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Discover the magic and mysticism of bells around the world, including their political and religious power, their musicality, and their familiarity in daily life.  

We live in a world of bells but seldom notice them. However, bells have existed in all cultures since earliest times and are one of the world’s most remarkable artifacts. They have been the “voice” of God and Buddha, a talisman for early monastics, a source of glorious music, and part of many sacred rituals. Yet, they have also been the clocks, school bells, fire bells, and shop bells of daily life. The Song of the Bells brings together seventeen stories that explore the magic and mysticism of these bells, their political and religious power, their wide-ranging musicality, and their familiarity in our everyday lives.  

The stories range from the recently discovered chimes of Ancient China to the music of carillons and change ringing to reindeer bells in Arctic Norway to the surprising bell that is on the International Space Station. Other stories explore Buddhist bells in Japan and Tibet, the famous African bells of Benin, Russian bells, early Christian bells in Scotland, the Liberty Bell and Big Ben, bells on trains, cable cars, and circus wagons, and two bells brought up from lost ships to serve as memorials for their crews.  Illustrated with 130 photographs, this beautiful book brings bells out from the background of our days to create a living history of this amazing musical instrument.  

The book is inspired by her great-grandmother’s trip around the world where she collected small bells almost one hundred years ago. Whitehead inherited these bells, which led to her own journeys that included crossing the Pacific to see the famous bells of China, finding peace in the Buddhist temples of Kyoto, interviewing the Sami reindeer herders in Arctic Norway, visiting with master bell ringers in London and Florida, and attending the launch of a space shuttle and conversations with the astronaut who suggested putting a bell in the International Space Station.  

The book will interest bell collectors, musicians, and fans of musical instruments, as well as museums, universities, and libraries that have musical instrument collections. It will also appeal to general readers interested in cultural history, particularly the popular field of “commodity history,” similar to Mark Kurlansky’s books Salt, Paper, and Salmon.