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Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography
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Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  403 ratings  ·  52 reviews
by Douglas Keister
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 28th 2008 by Gibbs M. Smith Inc (first published 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,287)
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Anne
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
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Loren
I snatched this book off the shelf as soon as my eye landed on it. It has long surprised me that there was no comprehensive dictionary of the symbols found on gravestones. I know the topic is a complicated one, in that the same symbol can mean different things at different times — or even at the same time in different locations. Richard E. Meyer’s introduction acknowledges these difficulties, while casting headstones themselves as a cipher for the person buried beneath. It’s a wonderful image wi ...more
Jays
I bought this book for my mom who is an amateur genealogist and spends a lot of her free time in cemeteries taking pictures of graves. (And people wonder how I got the way I did...) I ended up getting a copy for myself because I liked the information so much. Having spent a lot of time in graveyards, I actually find them comforting and peaceful.

Obviously, there's a lot of variance in the kinds of headstones that people will buy for themselves (or families will buy for a deceased love one) and t
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Batgrl (Book Data Kept Elsewhere)
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.
SparksofEmber
If you enjoy cemeteries and learning about the symbols and iconography then you will love this books. Lots of neat pictures and fascinating stories about famous tombs.
Sarah
Some useful info for one whose graveyard ramblings are limited to the Americas and parts of Western Europe, but the author almost totally ignored cemetery symbolism that isn't western/Christian. He didn't provide any sources either, and while some of the symbolism is well-documented--a broken column to signify a life cut short, lambs or doves on children's graves to signify their innocence--many of the definitions seem based solely on his interpretations of lengthy Bible passages (of which there ...more
Sally
This is a field guide to things found in cemetaries, including architectural styles and elements, types of grave markers, and symbols and inscriptions.

It's a very beautifully made book, but alas, not as useful as an actual guide in the field as I was hoping. I really enjoyed the sections on architecture and on fraternal societies, but much of the rest of the book mostly felt like filler. There were unhelpful entries like "Squirrel: A small arboreal mammal that appears on graves only rarely" whic
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Amanda Quental
Helpful to understand the meaning of some of the symbols in a basic manner that I am drawn to in my photography of cemeteries. The book provided me with a simple base line that allowed me to further research any symbol I wanted extensive detail on.
Debbie Heaton
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.
Tasia
A very intriguing resource for those with an interest in architecture and art history.I didn't know a lot about cemetery symbolism before this. Also, Buffalo shout-out!
Westerville
Fascinating. - Jessica, Adult Services

Reserve a library copy.
Coeli
Great field guide not only to cemeteries, but also to all sorts of symbolism. This is a great read and resource for any author!
Erin
A fabulous guide for those who like to troll cemeteries or those interested in cemetery history. Great bedside reading for some of us!
Deidre
This is a terrific resource for any amateur genealogist or avid taphophile (those who love cemeteries). I am constantly learning about tombstones and iconography, and this book provides in-depth glossaries and history of these symbols. It also includes some of the more interesting final resting places throughout the world, including those of well-known personalities or those who are purely well-known for having a unique grave site.

