Epitaph is the richly illustrated, limited edition two-part set of the Protestant section of The Northam Road Cemetery. Probably the first burial ground to have been established following settlement of Penang by the British East India Company in 1786, it is certainly the first Christian cemetery, catering to both Roman Catholic and Protestant burials.
Marcus Langdon’s new book is the most definitive work ever published about the Protestant side of this cemetery. Covering all 464 surviving memorials and tombs, with background stories to most of the identifiable persons interred there, it captures an invaluable and enthralling snapshot of the lives of Penang’s inhabitants during the settlement’s first 100 years. lt also contains a list of 1,437 names of other persons known to have been interred in the same cemetery during that time. The Northam Road Cemetery is a sparkling jewel within the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover it now.
In addition to researching each individual, I took on the task of photographing all the tombs and memorial plaques, as well as carefully checking the transcriptions for accuracy. Little did I know then what this would entail. The former task resulted in 6,000 photographs being taken during innumerable visits at various times of day and season in order to achieve the most satisfactory results for the book. It can get very hot in there! The task involved word by word examination of each memorial plaque, the readability of which ranges from clearly seen to impossible to determine. The time of day can make a big difference to readability. Early morning or late afternoon sun can cast shadows which make inscriptions which are unreadable at midday much more visible. One of the safest internationally accepted methods of reading indistinct memorial inscriptions is to apply a sheet of aluminium foil over the inscription, then brush or gently press it into the letters. Using this method, a number of inscriptions have been included in this book which had previously not been deciphered. It also assisted greatly in identifying the many different stonemasons who inscribed their names on the memorial plaques. Conversely, earlier surveys were consulted and these provided details of parts or all of a few inscriptions which now cannot be read due to weathering or other causes. – Marcus Langdon