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Archaeological Journal/Volume 1/On Sepulchral Brasses and Incised Slabs

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THE

Archaeological Journal.

 

SEPTEMBER, 1844.


 

SEPULCHRAL BRASSES, AND INCISED SLABS.

The engraved sepulchral memorials, which are found in remarkable profusion in England, and present so many features of interest, as well as sources of curious information, have of late years attracted much attention, and become the objects of assiduous research to those who love to investigate the progress of the arts of design, the peculiarities of costume in ancient times, or the intricacies of family history. It were needless to commend the value of these memorials to the genealogist, as authentic contemporary evidences; to the herald also, as examples of ancient usage in bearing arms, and of the peculiarities of heraldic design, which supply to the practised eye sure indications of date; or as authorities for the appropriation of badges and personal devices. During a period of three centuries these curious engravings supply a most interesting series illustrative of the costume of every class of society; they furnish examples of the conventional or prevalent character of ornament and design at each successive period, as also of architectural decoration, introduced with striking effect as an accessory in the rich and varied design of these memorials. As specimens of palæography, moreover, the inscriptions deserve attention, and supply authorities which fix the distinctive form of letter used at certain periods, conformable for the most part to that which is found in the legends on painted glass and on seals. Upon evidences such as these, the student of art during the Middle Ages, is enabled to form a positive opinion as to the precise age of any object, or the country whence it was derived, with as full confidence as if a date had been inscribed upon it: when characteristic ornament of a general kind may be insufficient for the purpose, he has recourse to some peculiarity of costume; even the quaint fashion of an heraldic bearing or device may be sufficient to define the age of the work in question. The fidelity, with which at different periods the propriety of such details was uniformly observed, is remarkable; there was indeed great variety in dress and the character of ornament, but it arose from the caprice of the period, not of the artist; each period had its distinctive prevalent fashion, each country its own marked peculiarities, which were faithfully observed in all works of art and decoration. It was only when the revived classical style, termed by the chronicler Hall " antique Romaine woorke," was introduced from France during the reign of Henry VIII, that artists and decorators ceased to observe the proprieties of the costume of the period, and the conventional rule which had previously curbed their caprice. These observations may serve to remind our readers, that the chief advantage which is to be derived from an assemblage of examples, such as the numerous sepulchral memorials which exist in England present, arises from the evidences which they supply towards forming a key to the chronology of art, evidences which, taken in combination, will almost invariably suffice to fix with precision the date of any works of painting or sculpture, or of the productions of the enameller, the limner, and the worker in metals, as well as the country where they were executed. Without such an aid, the investigation of the numerous and ingenious artistic processes which were in use during the middle ages, would be deprived of all its real interest.

It is not necessary to repeat here the remarks given in various works which exhibit specimens of sepulchral brasses. The precise period of the earliest use of such memorials has not been ascertained, but it is probable that they began occasionally to supply the place of the effigy sculptured in relief, during the earlier part of the thirteenth century. The fashion appears to have become prevalent in England, France, and the Low Countries, almost simultaneously; it is obvious that as the practice of interring persons of distinction in churches became frequent, the use of table-tombs, or effigies in relief, was necessarily found inconvenient, as occupying space in the area of the fabric, which was required for the services of the church. The advantages, therefore, arising from the introduction of flat memorials, which formed part of the pavement, and offered no obstruction, must have quickly brought them into common use. Amongst the earliest recorded instances in England may be mentioned the tomb of Jocelin, bishop of Wells, placed by him during his life-time in the middle of the choir, and described by Godwin as formerly adorned with a figure of brass. He died in 1242. Dart describes the slab, from which the inlaid brass figure of Richard de Berkyng, abbot of Westminster, had been torn, as existing when he wrote. This abbot died in 1246. The brass which represented Robert Grosteste, bishop of Lincoln, who died in 1253, still existed when Leland visited the cathedral; and Drake describes the gilded brass which was formerly to be seen at York on the tomb of Dean Langton, who died in 1279.

SIR ROGER DE TRUMPINGTON,
Trumpington Church, Cambridgeshire.



A. Heaume. On its apex is a staple for appending the Kerchief of Pleasaunce, and it is furnished with a chain attached to the girdle, to enable the Knight to recover his head-piece if knocked off in the fray.

