Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons and the Meanings Behind Them

Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons and the Meanings Behind Them

by Hans Biedermann
     
 

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A rose, a cross, a heart, and hundreds of other common items hold great symbolic value--their meanings as varied as they are powerful. This encyclopedic work explores the rich and diverse meanings of more than 2,000 symbols, delving into the power of symbols in the past and present worlds of mythology, fairy tales, religion, literature, history, and archaeology. Over

Overview

A rose, a cross, a heart, and hundreds of other common items hold great symbolic value--their meanings as varied as they are powerful. This encyclopedic work explores the rich and diverse meanings of more than 2,000 symbols, delving into the power of symbols in the past and present worlds of mythology, fairy tales, religion, literature, history, and archaeology. Over 600 illustrations.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This reference work defines symbols not only as visual icons (including shapes, color, and geometric designs) but also as biblical, classical, and mythological figures; botanics; minerals; and animals (real and mythical) as they relate to literature, dreams, art, and so forth. The choice of the over 2000 cross-referenced terms included here was necessarily subjective, for almost anything in the universe can be construed as having an emblematic meaning. Prehistorical to modern periods are covered and, although there is a Western emphasis, the author attempts to place symbols in appropriate cultural contexts. This work, which consolidates much arcane information, is valuable for its elucidation of both the esoteric and commonplace. Generally recommended, although there is no need to duplicate if a collection has sufficient works of this nature. A similar title, Carl G. Liungman's Dictionary of Symbols , was chosen as one of LJ 's best reference books of 1991.--Ed.-- Janice Braun, Oakland, Cal.
Booknews
Translated from the original German, this encyclopedic reference explores the meanings of some 2,000 symbols (aloe to zodiac), drawing on the past and present worlds of mythology, fairy tales, religion, literature, history, and archaeology. Some 600 b&w illustrations accompany the entries. The illustrations are then gathered into a pictorial index, allowing readers to look up a symbol and find its meaning in the text. Primarily for a lay audience, but with much to interest scholars. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Zom Zoms
The "Dictionary of Symbolism" is a scholarly work intended to acquaint the reader with significant cultural symbols throughout the history of civilization. The work was originally published in German in 1989, as "Knaurs Lexikon der Symbole", and, with this first English edition, the title has now been translated into 18 languages. Biedermann concentrates on the meanings of images for various cultures. He attempts to avoid Eurocentrism and includes symbols from the traditions of Asia, Africa, and the Americas More than 500 entries, arranged alphabetically, focus on legends, mythical figures, animals, objects, natural phenomena, conditions, psychological states, events, designs, and images. Some entries receive considerable textual attention, while others are dispatched in a paragraph. Each entry discusses the origins, variant meanings, and power of the symbol. For example, the entry "golem" discusses Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", the golem of Jewish myth, and the Christian Adam "before his soul was breathed into him." "Calumet" links the native American peace pipe to sacred pipes in Central Europe and to the medical caduceus, the messenger's staff in classical western tradition. Biedermann links entries together in a variety of ways. Words in an entry that have a separate listing are in small-capital letters; and "see also" references to related articles appear at the end of entries, where appropriate. The author specifies the origin of some terms, but not all. Especially useful is a detailed index that is arranged by name of the symbol, with related entries and page numbers listed below each one The dictionary is illustrated in black and white with more than 600 depictions of the symbols from works appearing through history. While some symbols have no pictorial representations in the book, the entry "rat", for example, has two: an English woodcut, 1650, depicting rat catchers, and an 1846 children's book illustration of rat tails as symbolic of confusion. All the illustrations are reproduced together at the back of the book in a unique 35-page "Pictorial Index" that refers the user to the page in the text where the image is discussed. Also included is an extensive bibliography, much of it German in origin, that represents works from Europe, Africa, Asia, classical antiquity, the occult, and most recognized religions Libraries owning Cirlot's "Dictionary of Symbols" (1971) will notice content similarities between the two works. However, the "Dictionary of Symbolism" includes such recent, and perhaps controversial, symbols as "unidentified flying objects" and names of such individuals as "Xanthippe" that have cultural and psychological connotations for today. In addition to this type of dictionary, libraries may want to own a reference work such as Liungman's "Dictionary of Symbols" (ABC-Clio, 1991), an excellent dictionary of ideograms and signs from many cultures, especially useful for graphic designers and artists. The "Dictionary of Symbolism" is an asset to those libraries focusing on literature, psychology, orientalism, mythology, the classics, or civilization in general.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816025930
Publisher:
Facts on File, Incorporated
Publication date:
12/28/1992
Pages:
465
Product dimensions:
7.30(w) x 10.33(h) x 1.10(d)

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