Wednesday, 18 July 2012

79: Reading the Engravings

The fascination had started as a school project when Steven Harris was 10 years old.  Mrs Dawson had told the class about brasses in churches and how brass rubbing was a popular hobby for some people.  She showed them all how it worked with a 10p piece, think paper and a blue crayon, rubbing the wax gently over the paper until the detail of the coin was reproduced.

Steven was hooked from the start.  The project was completed in a few weeks but he developed a keen interest, visiting local churches at the weekend, hunting for brasses to rub.  Often he would come away disappointed there were none, but sometimes he would find a monumental brass in the church floor.  Then he would take out his paper and favourite crayon, always a blue one, and set to making a copy.

Each summer he would beg his parents to include visits to churches in their holiday plans, so he could build up his collection of rubbing with as many unique monuments as possible.  Sometimes there were arguments, especially if his sister wanted to go shopping instead, but when the British weather turned predictably wet, the Harris family would often find themselves searching stone floors for brasses to keep Steven happy.

His hobby spilled over into his career choices, as he studied medieval history at university and specialized in brass monuments into postgraduate studies.  By now most churches had stopped the public from rubbing brasses because the popularity of the hobby was causing some of the best and most popular to wear away.  Steven was able to visit with special dispensation because of his studies and research, but he knew each extra imprint of the centuries old monuments risked losing them for future generations.

So Steven decided his PhD topic would be to develop a method that allowed enthusiasts to continue taking rubbings whilst protecting the original brasses from wearing away.

Dr Steven Harris became famous, albeit within a select sphere, for his method of recasting replica brasses from originals and setting them in stone surrounds in both churches and heritage rubbing centres.  His work was particularly progressive because it allowed very clear reading of the engravings.

He still preferred to work in blue crayon.

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