Ligatures to Lichen: Gravestone Letterforms

LSU Graphic Design Professor Lynne Baggett describes her research, the focus of a new exhibition at Hill Memorial Library, “Letterform Characters: From Stone Carver to Type Designer,” on display through February 17, 2018.

What is your background?

I am originally from Manchester, England, and received my graphic design education from Stockport College and the University of Derby. I worked in London after graduation in 1988, and practiced as a graphic designer for 5 years before taking an opportunity to teach as Visiting Artist at The University of Southern Mississippi (1993), and The University of Tennessee (1994). I began teaching at LSU in the School of Art (Graphic Design area) in 1994.

I have received several accolades for my research with incised typographical letterforms: A Mississippi Artists’ Fellowship; LSU Research Grants; A Craft Research Fund grant from the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, Inc., NC; Design Awards from local professional associations such as AIGA/New Orleans, and the Advertising Federation of Greater Baton Rouge; and I have presented my research at various conferences for professional organizations (AIGA/ATypI/TypeCon/AGS). My three-dimensional, type inspired artwork has been exhibited in Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and in the United Kingdom. I currently serve on the board of the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS).

When did you become interested in gravemarker letterforms?

I had been to the Priory Church of St. Mary and St. Michael in Cartmel, Cumbria, many times, but a trip in 1998 with my husband (also a graphic designer/artist) is particularly significant. I spent considerable time closely examining the uniqueness of the lettering within the stone grave markers and wondering how to incorporate them into my own work. Through various grants, stipends and sabbaticals, I was able to travel to similar sites within the British Isles to discover other examples. Thus, for the past 20 years I have gathered photographs, rubbings and even three-dimensional castings of letterforms to use in my own creative work and feature in professional presentations. It was through the professional presentation and lecture circuit that I came to realize the value of this research among scholars and enthusiasts across multiple disciplines including typography, gravestone studies, and popular culture.

How does your research contribute to existing scholarship on gravestone design and iconography?

Both past and present scholarly research on 17th–18th century gravestones from Great Britain and its American colonies is focused on the origin of the incised stone with importance typically placed on the epitaph, visual motifs, and social context, rather than toward the design characteristics of the stone carvers’ incised lettering. There are very few gravestone studies scholars who discuss the visual attributes of the stone carvers’ lettering, and those who do, are distinguishing one stone carver from another.

Observations of stylistic tendencies of individual hand-crafted incised letterforms can reveal much about the stonemason’s unique and independent creative voice. These often naïve letterforms are frequently dismissed as “crude” and unfavorably compared with those examples attributed to the established “professional.” Many rural stonecutters of the day practiced their craft unaware of such conventions, and as a result, their work appears less constrained and more susceptible to idiosyncratic influences. They are unique to a region and reveal a style established by the stone carver that expresses artistic individuality, beyond the reach of influences developing in large cities (Boston or Charlestown, Massachusetts). It is my belief that many of these innovative rural creations resulted from a combination of the following circumstances: the stone carvers remote location; lack of formal training (being unaware of typographic conventions including spelling that were developed for the written or printed word); and the unforgiving nature of the medium of stone.

My background in typography provides an opportunity to communicate this research to a diverse field of scholars, students and enthusiasts by introducing appropriate terminology to describe artistic methods and materials and the history of graphic design and typography in an appropriate context.

Lynne Baggett researching gravestone letterforms. Photo courtesy of William Baggett.

Lynne Baggett researching gravestone letterforms. Photo courtesy of William Baggett.

How do you incorporate your research into your graphic design courses at LSU?

As a graphic designer there is no escaping the use of typography within a design (or using the correct terminology for parts of a letterform). I have taught both letterforms and typography classes and always with a focus on historical research. One also hopes to introduce the traditional skills of the lettering artist and stone carver to bridge the gap between old and new technologies. In recent years my colleague (Courtney Barr) and I have devised a project to encouraged students to look beyond the computer for inspiration, to observe type in the environment and then develop those forms by hand to produce a digital rendering of their own letterform characters for use as a possible typeface design. Although typeface design is quite a lengthy undertaking, students learn the process and the tools in order to understand contemporary methods for developing their ideas.

With very few stone carvers still practicing this craft, the tradition should be rightfully acknowledged within studio arts education among the disciplines of graphic arts, typography, and design history.

Internationally renowned typographer Matthew Carter will speak on campus on November 15th (“Bruce Rogers’ Centaur Type”). Can you talk about your work with Carter on the gravemarker project?