B. Coif de mailles.


C. Ailettes.
D. Hawberk.
E. Surcoat.

F. Chausses de mailles.


G. Genouillieres of plate.


H. Spurs with a single point slightly bent upwards.

The date of the earliest existing specimen is about 1290; it is the figure of Sir Roger de Trumpington, who accompanied Prince Edward in the holy wars, and is represented with his legs crossed. An interesting addition, hitherto unnoticed, has recently been made to the small list of sepulchral brasses of this early period, which represent knights in the cross-legged attitude; it is preserved in the church of Pebmarsh, near Halstead, in Essex, and has formed the subject of a beautiful plate in the series of brasses in course of publication by Messrs. Waller. It may be observed, that besides six existing brasses in this attitude, five slabs have been noticed, from which brasses of cross-legged knights have been torn: these are at Emneth, in Norfolk, Letheringham and Stoke by Neyland, in Suffolk, and two in Cambridgeshire. There is no reason, however, to believe that the brasses of this early period ever existed in England in any large number, and it is only towards the latter part of the fourteenth century that such memorials occur in abundance, presenting in their details a remarkable variety; so that although a great general similarity will be found between several brasses of the same date, no two specimens have hitherto been noticed which are precisely identical, or may be regarded as reproductions of the same design.

In the examination of sepulchral brasses, this feature of interest may suggest itself to the English antiquary, that it is a branch of research which has now become almost exclusively national. England alone now presents any series or large number of these curious works of the burin, produced before the discovery of calcographic impression. The large number of brasses which once existed in France, perished in great part during the sixteenth century, and were totally destroyed during the reign of terror, when all metal was appropriated for public purposes. Not only has no specimen been hitherto noticed as existing in France, but scarcely can the memory or tradition of the existence of such memorials be now traced; almost the only evidence of the numerous assemblage of sepulchral brasses, of large dimension and most elaborate execution, which were preserved, during the last century, in the cathedral and abbey churches in France, is supplied by the extensive collection of drawings of French monuments, taken about 1700, and bequeathed by Gough to the Bodleian Library. In Flanders a few remarkable brasses are still to be seen, and Denmark affords some examples, which have not hitherto been described by any one conversant with the subject. It is stated that in some instances in that country, the heads of the figures are executed in low relief, formed of silver hammered out, or chased, the rest of the memorial being flat, and wrought with the burin in the usual manner. It may be worthy of remark, that examples of incised slabs may be noticed in our own country, which present this variety, that the head and hands only are in relief, the remainder of the figure being flat, and pourtrayed by simple lines: a close analogy of workmanship may be remarked on the shrines, and other enamelled works of the artists of Limoges, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which are frequently ornamented with heads chased in relief, whilst all the rest of the design is perfectly flat. In Germany a great number of tombs formed of metal still exist, which are wrought in very low relief, and form the intermediate class between the sepulchral brass and the effigy. It is singular that no sepulchral brass has hitherto been noticed as existing in Scotland, and in Ireland two examples only are on record, which are memorials of late date, in St. Patrick's cathedral, Dublin. Very few are to be found in Wales; an altar-tomb may be seen at Tenby, to which a brass, representing a bishop, was formerly affixed, supposed to have been the memorial of Tully, bishop of St. David's. The brasses at Swansea, representing Sir Hugh Jones, knight of the Holy Sepulchre, and at Whitchurch, representing Richard, father of the famous Sir Hugh Middleton, and governor of Denbigh castle, with his numerous family, are almost the only specimens of interest which occur in the Principality. The curious engraved portraits of the Wynne family, executed by Silvanus Crewe in the seventeenth century, and preserved in the Gwydir chapel at Llanrwst, Denbighshire, although of monumental character, can hardly be included with sepulchral brasses.

