Briefly praising the ENCYCLOPEDIA MAGICA.
The Encyclopedia Magica, in four volumes, is the quintessential D&D book. The idea of a complete and definitive listing of D&D magic items is, of course, stupid. The items are totally inconsistent in tone, backstory, and magic-system implications — not to mention stats. The only place you could possibly use the whole collection is in a deeply relaxed/ridiculous D&D game; ‘it’s just D&D’ is the only way to explain both the existence of the book and the magical nonsense inside it. It’s tacky. It’s beautiful, in its way.
And it’s the perfect guide to the whole glorious patchwork ‘expanded universe’ mythos of D&D. Two decades of unfashionable creativity, most of it written dirt cheap or on spec by daydreaming obsessives and dweebs building a shared private universe. It’s like every time someone asked ‘Hey what if…?’ over a set of funny dice, they then wrote down the answer, and bound it up like a multivolume grimoire because why not. It gives you a taste of every D&D setting ever squeezed between two covers. You can open to any page (that’s a hell of a lot of pages, too) and find a night’s worth of adventure, or a year’s.
It’s the record of an awkwardly passionate 20-year conversation between gamers.
More than the 1e DMG, more than any ruleset, it’s the meaning of D&D: the theme song, The Whole Point. At least for me. Every D&D player should be given a copy at birth.