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The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols (Dictionary, Penguin) Paperback – March 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0140512540 ISBN-10: 0140512543 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Series: Dictionary, Penguin
  • Paperback: 1184 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140512543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140512540
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jean Chevalier was a university lecturer in philosophy and theology before working for UNESCO. He subsequently devoted himself to writing and research, publishing many works on religion and spirituality. He died in 1993. Alain Gheerbrant is a well-known poet and travel-writer, living in Paris. John Buchanan-Brown is a long-established and gifted translator of French books.

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Customer Reviews

I find it pretty helpful, too.
"stir_67"
This book gives a very detailed description of the symbol, all of it's widely used meanings, some obscure meanings, and the known histories of the symbols.
ChelleBear
I give this five stars because it is an excellent resource and I'd buy it again in a heartbeat.
W. Henry-Elwell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 23, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a thinker's dictionary, not a guide to road signs and icons. The editors took the trouble to recruit symbol experts from many different professions, ranging from the paranormal to the skeptical academic. The result is a dictionary with entries that have more depth than the usual "quick hits" that other symbolism dictionaries give you. Chevalier is not afraid to give contradictory or contrasting meanings of icons. (He is not a universalist, but a relativist.) He is usually careful to identify the culture in which a particular meaning is given. I keep this in easy reach on my bookshelf, reminding myself, however, that no dictionary on this subject can possibly cover all the meanings a symbol may have. It is worth having around.
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By joanne wieland-burston (jwburston@munich.netsurf.de) on October 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
i have known this dictionary in the french original for about 20 years now and recommend it again and again to students. i have always hoped that it could become available for non french readers. finally! as a jungian analyst, i find the dictionary extremely helpful: it does an extraordinary job of displaying the breadth of symbolic meanings involved in so many symbols that are still very much alive in people today. the refence to various cultures is especially important in our multi-cultural world.. i am very thankful for this translation into english and hope the german translation will follow soon.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Yvonne Turner on January 25, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have about a dozen symbol books... most of the classics. This one is the best for interpreting those strange symbols in your dreams, daydreams, etc. It is not the shallow stupid interpretations "you are going on a journey..." stuff, but true archetypical and esoteric interpretations.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By C. M. Harrison on June 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
While this is certainly an interesting reference tool, the book Amazon keeps in stock as 'The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols' is not the one pictured. The book that this page leads you to believe you are buying is quite a bit shorter, but actually gives illustrations of the symbols (I used to own a copy of it). The book that Amazon sells on this page is a fairly useful reference book, but lacks the imagery of the one pictured, which some buyers may be seeking.
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84 of 101 people found the following review helpful By "stir_67" on August 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
I can not comprehend how this book got published without a single symbol illustration. I was tempted to give it zero or only 1 star, but the text is good - very thorough. It is therefore useful if you know the glyph or symbol you're interested in, but is not a book of discovery and imagination.
The layout and presentation is horrible - a small, very fat book with tiny print.
Not as intellectually deep, but still very comprehensive and a lot more useful and usable, is Carl G. Liungman's Dictionary of Symbols. It has illustrations, groupings, big print and everything! Get it first, and if you then want to get way deep into the esoteric, maybe Chevalier is for you.
Also, try symbols.com for a quick online reference. I find it pretty helpful, too.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Quadradox on March 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased my first copy 10 years ago and have been working with my dream symbols for nearly 20 years. I've been enticed to purchase newer ones since then with photos and graphics ( I now have nearly a dozen symbol dictionaries) -- thus I am clearly drawn to these things.

However, I find there is always a trade off. Publishing costs and space taken up for these visuals means less text and less substance. So while I have an initial pleasure in perusing the ones with pictures I often find these don't really have anything to do with my dream images -- they are indeed usually intriguing works of art but not particularly helpful for serious symbol analysis.

Thus the most consistently helpful symbol book, to which I always return when I seriously want to know a range of possibilities for my dream images or concepts is the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols by Chevalier, Cheerbrant and Buchanan-Brown. The authors have done a monumental work bringing so much substance to it, managed to remain relevant for decades even though it was first published in France in 1969 with the second edition in 1982, and by now reading it is like coming home.

A another benefit of being all text (seriously the text is not that hard to read, the print is of excellent quality with crisp deliniations between entries, references, etc.) is that the act of researching my dream images does not itself start interfering with the memory of my own visual image, as pictures might.

To each his own preference ... but for persons more experienced in working with dreams, I think the substance here will be recognized as highly valuable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Falcon7 on June 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
I own at least a dozen of such dictionaries. This one is the best, not only because it coveres the topics in details but also gives detailed references to the ancient sources. Some reviewers complain about lack of pictures, but you can find pictures of symbols even on internet. Books with pictures usually lack in description and rarily mention sources. I highly recommand this one.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Webb on December 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
My teacher recommanded this dictionary to me (she got a copy of original French version). After I got this book I had a quick check of it. However, I couldn't stop when I started reading it! I found myself being "absorbed" in this book! I read it not as a dictionary but a book full of surprise. Although there ain't so many beautiful pictures in this book, I'd still like to recommand it. But if you want a book full of pictures, just choose the Norton one.
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