Mazes and Labyrinths: Their History and Development

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By W.H. Matthews

Ever since Herodotus stood in awe before the Great Labyrinth of Egypt and its 3,000 rooms, men have been fascinated by labyrinthine puzzles, constructions, and mazes. This book explores the subject in full, with a complete illustrated account of labyrinths and mazes of all kinds, from earliest times to the present.

There are labyrinths that consist entirely of rooms and columns, like the Egyptian Labyrinth itself. There are the labyrinths of ancient history and of myth, such as the celebrated Cretan maze in which Theseus slew the Minotaur. There are labyrinths constructed of caverns, those built to protect tombs, and those designed to guard treasures. Labyrinthine patterns have been used in gardens (such as the famous Hampton Court maze), embossed on coins, employed as emblems of royalty, made to represent allegories, built of stones, embedded into the pavements of early churches, and made into toys. We learn about all of them — all that is known, for mystery seems an inescapable part of the story of the labyrinth.

With devoted scholarship and an appreciation for what he terms “the lure of the labyrinth,” the author takes us through accounts of the ancient mazes, the “meanders” of Greek and Roman times, theories on the meaning of church labyrinths, the “mizmaze,” turf mazes and their origins, the floral labyrinth, the hedge maze, examples in stones and carved on rocks, links between labyrinths and magic, maze etymology, hints on maze design and principles of solution, the labyrinth in literature, the labyrinth in strange places, mirror mazes, and even a verbal labyrinth. All important or exceptional examples are illustrated.

This is a book for anyone who is intrigued by puzzles or beguiled by mysteries, a book for the historian, the mathematician, the student, the lover of the classic, and all those who enjoy reading the product of a cultivated mind dwelling on a subject that touches much of our cultural and artistic heritage.

Dover, Reprint of the London, 1922 edition, softcover, 336 pages.