From the 1950's-1970's gravestone rubbing became a popular craft hobby. Recently preservationists have discouraged the practice because of potential damage to fragile stones. I believe the Association for Gravestone Studies (see link at right) still offers seminars in correct rubbing technique at their annual conference. At mid-century however, the team of Ann Parker and Avon Neal created a large collection of rubbings which were then reproduced as lithographic prints. Some of their prints are archived at the Smithsonian Institution. A limited edition numbered series was sold through American Heritage magazine in the 70's. Thanks to eBay I acquired this image of a circa 1760 carving from Rutland, Ma., signed and numbered 100/250.
The team of Daniel and Jesse Lie Farber used black and white photography to document thousand of stones from the period, many of which have since become damaged or disappeared altogether. I purchased an original Farber print, dated 1959, of the well known Susannah Jayne stone from Marblehead, MA. The Jayne stone is known to scholars because of it's complex composition of death imagery including garlanded skeleton with scythe, uroboros (snake swallowing it's tail), bats, angels and images of the sun and moon. Unfortunately, this unique example of the carvers art has been a specific target of vandalism. My own photo taken 40 years later, illustrates the damage.
Several years ago I purchased a large collection of notebooks, photographs and negatives from the estate of a gravestone enthusiast from upstate New York. Dr. Harvey Blanchet, spent many years photographing and printing black and white images from various journeys around the northeast and from time to time I plan to share some of his photos as well as my own. These are some examples of more primitive carving from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.