The John Stevens Shop: Three Hundred Years of Inscriptions in Stone

Please join us for a Frances and Philip Hofer lecture
By Nicholas Benson

Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 5:30 p.m.
Houghton Library, Edison and Newman Room
Followed by a reception on the 2nd floor

Founded in 1705, The John Stevens Shop specializes in the design and execution of one-of-a-kind inscriptions in stone. In the classical tradition, architectural and memorial lettering is generated by hand with a broad-edged brush in the manner of the great Roman inscriptions and then carved into stone with mallets and chisels, giving true sculptural form to graphic and calligraphic designs. For three centuries the shop has produced headstones for New England gravesites, and its skilled artisans have designed and inscribed calligraphy on buildings and stone monuments across the country. Recent public projects have included the lettering for the National World War II Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. Closer to home, three generations of the Benson family, proprietors of The John Stevens Shop since 1927, have carved inscriptions for Harvard University and Houghton Library.

Nicholas Waite Benson is a third-generation stone carver, calligrapher, and designer whose meticulously executed inscriptional works are noted for their uncompromising craftsmanship and beauty in form and line. In 1979 he began an apprenticeship at The John Stevens Shop at the age of fifteen with his father, John Everett Benson, following in the tradition established by his grandfather John Howard Benson. After study in the United States and Europe he returned to the shop and since 1993 has been its owner and creative director. In 2007 he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 2010 he was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

For additional information please contact Hope Mayo at or call 617-495-2444

Image Credits: Nicholas Benson’s Alphabet Stone, courtesy of Nicholas Benson, and a portrait of Nicholas Benson, courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Edison & Newman Room

The room, its programs, and its exhibitions are supported by the generosity of the Edison and Newman families (Bernard A. Edison AB 1949, MBA 1951; Julian I. Edison AB 1951, MBA 1953; Andrew E. Newman AB 1966, MBA 1968). Located on the first floor of Houghton Library, this room serves as a location for a variety of public programs.

Learn more