That’s what I said to myself when I got within reading distance of the Lansburgh monument in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

From three sides it is nondescript freestanding sarcophagus with a lid imitating a temple roof. At the corners are stylized WPA federal style columns, merely sketched in.

On one short side it commemorates the older generation, Eleanor Lansburgh Kane (1885—1971) and Lester Lansburgh (1884—1933), whose death presumably motivated the erection of the monument.

Lansburgh monument, Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington. D.C. Photo: author.

On the other is a longer inscription commemorating a member of the second generation, daughter of Lester, and it is here that the Lord has blessed us.

Lansburgh monument, Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Detail: Louise Lansburgh Hyland epitaph. Photo: author.

1913 — 1973
LOUISE LANSBURGH HYLAND
“I COME THIS WAY BUT ONCE . . . “
LULU FROM HONOLULU IS RESTING IN THE FOUR WINDS ABOVE HER BELOVED HAWAII
THIS MEMORIAL IS SO SHE MAY ALWAYS BE WITH HER CHERISHED ELLY AND DADDY

Do you see it? There is an error in transcription here. Let’s blow the image up a little:

Louise Lansburgh Hyland cenotaph inscription. Detail: transcription error. Photo: author.

The short-order repetition of the -lulu sound has an off-putting jingle to it, but one sees that the composer of the epitaph was set on the word play. The cutter’s sense of euphony drove him or her to write Lula at first, which makes no sense as an abbreviation of Louise, and so had to correct it.

The A is less deeply cut: perhaps the error was caught early. One thing you learn when working with inscriptions is that there’s no going back once you’ve cut an error. In a Roman setting I’ve seen bold overcuttings like this one, and I’ve seen the cutter leave the typo and put the correct letter overhead. It happens all the time.

In the U.S., quality control and things like satisfaction guaranteed make these errors rare. It’s not like an inverted Jenny, but it does offer a quick lesson in epigraphy from the trenches!

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

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