Saturday, August 28, 2010

Stone Books and Mennonite Cemeteries

Stone Books?

I must admit, I can't say that I'm a "keen observer" of all things cemetery, but perhaps I do take a special interest in gravestones and their most curious design. Something that caught my attention last year in some of the cemeteries of Chicago was the designs of books that were often engraved on old tombstones. Last summer I visited over half a dozen different cemeteries in the Chicago area, documenting various styles of tombs etched or designed with book-images. I photographed well over 100 stones. But there were so many that I hadn't had the time to organize and write about them, which I eventually hope to accomplish. But this past spring, I happened to be visiting a Mennonite cemetery in the Lancaster, PA region, and thought I'd snap a few photos, including these early stones above, which showed off some handcraft of stone carving.

The important and apropos aspects of this cemetery, though, are the tombs specifically engraved with images of books. These are not the most fancy book carving I've found since I started examining this motif, but it is interesting to see in contrast with other styles in this old Mennonite cemetery. Below, you can see the image of a farm on the stone.

More stones above with images of books carved into them. Below, some older stones and the Kraybill meeting house. This isn't that far from the Susquehanna river region.

Above and below we find two examples of book engravings. The one below is of an older couple, in their 80s when they died. Above, a sad reminder of the death of a child. In fact, it appears that this child died in birth...young Scott Bradley. "The Book of Life" as many of these books inscriptions are meant to symbolize. Requiescet in pace.

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