Edition and StateThe edition is not known, though it is not a first edition (according to the preface, which references the book as "the volume now offered").
Printing ContextFrontispiece for a book called Collection of Epitaphs and Monumental Inscriptions chiefly in Scotland. (Glasgow, printed for D. Macvean, Edinburgh MDCCXXXIV), 1834.
Associated TextsThe preface to the collection at hand claims significance as a reprint, since Monteith’s earlier edition (1704) lacked an index.
SubjectThis frontispiece appears in a collection of epitaph and monument inscriptions, which, accoring to its preface, was very popular in the early 19th century.
ThemeDepiction of epitaph
SignificanceAccording to the preface, there was a great interest among civilians in epitaphs and tomb inscriptions. Numerous collections of epitaphs and tomb inscriptions were published in the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. To sit down and read a collection of epitaphs might strike a twenty-first-century reader as strange, but it becomes less so when one looks at the inscriptions more closely. Epitaphs have changed significantly over the last two hundred years and therefore constitute valuable data for historians as well as for literary critics. Whereas inscriptions today consist mainly in short farewells and the reproduction of life-dates, one could find profound expressions of feeling in nineteenth-century epitaphs. Philippe Ariès notes in his vast study of the history of death in Western cultures that "[A]fter the eighteenth century we sense a rising need to proclaim one’s grief. To advertise it on the tomb, which now becomes something it was not, the privileged place of memory and regret" (P. Ariès, The Hour of our Death 529, 530). By the nineteenth century, cemeteries had become public meeting places for relatives of the deceased in England. Through the emergence of eloquent elegies, such as Thomas Gray’s "Elegy, written in a country church yard" (1751) in the eighteenth century, the cemetery also became attractive to poets, who were intrigued by its atmosphere. Poets were also drawn to cemeteries as havens of nature: for sanitation reasons, cemeteries were located on the outskirts of cities and towns; furthermore, in order to accommodate the rising number of visitors, cemeteries were remodeled and planned as garden and park-like areas. The first and most famous example of the so-called "Cemetery of Monuments" is Père Lachaise in Paris.
FunctionIn addition to a satisfying a general interest in epitaphs and inscriptions on monuments, the collection was possibly used by civilians to find lost acquaintances and relatives.
BibliographyAriès, Philippe. The Hour Of Our Death. New York: Second Vintage Books Edition, 2008. Originally published in French in 1977, first translation into English was published in 1981.
Long TitleCollection of epitaphs and monumental inscriptions, chiefly in Scotland, pt. I, An theater of mortality; collected and Englished by R. Monteith, [Reprint of the Edinburgh edition of 1704] … [pt. II] An theater of mortality, or, A further collection of funeral inscriptions over Scotland, by Robert Monteith, [Reprint of the Edinburgh edition of 1713] … pt. III. Additional inscriptions [chiefly collected by William Dobie and John Dunn] Glasgow, Printed for D. Macvean, Edinburgh, Thomas Stevenson, 1834. iv, 369 p., front., ill., 20 cm. Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Library