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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/674

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sents three phases, sometimes to be observed on the same slab, viz., superficial solution, internal disintegration, and curvature with fracture.

1. Superficial solution is effected by the carbonic acid and partly by the sulphuric acid of town rain. When the marble is first erected it possesses a well-polished surface capable of affording a distinct reflection of objects placed in front of it. Exposure for not more than a year or two to our prevalent westerly rains suffices to remove this polish, and to give the surface a rough, granular character. The granules which have been cut across or bruised in the cutting and polishing process are first attacked, and removed in solution or drop out of the stone. An obelisk in Greyfriars Churchyard, erected in memory of a lady who died in 1864, has so rough and granular a surface that it might readily be taken for a sandstone. So loosely are the grains held together that a slight motion of the finger will rub them off. In the course of solution and removal, the internal structure of the marble begins to reveal itself. Its harder nests and veinings of calcite and other minerals project above the surrounding surface, and may be traced as prominent ribs and excrescences running across the faint or illegible inscriptions. On the other hand, some portions of the marble are more rapidly removed than others. Irregular channels, dependent partly on the direction given to trickling rain by the form of the monumental carving, but chiefly on original differences in the internal structure of the stone, are gradually hollowed out. In this way the former artificial surface of the marble disappears, and is changed into one that rather recalls the bare, bleached rocks of some mountain-side.

The rate at which this transformation takes place seems to depend primarily on the extent to which the marble is exposed to rain. Slabs which have been placed facing to the northeast, and with a sufficiently projecting architrave to keep off much of the rainfall, retain their inscriptions legible for a century or longer. But even in these cases the progress of internal disintegration is distinctly visible. Where the marble has been less screened from rain, the rapidity of waste has been sometimes very marked. A good illustration is supplied by the tablet of G—— G——, on the south side of Greyfriars Churchyard, who died in 1785.[1] This monument had become so far decayed as to require restoration in 1803. It is now, and has been for some years, for the most part utterly illegible. The marble has been dissolved away over the center of the slab to a depth of about a quarter of an inch. Yet this monument is by no means in an exposed situation. It faces eastward in a rather sheltered corner, where, however, the wind eddies in such a way as to throw the rain against the part of the stone which has been most corroded.

  1. For obvious reasons I withhold the names carved on the tombstones referred to in this communication.