The information which may be derived from incised memorials is so various, and the features of interest which they present are so attractive to persons of many different tastes and pursuits, in connexion with antiquarian researches, that, encouraged by the singular facility of taking from works of this kind impressions or rubbings, and obtaining at a very small sacrifice of time and trouble a most accurate fac-simile, the number of collectors who have in recent times diligently devoted their leisure to the investigation of sepulchral brasses is very large, and daily increases. The simple process by which such fac-similes are to be made is probably well known to the majority of our readers; to some persons, however, a few observations on the subject may not be unacceptable. It was only about the year 1780, when Gough was engaged in amassing materials for his great work on sepulchral monuments, that any notice was bestowed upon brasses. The first person who began to form a collection was Craven Ord, who, accompanied by Sir John Cullum and the Rev. Thomas Cole, bestowed no small time and labour in obtaining impressions, or "blackings," as they termed them, from the numerous fine examples which attracted their attention in the eastern counties. Their united collections are now presented in the print-room at the British Museum; they were purchased at the death of Craven Ord, in 1830, by the late Francis Douce, Esq., for the sum of £43, and by him bequeathed to the national collection, where they were deposited in 1834. This series of fine specimens is the more valuable, because it comprises several brasses which have subsequently been destroyed or mutilated, such, for instance, as the curious memorials of Sir Hugh Hastings, at Elsing, in Norfolk, and of the aldermen of Lynn, Attelathe, and Coney. This primitive collection will moreover be regarded with additional interest, as having supplied to Gough, in the progress of his undertaking, information, the value of which is duly acknowledged in the preface to the second portion of his work. The mode of operation devised by Craven Ord and his friends will appear to the collector of the present times a most tedious and troublesome process. Sir John Cullum gives an interesting description of the outset of the party on horseback, "accoutered with ink-pots, flannels, brushes," &c., the proceeding being in fact a rude and imperfect attempt to obtain an impression by a process analogous to ordinary copper-plate printing. The brass was covered with printing ink, the surface cleaned as well as it might be, thick paper, previously damped, was laid upon it, and with the flannels, and such means of pressure as could be devised, the action of the rolling-press was imperfectly supplied, so that the ink which filled the incised lines was transferred to the paper. Of course the impressions, for impressions they were, not rubbings, were inverted, and many imperfections occurred in parts where the pressure had missed its effect: these were subsequently made good with the pen and common ink, sometimes even they were contented to use a very small quantity of printing ink, so that the whole design, transferred in very faint lines to the paper, was afterwards worked over with the pen, and an uniform effect produced, but at the expense of much time and labour. It were much to be desired that this collection, which has been rendered accessible to the public by the bequest of Mr. Douce, should be augmented, so as to form ultimately a complete series of the sepulchral brasses of England. Independently of the advantages which might be derived by the topographer or genealogist from ready access to such a collection, it would form a valuable exhibition illustrative generally of the progress of design in England, and especially of that branch of it which was preliminary to the art of calcographic impression. It is very remarkable that, during so long a period, plates, which in some instances display a skilful use of the burin, and work of very elaborate and delicate character, should have been executed in great numbers, capable of transferring impressions to paper, and yet that calcography should have at length originated in an artistic process of a wholly different nature, practised chiefly by the Italian goldsmiths, and termed niello, or opus nigellatum. The importance of sepulchral brasses, viewed in connexion with the history of engraving, was duly appreciated by one to whose careful researches upon that subject we are indebted for so much valuable information, the late keeper of the prints at the British Museum, Mr. Ottley; his constant attention was given during the latter part of his life to the collection formed by Craven Ord, in which he appeared to find a new and inexhaustible source of information. It is much to be regretted that the fruits of this assiduous toil, during many months devoted to the investigation of this hitherto untouched chapter of the art of engraving, should by his untimely death have been lost to the public.

Besides the collection of impressions. Craven Ord was possessed of several original sepulchral brasses, which were sold at his death, in 1830, and purchased by Mr. Nichols, with one remarkable exception, the cross-legged figure of a knight, of the size of life, identified as the memorial of a member of the Bacon family, of Suffolk. By the care of the lamented and talented historian of Suffolk, the late John Gage Rokewode, Esq., and Dawson Turner, Esq., this curious effigy was ultimately restored to its proper position in Gorleston church, near Yarmouth, where the slab still remained, marked with the cavity on the surface to which the plate had originally been affixed. This laudable act of restoration deserves to be recorded, and specially commended as an example to those persons who may accidentally become possessed of similar memorials. It is lamentable to observe the sacrilegious spoliation which in the course of a few years leaves, as in the case of the fine brass of Sir Hugh Hastings, at Elsing, some disunited fragments only, to shew how fair the work had once been in its perfection.

