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Decorative Motifs, Fallen on Hard Times

I just today bought an old copy of the Loeb edition of Terence’s plays. It wasn’t until after an hour or so of trying to read it that I looked closely at the edge-patterns on the dustjacket. The bottom of the spine looks like this:

Presumably you recognize the swastika, the ancient Indian good-luck symbol. Also known as the fylfot (decoratively), the cross cramponnee (religiously), and the gammadion (religio-decoratively). Of course it’s also been used as a symbol by Nazis. I remember hearing that Nazi swastikas went clockwise, and ancient lucky ones counter-clockwise, or vice versa, but this isn’t really true; both are clockwise. To keep the definitions lively, here’s from the Larousse: “Les quatre extrémités sont recourbées en forme de gamma grec.”

Intriguingly, this edition of Terence was printed in 1959 — I’m surprised that Harvard University Press and Wm. Heinemann Ltd. didn’t change it before then. I bet there was a crusty antiquarian involved with the series, who wouldn’t hear of changing some perfectly nice fylfots simply because those nasty Nazis had hit upon them as their symbol. He no doubt smoked a pipe and was capable of searing sarcasm.

Unless I’m much mistaken, new Loeb editions do not have these decorations.

7 Responses to “Decorative Motifs, Fallen on Hard Times”

  1. Geegaw Says:

    There are a bunch of these on Buddhist temples in Taiwan. Perhaps L. has photos? Love your blog as always, xoxo

  2. Desultor Says:

    Thanks for your kind comment, Miranda! L has shown me a picture of this…

    And for everyone else, the informative wikipedia entry has a picture of a Korean Buddhist temple adorned with this pattern.

  3. Kathy Dicerbo Says:

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  4. y88 Says:

    So the real name of this simbol is swastika.. never knew about 🙂
    So nazi used a good-luck symbol.. but finally wasen`t so good-luck with them…

    Regards, student loan

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