Excerpt from review by Dickran Tashjian
in The New England Quarterly, (June 2007) 80:2; 346-348.
Dickran Tashjian and Ann Tashjian are authors of
Memorials for Children of Change: The Art of Early New England Stonecarving,
nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1974.
“Blachowicz’s study of a century of stone carving in a concentrated region of New England is - there is no other word to describe it - monumental.
. . .
Unlike Harriet Forbes, who pioneered modern gravestone studies in the 1920s when she surveyed seventeenth- and eighteenth century graveyards throughout New England . . . or Allan I. Ludwig, who constructed his impressive iconographical study with the same geographical scope in the 1960s . . . , Blachowicz restricted himself to eastern Massachusetts . . . [and] extended
his purview to 1870. This strategy allowed him to establish a longitudinal study, ‘from slate to marble,’ as his title connotes, by documenting complex networks of carvers over time within a restricted area. [He] has uncovered many previously unknown carvers, from probate records, signed stones, and painstaking analysis of the stones’ lettering. . . . These artisans, who were important members of their small communities, now have a name . . . .
. . .
That carvers met the demands of fashion in the marketplace is precisely Blachowicz’s point, as he
traces a craft’s evolution into a business.
. . .
I am impressed . . . by the dazzling array of gravestones that Blachowicz has documented. Among humdrum willow-and-urn motifs there are many interesting variations with considerable aesthetic interest, along with several unusual images that fall outside that recurrent motif. These alone warrant future research and analysis.
. . .
From Slate to Marble is a magnificently produced book, with wonderful endpapers, sharply photographed illustrations . . . , clear endnotes, and a comprehensive bibliography. Last but not least, there is an easily navigated compact disc with 500 color images, along with appendices, that supplements text illustrations. Gravestone studies have entered the digital age, where these important artifacts of a lost society and culture might gain virtual immortality.”