The Complete Dictionary of Symbols is an engaging and accessible guide to more than 2,000 major themes, figures, and symbols that are commonly found in myth, art, and literature. Drawing on classical mythologies, Biblical themes, and traditional symbols from cultures worldwide, this user-friendly, attractively priced reference has comprehensive entries on everything from individual animals, plants, and objects to gods, goddesses, supernatural creatures, heroes, heroines, mythical episodes, prophets, saints, miracles, and myriad other subjects. Whether the topic at hand is Mercury or Merlin, the Egyptian ankh or the humble ant, engaging text reveals the origins and meaning of each symbol. Interspersed with the main entries are short articles on themes of special interest, such as the Sun, Moon, and stars, or common vices. Three hundred illustrations, an intuitive system of cross-referencing, and authoritative research make The Complete Dictionary of Symbols a reliable resource for school, home, or library.
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Jack Tresidder is a journalist and critic who has written about foreign affairs and the arts in the UK and his native New Zealand. He lives in the French Alps.From Booklist:
This is the first symbols source to be labeled complete, although the introduction does not specify the qualities that make it so. Its 2,000 entries are twice the number found in other resources on the topic, such as Tresidder's 1998 Dictionary of Symbols: An Illustrated Guide to Traditional Images, Icons, and Emblems (much of which is duplicated in the newer book). The alphabetically arranged entries focus on classical and Christian symbolism but encompass other traditions worldwide. In addition to traditional symbols (e.g., objects, animals, flowers, shapes), the volume includes legends, themes, or concepts important for understanding systems of symbols and historical, mythological, or religious figures. It also includes brief references to the use of the symbol in art. For example, the entry alchemy is identical to that in the Dictionary of Symbols except for a reference to the depiction of alchemists in Vasari's painting The Alchemist's Laboratory. The Complete Dictionary's articles range from a few sentences to one-page panels on more comprehensive topics (Colours; Elements; Music, musical instruments). Its format is similar to Dictionary of Symbols, with see references and sources placed awkwardly in the margins, where they might be missed. Bibliographical references are minimal; most cite only basic sources such as Psalms 42:1 for Stag or Pliny the Elder's Natural History for Phoenix. A geographically arranged bibliography at the end of the volume includes a good selection of older, classic texts on art, mythology, and religion. Illustrations are in-house drawings from original artifacts rather than actual photos. The Complete Dictionary of Symbols is an acceptable reference book for home and small libraries and for public libraries that need a symbol source for general readers. It overlaps very little with the fascinating, graphically oriented Symbols.com (a free Internet source). It is unnecessary for larger collections that already have scholarly sources such as Carl G. Liungman's Dictionary of Symbols (Norton, 1994), Hans Biedermann and James Hulbert's Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons and the Meaning behind Them (Facts On File, 1992), and Anthony Stevens' excellent, thematically arranged Ariadne's Clue: A Guide to the Symbols of Humankind (Princeton, 1999). Christine Whittington
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