Wednesday, November 25, 2009

101 Ways, Part 117: Died of the 108 Convulsion Fit

For a brief intro to the "101 Ways to Say 'Died'" series, click here.

Silas Barron
d. 1766
Groton, MA

Here lies
the Body of
Silas Barron, son of
Mr. Silasparker Barron
& Mrs. Abigail his wife,
who died of the 108
Convulsion fit Augt 7th
AD 1766. Aged 3 weeks
and 1 Day.


This is such a sad epitaph. It conjures a terrible image of distraught parents clutching a dying baby and counting every seizure.

1 comment:

RJO said...

It's always fascinating to me to see small details of style that mark a particular carver's work through their repetition.

Formal typography has always distingushed between "old style" numerals and "new style" numerals ("lining" and "ranging" figures). What these are in fact are just the uppercase and lowercase forms of numbers, corresponding to the uppercase and lowercase form of letters. Uppercase numerals (lining figures) are used in, for example, a line of all capital letters, as in the title of a work, whereas lowercase numerals (ranging figures) are used in body text.

Good carvers, like William Park, used standard ranging figures in the body of their carving, and positioned them properly. In this 1766 Silas Barron stone for example, the date "1766" shows the descender of the 7 and the ascenders of the 6's nicely. (Something the decadent computer font I'm now typing with can't do.)

But Park had occasional irregularities. In particular, as can be seen on this stone, he sometimes got his 8's wrong. A ranging 8 is supposed to rest on the baseline, but in the 1760s and 1770s Park seems to carve them with the lower loop as a descender, dropping below the baseline. A random error on this stone? No: take a look at this 1767 Mehetabel Goodridge stone from Fitchburg (the second oldest stone in the town). It has exactly the same positioning error with the 8. I have a 1778 example also. It would be interesting to look through lots of Park stones to see the nature of this pattern; when does it begin and end, and could it perhaps be used to identify individual carvers within the workshop as a whole.