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156 of 162 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2010
I expected lots of great pictures, but this is so much more: the book is huge, it is beautifully bound (really nice paper - matte, cream, the photos look great and it opens nearly flat), fabulously designed (interesting edge tabs and multiple, brightly-colored, bound-in bookmarks), massive amounts of well-written text, and, of course, excellent citations. As soon as I can drag myself out of it, I'm making a gift list. The price makes it impossible to resist as a gift for anyone who has any level of interest in the subject (I should give it with a subscription to ARAS!)
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178 of 189 people found the following review helpful
I agree with everyone that this is an exemplary physical book to display, hold and browse through.

Unfortunately, the content is not up to what's advertised.

The articles are short and have a scattershot, unscholarly feel. All entries receive two or four pages. As a result, the most basic, important symbols, e.g., sun, moon, rose, fountain, receive embarrassingly scant coverage. Egg gets two pages. Obviously you can't even scratch the surface of these major symbols in two or three paragraphs.

Other articles such as knee, coyote, bicycle, and kangaroo, get two pages each and are mixed in among the more important ones; so flipping through the book gives no sense of relative weight and hierarchy.

A number of key symbols and terms, such as Trinity, caduceus, tarot, sephiroth, crucible, receive no articles or references. There is no article or index entry for either hero or journey

Each article gets 1-3 illustrations, but few if any have references in the article text and many lack captions altogether.

A closer look at the book shows a complete lack of scholarly credentials. The "About the Authors" page lists only the archives from which the images were taken; no individuals are listed there as editors or authors. The "Contributors" page that follows gives only the contributors' names; there is no mention of anyone having so much as a college degree much less a publication or academic position.

The Bibliography contains fewer than fifteen items, nearly all of which are encyclopedias and archive catalogs. Carl Jung's collected works are mentioned as one citation, but Jung himself is hard to find -- there's no article on him and his name does not even appear in the index.

The book badly needed a critical introduction giving some background, better explaining the criteria for inclusion and presentation of entries, summarizing Jung's work, and much more The Index appears to be more useful to find what is missing from the book than it is to locate anything useful.

I would not recommend this book for any serious scholarly purpose.
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100 of 106 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2010
Every time I pick up a Taschen book, its excellent production quality makes me smile. No different for this current offering from them. At just a fraction under 7" x 10" the proportions of the book makes it most portable and a joy to handle on the go or in bed.

The ribbon markers are especially useful for contemplating a number of symbols discovered together taken from our own dreams or active imagination. There are a variety of images both ancient and contemporary to complement each entry, as well as sub-headings e.g.: under the Human World section, you will find sub-headings at the top left hand page indicating whether you have landed on "Human Body" or "Movement & Expression" or "Work & Society". Goodness. This is the kind of care all books should be designed with. My copy came shrink-wrapped with a Taschen postcard tip-in.

The whole book appears deceptively simple but it is the text entries that are the most important. Each "brief" page of text offer profound commentary by the world's art and mythology scholars, among others. When available, each entry ends with illustration captions and text credit to promote further individual research.

This book is highly recommended and should the reader need more information can find sample pages at both the Taschen and ARAS websites.
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70 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2010
I appreciate this book so much that I am writing a review which is something I have never done. The scope and breadth of this book is astounding. I found myself especially moved by the carefully selected illustrations. The illustrations are both ancient and contemporary, abstract and concrete, simple and complex. Even if one were never to read a word of the text, the images alone would be worth the purchase of this book. The text of course adds even more meaning and depth. Enjoy.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2011
THE BOOK OF SYMBOLS is beautifully conceived and constructed--with convenient tabs, colorful ribbons for place markings, well-chosen artwork, and thoughtful essays on numerous symbols. This is a great resource for artists, dreamers, psychologists, writers, and anyone interested in gleaning insight from the symbols in their lives. As noted in the preface, the guiding principle of the book can be summed up by Meister Eckhart's words:

"When the soul wants to experience something she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it."

The book is organized by these topics: creation and cosmos, plant world, animal world, human world, spirit world. It's a wonderful resource to have on your bedside table, next to a meditation cushion, or on a coffee table, displayed with your most treasured art books. Highly recommended!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2010
The strength of this delightful book is its breadth and diversity: you'll find a few choice, well-researched words about most common and many uncommon symbols to help you begin your current dance with them. Like a good tourist guide, the abundance of lovely pictures whet the appetite for [symbolic] adventure, inspire you to step off the beaten track and explore, and invite vague plans for future trips into the great undiscovered country that is the human psyche, which Jung reminds us is hand made from 100% symbol. Whether you dive in for a quick answer [for mind only!], wander aimlessly looking for ideas, or read studiously from end to end, you'll find plenty of prima materia to work into gold.

I'd be very surprised if anyone working with myth, symbol and image (be they writers, artists, alchemists, analysts or just plain ol' venturing souls) would not be glad to have this lovely book in their reference library or beside the bed next to a well-thumbed etymological dictionary, as I am... and do: I predict it won't be long until it too is well thumbed!

[PS: A gentle reminder not to forget that any description ain't the symbol it describes and if you start to think it is, you've probably missed the symbol's point]
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58 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2011
Yes it is a TASCHEN book, so it is pretty. But it has all the depth of a coffee table book without the page size to make it graphically interesting. If the pages were larger then it would not have to be so awkwardly thick.

I liken it to an Apple computer that puts form over function (terrible keyboards!). As I am an architect I am well aware of the form v function debates. This book feels packaged, and fails as a pleasing one.

A book these days needs to provide more than what a Google search can give to the seeker. This book is a nice overview for those just getting into the subject matter. But to call it "THE ARCHIVE FOR RESEARCH IN ARCHETYPAL SYMBOLISM" is beyond hyperbole. Even the main title is off base: THE BOOK OF SYMBOLS again speaks of packaging and promotion rather than information. The subtitle is more truthful and is all one will really get in buying this book: REFLECTIONS ON ARCHETYPAL IMAGES!

Yes only reflections.

One would need at least 4 or 5 other such books to begin to have the archive this book advertises.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
This is an unbelievably good reference book for anyone dealing with symbolic material. As such it belongs on the shelf along with Jobes' 2-volume "Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore, and Symbols." But because it's tied to explicit visual images, it has a power all of its own. A must for any depth psychologist, but fascinating for anyone interested in true symbols.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2010
This is truly a gem. Very nice bound book and paper quality, but what's inside is even better. This is a great gift idea and also an addition to anybody's library. I tend to read every day one or two entries and overall the information is very balanced(ie. not very advanced but not basic either) making it a pleasure ride.
Highly recommended book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This book is well researched and holds a wealth of knowledge concerning archetypal symbols. These symbols are the language of the subconscious mind and can be used to unlock the meaning of our dreams and begin to "Know Ourselves (Thyself)" as Plato enjoined us to.

The Book of Symbols contains page after quality page of beautiful color illustrations and photographs of the symbols as they appear in ancient works of art, monuments, architecture, etc. It is a substantial book although not overly weighty and a perfect size to feel comfortable in your hands. Just the look and feel of this book says that it holds something wonderful inside before you ever crack it open. There are multi-colored ribbons, one color for each of the 5 main sections of the book (1-Creation and Cosmos, 2-Plant World, 3-Animal World, 4-Human World, 5-Spirit World) with which you can mark your place if you find something you want to revisit. I simply love this book!!! Well done!
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