The idea for the project began at an ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale) lecture presented in Brighton, UK, by my husband, William, and I in 2007, which featured research on grave markers from the British Isles c16th-18th centuries. Further discussion with Sumner Stone and Matthew Carter at the conference revealed a mutual interest; in particular, the documentation of idiosyncrasies that exist in incised letterforms, and their historical significance within typographic design history. During our correspondence I realized there was a need to share and discuss research and images through a blog such as the one developed for this exhibition Ligatures to Lichen. Matthew had taken many photographs in the Massachusetts area and was kind enough to supply a selection of those images for use in the blog. Additionally he directed me to other sites of interest that he had photographed a number of years ago. It is fortunate to have such a record of those early stones as many have since succumbed to vandalism or the elements and are in poor condition.

How does the Rare Book Collection in LSU Libraries Special Collections complement your research?

The evolution of typographic conventions grew steadily with the development of the printed page during this early period; however, there remains a parallel but entirely separate universe of letterform design created by the rural stonemason.

By exhibiting my own photographs of carved gravestone lettering alongside selected printed works from the LSU Libraries Special Collections, I am able to compare the unique visual and aesthetic characteristics of incised letterforms with those typographic conventions found in printed material of the period. This approach provides both cultural and historical context, laying the groundwork for discussion on the derivation of the incised letterform, and the recognition of its significance within the broader realm of typography.

A review of early books from the archives that fall within the same time period as my research reveals some clear conventions of style, yet there were many incised letterform examples that were not evident in printed material of the time. For example, the incised sans serif letterform is one such oddity seen in stone carving in the 16th – mid 17th centuries. It is innovative because the sans serif typeface used in printed material was not acknowledged (in type history journals) until 1816. I have documented at least three sans serif inscriptions that predate those in print by some 150 years.

What do you hope scholars, students and the general public will gain from viewing the exhibition, “Letterform Characters: From Stone Carver to Type Designer?”

There were many objectives for the project, but the most important was to find a venue that would accommodate an audience from a wide range of disciplines and to communicate my research in a language that is easy to understand for a novice of typography.

Another goal was to acknowledge the significant contributions that early stonemasons made to letterform development within a historical context and provide a greater reference of influences and styles used during this time period. For those in the creative arts, I hope to inspire audiences to consider further study of hand crafted letterforms as a resource in the pursuit of creative image making and type design.

With the exhibition opening, the blog will be launched as a public platform. I hope to encourage participation from a broad audience to augment scholarship and to continue to foster dialog in this collaborative environment to provide a valuable public resource.

Visit to dig deeper into Lynne Baggett’s research of gravestone letterforms.

Exhibitions Coordinator, LSU Libraries Special Collections

Posted in Events, Exhibitions, Special Collections Tagged with:

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On Display

“Louisiana’s Natural Treasure:
Margaret Stones, Botanical Artist”
Main Gallery
Re-opens October 1st
On display through December 4, 2020

Richard W. Leche Papers– Reading Room

Online exhibitions

In the News

Louisiana’s Natural Treasure: Margaret Stones, Botanical Artist
“Perspectives: Spiny Thistle – Friends of the groundbreaking botanical artist Margaret Stones reflect on her contributions to native flora in Louisiana” Country Roads Magazine

Exploding the Codex &
The Hidden Treasures and Historical Importance of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris
“Exhibitions showing at Hill Memorial Library, admission free to students” TigerTV

Who’s Your Holmes?
“On exhibit: Who’s Your Holmes? at LSU’s Hill Memorial Library” inRegister

Seeing and the “Eye of the Imagination”
“Take a peek into the unknown through Clarence John Laughlin’s ‘eye of the imagination’ at Hill Memorial Library” The Advocate

Seeing and the “Eye of the Imagination”
“Book collection marks historic importance of fantasy, horror genres” The Daily Reveille

Made in New Orleans
“Hill Memorial Library showcases ‘Made in New Orleans: The Past in Print’,” The Daily Reveille

Made in New Orleans
On exhibit: ‘Made in New Orleans’ at LSU Hill Memorial Library, March 19-June 8,” inRegister

Letterform Characters
“Hill Memorial Library exhibit explores history of typeface,”  The Daily Reveille

Through the Valley of Death
“Hill Memorial Library debuts WWI exhibit,” The Daily Reveille

Investigating Sherlock
“LSU’s Hill Memorial hosts Sherlock Holmes exhibit,” The Daily Reveille

Jazz Fest 101: A Showcase of Student Oral History Research
“Hill Memorial Library displays ‘Jazz Fest 101,’ explores festival’s past,” The Daily Reveille