Subsequently to the labours of Craven Ord, the attention of antiquaries was drawn to the sepulchral brasses of the eastern counties, by a work specially devoted to the subject, and illustrated with numerous etchings by Cotman. These volumes, originally produced at a costly price, and comprising representations of the most remarkable brasses which exist in Norfolk and Suffolk, have recently been republished in a more complete form, and at a price which renders them generally attainable. The series which is now in course of publication by Messrs. John and Lionel Waller, consists of examples selected with much judgment from all parts of England; the work is distinguished by remarkable fidelity in the reproduction of such elaborate subjects on a reduced scale, as also by the taste and assiduous research which are shewn throughout the undertaking. The practical utility of such an assemblage of examples chronologically arranged, and represented with the most conscientious accuracy, will be fully appreciated by the student of middle-age antiquities, who might, without such aid, in vain endeavour to compare together the widely-scattered examples, which are here submitted at one view to his examination.

The various methods which have been adopted by different collectors, for obtaining fac-similes of sepulchral brasses, deserve some detailed description. The mode which has been noticed as the earliest in use, devised by Craven Ord and his friends, was attended with much inconvenience; the thick paper was not readily damped to the requisite degree, the slab soiled by the application of printing ink was not easily cleaned again, and moreover the process produced at best an imperfect and unsatisfactory impression. It was soon found that if paper of moderate thickness were laid upon the brass, and any black substance rubbed over the surface of the paper, the incised lines would be left white, in consequence of the paper sinking into them, and offering no resistance to the rubber, whilst all the other parts received from that substance a dark tint; and although the effect of the ordinary impression is by this process reversed, the lines which should be black being left white, and the light ground of the design rendered dark, yet a perfectly distinct fac-simile is thus obtained, with little labour and great precision, in consequence of the progress of the work being visible throughout the operation. The satisfactory result of this simple process is probably well known to most of our readers, and it may be effected by means of any substance which by friction will discolour the paper. The first attempts were made with a leaden plummet, about the same time that Craven Ord was engaged in making the "blackings" with printing ink; but common lead, being somewhat too hard for the purpose, is apt to tear the paper, an objection easily obviated by the use of a lump of the black-lead, or carburet of iron, of which drawing pencils are made. This substance works very freely, and produces an uniform effect, but the fac-similes thus produced are liable to suffer by friction, like black-lead drawings. A beautiful series of fac-similes of the numerous brasses of Suffolk has been formed by a gentleman in that county, who has devoted many years to the collection of materials for its history; he has solely employed the large black-lead pencils, which are used by carpenters, and prefers a thick quality of paper, the rubbings being subsequently set, like black-lead drawings, with milk or beer; the figures, scutcheons, or other portions of the design, are then carefully cut out, and pasted down upon large sheets of strong paper. The use of black-lead has this advantage, that it is very easy to produce with that substance an uniformly dark effect throughout the rubbing, however large its dimension, whereas by all other methods which have been devised, the like uniformity is only attainable with much care and labour, and the patchy appearance of the rubbing takes much from the sightliness of its aspect. Some collectors prefer the use of rubbers of soft black leather, the waste pieces which remain in the shoemaker's workshop, especially those parts which are most strongly imbued with the dubbing, or black unctuous compound, with which the skins are dressed by the curriers: satisfactory fac-similes are produced by this method, provided that the leather be of suitable quality, and the risk of tearing the paper in the course of the operation is slight. As, however, the unctuous properties of the leather, whereby a dark tint is imparted to the paper, are quickly exhausted, the frequent difficulty of obtaining in remote villages a fresh supply has induced most of the collectors of sepulchral brasses to give the preference to the use of shoemaker's heel-ball, or a compound of bees-wax and tallow with lamp-black, which may easily be made of any desired consistence. With heel-ball a careful hand will obtain a fac-simile satisfactorily distinct, even where the lines arc most delicate, or nearly effaced: the work thus produced is perfectly indelible, and is not liable to be injured by any accidental friction; this mode of operation has also the advantages of great facility and cleanliness, and is that which is at present most generally employed. Messrs. Ullathorne, of Long-Acre, the sole manufacturers of heel-ball, have provided for the use of those collectors of brasses who may find the heel-balls of ordinary size inconveniently small, pieces of larger dimension, about three inches in diameter: they have also proposed to supply a waxy compound of a yellow colour, in order that the rubbings may assume some resemblance to the original brass[1]. This resemblance is more perfect when dark coloured paper is used with the metallic rubber, prepared by Mr. H. Richardson, Stockwell Street, Greenwich, and sold by Bell, 168, Fleet Street; Hood, 25, Red Lion Square; Parker, Oxford; and Deighton, Cambridge; the lines are then black, and the surface assumes nearly the colour of the original. If a rubbing of a small brass or of an interesting portion of a brass, be made on lithographic transfer-paper with lithographic crayons, which resemble heel-ball in com- position, and may be used as a substitute, the design may be transferred to stone or zinc, from which the usual number of impressions may be worked off. A lithographed fac-simile, of the full dimension of the original brass, and of unerring accuracy, is thus obtained, which in some cases may be found desirable: for instance, the head and bust of any sepulchral brass is of fitting dimension for transfer to stone, and an interesting fac-simile will thus be obtained, at a very small expense, suitable for the illustration of any topographical or genealogical work.

