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1000 Symbols: What Shapes Mean in Art and Myth

Overview

Symbols are an international language, but that language is far from universal. Different symbols mean radically different things in different contexts - a cross, a crane, or a swastika each have a distinct meaning for a Buddhist, an art historian, or a student of the occult.1000 Symbols offers a comprehensive directory of symbols in clear, detailed artworks, each accompanied by a definition of the symbol's history and its cross-cultural meanings.Beginning with an alphabetical, cross-referenced index, the book is...
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Overview

Symbols are an international language, but that language is far from universal. Different symbols mean radically different things in different contexts - a cross, a crane, or a swastika each have a distinct meaning for a Buddhist, an art historian, or a student of the occult.1000 Symbols offers a comprehensive directory of symbols in clear, detailed artworks, each accompanied by a definition of the symbol's history and its cross-cultural meanings.Beginning with an alphabetical, cross-referenced index, the book is then organized into groupings of related symbols:
Geometrical Shapes-circle, square, triangle, pentagram, crescent, and spiral are just a few of the entries.
The Universe and the Elements includes all the symbols for the world around us-earth, air, fire, and water, as well as times of day or month, and the planets.
Characters and People details the symbolism attached to specific characters or to people and their general attributes.
Living Creatures denotes the symbolism of animals, birds, fish, and insects.
Flowers, Plants, and Trees highlights the symbolism of growing things, from the oak to the lotus.
Mythical Beasts contains beasts from the myths and legends of all cultures, including hybrids such as the centaur.
Objects and Artifacts includes made or manufactured objects of symbolism, from knot to labyrinth.
Numbers and Colors outlines their symbolic attributes in different cultures and contexts.
Whether you are baffled by the relevance of the winged staff held by Mercury in a classical painting or wonder about the number of branches on the Hebrew menorah, this comprehensive directory will give you the information you are looking for, and place the explanation in its historical and cultural context.
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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT
The editors of this hefty but user-friendly volume have assembled a wealth of information about more than 1000 symbols from many of the world's diverse cultures. The material is organized into broad categories of subject matter—heaven and earth; characters and people; the body and actions; living creatures; mythical beasts; flowers, plants, and trees; objects and artifacts; and abstracts—which are further subdivided in an extensive index to facilitate browsing. Even more useful is the A-Z Symbol Finder, which allows the reader to find a symbol quickly by looking it up alphabetically. Symbols are comprehensively cross-referenced within the entries as well. An effort has been made to include the symbols of many religions and cultures, with interesting contributions made by numerous specialists. While the book may not be comprehensive, it is certainly multicultural, and it includes a useful bibliography for further research. This entertaining and highly accessible approach to the history and meaning of cultural symbols is accompanied by 1,157 delightful illustrations that look more like paper-cuts than drawings. A worthwhile addition to school and public libraries, this dictionary of symbols should appeal to students interested in art, literature, world cultures, religion, and history. Category: The Arts. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Norton, Thames & Hudson, 352p. illus. bibliog., Art Gallery, Stony Brook, NY
Library Journal
The authors, both British art historians, are joined by 12 other experts in this field to present an amazing array of multicultural interpretations of the world as condensed into symbolic images. They define a symbol as "something that a particular culture considers to mean something else." Each entry features a blue line drawing of the symbol in a generalized pictographic style. Although the quantity of images could have been overwhelming, the symbols are extremely well organized into numbered columns that correspond with the alphabetical front index, or "symbol finder." This index is invaluable because the text itself is composed of eight thematic chapters, among them "Heaven and Earth," "Characters and People," and "Objects and Artifacts." Pertinent cultural meanings for the symbols are refreshingly worldwide, covering Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, the Americas, and the Pacific. Many of the connotations are religious in nature, with referrences ranging from Aztec beliefs to Mesopotamian mythology to major contemporary religions. The editors encourage readers to "dip" into the book and then follow the threads of capitalized cross references. After doing so, one will never think the same way again about eyes, rabbits, roses, swastikas, the color white, and 995 other things. Even libraries with standard reference works like James Hall's Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art will want to add this one, not just because of its larger number of symbols but for its greater global coverage. Enthusiastically recommended for all public libraries.-Anne Marie Lane, American Heritage Ctr., Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500283516
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 7/28/2002
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 686,633
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2002

    Expected more

    I was very excited when I saw this book had come out. However, the overall feeling I got was that the 'symbols' had not been well researched. There were conflicting terms from section-to-section, with regard to the terminology and historical timelines of certain symbols. Mythologically, certain symbols had been mixed up, ie, Christian symbols being attributed to the Amercian Indian, and Germanic mythical symbology being compared to Japanese ancient art. It was very puzzling to me to try and follow.

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