1000 Symbols: What Shapes Mean in Art and Myth

Cover of 1000 Symbols
Cover of the book ‘1000 Symbols: What Shapes Mean in Art & Myth’, edited by Rowena and Rupert Shepherd (London: Thames & Hudson, 2002)


Edited by Rowena Shepherd and Rupert Shepherd
Thames & Hudson, 2002
352 pages, 1157 illustrations
ISBN 0500 283516


1000 Symbols traces and reveals the historical and cross-cultural significance of 1000 commonly recognized symbols in a comprehensive single-volume dictionary for students and the general reader, placing each symbol in its historical and cultural context.

Symbols are often identified as an international language. However, that language is far from universal, and different symbols can mean radically different things in different contexts. A cross, a crane and a swastika each have a distinct meaning for a Buddhist or an art historian, for example, and none of its meanings is quite the same.

  • Text relating the history of each symbol and defining its cross-cultural meanings
  • Organized by category, allowing for a rapid review of groups of associated symbols
  • Alphabetical listing aids quick identification
  • Comprehensively cross-referenced
  • Detailed bibliography
  • More than 1000 entirely original symbol illustrations


  • Heaven and Earth – symbols for the world around us: earth, air, fire and water in their many manifestations, as well as times of day or month, and the identities and symbolic role of the planets
  • Characters and People – the symbolism attached to specific characters or to people or their attributes
  • The Body and Actions – the body and its actions have taken on considerable symbolic significance
  • Living Creatures – the symbolism of animals, birds, fish and insects
  • Mythical Beasts – monsters from the myths and legends of all cultures, including the widespread hybrid man/beast, such as the centaur
  • Flowers, Plants and Trees – the symbolism of different species, from the oak to the daisy
  • Objects and Artefacts – manufactured objects of symbolism, from the Buddhist mystic knot to the labyrinth
  • Abstracts – the key symbolic attributes of numbers, colours, shapes and letters in a variety of cultures and contexts


  • Michael Beechey
  • Linda Carter
  • Patricia Friedman
  • Rachel Kennedy
  • Rebecca Naylor
  • Julie North
  • Kate Newnham
  • Shashi Sen
  • Rowena Shepherd
  • Andrew Spira
  • Russell Stephenson
  • Kate Warren
  • Helene Watson

Foreign editions

Spanish edition

Cover of 1000 Simbolos
Cover of the book ‘1000 Simbolos: lo que significan los formas en el arte y el mito’, edited by Rowena & Rupert Shepherd (Barcelona: Circulo de Lectores (hardback) and Editorial Acanto (softback), 2003)

1000 Simbolos: lo que significan los formas en el arte y el mito
Translated by Ana Herrera Ferrer
Editorial Acanto, 2003
ISBN 84 95376 42 3

Hungarian edition

Cover of the book 1000 jelkép
Cover of the book ‘1000 jelkép a muvészetek és a mitológia világából’ edited by Rowena & Rupert Shepherd (Budapest: Képzömüvészeti Kiadó, 2004)

1000 jelkép a muvészetek és a mitológia világából
Translated by Lehotai Ildikó, Szabó Rita & Tokés Bence, and edited by Dobi Ildikó
Képzömüvészeti Kiadó, 2004
ISBN 963 336 986 X

Romanian edition

Cover of 1000 de Simboluri
Cover of the book ‘1000 de Simboluri: Semnificaţia Formelor in Artă şi Mitologie’, edited by Rowena & Rupert Shepherd (Oradea: Aquila ’93)

1000 de simboluri: aemnificatia formelor in arta si mitologie
Translated by Ana Fercher
Aquila ’93, 2007
ISBN 978 973 714 171 2