The most commodious and effective mode of obtaining rubbings of brasses is undoubtedly by the use of heel-ball, but much time and exertion are required in order to produce a perfectly distinct rubbing, equally black in every part; if therefore the sacrifice of time should be an objection, as in the course of a journey it may frequently become, the more expeditious method adopted by Messrs. Waller will be found preferable. Rubbers of wash-leather stiffened with paper are prepared, a triangular shape having been found to be most convenient, and primed with a thin paste formed of very fine black-lead in powder, mixed with the best linseed oil, or if that kind is not at hand, with sweet oil. Tissue paper, of somewhat stronger quality than is commonly used, answers best for making rubbings by this method, and it is manufactured in large sheets. The rubbings thus produced with great expedition are perfectly distinct, and this process answers admirably, if the chief object be to obtain the means of supplying an accurate reduction of the design for the use of the engraver; but those persons who are desirous of forming an illustrative collection, will prefer the rubbings produced with heel-ball, as more sightly, and more durable, the paper employed being of stronger quality, although the operation requires much longer time and greater pains than are expended when the method just described is adopted.

As regards the selection of paper for making rubbings of brasses, great convenience is necessarily found in the use of sheets of sufficiently large dimension to comprise the whole brass, with all the accessory ornaments, and the inscription. It is not perhaps generally known that all machine-made papers may be procured to order in sheets of almost any desired length; a very serviceable kind of paper, manufactured for the envelopes of newspapers, of moderate strength, and not too much sized, is supplied to order in long sheets by Messrs. Richards and Wilson, in St. Martin's Court. Most persons will give the preference to a stouter and rather more expensive quality of paper, manufactured specially for the purpose of taking rubbings of brasses by Mr. Limbird, 143, Strand. It is of unlimited length, like a roll of cloth; the widest kind, which is calculated to comprise on one single sheet of paper brasses of the largest dimension, measures 4 feet 7 inches wide; the narrower quality measures 3 feet 11 inches wide. It is scarcely requisite to remind the collector of brasses, that he should never sally forth unprovided with some pointed tool, to clear out such lines as may be filled up, the most serviceable implement being a blunt etching-needle, and also a small brush, moderately stiff, which is very useful in cleaning the plate, an operation which ought always to be carefully performed, previously to the paper being laid down.

