Have you ever wondered how to make a tombstone rubbing?

Originally published at: Have you ever wondered how to make a tombstone rubbing? | Boing Boing

I was a Girl Scout, so: no.


The article doesn’t point out an important issues with slate stones: They can rot from the inside. This makes them very fragile, but they may look pristine. Trying to do a rubbing may break the stone entirely.

Rubbings are cool, but the risk of damage to old stones is sometimes too high.


Beat me to it;

I’m a lifelong artist, so “no.”


Wait, did you do other rubbing art as a Girl Scout, or did you do tombstones? Because if it was tombstones, your troop was hella cool.

I was sorta a Brownie for a year or so… my mom was helping out in scouts and I had to tag along as I didn’t have anywhere else to go.


Tombstones, absolutely. Although of course the technique transfers well to leaf rubbings, etc.


Yeah I remember doing leaf rubbings and other things in school. Don’t think I have never done tombstone rubbings. I sort of regret not doing some tombstones at my grandma’s funeral in Texas. Though I did take some pics. We have my great grand parents there as well, and the older tombstones are all in Czech.


Did it as a teen, as part of a week-long summer program in Classics for high-schoolers, at the university that I later attended (and started off as a Classics major at, though I switched to Art and only minored in Classics). We stayed in the dorms and attended lectures on the history of ancient Greece and Rome, numismatics, and what else I can’t recall. One day they bussed us to a very old church and we were directed to an overgrown section of the cemetery with the oldest tombstones, to make rubbings. I believe it was supposed to give us a feel for what it might be like to do field work in archaeology. No idea what ever happened to my rubbing…

As a grownup watching this video, I was delighted by the clarity of the image they got, and horrified that the person doing the rubbing hadn’t rolled up the sleeves of that nice white shirt they were wearing :open_mouth:


And @Melizmatic - my version:
I saw Naked Lunch in Highschool, so, no. :joy:


“Are you frottaging in the cathedral cloister?”

Yes. Yes, I was.


Many of the historic cemeteries I’ve been to have had signage specifically prohibiting it

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I used to do this with coins


Just the other day I was thinking about the last time I had seen anyone doing brass rubbing (more usual than tombstone rubbing here). I came to the conclusion that it was over 30 years. I might have to do my part to revive it.

Brass rubbing is discouraged by most churches holding brasses these days. It does damage the artwork if done multiple times. The reason you’re not seeing it anymore is that it is frowned upon.

A shame, because it did a lot to raise awareness of the cultural heritage of village churches in Victorian and Edwardian society, but also understandable of course.


There are places that keep replicas specifically for this purpose. So if you want to rub one out in a museum or a church, it is still possible.


We did it in high school for a class about death and dying. In grade school we did coins and leaves.


Tombstone rubbings are commonly used by family history researchers as a method for preserving a tombstone’s inscription.

Wouldn’t a photograph be the better choice for documenting and sharing?

Plus, with a photograph you always have a chance at capturing a ghost near the tombstone.

Or a zombie.

It depends. It can be surprisingly hard to capture a good photograph of a weathered surface. I know rock art researchers who go out at night and use extreme side illumination to even have a chance to capture highly eroded artwork.

If you’re not using reflectance transformation imaging or high resolution 3D scans, rubbings are the only low tech way I can think of of capturing the surface detail of an eroded monument like that.


This was an elementary school lesson for us, so it never seemed unusual to me.


I think now photographs make so much more sense, but I know you’re old enough to remember when taking a picture meant buying film and then paying for the development, so one did not go around shooting hundreds or even dozens of photos the way we do now.


My Aunt has an amazing collection of these she made all over Europe and the UK in the 60’s and 70’s. She liked pictorial ones or ones with loads of heraldry. Some of them are really huge like 8 or 10 foot long. I have a framed one she gave me of a bishop praying with some gothic text.

I always thought of them as more Indiana Jones than spooky and ooky.