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Dictionary of Symbols (Norton Paperback) Paperback – February 17, 1995


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Dictionary of Symbols (Norton Paperback) + The Book of Signs (Dover Pictorial Archive) + Signs and Symbols
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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Paperback
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (February 17, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393312364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393312362
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Never before published in the United States, this authoritative four-part history, dictionary, and index of non-iconic symbols is a revision of the author's Symboler , published in Sweden in 1974. Part 1 concisely traces the historical development of symbols since their first appearance about 20,000 years ago, then develops several topical themes: astrological, hobo, and Nazi symbols, as well as modern business logotypes. Classification by form is difficult due to the diversity of symbols, yet about 1500 are painstakingly classified into 54 groups in Part 2 where the history, derivation, and meanings are described for each. In Part 3, verbal descriptions, e.g., "peace symbol," comprise the easily used word index. There are some oversights in the index (e.g., astrological signs, which are treated in some detail elsewhere, only appear sporadically), but this is not a major criticism. Part 4, a graphic index, references information in Part 2 by shape and form. All historical periods and geographical areas are treated. Engineering symbols are deliberately excluded. There is nothing else quite like this well-researched work; other titles are older or specialized. Although useful for scholars and specialists, this is excellent for general reference. Highly recommended for medium to large reference collections.
- Stanley P. Hodge, Ball State Univ. Lib., Muncie, Ind.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“This book will certainly become one of the key sources for tracing symbols and their meanings.” (American Libraries)

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Customer Reviews

This book has its strengths, but it is hopelessly out of date.
"sometype"
Complaints aside, the book was - overall - quite informative and interesting to read.
J. W. Kennedy
People LOVE to hear themselves talk, especially in print when you can't stop them.
REGAN

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By J. Zuverink on December 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
Among all the books referred to as "dictionaries" of symbols, this is the one that provides the artist with a truly visual inspiration.
The black and white printing lends itself to the elegant and crisp presentation of the publication. Symbols are not obscure drawings, but concise graphic representations.
For those interested in the deeper meaning of symbols (not simply their aesthetic appeal), explanations of symbol origin are provided alongside; similar or equivalent symbols are cross-referenced with each other.
An excellent source for any designer seeking to add symbolism to his/her work without the frills.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By bibliomane01 on August 6, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most books on symbols confine themselves to higher level abstractions such as "the lion" or "mercury" or the letters of the alphabet. Liungman's achievement is to create a comprehensive taxonomy for symbols that uses the most basic shapes as building blocks to create ascending chains of meaning. As such, it is an original work of scholarship rather than a gazetteer of common symbols. "The Dictionary of Symbols" is a gold mine of information for readers interested in graphic design or the "semiotics," if I may be allowed to use the term, behind supposedly abstract shapes and designs. Did you ever wonder about the significance of the Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen logos or the three diamonds of the Mitsubishi symbol? Would world history have been different if the Nazi swastika had pointed the other way? These and many other questions of similar nature are knowledgeably and enjoyably explored in this very impressive book.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Jason M. Sullivan (jason.m.sullivan@worldnet.att.net) on April 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
While the selection and classification structure of the symbols in the dictionary has much to offer, the actual _descriptions_ of the symbols leave plenty to be desired. The authour seems to come from an astrological background, and the gaps in his knowledge (particularly with respect to electronic, hobo, and non-Christian religious symbols) are evident throughout; especially when seen side-by-side with the verbose coverage of astrological and Judeo-Christian symbols.
While the classification scheme is amazing, and very well thought out, the actual content is rather below what I expected.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 24, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a rich sourcebook of information about graphic symbols from around the world. The text is detailed and covers the subject in depth. Several articles at the beginning of the book discuss the various uses of these signs and symbols around the world. The book's key failure, IMHO, is that the author uses an indexing system that is hard to follow. For example, you will found various kinds of crosses scattered through many categories. It is hard to understand exactly what led him to group which symbols where. On a few occasions, you will find symbols grouped with signs that seemingly bear no relationship in either shape or meaning. Use this book for the definitions, but be prepared to wade through a lot of material if you don't happen to know the name of the sign at the start of your research.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By "sometype" on October 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book has its strengths, but it is hopelessly out of date. It is much better to opt for Liungman's 2004 edition, Symbols -- Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms (ISBN 9197270504). It covers a lot more signs, even modern ones such as the At sign.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Kennedy VINE VOICE on May 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
It still has its glaring flaws. Far too many symbols (about a dozen) have "meaning uncertain" in their definitions. What's the purpose of including symbols in a dictionary if you don't know what they mean? That's unhelpful. Several modern symbols are missing from the book. This may be due to its original Swedish publication date of 1974. The most glaring omission is the famous "NO" sign (circle with diagonal line across it) which is not mentioned at all in the section with symbols of similar construction. It's obvious the author's major interests were in astrology, alchemy, and mysticism. Many definitions are shallow and incomplete, but the astrological symbol definitions contain an overabundance of information far beyond what is pertinent to the meaning of the symbol. It's not necessary to describe the personality traits of Aries and list which planets are auspicious and which are unfortunate in that sign. All Liungman needed to do was say "astrological symbol for Aries" and perhaps give the dates when the sun is in that part of the sky. His ramblings are interesting at times - I did not know that the five-pointed star was discovered by plotting the recurrent appearances of Venus, and that information does add to my understanding of the symbol and its use. But in the same definition (which is 5 1/2 pages long) Liungman goes into a rant about Judeo-Christian patriarchal society as opposed to ancient Mesopotamian goddess-cults, all of which is impertinent to the use and meaning of the symbol supposedly under discussion. Many other definitions contain seemingly anti-Christian criticism which is not relevant, not objective, and not professional. Those of us familiar with history are aware of the crimes perpetrated by the Church.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Symbologist on March 31, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having already used dozens of books on (visual) symbols, symbolism, and related subjects for my research, I didn't find very much in the way of ancient history of symbols in this book. It is a great taxonomy of signs, ideograms, and some symbols, all presented in the same style, and has some value as a dictionary. The cross references are very useful. Not very useful for researching symbols or emblems from the more esoteric arena. The visual overview chart is a good idea for finding a symbol by its looks, although I found the groupings confusing to use.
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