The authors, both British art historians, are joined by 12 other experts in this field to present an amazing array of multicultural interpretations of the world as condensed into symbolic images. They define a symbol as "something that a particular culture considers to mean something else." Each entry features a blue line drawing of the symbol in a generalized pictographic style. Although the quantity of images could have been overwhelming, the symbols are extremely well organized into numbered columns that correspond with the alphabetical front index, or "symbol finder." This index is invaluable because the text itself is composed of eight thematic chapters, among them "Heaven and Earth," "Characters and People," and "Objects and Artifacts." Pertinent cultural meanings for the symbols are refreshingly worldwide, covering Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, the Americas, and the Pacific. Many of the connotations are religious in nature, with referrences ranging from Aztec beliefs to Mesopotamian mythology to major contemporary religions. The editors encourage readers to "dip" into the book and then follow the threads of capitalized cross references. After doing so, one will never think the same way again about eyes, rabbits, roses, swastikas, the color white, and 995 other things. Even libraries with standard reference works like James Hall's Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art will want to add this one, not just because of its larger number of symbols but for its greater global coverage. Enthusiastically recommended for all public libraries.
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Anne Marie Lane, American Heritage Ctr., Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie
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