Slate alphabet and preparatory sketch

From the exhibition:
The Letter, the Word & the Book

New Mexico History Museum

By John Benson, 1979. Slate with gold leaf, ink on Japanese paper

Photo by Blair Clark, NM/DCA.

Benson first wrote out this alphabet with ink and brush on paper, then altered it slightly when it was again brushed onto the slate. The letters were carved free-hand with chisel and mallet. Gold leaf illuminates the gem-like quality of these letters inscribed in stone.

Until his retirement in 1993, John Benson was the proprietor of the John Stevens Shop of Newport, Rhode Island. Founded in 1705, the shop is one of the oldest continuously run businesses in the nation. Benson took over operations from his father, noted calligrapher and teacher John Howard Benson. The shop specializes in the carving of gravestones and monumental inscriptions and is now directed by Benson’s son, Nicholas, a 2010 recipient of the MacArthur Award whose lettering can be seen in Santa Fe on the inscription of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Note: Representative image at left is often cropped for display purposes. Downloaded high-resolution images are not cropped.