It has been affirmed, on insufficient grounds, that many of the sepulchral brasses which exist in England were imported from Flanders, the only fact which might seem to give probability to such a conclusion being this, that memorials of this description are most abundant in the eastern counties, Kent, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire, which from their position maintained more frequent commercial intercourse with the Low Countries, than any other parts of England. It does not however appear that many Flemish brasses exist in England; the examples which, as there is good reason to suppose, were imported from Flanders, are the memorials of Abbot de la Mare, at St. Alban's; of Robert Braunche, Adam de Walsokne, and their wives, at Lynn; Adam Fleming, at Newark; the beautiful little figure of an ecclesiastic, at North Mimms, Hertfordshire; and an interesting plate in the church of St. Mary-Key, Ipswich, an excellent representation of which is given by Shaw in his Dresses and Decorations. To this list may be added the fine brass of Robert Attelath, formerly to be seen at Lynn: the plate was sold for five shillings by a dis- honest sexton, who is said to have hung himself, through remorse, and the only memorial of this figure now known to exist is the impression taken by Craven Ord, which may be seen at the British Museum. A few other Flemish specimens may probably be found in England, such as the noble figure of an ecclesiastic at Wensley, Yorkshire, but the greater number of our sepulchral brasses appear to have been executed in England, an opinion which is corroborated by certain peculiarities of costume and ornament, and the letter used in the inscriptions. It particularly deserves to be noticed, that, with scarcely a single known exception, the brasses of France and Flanders differed from those commonly used in England, in this respect, that they were formed of one large unbroken sheet of metal, the field or back-ground being richly diapered to set off the figures, whereas in England the slab of dark grey marble, to which the brass was affixed, served as the field; the figure, the scutcheons, the surrounding architectural decorations, and the inscriptions, being all formed of separate pieces of metal, which were affixed in separate cavities, prepared on the face of the slab to receive them. It will not be forgotten that the small number of brasses which have been noticed above as of Flemish workmanship, differ from other brasses in England in this feature, and accord with the fashion which appears to have been usually adopted on the continent, possibly because the brass plate, which was there manufactured, was more readily procured in sheets of large dimension, whereas in England no manufacture of brass plate existed, previously to the establishment of works at Esher by a German, in 1649. A remarkable example, conformable in every respect to the brasses of the same period which exist in England, has recently been noticed in Constance cathedral, a representation of which may be seen in the Archæologia, vol. xxx. It is the memorial of Robert Hallum, bishop of Salisbury, the special envoy of Henry V. to the Council of Constance, who dying there in 1416, during the sitting of the Council, was interred with great solemnity. It is asserted traditionally that this brass was brought from England, and there can be little doubt that such was the case; it precisely resembles the brasses of England in every peculiarity of workmanship whereby they may be distinguished from continental specimens; and the singular fact that the only known memorial of an Englishman of distinction, existing in any foreign church, should present these peculiar details which are to be recognised in the brasses of the period, existing in England, appears to afford a corroboration of the belief that these engravings were executed in this country.


Sir John d'Aubernoun.

One remarkable circumstance has not hitherto been sufficiently investigated, as regards the workmanship of these engraved memorials. The surface of the metal being burnished, or even in some cases gilded, it is obvious that the effect of the incised lines would be lost, if they were not filled up with some black composition, and there can be scarcely a doubt that in every instance the lines, and all the excised parts of the field, or other portions where diapering was introduced, were filled in with black, or in many cases with coloured compositions. Some examples, even of the earliest period, still exist, which exhibit enamel thus employed for the enrichment of works of this description, such as the full sized brass of one of the d'Aubernoun's at Stoke d'Abernon, in Surrey, in which instance the blue enamel of the shield, a surface of very considerable extent, is still very perfect. The date of this work is about the reign of Edward II. Other specimens may be seen at Elsing in Norfolk, Ifield in Sussex, Broxbourne in Essex, and several other churches, and it is very probable that the introduction of enamel in this manner was much more frequent than at first sight we might be inclined to suppose; for the contraction and expansion of the metal, and exposure to the feet of the congregation, would quickly throw off every fragment of so brittle a substance as enamel. The subject is one which seems not undeserving of attention in connexion with the history and practice of artistic processes in our country, both on account of the few evidences that exist to shew that enamelling was practised in England, with any perfection, and also because enamel is usually applied to copper, brass being commonly considered incapable of sustaining the requisite degree of heat. The curious observer will therefore do well to ascertain, when any brass bearing traces of enamelled work comes under his notice, whether the metal employed in such cases be copper, or the usual hard kind of brass anciently termed latten, a mixed yellow metal of exceedingly hard quality, and which appears to be identical in composition with that now used for making cocks for casks or cisterns, technically called cock-brass.

