Symbols.com is the internet version of _ Thought Signs _ (I.O.S. Press, 1994) by Carl Liungman. The book was well received in its original form _ Dictionary of Symbols _ (ABC-Clio, 1991), and the online version should be as well. The site has entries for 2,500 non-pictorial ideograms spanning the history of western civilization.
The types of symbols used are vast and can be categorized only with difficulty into broad groups: cultural, "sub"-cultural, historic, scientific, mathematical, and religious. Some examples include: Celtic, Gypsy, hobo, and hippie signs, cartographic and musical notations, astronomical and chemistry ideograms, and mystic and prehistoric symbols. Coverage varies in length, but entries include a definition for each distinct use of the image and hyperlinks to related images. Occasionally there will be a notation of where and how the symbol appears in a non-western use.
Because there are graphic characteristics that typify symbols, access to the contents is through a word index and a graphic index. The word index is a straightforward search for a symbol that has a particular meaning. This is accomplished through an alphabetical and numeric list of terms. The graphic index will retrieve groups of symbols based on their graphic characteristics, rather than meaning. There are 54 groups in all. Users may choose from a variety of pull-down menu options or from the "advanced graphic search" grid.
The graphic nature of the content is well suited for the internet medium, and the site certainly fills a void in internet reference collections. Unfortunately, there is no bibliography for the work or individual entries, and some of the names of symbols were not translated from the Swedish (e.g. "om" is spelled "aum"). The user requiring detailed information would be wise to start here for names of symbols and simple facts, but follow up with an authoritative subject-specific resource.
Kristina L. Anderson
University of Alabama