Sunday, February 28, 2010
Book Review--Stories in Stone
Keister, Douglas. Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. MJF Books, New York, NY. 288 pages. Color photos, b/w photos, index.
Originally published in 2004, this is a book that anybody doing cemetery research should consider owning. In addition to providing photographic clues as to what headstone symbols mean there is detailed discussion on each as well.
A chapter that I feel to be particularly useful is the chapter on Secret Societies, Clubs, and Fraternal Orgainzations. I know I have seen some of these and had no idea what they are. In an easy to use format now I would have the ability to figure it out. In addition there is a 24 page listing of Acronyms of Societies, Clubs, and Organizations. It's amazing what looks to be a harmless marking actually has vast meaning to those who understand.
There are chapters dealing with plants, fruits, animals, reptiles, fish, body parts, worldly symbols and much more. A large portion of the book is given to religious symbols covering christian, hebrew, chinese and japanese, heavenly messengers, and the cross. The book concludes with an interesting section called Final Impressions. This includes photos of many famous or unusual headstones. There's the rocket on Carl and Constance Bigsby's memorial to the Davis memorial in Kansas which includes multiple statues of John and Sara Davis at various stages of their lives, to race cars, to the famous Black Dog at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA.
This is a book that anybody doing research in older cemeteries should own. I found my copy at a local Barnes and Noble for about $10. It is well put together and looks like it will stand up to a fair amount of usage. This book will no doubt open up a whole new understanding to the memorials we look at.