumbleFingers Nov 28 '18 at 15:20
  • "'books in the Industrial Revolution" sounds a bit awkward to me. I would prefer "books of the Industrial Revolution" to mean books written during that period. – kandyman Nov 28 '18 at 15:21
  • Well, Books in Medieval England gets an estimated 3500 hits in Google Books, and seems completely unambiguous and natural to me. But Books of Medieval England gets just 5 hits, and there are thousands of hits for Books of mathematics, which to me suggests that of occurs quite often with the sense on the subject of in this context. – FumbleFingers Nov 28 '18 at 15:39

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