Stories in Stone by Douglas Keister

Stories in Stone

Stories in Stone provides history along with images of a wide variety of common and not-so-common cemetery symbols, and offers an in-depth examination of stone relics and the personal and intimate details they display-flora and fauna, religious icons, society symbols, and final impressions of how the deceased wished to be remembered. Douglas Keister has created a practical field guide that is compact and portable, perfect for those interested in ...

Details Stories in Stone

TitleStories in Stone
Release DateSep 28th, 2008
PublisherGibbs M. Smith Inc
GenreNonfiction, History, Reference, Death, Art

Reviews Stories in Stone

  • 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 fo...
  • 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 co...
  • Peter Derk
    Just like the Tattoo Dictionary I read earlier this year, this book was a big letdown. For the same reason!I picked this up to hear about Cemetery symbolism. Which I thought was a reasonable thing to do because, you know, the title. Mostly because of the title. What I didn't need was an explanation of symbols as they exist outside the cemetery.Do I need an exhaustive history of the cross? No. A history of angels? No. I want to know what this shit...
  • Edward Taylor
    An interesting read that takes all of the iconographies of the cemeteries around the world and gives them a voice. A little disappointed that the author did not explore my favorite cemetery (Kensal Green in England - but with my fave hometown location of Laurel Hill ( in full view, I added an extra star.
  • Meghan Mccullers
    This may not be everyone's idea of vacation reading, but I liked it. It makes me want to go explore some cemeteries. Remains to be seen whether I'll remember any of this,
  • Juli Anna
    This is a very interesting little book. If I still lived a couple of blocks from Woodlawn Cemetery, I would definitely invest in this. There is much lore and cultural history to be gleaned here.
  • 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 ai...
  • 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.
  • B. Jean
    The flora / fauna & secret society chapters were incredibly dull. I didn't expect such a rote way of describing all of them. It was like a dictionary, bleh. Also, since the focus of the book seems to be Western cemeteries, I found the repeated inclusion of Japanese & Chinese symbols to be rather strange. Especially since I know they don't include those symbols on gravestones. The secret society chapter was long and rather ridiculous. I don't need...
  • Ryan
    This field guide on cemetery symbolism does what it claims to do. I finally learned what it means when you find a 17th century or older gravestone that has a skull. Apparently, at the time, only the "elect" went to Heaven. Everyone else just died -- no immortal soul for them. Over time, belief in the elect eroded, as did the use of the skull, which gave way to a skull with wings, and then other signs about souls rising.
  • Mitch
    This book is a pretty comprehensive look at what the panoply of symbols on tombstones actually mean....with lots of decent illustrative photos. If you're interested in this topic, this is a solid resource.
  • Kazoofifi
    Essential guide for cemetery historians.
  • Justinian
    2008-08 - Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. Douglas Keister. 256 pages. 2004.I picked up this book at the gift shop at Laurel Hill Cemetery. The book is set up in sections and with in sections in an A-Z format. This makes for easy use when you are standing there in front of a grave marker and are trying to decode the meaning of the symbols. This book does a good job of providing the history of tombs and grave ...
  • 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 (o...
  • 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 arbore...
  • Brendan
    I thought this book would be a bit more all encompassing considering its title, but the intro makes it clear it only covers the 19th-20th century USA with any major detail. Some of the claims are extremely limited or outright false as well, for example the entry on bears claims they are a Christian symbol (??) without any mention that the early Church saw them as an incarnation of the devil and the links that bears have with European paganism and...
  • Carole Tyrrell
    A beautiful book with great photos and good research. It's light enough to take with you on cemetery expeditions. It's organised into sections; Funerary Architecture, Flora, Fauna, The Human Condition, Mortality Symbols, Religious Devotion, Secret Societies and Final Impressions. There is also a very useful section on Further Reading towards the end. I had been looking for a book with good information on angels and this had a very good section on...
  • 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 interpr...
  • 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...
  • Virginia Van
    Cemeteries are full of symbolism - some obvious, such as the cross of Christianity, others more subtle, like clasped hands or a broken rose. This book, filled with detailed coloured photographs, acts as a field guide to a variety of common, and not so-common, images on tombstones and mausoleums. A must have for anyone interested in family histories and genealogical research or who just enjoys walking in cemerteries trying to decode the stories th...
  • Pamela
    I'd give this a 2.5/2.75 because I found the concept very interesting, but sometimes I feel like Keister lost track of what he was studying at times. For example, at some points he got too wrapped up in the history of a particular symbol or a family's life; it took away from the actual study of symbols and iconography. I liked the sections that actually focused on what symbols meant and looking at specific examples.
  • 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 m...
  • 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.
  • Timothy Boyd
    If you are mystified by all that stuff on old tombstones then this is the book for you. Right after I read it I took a trip to Charleston SC and really enjoyed walking the cemeteries there. There is way more to learn about a person on old tombstones than just the info written, the symbols can tell how they died and in what stage of life they were in. Excellent source book, very recommended
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • SmarterLilac
    A thorough and enlightening exploration of what I spent years looking at in cemeteries and remain perpetually curious about. Gets bonus points for explaining the true nature of the 'Momento Mori,' and for including an image I used on this site to memorialize my own mother--the angel sculpted by William Wetmore Story, for the grave of his own wife in the Protestant Cemetery of Rome.
  • 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!
  • 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.