Monday, November 14, 2011


This 1896 volume, available for a free download from Gutenberg, is a fun survey of gravestones as art, an early example of serious taphophilia.

Author William Thomas Vincent ("President of the Woolwich District Antiquarian Society; Author of 'The Records of the Woolwich District,' etc.") has a wry sense of humor that hasn't grown brittle or dusty with age. And one of the best things about this book is that Vincent doesn't get self-consciously Goth-y or spooky; he addresses gravestone art as a serious folk art with infectious enthusiasm.

He's great at recognizing the patterns and trends in the art, and making all sorts of cool surmises about what was going on with the person buried, or with the carver responsible for the stone.

The one potential problem is that this book looks at gravestone art in the British Isles, and he's examining stones that are older than what I see here in the states, and from carvers from different schools and traditions. Still, the concepts and fundamentals you pick up here can probably be applied where ever you go rambling.

And Vincent's sketches are simply delightful.

It's a quick read, and will probably encourage you to go walking in graveyards and driving to remote towns to look for interesting markers. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Like I said, it's free, and can be downloaded to your Kindle or other e-reader, read on your laptop or tablet, or even (gasp) printed out. Abebooks has modern copies (probably printed out from Gutenberg & then bound) for under $20; good luck getting any original hardcovers for less than three digits, though.

So download away, and let it inspire your explorations.

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