THE DEATH of John Page-Phillips has left a gap in the very specialised study of ecclesiology - palimpsest monumental brasses.
Born in Dorset, Page-Phillips had a natural interest in parish churches, his father being a country parson. He was educated at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge, and became interested early in life in monumental brasses and very soon commenced the study of palimpsests. In the context of brasses, the word 'palimpsest' refers to ones discarded at the Reformation (or the result of strife in Continental Europe) and subsequently engraved on the reverse. Thus the majority date from the second half of the 16th century and could be obtained more cheaply than a new plate by those seeking a brass memorial.
Such brasses have been known and studied since Victorian times and Page-Phillips was encouraged by Reginald H. Pearson and thereafter took on his mantle and his detailed records. He researched all the literature on the subject and added many new discoveries. The jigsaw puzzle of fitting together the reverses and, in a few cases, locating the original church in which the brass had been laid was his great joy. This work culminated in the publication in 1980 of Palimpsests - the backs of monumental brasses in two volumes, both listing and illustrating every fragment known at that time; he kept his study up to date and subsequently issued several addenda. In recognition of this work he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
Other publications include the re-writing of Macklin's Monumental Brasses (1969) and Children on Brasses (1970). A long-serving member of the Council of the Monumental Brass Society, he was elected President in 1985 and still held this office at his death.
By occupation Page-Phillips was an antique dealer well-known in London and trading from a shop in Kensington Church Street, Phillips & Page. A colleague wrote of him:: 'His scholarly eye sought out the unusual, extraordinary and bizarre. The beautiful enchanted him, the grotesque entertained him and his enquiring mind and instinctive feeling for things medieval made him a fascinating companion.'
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