Symbols by Joseph Piercy

3 out of 5 stars

Symbols are ubiquitous now, Almost like a modern-day hieroglyph, they are universal and it doesn’t matter what language that you speak they are easily understood.

They have been used for thousands of years too, Piercy begins his book looking at the Palaeolithic art that has been found in caves all over the world. The artworks mentioned in the book were found in a cave in Ardeche, France and were behind a rockfall. These show depictions of various animals and are around 30,000 years old. The Rosetta Stone is his next subject and he explains how this tablet was the key to understanding the hieroglyphs.

Symbols are very important in religion and there are short essays about the symbols used in the three Abrahamic religions, the Cross, the star and crescent and the Star of David. In this second section, he includes the swastika and details how this originally was a symbol of good luck and how it was appropriated by the Nazis and is now rightly much-reviled. Two much nicer symbols are the Smiley and the classic I ? NY and I learnt a little about their history.

Money may not make the world go around, that is physics, but it is an invention that we cannot do without in the modern world. There are short pieces on the £, $ and € and a brief mention of the ¥. There is a brief sojourn into the mathematical world and a little about symbols used to define ownership, © and TM. There are also modern symbols, Bluetooth and WiFi and a little on their creations

There is an interesting essay about how the UK road signs went from being a jumbled mess of all sorts of different fonts and sizes to a super clear and organised system. He also mentions the Tube Map, not really a symbol in my opinion though. I did like the bit on the signs that the hobo’s used in America.

Not a bad little book overall, Piercy has uncovered all sorts of details about the origins of the symbols that he has included. It has a much wider scope than Hyphens and Hashtags which I read recently, but in any book like this it is only ever going to be an overview of the subject rather than an in-depth analysis.

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  1. kaggsysbookishramblings

    Interesting! Sounds like semiotics-lite! 😀

    • Paul

      It was, Kaggsy. I do find with a lot of these types of books that there is not as much depth as with other non-fiction.

  2. Liz Dexter

    Two books on symbols in one month!

    • Paul

      Yes! I had it on the shelf, so thought they would be a good pairing

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