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Stories in Stone by Douglas Keister

Stories in Stone (edition 2006)

by Douglas Keister

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5161519,652 (3.99)7
Title:Stories in Stone
Authors:Douglas Keister
Info:New York, NY : MJF Books/Fine Communications, 2006.
Collections:Your library
Tags:guide, cemeteries

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Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism by Douglas Keister



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I am the lonely one-star reviewer on this book. It's a nicely produced little hardback that could fit into your pocket on the way to a cemetery trip; unfortunately, it has very limited usefulness for actually understanding the significance of the symbols you're seeing on cemetery markers.

The material culture of cemetery markers - at least during the period before markers became almost entirely mass-produced, generic catalog items - is a hugely complex topic. Books upon books have been published just to deal with local symbolism used in one area during one particular time period, not to mention ethnic and racial differences, but Keister claims to be taking on the whole subject of symbolism in all cemetery markers, ever, worldwide.

Some of his facts he gets more or less correct; but there are no endnotes or sources given for the information in this book, and the 'explanations" for some of the symbolism described just seems to have been pulled out of thin air, or possibly based on a quick Google search or some other source not specific to cemeteries. (For instance, many of his explanations of the symbolism of certain flowers seem to have been lifted from some kind of "Language of Flowers" book, bearing no necessary relation to the ways in which flower images might have been used on grave markers specifically.)

There are a lot of pictures and excessive discussion of the more astounding sculptural cemeteries of Europe, like the Cimiterio Monumentale in Milan and Pére-Lachaise in Paris, which certainly make for good photo ops, but aren't really suited to a "field guide" that an American cemetery enthusiast might want to have with them when visiting a typical American cemetery.

I wish I had a better book to recommend for general readers on this topic, but if I find one, I'll update this review. ( )
  theparsley | Mar 24, 2016 |
In Keister’s book, the author has created a field guide for cemetery enthusiasts that decodes the meanings of all the symbols encountered on gravestones. A must have for the serious sleuth. ( )
  debbieaheaton | May 4, 2015 |
First, this is a great size to take traveling. And the color photos are also lovely, especially when so many other books are stuck in black and white. This book is especially good if you're looking up symbols on tombs and finding out what they mean - from animals to Greek letters to societies (there's a multiple page listing of acronyms and what they mean).

This isn't the first book I'd recommend for scholarship - but I have spent many hours on airplanes reading or just looking at the photos. ( )
  bookishbat | Sep 25, 2013 |
Handy, informative guide to cemetery art. It has been very useful, particularly in regard to fraternal organizations. ( )
  amkm | Nov 3, 2012 |
This is an excellent handbook which explains the basic conception of signs and symbols found on most tombs. The book is divided into (1) funerary architecture and (2) flora, fauna, the human condition, mortality symbols, and images of religious devotion. Most illustrations are from tombstones in Italy, America, Canada, Spain. This book does not examine monuments per se which would make military memorial structures the most prevalent. 288 pages, color photos, Suggested Reading List and Index. ( )
  sacredheart25 | Nov 17, 2010 |
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Pip, the narrator and central character of Charles Dickens' classic Victorian novel Great Expectations, informs us early in the story that, as he never knew his parents or saw any pictures of them, he drew his first impressions of what they must have looked like from the shapes of the lettering on their gravestones. Certainly, as the author intended, this tells us a great deal about Pip's fanciful imagination, but quite incidentallhy it also reveals a fundamental truth about the nature of grave markers. In a very real sense, memorials erected to the dead are the material representatives of those now departed, and we, like Pip, often draw our impressions of what these persons must have been like from the things we find upon them.
In 1887, one Dr. L. L. Zamenhof created a language called Esperanto. His goal was to develop an international language that would enable better communication and understanding between cultures and nations, hopefully resulting in a more peaceful world. Although Esperanto still has a number followers, it never really caught on in a big way.
Cemetery enthusiasts know that cemeteries are a vast treasure trove of art and architecture. The fact is, cemeteries are America's most unspoiled resource of historic architecture. It would take many hours of strolling in a city's downtown historic district to find the number of styles of architecture that one can find in a few minutes' walk in most large historic cemeteries.
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Funerary architecture: designed for eternity -- Mausoleums, chapels, offices -- Tombs, sculptures, memorials -- The sarcophagus -- Stone sentinels: designed for remembrance -- Flora -- Plants and flowers -- Fruits, grains, and vines -- Trees and bushes -- Fauna -- Animals -- Fowls and insects -- Fishes and mollusks -- Reptiles and amphibians -- Mythical creatures -- The evangelists -- The human condiction -- The seven virtues -- Human body parts -- Wordly symbols -- Mortality symbols -- Religious devotion -- Christian symbolism -- Hebrew symbolism -- Chinese and Japanese symbolism -- Heavenly messengers -- The cross --Secrets societies, clubs, and fraternal organizations -- Acronyms of societies, clubs, and organizations -- Final impressions.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 158685321X, Hardcover)

Certain symbols abound in modern Western culture that are instantly recognizable: the cross signifies Christianity, the six-pointed Star of David is revered by Jews, the golden arches frequently means it's time for lunch. Other symbols, however, require a bit of decoding-particularly those found in cemeteries.

Cemeteries are virtual encyclopedias of symbolism. Engravings on tombstones, mausoleums and memorials tell us just about everything there is to know about a person- date of birth and death as well as religion, ethnicity, occupation, community interests, and much more. In the fascinating new book Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism by noted author Douglas Keister, the secrets of cemetery symbolism are finally revealed. For instance, did you know that it is quite rare to see a sunflower on a tombstone? Did you know that the human foot symbolizes humility and service since it consistently touches the earth? Or the humble sheaf of wheat-while it is often used to denote someone who has lived a long and fruitful life, do you know other meanings it might carry?

Stories in Stone provides history along with images of a wide variety of common and not-so-common cemetery symbols, and offers an in-depth examination of stone relics and the personal and intimate details they display-flora and fauna, religious icons, society symbols, and final impressions of how the deceased wished to be remembered. Douglas Keister has created a practical field guide that is compact and portable, perfect for those interested in family histories and genealogical research, and is the only book of its kind that unlocks the language of symbols in a comprehensive and easy-to-understand manner.

Douglas Keister has photographed fourteen award-winning, critically acclaimed books (including Red Tile Style: America's Spanish Revival Architecture, The Bungalow: America's Arts & Crafts Home, and Storybook Style: America's Whimsical Homes of the Twenties) earning him the title "America's most noted photographer of historic architecture." He also writes and illustrates magazine articles and contributes photographs and essays to other books, calendars, posters, and greeting cards. Doug lives in Chico, California, and travels frequently to photograph and lecture on historic architecture and photography.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:16 -0400)

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