My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another in the series of books which collect historic photographs of America, Historic Bonaventure Cemetery, like Images of America: New Orleans Cemeteries, contains hundreds of black-and-white photographs, all concentrated on the lovely moss-draped graveyard in Savannah, Georgia.
Bonaventure began life as a plantation three miles east of downtown Savannah. During the American Revolution, the original owners backed the wrong side and were exiled when their lands were seized for treason. One of the sons bought the land back in 1785 and was eventually elected governor of Georgia. His wife and four infant children were buried on the plantation, where their graves survive today. In June 1868, the plantation was landscaped by a cemetery company in the style of the picturesque northern garden cemeteries—accent, here, on garden.
The book’s illustrations are primarily drawn from the collection of the Georgia Historical Society, augmented with the authors’ modern photos. Some of my favorite images are the picture postcards so common from the Victorian era. Unfortunately, the writing on the backs of the cards is not reproduced; I missed being able to read, “Visited this cemetery, thought of you, wish you were here, etc.” In the spirit of souvenirs are the stereopticon cards (here represented by a single photo) of corseted young women seated along the roadside, awaiting their carriage home, or the picnickers seated before the tombstone over which they’ve flung a blanket—so not to be troubled in the graveyard by the ominous reminder of mortality?
In fact, for a book about a cemetery, Historic Bonaventure Cemetery stints on the photos of monuments. There are some beauts: the angel cradling the scallop shell birdbath in her arms, the exquisite floral wreath executed in marble by an Italian craftsman, the life-sized sculpture of Little Gracie with her nautical dress and button boots. I would have preferred if the book had showcased more of these artworks and fewer vistas of moss-swathed trees. Still, I find I cannot be disappointed when faced with so much melancholy loveliness. If anything, Historic Bonaventure Cemetery makes me yearn to see the place for myself.
You can get your own copy of the book from Amazon.
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