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A Dictionary of Symbols by J. E. Cirlot

A Dictionary of Symbols (1971)

by J. E. Cirlot

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This book discusses the particular symbols and ideas related to those symbols popular in everyday culture. It does this in a scholarly manner that is really interesting. Sometimes the entries are really short when you expect them to be pretty long. Take Prester John for instance. I know he was supposed to be some legendary King of Christendom back in the Middle Ages, but I never thought he would only have one sentence devoted to him. It covers all of the Tarot Cards, all weapons that I could think of, and all animals of any symbolic significance. So this book is pretty cool if you like symbols, and it has a bibliography that you can use to further your research. I read the whole thing through, but you might just want to find a particular entry. Either way, this book was enjoyable and quite fascinating. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
The basic aim of this book is as a central reference point for symbological research. A quick 'look up' for those interested in the unconscious nature of dreams and other forms of psycho-analyses.
It is also a fantastic source book for the artist. Illustrators and writers such as Robert Richard Hieronimus Ph.D. (Author of Inside the Yellow Submarine) who have used it in their work to add sub-layer of meaning as a 'mise en abîme'.
Jimmy Hendrix was fascinated by this book!

You should not overlook the Index at the back, which does not show main entries in the Dictionary itself but acts more like a cross reference.

I will just point out that the book is not overly generous with illustrations, but there are diagrams to show the differences between some simple symbols - mostly variations of geometric shapes, as well as a smattering of wood-cuts throughout. There are, however, 28 black & white photographic plates in two sections of the book mainly concerned with depicting religious masonry and Roman to 15th-century works of art, which are quite nice.

Also, some of the entries do seem naively obvious:

Fossil Broadly, its symbolic significance corresponds to that of the stone, but, because of its ambivilent character, it embraces the concepts of time and eternity, life and death, the evolution of species, and their petrifaction.

But, many are far less so. Such as:

Shoes symbolising the female sex organ, and quoting the implication within the story of *Cinderella!

Now, I know what you must be thinking; what is the 'foot' in that case?
According to this book it is mainly to do with the soul (even though we all know what they say about men with big feet!).

Jokes aside, I don't think there is a better book on the market, even today, on this area of symbolism in cultural anthropology.

*I guess what they were hinting at was that Prince Charming was no more than a foot fetishist with an O.C.D. ;)


Review of the 1971 second edition (of which I own a 1973 reprint) which incorporates extensive revisions from the first edition of 1962. ( )
  Sylak | Sep 30, 2015 |
online, avail on slideshare among other sites
  lulaa | Nov 30, 2013 |
Endlessly fascinating. Kind of a bible for me. ( )
  astrologerjenny | Apr 24, 2013 |
  USYDArtsMusicLibrary | Aug 23, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. E. Cirlotprimary authorall editionscalculated
Read, HerbertForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sage, JackTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Abandonment- The symbolism of abandonment has a similar range of reference to that of the 'lost object', and they are both parallel to the symbolism of death and resurrection (31).
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802220835, Hardcover)

Hardcover book with dust jacket is a dictionary of symbols.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:29 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

At every stage of civilization, people have relied on symbolic expression, and advances in science and technology have only increased our dependence on symbols. An essential part of the ancient arts of the Orient and Western medieval traditions, symbolism underwent a twentieth-century revival with the study of the unconscious. Indeed, symbolic language is considered a science, and this informative volume offers an indispensable tool in the study of symbology. Its alphabetical entries--drawn from a diverse range of sources, including all of the major world religions, astrology, alchemy, numerology, heraldry, and prehistoric art--clarify the essential and unvarying meanings of each symbol.… (more)

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