Embalming: History, Theory, and Practice, Fourth Edition / Edition 4

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There is no other book on the subject that is as complete and up-to-date in its coverage of the art and science of embalming, restorative arts, and mortuary cosmetology for students and practitioners. Known throughout the industry as the authority and complete reference on the history, theory, practice, and technique of embalming, this new Fourth Edition represents a thorough guide to traditional practice as well as new trends.

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Editorial Reviews

The Director
Embalming: History, Theory and Practice

A review of the latest edition of Robert Mayer’s definitive work.

After graduating from mortuary college, students start a training program, usually called an “apprenticeship,” and are often told by their embalming mentor to forget everything they have learned in school because he or she will teach them how to embalm. For many of these new funeral directors, this is the extent of their post-graduate education in embalming.

The latest (fourth) edition of Embalming: History, Theory, and Practice, written by Robert Mayer and published by McGraw-Hill Medical, is not only an excellent textbook for students, but can also prove a valuable addition to any funeral director’s professional library. Reading this book for the first time, or re-reading it after graduation, can prove as worthwhile as attending an advanced embalming seminar.

My advice to every embalmer is to get a copy of this book and read it with the attitude of “What can I learn if I used an earlier edition of this book in mortuary school?” or “What new information can I discover that will help me improve my present level of embalming knowledge?” When you read Mayer’s book, you will probably have a similar experience to me because you will learn a great deal. If your mind is open, you will be amazed at how much more there is to embalming than what you currently know or do, especially if you have fallen into the routine of using the same fluids and techniques for all your cases.

One of the differences used to distinguish “technicians” from “professionals” is that the latter possess a greater depth of knowledge about their chosen specialty. Mayer’s book can give you that greater depth of embalming knowledge about topics such as pre-embalming analysis; what happens with cells and tissues when they come in contact with pre-injection and arterial fluids; different methods of treating organ and tissue donors; the advantages and disadvantages of different methods of injection and drainage; and embalming for delayed viewing.

This book also provides a very good section on restorative art. What I like about this section is the step-by-step instructions for performing deep-cavity restorations and treating discoloration of skin conditions, tissue building, treating swelling, and suggestions for the application of cosmetics.

Also included in Embalming: History, Theory, and Practice are brief but interesting chapters on the history of embalming and restorative art. Although these chapters will not improve your embalming, they can prove useful as you prepare a public talk on the history of our profession. Based upon my experience, I have found that the public enjoys talks that include the more interesting aspects of our history.

The final chapter offers a compilation of 23 selected readings on different aspects of embalming, in which Mayer brings in professionals other than himself to discuss topics that are relevant and interesting to current practitioners.

Finally, I wish to mention that I found Embalming: History, Theory, and Practice easy to read. Mayer has done an excellent job of using graphs, photos, bullet points, shaded summaries and diagrams to clarify the main points as he explains them.

Ralph L. Klicker, Ph.D., is the president of Thanos Institute in New York.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780071439503
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies, The
  • Publication date: 11/9/2005
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 704
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert G. Mayer is Adjunct Professor at Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Guide for Students & Professionals

    Very informative text--comprehensive from embalming (history, equipment, standard process, problem areas, etc) to restorative art. Includes some colored pictures but most are in black and white (and some are a little outdated.) Includes questions at the end of each chapter (with no answers in the back) plus a glossary with embalming terms (useful, but does not include every term in the book.) I know this book will be on my professional shelf long after I am done using it in school!

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  • Posted February 9, 2009


    Great book for professionals or anyone interested in the dead. The illustrations are gruesome so would not recommend to the faint at heart. I am not an embalmer but I have a brother who is and he also bought this book and said it was as good as the text books he got in school.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2006

    Outstanding Text

    This is the best book of embalming I have seen in 30 years, and having the colored pictures ads so much more detail. As an embalmer this book is appreciated as a learning tool and reference guide especially for us older folks who's been embalming for 30+ years.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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