Monday, 17 November 2008

PEACE :: The Biography

On April 4, 2008, the peace sign turned 50. The peace symbol is so familiar today that it seems difficult to believe that it hasn’t always existed. But in fact it was just half a century ago that a British designer named Gerald Holtom sat down at his drawing board and invented it – and this the story of how a design of extraordinary simplicity came to be one of the most iconic images in history.

It was conceived as a visual plea to end the atomic arms race that started with the devastating attack on Hiroshima during World War II – and sadly, it’s still needed to deliver its antinuclear message to a new generation. But since it first appeared in 1958, the peace symbol has taken on a multitude of new meanings as well, and this colorful volume explores them all.

The book takes readers on a journey through five decades as author Kolsbun presents 50 years of history in pictures and words to tell the fascinating story of mankind’s elusive pursuit of peace and the symbol that represents that quest. The book contains iconic images from Kolsbun's own collection as well as a variety of historical archives, illustrating both the symbol itself and the larger history it helped shape. Many of the photographs have seldom been seen before.

Kolsbun recounts the controversy inspired by the peace symbol, including several legal trials that challenged its very existence, and he debunks a number of incorrect theories about the sign such as its being a symbol of the devil.

Although it is a sign that baby boomers identify with, it has cross-generational appeal. "Children of today easily identify it. They may not know its original meaning, but they know it stands for good things – be nice to friends, be kind to animals, no fighting. This is a marvelous achievement for Gerald Holtom’s simple design. Peoples around the world have marched with it, worn it, displayed it during combat, held it high on banners, and been arrested in its name. Ask any man, woman or child, 'What one thing would you want more than anything else in the world?' The answer would surely be world peace," Kolsbun concludes in his epilogue.

-Ken Kolsbon-

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