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BOOK REVIEW – Stories in Stone

Cemeteries are outdoor museums. They are full of art, architecture and history just waiting to be explored.

If you like to wander through old cemeteries and have wondered what the images and abbreviations on gravestones mean, Stories in Stone by Douglas Keister is the perfect book for you! This book unlocks the secret meanings behind the engravings found in cemetery carvings.

The book begins with an overview of cemetery architecture, including mausoleums, types of stones and architectural styles such as Gothic, Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical. Each entry provides a historical sketch on the topic.

The second part of Stories in Stone is set up like an encyclopedia with alphabetical entries in chapters on Flora, Fauna, The Human Condition, Mortality Symbols and Religious Devotion. A special section on Secret Societies, Clubs and Fraternal Organizations explores the unique symbols used by these groups, as well as a list of acronyms to decode letters found on gravestones.

Each entry features a photograph of the style or symbol to help cemetery enthusiasts identify markings. Keister is a professional photographer, so the images in the book are outstanding.

Keister decodes an endless list of symbols, with historical explanations and examples. The family of the deceased often uses symbols to convey his or her personality, values and characteristics. The following is a brief summary of popular symbols and their meanings, as decoded in Stories in Stone. The book contains hundreds of detailed entries on a wide variety of symbols.

FERN
Humility, frankness, sincerity

LAMB
Grave of a child

OAK LEAVES
Strength, endurance, eternity, honor, faith

DOG
Fidelity, loyalty, vigilance and watchfulness

MORNING GLORY
The Resurrection (because the flower closes at night and opens in the morning)

CLASPED HANDS
Matrimony (with a feminine and masculine sleeve/cuff)
Earthly farewell, heavenly welcome

GATE
Passage from one realm into the next

HOURGLASS
Time is passing rapidly (especially with wings)
Cyclical nature of life and death

ALPHA and OMEGA
The Beginning and The End (first and last letters of the Greek alphabet)

Stories in Stone is not quite pocketsized, but it is easy to carry when you’re traveling through a cemetery. A convenient ribbon bookmark allows you to easily mark your place on the go.

No cemetery enthusiast should be without this wonderful field guide to cemetery symbolism. There have been a handful of other books and booklets published on cemetery symbolism, but this is the most comprehensive and complete compilation available.

The author purchased her own copy of Stories in Stone and was not compensated in any way for this review.


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