A Gift Guide for Taphophiles

It’s almost Christmas time, and the hustle and bustle of Christmas dinners and get-togethers are right around the corner. I love finding unique and meaningful gifts for my loved ones. It’s a great feeling to see someone close to you, open up a unique gift that you know they are going to love! These types of gifts also don’t need to cost a fortune, and supporting a small business is always a bonus. I have been eyeing a few fun and interesting cemetery-related items online myself. Unfortunately, I don’t have any taphophiles in my family to buy for, but I thought maybe some of you might.

So this year, I thought I would try my hand at writing a little gift guide for those looking for some inspiration for your cemetery loving friends and family, or maybe your own Christmas wish list.

Below is my round-up of some unique, beautiful and practical cemetery-related items that I think any taphophile would love!

Cemetery Photography by Chantal Larochelle is not affiliated with these brands and artists. I do not receive any proceeds from sales. Just sharing products I love!

A Tomb With a View – The Stories & Glories of Graveyards | Indigo Books

If your taphophile friends and family like to read, you can’t go wrong with a cemetery book. I’ve heard excellent things about Peter Ross’ new book, and hope to pick myself up a copy if I don’t get one for Christmas. “A book for anyone who has ever wandered through a field of crooked headstones and wondered about the lives and deaths of those who lie beneath.” – Indigo.ca

Cooking with the Dead: A zine of Tombstone Recipes | Etsy

A unique full-color illustrated zine by Reading Reliquary. This 20-page booklet features recipes found on tombstones from “Alaska to Israel”. There are a bunch of other spooky-cute items available in their Etsy shop, such as stickers, bookmarks, and another zine about the language of floral symbolism on tombstones. Unfortunately, some items don’t ship to Canada.

Custom Graveyard Garden Stakes | Etsy

Cursed by Design offers a set of 6, 3D printed garden stakes. You can customize them with any of the 40 available herb names, or you can personalize them with your own names. They would be perfect for a taphophiles herb garden!

Death’s Garden Revisited: Personal Relationships with Cemeteries | Blurb 

This new book of essays, edited by Loren Rhoads, illuminates the reason why people visit cemeteries. This collection features 40 personal essays, written by cemetery tourists, genealogists, geocachers, anthropologists, and more. A great addition to any taphophiles library.

Deaths Head Enamel Pin | Etsy

This gorgeous 1.5” soft enamel Deaths Head pin, by Verona Black, would look striking on a jacket, camera bag, or anywhere really. It also has some interesting symbolism behind it. A Deaths Head or Skull effigy is a form of Momento Mori, a reminder of your mortality.

Gravestone Casting Wall Art | The Gravestone Girls

Their online store is filled with beautiful castings of old New England gravestones. Their pieces range from small magnets to large castings. They all feature unique gravestone symbolism. The Gravestone Girls, who are fellow taphophiles, have over 30 years of experience working in old cemeteries. So you can be certain that these beautiful gravestone castings have been made with every precaution taken to not harm the gravestones. 

Gravestone Symbols T-Shirt | The Order of the Good Death Store

This unisex t-shirt features some beautiful gravestone symbolism, illustrated by Meagan Meli. The symbols are also accompanied by their meanings. Perfect for those who would rather be visiting a cemetery. I know I would personally try to find all the symbols on it if I ever wore this while visiting a historic cemetery.

Gravestone Types Classic T-Shirt | Red Bubble

I feel like t-shirts are always a safe bet, especially if they have some cool graphics. This t-shirt by Shaded Grove Art on Red Bubble features a bold, but simple design that lists different types of gravestones. It’s a little bit classic, and a little bit nerdy, a great combination.

I Brake For Cemeteries Bumper Sticker | TalkDeath

Does your vehicle brake for cemeteries? This is a fun novelty accessory, but I can see how this would come in handy on cemetery road trips. Other drivers should be warned! 

Natural Spectrolite Tombstone | Etsy

These beautiful miniature tombstones from WHCrystal are made from spectrolite minerals that flash beautifully in the sunlight. These would be a very unique addition to someone’s rock and mineral collection, or as a stand-alone piece. I just love the look of these little gravestones.

One-year membership to AGS | Association for Gravestone Studies

A one-year membership to AGS is a gift that keeps on giving! Members receive some great benefits throughout the year, like The AGS Quarterly, filled with cemetery and gravestone-related articles. They also receive the monthly e-newsletter that features special announcements, news articles, and event information. Membership also includes the next published issue of Markers, their annual journal full of definitive cemetery and gravestone articles. You also get member pricing for the AGS Annual Conference, that’s also known as Cemetery Camp.

Pocket Cemetery – Cemetery illustrations | Etsy

Landis Blair is an amazing illustrator and is offering pre-orders of this beautiful Pocket Cemetery booklet. “A convenient reminder of your pending mortality.” This 24-page booklet contains 21 black & white illustrations of a variety of cemeteries and is estimated to ship by the end of November. They also offer prints and stickers in their Etsy shop.

Tombstone Zip Hoodie | Find a Grave

Did you know that Find a Grave has an online store? My favorite item in their shop is this grey zip-up hoodie, perfect to keep you warm while you wander cemeteries and fulfill photo requests. 

There you have it, 13 gift ideas for the taphophiles in your life.

Thanks for reading! 

Cemetery Book Review: City of Immortals Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

For this month’s book review, I wanted to look at Carolyn Campbell’s debut book, City of Immortals Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. I found out about this book through the Association for Gravestone Studies. It is February’s book, for the AGS book club. 