So happy that I bought this instead of only borrowing it. I'm a t
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Terry
Another purchase from Titcomb’s Bookshop in Sandwich, MA – as Massachusetts has so many great cemeteries, I thought this would be helpful when exploring them. The book has great photography by the author as well. While aware of some of the iconography due to my Catholic upbringing, I learned a great more about tombstones and the stories they told. Having mowed the lawn of a cemetery for many summers as a kid, this helped explain some of the more interesting symbols we saw while doing so.
Sally Kilpatrick
What an awesome little book! If you've ever wondered about symbols in funerary art--oh, and you know you have--then this is the book for you. In addition to a nice history of varied aspects of what gravestones are where and why, Keister has taken some truly lovely photos. I learned a TON about religious symbols and those of fraternal organizations. He's also a great story teller and gets bonus points for using the word "Alas" more than once.
Mandy Huot
I would give this book more than 5 stars, but that's all you can give! This book is very similar in subject matter to the one I am working on myself. Reading this one gave me a better understanding of the symbols I may run across during my own cemetery travels. Great companion to have!
Kevin Fitzpatrick
Douglas Keister gets high marks for his knowledge and skill in this book, for his writing and photography skills. I found all of the photos stunning and in many cases ones of symbols I'd never seen while graving. It's an indispensable book for visiting any old cemetery. I like to carry it to old churchyards. It there is one chapter that's needed, it's on US military gravestones.
Michael
OK..I'm a cemetery buff. I appreciate old, out of the way, hidden cemeteries. This book talks about symbols and sayings that are on old headstones. Creepy..yes. ..but interesting. Do you want a plain old headstone just with your name on it? Or 100 years from now do you want someone to walk past your headstone and notice the badass skull and crossbones with a yankee symbol on it?
Jess
Fascinating. Bees mean industrious Christians, Lily of the Valley stands for matrimony, etc.. I'm not sure Americans today still use funerary symbolism this way ( instead of, 'that's a pretty flower'), but I wish we would. My favorite is the section which talks about the transition of how people viewed death; from a rotting corpse of fleshly corruption to heavenly bliss.
Angie Lisle
An excerpt from the book's blurb: "Dead men may tell no tales, but the symbols on their tombstones do."

A nifty book that examines the symbolism and iconography used on tombstones. Beautifully -if a bit morbid- illustrated with photography taken by the author.

My only complaint - I wish there was more!
Pat
This is a very helpful, interesting book about cemeteries and the symbolism used on headstones, etc. As a taphophile, I often find something I am unfamiliar with, and this guide will be useful for deciphering. It is a nice size, and has a nice feel to it, as well.
Janet
This does a good job oftelling you about all of the various symbols you might see when visiting various cemeteries. As always with a non-fiction title, I consider the bibliography to be of importance and I did find two references to pursue on the same subject.
Kaitlyn
This is a great book with information on a ton of symbols & iconography in the cemetery. It covers anything from roses, to saints, to crosses, to Pegasus. Such a great resource! Would totally recommend this as a great reference book for cemeteries.
Fostergrants
this is like a travel book for graveyard enthusiasts. brief history and descriptions of the architecture and symbolism in cemeteries and graveyards all over the world. glossy pages and lots of photos. perfect read right before Halloween! bwahahaha
Jenn
Really good guide, with fabulous pix and tons of background info, if - like me - you like cememteries! It's not comprehensive but it's very informative and has tons of lovely photos and a list of additional books to reference. :)
Kerry Boerst
Being a fan of symbolic anthropology in the cemetery, I snagged a copy right away. I was not at all disappointed with this book. Very descriptive with wonderful photographic examples! Makes you really look at the tiny details
Jessica King
Twice in my life, I've had to put a book down because of it's shape! It's too awkward to read! The content is interesting, but the long, heavy, narrowness of this book just made it so uncomfortable to read. :(
Allysmom
Just finished reading this--- I found it to be interesting. Lots of info on Fraternities past and still operating as well as some interesting meanings for the symbols that can be found on tombstones.
Cami
This was pretty interesting with information on all sorts of architectural styles incorporated into grave markers in addition to the symbolism used.
I can't wait to visit a cemetary with it.
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Photographer-writer Douglas Keister, has authored and co-authored thirty-six critically acclaimed books. He also writes and illustrates magazine articles and contributes photographs and essays to dozens of magazines, newspapers, books, calendars, posters and greeting cards worldwide.
More about Douglas Keister...
Teardrops and Tiny Trailers Forever Dixie: A Field Guide to Southern Cemeteries & Their Residents Stories in Stone New York: A Field Guide to New York City Area Cemeteries & Their Residents Going Out in Style: The Architecture of Eternity Forever L.A: A Field Guide To Los Angeles Area Cemeteries & Their Residents

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