Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Old Stil"

I've written Old Style/New Style dating before, but I've never seen a stone like the Josiah Gates stone (1757) in Stow, MA. The epitaph reads,
Here Lies Buried 
The Body of Josiah 
Gates Son of Mr John 
Gates & Mrs Mary Gates
Was Born March ye 24 
1739 Old Stil & Died
March ye 30 1757
New Stile
I imagine that the carver (I think one of the Worsters — still waiting for that Forbes book in the mail) felt the need to specify OS/NS because the change had taken place relatively recently. It's a little unusual for a mid-18th c. stone to specify a birth date (they usually just have the person's age), so perhaps the carver wanted to make sure that viewers would not be confused. This specificity may have been particularly important because the Josiah Gates was born and died in March, the month with the most muddled date conversions.
This stone inspired a question: how do other carvers handle Old Style/New Style conversions in the 1750s? What's the latest date you've ever seen written with OS/NS notation (i.e. 1737/8).


Robert J. said...

Yes indeed, that's a Worster stone. I don't recall ever seeing explicit mention of "old style," but my experience is really pretty narrow, having studied only a couple of spots in depth rather than many broadly. You're right that it's unusual to have the birth date mentioned. (Somewhere I seem to remember seeing a calculator that would work out the birthdate automatically from "aged 63 years, 4 months and 13 days." Non-decimal backwards arithmetic makes me dizzy.)

G. said...

Hello, saw your old post. I know that gravestone to be carving by Worster., I think Moses Worster. I carved a larger, deeper relief replica of the face from the Samuel Green stone, 1759 Lexington Mass. Very cool style he had going for those years. I am stonemason and am currently training and educating myself in v-cut letters and the roman capitals and miniscules, saw the Worster stones in ,i think, (Tombstones of East Mass. From Slate to Marble: Gravestone Carving Traditions in Eastern Massachusetts 1770-1870) My record of books is a mess, sorry.
I'll have to explore your posts when I have a bit of free time, Keep up the good work