Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN:
Pages: 528
Publication Date: November 20, 2018

A Dictionary of Symbols

by Juan Eduardo Cirlot, introduction by Philip Pullman, translated from the Spanish by Jack Sage and Valerie Miles, epilogue by Victoria Cirlot

$18.86 $22.95

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From the Egyptians on, no form of learning was more vital to the ancient world than the knowledge of symbols, and it was no less important to the civilizations of the Orient, even into modern times. In the Occident, thinking about symbols shaped the great art of the medieval age, and, to a very large extent, the new developments of the renaissance and the baroque, before gaining a distinctly new importance with the discovery of the “unconscious” in the twentieth century. The poet and art critic Juan Eduardo Cirlot’s Dictionary of Symbols first came out in 1958; soon translated into English, it has since proved an indispensable and endlessly stimulating resource for scholars and students of fields from art to literature to psychology to philosophy. Whether discussing the nature of the Mandala, the symbolic dimensions of the cow, heron, hippopotamus, or planet Saturn, Cirlot’s book is an unrivaled source of information, instruction, inspiration, and simple pleasure. This new, expanded edition of the Dictionary includes new entries as well as an epilogue by Cirlot’s daughter Victoria discussing her father’s poetry and work as an art critic and its close connection to Surrealism.

Praise

[Cirlot’s] book is not merely a reference work for students of symbology, but a book to be read at leisure. It does indeed provide informative and interesting reading. The longer entries can be read as independent essays, but it is only by reading through the volume steadily that one can become aware of the intricate interrelations of symbolic meanings.
—Catherine D. Rau, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

[This] is a volume which can either be used as a work of reference, or simply read for pleasure and instruction. There are many entries in this dictionary—those on Architecture, Colour, Cross, Graphics, Mandala, Numbers, Serpent, Water, Zodiac, to give a few examples—which can be read as independent essays. But in general the greatest use of the volume will be for the elucidation of those many symbols which we encounter in the arts and in the history of ideas. Man, it has been said, is a symbolizing animal; it is evident that at no stage in the development of civilization has man been able to dispense with symbols.
—Herbert Read