A typographic mystery: an English typeface and a Maine gravestone
Last year while on vacation in Maine, I discovered peculiar letters on a well worn and lichen-encrusted gravestone in the Hope Grove Cemetery. The tomb was for two children, Enoch P. who died in 1811 at the age of 18 and Sarah who died in 1804 at the age of ten. The foot of the tomb is missing and thus their last name is unknown, though local genealogists surmise it is Safford since a similar tomb nearby bears that name. [Thanks to Peter Gariepy for this information.] The stone must have been commissioned several decades later judging by the style of lettering.
Today, while I was sorting through digital images I commissioned from Columbia University of the 1834 specimen book of William Thorowgood, the 19th century London typefounder, I suddenly stopped short. There, on a page with Four Lines Tuscan Open and Two Lines Great Primer Egyptian Open, was a typeface that looked like the peculiar Maine letters. Called Two Line Small Pica Shaded and Ornamented, it differs from them in two respects: the letters are shaded and they are not as wide. Otherwise, the basic forms are identical.
Here is an enlargement of the E from the typeface and a rubbing of the E (rough due to the lichen) from the gravestone for comparison.
So, how did a rural Maine lettercutter end up copying an ornamented letter from a London typefounder? I have no answer. But this is not the only instance of “typographic” letters on New England gravestones, just the ﬁrst where I have been able to link a style directly to a speciﬁc typeface and typefounder.