Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography

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Stories in Stone The Complete Illustrated Guide to Cemetery Symbolism

The language of symbols is one that has been with us from the beginning of recorded history. Our everyday life is full of symbols. We see many of them when we are driving: arrows point us in the right direction, upside-down pyramids tell us of slow-moving vehicles, and octagons caution us to stop. There are multitudes of business symbols we encounter everyday: a stylized pair of golden arches indicates there's...

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Overview

Stories in Stone The Complete Illustrated Guide to Cemetery Symbolism

The language of symbols is one that has been with us from the beginning of recorded history. Our everyday life is full of symbols. We see many of them when we are driving: arrows point us in the right direction, upside-down pyramids tell us of slow-moving vehicles, and octagons caution us to stop. There are multitudes of business symbols we encounter everyday: a stylized pair of golden arches indicates there's a McDonald's restaurant located nearby; a checkmark called a "swoosh" subtly informs that its owner is wearing a Nike product; a polychrome apple with a bite taken out of it whimsically announces that its product is an Apple computer; a storefront displaying a symbol of three balls shows that its business is a pawn shop.

The meaning of most symbols has remained fairly consistent through the centuries: crosses for Christians, six-pointed stars for Jews, the yin-yang symbol for Buddhists-and hearts speak of love, lambs of innocence, and circles of completeness and immortality. But, nowhere is the language of symbols more apparent than in cemeteries. Dead men may tell no tales, but their tombstones do. Besides informing us of people's names and dates of birth and death, tombstones often tell us what religion they affilated with, what ethnicity they descended from, what clubs and organizations they belonged to, what occupations they worked in, and what thoughts they held on the afterlife.

Journey with us now into the little-known world of cemeteries. The author provides fascinating information and stunning full-color and black-and-white images of funerary architecture designed for eternallife, from mausoleums, chapels, and offices, to tombs, sculptures, and memorials. He then draws us into the very personal area of stone relics designed especially for the deceased, from likenesses of plants, animals, mankind, and mortality, to icons of religion, societies, clubs, and final impressions of how the occupant wanted to be remembered.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781567317763
  • Publisher: MJF Books
  • Publication date: 3/27/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 4.80 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Chico, California-based photographer Douglas Keister has photographed twenty-two award-winning, critically acclaimed books. His seventeen books on architecture include four books on Victorian homes (Daughter's of Painted Ladies, Painted Ladies Revisited, America's Painted Ladies and Victorian Glory); three books on bungalow homes (The Bungalow, Inside the Bungalow and Outside the Bungalow), a book on 1920s whimsical homes (Storybook Style) a book about cemetery art and architecture (Going Out in Style), a book on Spanish architecture, (Red Tile Style), six books on bungalow details and Classic Cottages, that will be published by Gibbs Smith Publisher in the Spring of 2004. Keister photographed and wrote an award winning children's book (Fernando's Gift), has two monographs of his personal work (Black Rock and Driftwood Whimsy), a book on classic travel trailers, (Ready to Roll) and a book on cemetery symbolism, Stories in Stone: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Cemetery Symbolism, that will be published by Gibbs Smith Publisher in the Spring of 2004. His wealth of books on architecture has earned him the title, "America's most noted photographer of historic architecture."

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

In 1887, one Dr. L. L. Zamenhof created a language called Esperanto. His goal was to develop an international language that would enable better communication and understanding between cultures and nations, hopefully resulting in a more peaceful world. Although Esperanto still has a number of followers, it never really caught on in a big way.

But we still have an international language and it's one that has been with us from the beginning of recorded history-the language of symbols. Our everyday life is full of symbols. We see many of them when we are driving: arrows point us in the right direction, upside-down pyramids tell us of a slow-moving vehicle, and octagons tell us to stop. There are also the multitude of business symbols we encounter in everyday life. Whether you are in Moscow or Muncie, a stylized M representing a pair of golden arches tells you where Big Macs are to be found. Another trademark, a stylized check mark called a swoosh, tells you its owner is wearing a Nike product. Want to buy an Apple computer? Look for a polychrome apple with a bite taken out. Want to trade your television for some cash? Look for a storefront displaying three balls, the symbol for a pawnshop.