A Voyage to the Floating World: Japanese Illustrated Books and East-West Cultural Exchange in the Nineteenth Century
“On Exhibit: A Voyage to the Floating World,” inRegister

Advancing Scholarship & Learning for 80 Years: LSU Press and The Southern Review
“Hill Memorial Library Displays History of LSU Press, Southern Review,” The Daily Reveille

A la Militaire” – The Battle of New Orleans
“Hill Memorial opens ‘A la Militaire,'” The Daily Reveille

Cooperative Extension at LSU
“AgCenter: Louisiana resource for 100 years,”
The Advertiser

I Remember: An Art Show of Environmental Significance
“Time for oil and gas industry to come to the table on coastal restoration,” BR Business Report

The Relentless Pursuit of “Equal”
“Integration Exhibit Opens,” LSU Daily Reveille

Centuries of Style
“Style Stories,” The Advocate

“Clothing as Social History,”

Of Kin & Cane
LSU Daily Reveille

Blacks in the Red Stick
LSU Daily Reveille

Louisiana for Bibliophiles
The Advocate

Change(less): Photography and the Ephemeral Made Permanent
DIG Magazine

Recent faculty publications


O’Neill, Brittany. “Do They Know It When They See It?: Natural Language Preferences of Undergraduate Students for Library Resources,” College & Undergraduate Libraries. Volume 28, Issue 2 (2021).

O’Neill, Brittany and Rebecca Kelley. “Delivering Bad News: Crisis Communication Methods in Academic Libraries,” College & Research Libraries, Volume 82, Issue 3 (May 2021).

Connel, Ruth Sara; Lisa C. Wallis; David Comeaux. “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Use of Academic Library Resources,” Information Technology and Libraries. Volume 40, Issue 2 (2021).

O’Neill, B. (2021).”Three-layer primary source dip: Introducing history students to primary source research through active learning.” In The teaching with primary sources cookbook, edited by J. M. Porterfield, 16-18. Association of College & Research Libraries, 2021.


Blessinger, Kelly and Dave Comeaux. “User Experience with a New Public Interface for an Integrated Library System,” Information Technology in Libraries. Volume 39, Issue 1.

Cramer, Jennifer A. “First, Do No Harm”: Tread Carefully Where Oral History, Trauma, and Current Crises Intersect,” The Oral History Review, 47:2 (2020): 203-213, DOI: 10.1080/00940798.2020.1793679

Diamond, Tom, ed. The Academic Librarian in the Digital Age: Essays on Changing Roles and Responsibilities. McFarland, 2020.

Kelley, Rebecca and Mitch Fontenot. “Serving our Student Veterans in Louisiana,” Louisiana Libraries. Volume 82, Issue 2 (Spring 2020).

Kuyper-Rushing, Lois.A Thematic Index of Works by Eugene Bozza, A-R Editions, 2020.

Lounsberry, Megan. “Troubleshooting electronic resources from an ILL perspective,” Technical Services Quarterly, Volume 37, Issue 3.

McDonald, Ebony. “2020 Regina Medal Recipient Christopher Paul Curtis,” Catholic Library World. 

Miles, John David.  “James Harrison and the Tensas Troubles of 1878,” Civil War Book Review: Volume 22, Issue 1 (Winter 2020).

Morgan, Randa Lopez. 2020. “Supporting Student Wellness and Success through the LSU Libraries Relaxation Room.Journal of Library Outreach and Engagement v. 1, no. 1: 104–115.


Batte, Elizabeth; David Dunaway; Emily Frank; Sarah Mazur; and Laurie Phillips. “LOUIS Membership with Open Textbook Network Brings Incentive for Faculty OER Advocacy on Campuses,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 3 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Borchardt, Rachel; Polly Boruff-Jones; Sigrid Kelsey; and Jennifer Matthews, “A Proposed Framework for the Evaluation of Academic Librarian Scholarship” (2019). Proceedings of the Charleston Library Conference.

Comeaux, Dave;  Emily Frank; and Mike Waugh. “Supporting Student Success: E-books as Course Materials,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Dunaway, David. “Bibliometrics for Faculty Evaluation: A Stastical Comparison of h-indexes Generated Using Google Scholar and Web of Science Data,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 3 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Haber, Natalie, Melissa Cornwell, & Andrea Hebert. “This worksheet works: Making the DLS Standards work for you,” College & Research Libraries News. 

Hawk, Amanda K. “Implementing Standardized Statistical Measures and Metrics for Public Services in Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries,” Proceedings of the 2018 Library Assessment Conference, (Association of Research Libraries, 2019): 836-843.