City of Immortals is in part history, a first-person account, and a guided tour. Carolyn takes us through the rich history of this legendary necropolis, while also sharing her connections to it. She also sheds light on the stories of the most notable figures laid to rest at Père-Lachaise. This book also includes 3 guided tours and an illustrated map, with detailed directions to take you throughout the cemetery.

“This first-person account of a legendary necropolis will delight Francophiles, tourists, and armchair travelers while enriching the experience of taphophiles (cemetery lovers) and aficionados of art and architecture, mystery, and romance. Carolyn Campbell’s evocative images are complemented by those of renowned landscape photographer Joe Cornish.” – Book synopsis 

This is a beautiful book. It boasts a built-in ribbon bookmark, a satin finish cover, glossy pages, and a pull-out illustrated map of the cemetery. The illustrated map was a lovely surprise. I enjoyed this book, for the most part. I loved exploring the rich history of the place. The only aspect of the book I didn’t like was Chapter 3 – Conversations with the immortals. In this chapter, Carolyn holds Q&A conversations with some of the more notable figures buried in the cemetery. I assume she did her research to come up with the answers to her interview-style questions, but these notable figures have passed on—some over a hundred years ago. It sometimes comes across as she is putting words into these people’s mouths. I understand it as a narrative device, but I think it may have been a poor choice. That chapter could have been better used to describe more of the rich history of the cemetery, while the information gleaned from her “conversations” could have been included in the tours. That being said, the walking tours are very well directed and had me feeling like I was wandering the graves in person. This book would be a great resource to bring along if I were to ever visit in person. I also have to mention the gorgeous photography in this book. It runs the gamut from detailed shots of individual tombs while also showcasing the beauty of the landscape as a whole. 

Overall, I did enjoy this book. Especially now, during a pandemic, it’s a great way to travel without leaving the comfort of my couch. It also is a good starting point for planning a future trip when things return to a more comfortable state of normal. I would say this is a great addition to any cemetery or travel library and would be a valuable resource as a guide to visiting Père-Lachaise Cemetery.

Have your read this book? What did you think? Have you ever visited Père-Lachaise Cemetery? Tell me about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

The Association for Gravestone Studies

I found out about The Association for Gravestone Studies years ago, while doing some online shopping. I was looking at gravestone rubbing kits at Pushin Daisies, the mortuary novelty shop. Each kit comes with information on becoming a member of AGS. I was curious. I didn’t end up purchasing a rubbing kit, but I did end up getting myself a membership for AGS. After being a member for a few years, I let my membership lapse due to financial reasons. I missed being part of the Association and missed receiving gravestone-related mail though.

When I decided to focus more on my cemetery photography a couple of years ago, one of the first things I did was renew my membership. I am very happy to be a member again! 

Logo for the Association for Gravestone Studies, www.gravestonestudies.org

“The Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS) was founded in 1977 for the purpose of furthering the study and preservation of gravestones. AGS is an international organization with an interest in gravemarkers of all periods and styles. Through its publications, conferences, workshops and exhibits, AGS promotes the study of gravestones from historical and artistic perspectives, expands public awareness of the significance of historic gravemarkers, and encourages individuals and groups to record and preserve gravestones. At every opportunity, AGS cooperates with groups that have similar interests.” – www.gravestonestudies.org

What drew me to the Association, was finding other like-minded individuals, and all the resources they offer. There are quite a few AGS chapters throughout the United States, and when I first joined there were a couple of Canadian chapters. Unfortunately, none were close to me, and those chapters have since closed. There are lots of opportunities to get to know your fellow members and taphophiles though, like the AGS Conference for example. This annual conference takes place in a different location each year and features events like field trips, conservation workshops, hands-on sessions as well as panels, evening lectures, and late-night presentations. Last year the conference went virtual! I think it was a great approach. It’s mindful of the current pandemic, and a great way for those of us that are far away, to attend. I do hope they continue to offer some virtual events for the conference.

In addition to that, there are a lot of publications available. The AGS Quarterly is the bulletin of the Association for Gravestone Studies. It’s published 4 times a year and is delivered right to your door if you are a member. The Quarterly features articles, and regular columns on conservation and International gravestone studies. I love the articles in the Quarterly, they are always fascinating. Another publication AGS offers is Markers, the annual journal of AGS. During the winter months, what I consider my off-season for cemetery photography, I have been diving into the back issues of Markers, reading them cover to cover. It’s a beautiful perfect-bound journal that features definitive illustrated articles on cemetery and gravestone topics. It’s very in-depth and very informative. It also features international content. A bonus of AGS membership is that now you can read and download past issues of Markers online. They offer a lot of other online resources as well, in their knowledge centre. There you can find information on symbolism and the archives of past Markers and AGS Quarterly issues, as well as past e-newsletters. They also have a database of websites that pertain to the preservation of gravestones.

New this year, AGS has added a virtual book club. Starting in January, the book club meets on the third Sunday of each month and focuses on books about cemeteries, gravestones, mourning customs, funerary practices, and death and dying. The book for January was 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die by Loren Rhoads. I attended the first meeting and had a great time. There were about 30 participants, including the books author. We were split up into 2 smaller groups for discussions. In virtual break-out rooms, the moderators inspired conversation by asking questions about elements of the book. There was a great range of participants from all over the world. It was really interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts. Having Loren in attendance was a pleasant surprise. It was really interesting to get some extra insights from her. I’m looking forward to February’s meeting, where we will be discussing City of Immortals: Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris by Carolyn Campbell.

I highly recommend joining the Association for Gravestone Studies if you have an interest in cemeteries, and gravestone preservation. It’s a great place to find others with a passion for cemeteries and a great resource to learn more about everything cemetery related.

To learn more about the Association for Gravestone Studies, please visit their website. You can also find AGS on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks for reading!