Death A Graveside Companion

Joanna Ebenstein, Will Self

The ultimate death compendium, featuring the world’s most extraordinary artistic objects concerned with mortality, together with text by expert contributors.

Death is an inevitable fact of life. Throughout the centuries, humanity has sought to understand this sobering thought through art and ritual. The theme of memento mori informs medieval Danse Macabre, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Renaissance paintings of dissected corpses and "anatomical Eves," Gothic literature, funeral effigies, Halloween, and paintings of the Last Judgment. Deceased ancestors are celebrated in the Mexican Day of the Dead, while the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead to secure their afterlife.

A volume of unprecedented breadth and sinister beauty, Death: A Graveside Companion examines a staggering range of cultural attitudes toward death. The book is organized into themed chapters: The Art of Dying, Examining the Dead, Memorializing the Dead, The Personification of Death, Symbolizing Death, Death as Amusement, and The Dead After Life. Each chapter begins with thought-provoking articles by curators, academics, and journalists followed by gallery spreads presenting a breathtaking variety of death-related imagery and artifacts. From skulls to the dance of death, statuettes to ex libris, memento mori to memorabilia, the majority of the images are of artifacts in the astonishing collection of Richard Harris and range from 2000 BCE to the present day, running the gamut of both high and popular culture.


Death in Ancient and Present-Day Mexico, Eva Aridjis

The Power of Hair as Human Relic in Mourning Jewelry, Karen Bachmann

Medusa and the Power of the Severed Head, Laetitia Barbier

Anatomical Expressionism, Eleanor Crook

Poe and the Pathological Sublime, Mark Dery

Eros and Thanatos, Lisa Downing

Death-Themed Amusements, Joanna Ebenstein

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, Bruce Goldfarb

Theatre, Death and the Grand Guignol, Mel Gordon, Holy Spiritualism, Elizabeth Harper

Playing dead – A Gruesome Form of Amusement, Mervyn Heard

The Anatomy of Holy Transformation, Liselotte Hermes da Fonseca

Collecting Death, Evan Michelson, Art and Afterlife: Ethel le Rossignol and Georgiana Houghton, Mark Pilkington

The Dance of Death, Kevin Pyle, Art

Science and the Changing Conventions of Anatomical Representation, Michael Sappol

Spiritualism and Photography, Shannon Taggart

Playing with Dead Faces, John Troyer

Anatomy Embellished in the Cabinet of Frederik Ruysch, Bert van de Roemer


An unusual coffee-table book…You may be surprised by how much fun it is to pore through the book's lavish artwork of skulls, cadavers and fanciful imaginings of the afterlife. The writings cover spiritual and symbolic aspects of death [and] some essays delve into scientific history, such as miniature crime scenes used in forensic sci­ence and the history of cadavers in the study of anatomy.

— Science News


Joanna Ebenstein


Joanna Ebenstein is the author of The Anatomical Venus and cofounder of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, New York.

Will Self

Foreword By

Will Self is the acclaimed author of several novels, short story collections, and novellas. His books include Umbrella, Great Apes, and Phone.