Field Guide

The Tablet

The Tablet memorial, Egyptian in its origin, is one of the most extensively used types in the present era. The principal characteristic of it is an upright slab mounted on a base, taller than it is wide and of moderate thickness. A pleasing proportion to develop this effect would be to make the overall height one-half again as much as the width of the base across the front. Thus an example of 4'-0" width of base would be 6'-0" high. A Tablet memorial is rarely attractive if more than 7-0" total height, and the die or upper piece should not exceed 1'-2" in thickness from front to back. In modest examples of this type a thickness of 10" or 1'-0" is ample.

The appeal of the Tablet memorial is essentially one of character and not one of mass. Its lines should verge toward the slender and graceful rather than toward an impression of solidity. It will be found that this effect is better obtained if the die is battered or tapered so that it is narrower across the top of the face than it is across the face at the base. Battering on the face and back is not necessary.

One or two bases may be used in the tablet, but rarely is an entablature or cap piece advantageous. It may be borne in mind that the use of an entablature or cap in solid memorial not of an architectural type is in most all cases limited to the simulation of the cover of a sarcophagus.

The Tablet memorial is best adapted to mark a single grave or a four grave lot, two spaces in front and two spaces behind. When best situated it is surrounded by other memorials of a lower height such as the panel or sarcophagus types. In the case of the approach to a cemetery lot being down grade, a Tablet type is preferable to a Panel, as its height tends to offset the belittling of the memorial because of its being below the level of the eye.

Many of our American cemeteries are so surveyed in either four, six or eight grave lots that the distance between the rows of graves is quite limited. Much of the present use of the tablet as well as the panel types may be credited to this arrangement of space, for in each of these types the required thickness from the front to the back of the face is not great.

Almost unlimited ornamentation is available for selection on the face of the Tablet type. Care must be exercised not to overdo this feature. Usually a simple wreath or sunk line will suffice, although a more ornate treatment may be offered if the client so desires. Repetition of the ornament of the face on the back of the die is optional, and should be governed by the visibility of the back due to the location of the memorial.

This article originally appeared in Design Hints for Memorial Craftsmen magazine, March 1930, Vol. 6, No. 9. It is the first in a series of nineteen articles on memorial types describing their origin, characteristics, and correct proportions. The series was written by Captain John K. Shawvan, Chicgao Branch Manager, Muldoon Monument Company. The fronting article can be read here.