Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Book Examines History and Artistry of Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery

Nearly two years in the making, I'm very excited to announce the publication of "In the Arms of Angels: Magnolia Cemetery- Charleston's Treasure of History, Mystery and Artistry" (see the book news release, my WCIV-TV "Lowcountry Live" interview, this Charleston City Paper review of the book), and a feature in the Fall 2014 College of Charleston Portico magazine!

People interested in history, art, religion, spirituality, symbolism, landscape design and photography will find this an appealing read. The book is large format 8.5 by 11 inches with a hard cover. It is 231 pages with 10 chapters, preceded by a few short introductory segments. The pages are filled with stories about cemetery "residents" and color photographs that capture the 19th century Victorian necropolis' unique style and look.
Book's front cover

Please click here to see comments from area historians who call "In the Arms of Angels" a "landmark book," "comprehensive," and "a well-balanced work combining history and beautiful photography."

My first book signing will be Saturday, April 12, from 10 a.m.- 1 p.m. at Magnolia Cemetery, which is located in Charleston at 70 Cunnington Ave. Directions are available on the cemetery's website. Cost of the book is $40. Payment will be by cash or check only.

Since publishing in 2011 my first book, "The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston's Secret Bird Sanctuary," I knew I wanted to write a second book about this interesting, historic place, which continues to be somewhat of a secret treasure among Charleston's many better known and publicized attractions.

The first two chapters examine, with words and photographs, 34 of Magnolia's most magnificent monuments, memorials, sculptures, and elaborately-designed plots, most of which were erected from 1850 (when the cemetery opened) to the 1890s.
A portion of the book's back cover

This was during America's Victorian Era, which influenced views about death and burial. The well-to-do, especially, embraced the trend of erecting large, symbol-filled edifices to remember lost loved ones.

Magnolia Cemetery's early growth and popularity coincided with the bloody Civil War. I devote a lengthy chapter in my book to Magnolia's extensive Confederacy legacy.

"The Children of Magnolia Cemetery" is a sad chapter. It highlights the high number of the cemetery's gravesites that belong to children, due to the 19th century diseases, epidemics and crude (by today's standards) medical practices.

A wet Magnolia Cemetery is still a beautiful site to see
Other chapters are devoted to the wide-ranging Christian symbolism on so many gravestones, "epic" epitaphs, and early photographs of Magnolia Cemetery. Another chapter, "A Modern Stonecutters Perspective," takes readers on a walk through the old cemetery with Richard Crites, owner of E.J. McCarthy & Sons, a longtime monument company located a short distance from Magnolia's front gate. Crites shares many interesting observations about Magnolia's past and present.

Magnolia's newer Greenhill section is also examined in the book.

A Brown Thrasher at Magnolia Cemetery
"In the Arms of Angels" concludes with a nod to my first Magnolia Cemetery book, "The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston's Secret Bird Sanctuary."  "More Birds of Magnolia Cemetery" includes dozens of new bird photographs, including several species not in the first book, taken at the cemetery since 2011.

I owe many, many thanks to Magnolia's longtime superintendent Beverly Donald for her assistance, support and encouragement in the time spent researching, photographing and writing this book. Thanks Beverly!

Thanks also go to the College of Charleston's School of Humanities and Social Sciences for providing financial assistance for, and support of, this project.

More book signings are in the works this spring, after the first one at Magnolia Cemetery on April 12. Notices will be posted on this site, and through Charleston media and social media (follow me on Twitter at cccougar). Bookstores, historic sites, and other shops that carry my book will be listed on this site. "In the Arms of Angels" and "The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery" can also be purchased by having me mail you a copy or copies. Contact me at birdseyeviewspublications@gmail.com.

Magnolia Cemetery is a wonderful, beautiful, interesting and historic place in Charleston that is just a little off the beaten path. It is very much worth the effort to find and visit. Comments on TripAdvisor are overwhelmingly positive and indicate what a unique and special place Magnolia Cemetery is.

"In the Arms of Angels" also captures the mystique, mystery, elegance and opulence of one of America's premier Victorian cemeteries.
The author (me!) at Magnolia Cemetery (photo by Alesia Harwood)

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