Hebert, Andrea and Jodi Duet. “’I’m Really Confident I Can Find the Exact IKEA Pillow’: A Qualitative Look at the Search Self-Efficacy of Graduating MLIS Students,” Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian.

Lounsberry, Megan. “No Textbooks Allowed! (Unless You’re a Graduate Student!): Louisiana State University Pilots an ILL Textbook Service. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserve, 28 (3/4): 61–73.

Miles, John David. “Colfax, Kate Grant, and the Domestication of Reconstruction’s Violence,” Civil War Book Review. Volume 21, Issue 2 (Spring 2019).

Miles, John David. “The Loyalty of West Point’s Graduates Debated,” Civil War Book Review. Volume 21, Issue 1 (Winter 2019).

Miller, Marty. “Curriculum, Departmental, and Faculty Mapping in the Visual Arts Department,” Art Documentation, Volume 38, Issue 1 (March 2019): 159-173.

Morgan, Randa L. “Libraries and Gardens: Growing Together.” Catholic Library World, Volume 90, Issue 1 (September 2019): 68.

O’Neill, Brittany; and  Allen LeBlanc. “Evaluating Trends in Instruction Scheduling Management: A Survey of Louisiana’s Academic Libraries,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Russo, Michael, “The Moon Belongs to Everyone:  ResearchGate and Subscription Databases Compared.”  Louisiana Libraries. Volume 81, Issue 3, (Winter 2019).

Russo, Michael, “Information Literacy through Service Learning” in Library Collaborations and Community Partnerships: Enhancing Health and Quality of Life.  Fannie M. Cox, Henry R. Cunningham, and Vickie Hines-Martin, eds., 2019.

Simms, Sarah; Hayley Johnson. “Hidden in Plain Sight,” 64 Parishes (Magazine of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities). Issue 4 (Summer 2019).

Simms, S., & Johnson, H. Subtle activism: Using the library exhibit as a social justice tool, Alexandria, Volume 29, Issue 1-2 (2019).

Ziegler, Scott; and Cara Key. “More Than a Pretty Interface: The Louisiana Digital Library as a Data Hub,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Ziegler, S.L. “Digitization Selection Criteria as Anti-Racist Action,” Code4Lib Journal. Issue 45 (2019).

Ziegler, S.L. and Steve Martin. “A Hidden Gem Becomes a Fertile Mining Ground: Historic Prison Admission Books and Data-Driven Digital Projects,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Volume 143, Issue 3 (October 2019): 363-373.


Hebert, Andrea. “Information Literacy Skills of First-Year Library and Information Science Graduate Students: An Exploratory Study,” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Volume 13, Issue 3 (September 2018).

Miller, Marty. “Sacred vs. Profane in The Great War: A Neutral’s Indictment: Louis Raemaekers’s Use of Religious Imagery in Adoration of the Magi and Our Lady of Antwerp.” Catholic Library World, vol. 89, no. 1, Sept. 2018, pp. 20–32.

Rasmussen, Hans. “The Life and Death of Raquette in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans,” Sport History Review 49 (May 2018): 23-38.

Wilder, Stanley. “Delayed Retirements and the Youth Movement among ARL Library Professionals,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Wilder, Stanley. “Hiring and Staffing Trends in ARL Libraries,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Wilder, Stanley. “Selected Demographic Trends in the ARL Professional Population,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Ziegler, Scott; and Richard Shrake. “PAL: Toward a Recommendation System for Manuscripts,” Information Technology and Libraries, Vol. 37, No. 3 (2018).


Caminita, C.; Cook, M.; and Paster, A. (2017). Thirty years of preserving, discovering, and accessing U.S. agricultural information: Past progress and current challenges. Library Trends, 65(3), 293-315.

Dauterive, Sarah; John Bourgeois; and Sarah Simms. “How little is too little? An examination of information literacy instruction duration for freshmen.” Journal of Information Literacy, 11.1 (2017): 204-219.

Fontenot, Mitch; Emily Frank; and Andrea Hebert. “Going Where the Users Are: Three Variations on a Theme,” Louisiana Libraries, Fall 2017.

Hawk, Amanda K. “Highflying Crowdfunding: Creating a Successful Partnership with a Campus Donor,” Archival Outlook, July/August 2017: 12-13, 19.

Hebert, Andrea; and Marty Miller. (2017). Using FSA-OWI photographs to teach information and visual literacy. Louisiana Libraries, 79(3), 19–25.

Johnson, Hayley. “#NoDAPL: Social Media, Empowerment, and Civic Participation at Standing Rock,” Library Trends, Fall 2017.


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