A few observations on incised stone slabs must be appended to these remarks on brasses; they are works of an analogous kind, the material employed alone excepted, and were probably executed by the same artists. Where a saving of expense was an object, the slab would often be preferred, but as it was far less durable than the brass, the incised slab, when used as part of the pavement, in the course of a few years was wholly defaced, and the number of existing specimens is small. Some indeed, which were elevated upon altar-tombs, still exist in a fair state of preservation, being frequently formed of alabaster, which was found in abundance in Derbyshire. Memorials of this kind are therefore most frequently to be found in the adjoining counties of Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, and Cheshire. In the remote village church of Avenbury, Herefordshire, a remarkable incised slab has been preserved, which represents a knight in the mailed armour of the close of the thirteenth century, and cross-legged; a memorial equally curious, and of the same period, exists at Bitton, near Bath, the cross-legged figure of Sir John de Bytton; the head and hands are executed in low relief, the remainder of the figure being represented by incised lines. An early incised slab in Wells cathedral deserves notice; it is the memorial of one of the bishops of Wells, a member of the same family de Bytton. Examples of later date are to be seen at Mavesyn Ridware, Blithfield, and Penkridge, in Staffordshire; Grafton, in Northamptonshire; Newbold on Avon, Whichford, and Ipsley, in Warwickshire; Pitchford, Beckbury, and Edgmond, in Shropshire; Brading, in the Isle of Wight; and a very elaborate specimen of large dimension exists in the carnaria, or charnel crypt, under the Lady chapel at Hereford cathedral. In France, memorials of this kind were very abundant, and the design was frequently most rich and elaborate: the greater number have now perished, but the curious drawings which are found in Gough's Collection, previously noticed, and preserved in the Bodleian Library, sufficiently shew how rich and varied was their character. A fine specimen, in fair preservation, which is now to be seen at the Palais des beaux Arts at Paris, has supplied the subject of a plate in Shaw's Dresses and Decorations; its date is 1350, and it presents a good example of the usual character of incised slabs, as they were formerly to be seen in profusion in the cathedral and abbey churches of France. It is no easy matter to obtain a satisfactory rubbing from an incised slab, and, a good method of operation is still a desideratum. In most cases the surface of the slab is so weathered and carious, that the most careful rubbing with heel-ball or black-lead presents but an indistinct representation, for by these means every accidental cavity appears on the paper as clearly as the lines, and confusion is the result. Sometimes indeed the resinous compound, with which these lines were filled up, remains, and in such cases it is usually found to project slightly above the surface of the slab, so that the lines, if lightly rubbed over, appear black upon the paper. When the lines are very deeply cut, as is usually the case on the earlier incised slabs, a simple process, devised by the antiquaries of France, will be found effective. Paper, either wholly unsized, or sized in a very slight degree, is moistened with a sponge, and applied to the surface of the slab; it is then pressed into the cavities by means of a brush of moderate hardness, a hard hat-brush, for instance, or even the handker- chief will answer in most cases; if the paper should be broken by the pressure, where the cavities are deep, a second or third layer of paper may be placed on that part, and compacted together with paste or gum; care must be taken to preserve the paper in its place until the moisture has evaporated by the effect of the air or sun, and without much trouble a precise fac-simile or cast, will be obtained, which is not liable to be effaced by any subsequent pressure, but can only be destroyed by moistening the paper. This method is applicable for taking fac-similes of any sculptured ornament, the relief of which is not too great, and is more especially useful where an accurate representation of an inscription is required. It is even practicable, by varnishing the paper with a spirituous solution of lac, to obtain from it a cast in plaster of Paris; such simple and ingenious processes are invaluable to those who know the importance of minute accuracy in their researches, and furnish authorities for reference, which no drawing or transcript, however carefully made, can ever supply.

albert way.

 

 
  1. The ordinary heel-balls are manufactured of various degrees of hardness, and it will be found convenient to make use of a softer quality, where the lines are deeply cut, and the harder kind, where the work is more delicately executed. During very hot weather also, the harder quality will be found most serviceable.