Excerpt from review by Joy M. Giguere
in theAGS Quarterly: Bulletin of the Association for Gravestone Studies (Winter 2016; 40:4 & Spring 2017 41:1): 42-44.
“It is in Volume I that Blachowicz, in many ways, establishes a new paradigm for how gravestone researchers should undertake their study. . . . By establishing the primacy of probate research, detailed visual analysis of the individual stones, and laying out his freytag methodology of analyzing lettering styles, Blachowicz reinforces both well known best practices as well as new ways for examining what are, for many, well known, recognizable stones.
. . .
Blachowicz further expands dramatically [beyond Volume I] on the evidence and samples [with a combined total of 3350 signed and probated gravestones, 1300 burial grounds, a 22,000 gravestone database, 1500 images] . . . Between the two volumes, the sheer amount of material that has been made available to the reader and researcher is dizzying and one can easily get caught up in focusing on the photographs and other data at the expense of Blachowicz’s extraordinary text.
. . .
It is important to understand that, as an examination of the bodies of work of 80 eastern Massachusetts stonecarvers (135 in total when combined with Volume I), Blachowicz’s intention is not to offer a cultural history of gravestone style and iconography. Many such studies already exist. Rather, as Blachowicz states 'I believe the first task of any serious study of these artifacts is to identify the men who made them and circumscribe their bodies of work.' . . . And herein lies the great strength of this work – what Blachowicz is able to show through his biographies of individual carvers, carver families, and their shops, is the interrelationship between these craftsmen. Blachowicz reveals that these were not men who were laboring in isolation from one another or who were somehow detached from the broader social and cultural movements during which they lived. Some carvers were immigrants while others were native born, and a number were Revolutionary War veterans; some sought to maintain an adherence to an older craft tradition while others experimented with new and innovative designs and techniques. As in the case of the Soule family, the craft was handed down across multiple generations to the extent that we may observe the transformations in stone material, carving techniques and iconography over the course of a century, not to mention the physical migration of the family from east to west with the transformations that took place in American society from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. From Slate to Marble is an extraordinary and welcome addition to gravestone scholarship – the breadth of Blachowicz’s work is stunning and the information he provides to open our view of who these carvers were and what their bodies of work entail is absolutely critical for any student or scholar of the early New England gravestone carving tradition.”