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on 18 February 2013
I have just purchased the dictionary of symbols as a reference tool for my English Literature Degree, helping me understand literary analogies, allegories and some allusions (such as mythology) and for use as assignment quotes.

So far it has been fantastic for quotes as it is surprisingly hard to find academically acclaimed guides to symbolism via online searches... believe me I've tried!

OK.. so it doesn't have pictures, you really don't need them, and all entries are alphabetically listed so really easy to find what you need. It spans many different subjects and cultures for its references, and is really interesting (I have found myself reading articles I didn't need to). Some entries are short and concise as they don't have many different meanings, however others such as serpents have an longer entry looking at a wealth of meanings including biblical and psychological.

Maybe not for everyone, but I honestly don't know how I have coped without this book.
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on 12 July 2011
Most people who own this sort of book have many similar books on their shelves (I do). If that's the case, this book is a great addition to your library. If you're looking for a single book to do the job, this is the one I'd recommend. I'm slightly perplexed by other reviewers who seem to knock the book down to base level for lacking pictures, but for those among the readership who are intelligent enough to know what an acorn, bat, candle, wheel, wolf and worm all look like, pictures aren't necessary. The symbolism included includes visual symbolism but stretches far beyond this too, including mythological and religious symbolism (would a picture of Cain and Abel really help?), rituals and activities (Blessing, Dance), types of clothing, philosophical and literary symbols and so on and so forth.

For me, as an academic, this book is the best of its kind, but it will be accessible to anyone - each entry is explained in concise, short-sentence prose, which includes some sparse details of stories and traditions. Best of all (and this is where this book really towers head and shoulders above nearly all its competitors) is that it is fully referenced, so the source for each symbol is listed in full, and you can go and read up further if you find the information too concise. For its breadth of coverage, and the depth of its explanations, this book finds a really useful balance. It's a really decent size, but is well produced and light enough to fit in your hand like a copy of War and Peace or Middlemarch.

It's also got some blank space inside the front and back covers, so if you want any pictures, you can draw them there; although my guess is that you'll be too engrossed in the text to ever get round to it.
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on 20 January 2016
Brilliant dictionary, that have been a great help at university, and that has been quite useful in creative writing too.
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on 3 December 2014
It's a very interesting book particularly useful for scholars who believe in the Jungian criticism in literature
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on 7 September 2009
Perhaps I was a bit hasty in my research about this book, but I was nevertheless dumbfounded to find that this book has no pictures whatsoever about the symbols it sets out to describe.

If it was a word dictionary I would understand this reasoning, but because we are talking about a dictionary about something as visual as symbols, it must count as a criminal act to publish a book without images of them. And it wouldn't have mattered if the images had been kept tiny, the size of a thumb nail in a corner, or as a reference. They are simply essential to this book, and they are not there.

Haven gotten that out of the way, I can now turn to a more positively note and say that the word descriptions of the symbols are excellent. In most types of dictionaries you would appreciate concise writing, but here you welcome the lengthy examinations of each symbol's meaning, history and sometimes lost or hidden meanings.

So all in all it's an OK book. But still upset about the error of leaving the images out.
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on 9 August 2015
A very thorough but broad look at symbolism mostly from the ancient world and ancient religions. Bit light on anything later; I was looking for Celtic and Medieval. These are mentioned but there are omissions in the dictionary from these areas, so if you have specific interests perhaps best to look for more specialised books. Good for dipping into.
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on 29 January 2017
Incredible value for money.
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on 8 September 2009
A tide of dissatisfaction enveloped me when i received and perused this book. It is outrageous to put a book into print on the subject of symbols with no illustration whatsoever.

The meanings given behind many symbols are far too long winded and combined with added 'waffle' make this book nothing short of a chore to study.
The company that publishes this book is Penguin. I suggest they get their 'international team of experts' together (see back cover) and produce a book aimed at the people who actually pay for it, namely me!! the customer. I'm sorry but in my honest opinion this book fails and disappoints at every level. I regret making the purchase.
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on 24 August 2015
The ultimate reference book. You can't say you actually love it but it is wonderful.
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on 23 July 2015
Really useful for my Illustration course at uni, thank you
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