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Table of Contents

Preface 7
Introduction 10
Funerary Architecture: Designed for Eternity
Mausoleums, Chapels, Offices 12
Tombs, Sculptures, Memorials 26
The Sarcophagus 27
Stone Sentinels: Designed for Remembrance
Flora 40
Plants and Flowers 41
Fruits, Grains, and Vines 55
Trees and Bushes 60
Fauna 68
Animals 69
Fowls and Insects 77
Fishes and Mollusks 86
Reptiles and Amphibians 89
Mythical Creatures 92
The Evangelists 95
The Human Condition 100
The Seven Virtues 102
Human Body Parts 105
Worldly Symbols 110
Mortality Symbols 126
Religious Devotion 140
Christian Symbolism 141
Hebrew Symbolism 153
Chinese and Japanese Symbolism 159
Heavenly Messengers 162
The Cross 172
Secret Societies, Clubs, and Fraternal Organizations 180
Acronyms of Societies, Clubs, and Organizations 204
Final Impressions 228
Gallery 257
Suggestions for Further Reading 279
Index 280
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2009

    Modern funeral texts/images as reflection of a much older tradition

    Some information is fascinating, especially if one is interested in religious/mythological imagery and knows the surrounding theologies/philosophies/written texts. The book's visual images provide a gradual step towards one's ability to decode pictorial messages at various levels, including classical arts and architecture, equipping interested readers with basic, not too complex tools of appropriately detecting, decoding and applying these "talking" images to various -- not only funeral-- settings. Funeral texts are as old as humanity's search for immortality embodied in the the ancient pyramids, as well as in the Egyptian funeral imagery/texts in the Book of the Dead and Pyramid Texts. One should read this book while properly relating its messages to a larger and much older context. It would be definitely illuminating to accompany this book by also reading the Book of the Dead, Pyramid Texts, The Book of the Gates, etc.

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  • Posted May 12, 2009

    A good reference book on an interesting subject

    I have long been fascinated by the imagery on tombstones and other funereal monuments, so I was happy to find this book.

    The research is very thorough and covers many eras of stone carving and decoration. The pictures in thes book are clear and illustrate the author's work very well.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In fact, I bought a second copy to give to a friend who is a funeral director and he enjoyed it too.

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  • Posted May 3, 2009

    Invaluable source of information

    I conduct tours in two historical cemeteries in Savannah, Ga.
    This book has been a great source of information and has allowed me to share the symbolism of the stonework with so many visitors.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2009

    A must-read reference book for anyone about to purchase a cemetery headstone or mausoleum.

    Don't let a stonecarver produce a headstone or mausoleum for your loved one before you review this book. Reading this will allow you to be able to honor your loved one's life and/or express your sentiments about your loved one in the artwork/symbolism you choose for your headstone or mausoleum. The illustrations are good and it is written clearly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    Uniquely Interesting & informative

    Gave as a gift to my Dad who (along with my Mom) always had an interest in old graveyards and gravestones. Bought it online, and my Dad has been absorbed in the book ever since receiving. While visiting I picked it up to peruse and could not put it down either. Lots of very interesting information and little known facts about design and concepts used in monuments throughout the world, and some great stories about how people honor their loved ones in stone. Made me want to explore some graveyards in the future!

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    Stories in Stone.

    As a writer, I'm always looking for information, inspiration and bits and pieces to use as background. Because character's have history a graveyard is perfect for setting a scene. It provides a common experience and link character to reader. I highly recommend this as a unique mini history lesson, and for fellow writers. Light reading.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    Fascinating!

    Very informative and interesting. I didn't realize all the symbolism in the graveyard! Photos are lovely, too. I highly recommend this read even if you have only the slightest interest...you will not be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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