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The Book Of Symbols: Reflections On Archetypal Images Hardcover – November 25, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Drawing upon Carl Gustav Jung's work on the archetype and the collective unconscious, the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS) is a pictorial and written archive of mythological, ritualistic, and symbolic images from all over the world and from all epochs of human experience. The collection of 17,000 photographic images, accompanied by commentary on their cultural and historical context, probes the universality of archetypal themes and provides a testament to the deep and abiding connections of all life.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 810 pages
  • Publisher: Taschen (November 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3836514486
  • ISBN-13: 978-3836514484
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 2.1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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 and the images including accompanying text entries are equally 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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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