- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Gibbs Smith (April 5, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 158685321X
- ISBN-13: 978-1567317763
- Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography
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From the Inside Flap
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 eternal life, 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.
About 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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Top Customer Reviews
I like the book a lot. It is pretty comprehensive and the types of symbols are broken down into like flora and fauna which makes it easy to reference, there is a nice listing of orginizations in the back. Nice bits of historical changes in the basic meaning of symbols.
No book of listings of symbols is ever complete, I can think of a few things that could have been added, but buy it anyway. Great photos and you won't be disappointed.
And remember, just because someone had ivy carved on their gravestone does not mean that it symbolizes eternity, they really may have just thought it looked pretty.
Since I was very young, graveyards have always fascinated me. I love the look of graveyards at night, although I've yet to venture into them in the middle of the night. I live vicariously through the Buffy show as I watch the DVDs. While watching the Buffy show I became rather interested in the symbolism of various statues and objects.
Now, with all the seriousness of death in our society, you would not expect to find humor in a book about gravestones and iconography, but it is definitely present in the most witty fashion. I have rarely found a book that made me laugh out loud as many times and at such surprising times. Douglas Keister has a wicked sense of wit and in the midst of decoding a certain symbol or discussing history he will bring in an ironic twist that is shockingly amusing. He also explains the real meaning of "skeleton in the closet" and explained the uses of exploding torpedo coffins. Who knew. He has taken high-quality photographs which not only set the mood for this book, they help to emphasize the details being discussed.
On a more serious note, Stories in Stone is essential for gravestone scholars and cemetery sleuths. Suddenly you will view graveyards with a new appreciation.
Douglas Keister discusses Classic, Egyptian, Islamic, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical architecture. Through pictures and in depth research, he explains the oldest burial monuments and why a tumulus is mostly found in Western Europe.
Some of the Contents includes: Funerary Architecture: Designed for Eternity, Mausoleums, Chapels, Offices, Tombs, Sculptures, Memorials, the Sarcophagus, Stone Sentinels: Designed for Remembrance. Symbols: Plants and Flowers, Fruits, Grains, and Vines, Trees and Bushes, Animals, Fowls and Insects, Fishes and Mollusks, Reptiles and Amphibians, Mythical Creatures, Tradesmen's Tools, Religious Icons, Emblems, Insignias, Tokens, Death Seals and Angels.
You will also find informative and highly entertaining sections about:
Chinese and Japanese Symbolism
I now understand the relationship between Persephone and pomegranates, between the weeping willow and immortality and why my father objected to me dating a boy who gave me an anthurium-style flower.
While I don't intend to die anytime soon, I've already designed my own monument/gravestone which will be a girl peacefully sleeping with a cat on a bed and a butterfly perched precariously on the edge of the book resting in her sleeping hand. The girl will have angel wings and there will be at least three candles and of course, 5 stars placed somewhere in a row above a favorite quote. I also liked the idea of the tear vial and a key, not to mention a favorite flower. Perhaps someone could plant lavender around the grave or they could work lavender into the carving on the stone. I don't actually want to be buried, maybe they could just sprinkle my ashes around the stone and I could be reborn into the lavender plants.
Not only does this book inspire, make you laugh in places and bring enlightenment to anyone who loves to study gravestones, this book also has romance! Yes, there is a story of the Blocher Mausoleum in buffalo, New York. It is a story of love, loss and reminds us all that we only get one chance to live and love. So while this book gave me ideas for how to design my own sarcophagus, this book also reminded me of how much life I still want to live.
Oh, the cover is especially wonderful and the size of the book makes it perfect to stash away in your long black coat as you wander aimlessly through graveyards in the middle of the night.
~The Rebecca Review