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Book Review / Discovering Epitaphs

I picked this book up at Highgate Cemetery in London, which fitted in nicely with the curiosity many share regarding gravestones and memorials. I’ve also seen some of the memorials in the book myself, on my many (many) churchyard visits for ancestry research, but I think I’ve got a fair few places to add now!

Geoffrey N. Wright wrote this in 1976, mixing records of older books and his own travels to pick out some fascinating tombstones and their inscriptions. I think, if anything, it shows that even in death there is a sense of humour on these islands unmatched in the world! From blacksmith elegies to poets speaking of kings to a murdered woman essentially naming her killer (!) this little book is worth the short time it takes to finish it, and might even inspire you to visit your local churchyard to see whether you had some comedians in your area a couple of centuries back who gave eternal life to a local character. Maybe you have one of those graves protected from grave-robbing (or reburied after being stolen!!).

The author also gives us a little taste of memorial style, from the type of stone, the style of monument, the various carved images of trade or profession, and in some cases the likely stonemason who produced the finished article. The pictures in the book, having been taken around the time of the first issue of the text, are not super HD or colour (though they might have been on the first issue, they’re B&W in this print), so it is hard to read some of the inscriptions sometimes, but the author has included a transcription so you’ll know what they say.

Some of my favourites are the …

Well worth getting a copy if you have even a passing interest in memorials, as it’ll give you a little insight to the personalities of not only the deceased but the authors of their eulogy.


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