Old and New London, A Narrative of its History, its People and its Places. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings from the Most Authentic Sources. vol 4Thornbury, Walter
The British Museum (continued).
The British Museum (continued).
Returning to the [extra_illustrations.4.519.1] , we find ourselves once more at the foot of the principal staircase. Against the wall, near the foot of the stairs, is a statue, executed by Westmacott, of the Hon. Mrs. Damer, holding in her hands a small allegorical figure, sculptured by herself, representing the
On the opposite, or eastern, side of the hall, on each side of the doorway to the Grenville Library, are marble statues--Shakespeare, by Roubilliac, and Sir Joseph Banks, by Chantrey. In the centre of the hall is a gigantic vase, standing upon a pedestal. It was purchased by the Museum authorities about the year , from a resident of Croydon, in whose garden it had been discovered, broken to fragments. It is of Italian workmanship, and is elaborately ornamented with raised figures of a classical design, illustrative of Bacchanalian subjects. At the top of the staircase commences the suite of rooms appropriated to natural history, mineralogy, zoology, and botany. The department of antiquities occupies the whole of the western part of the ground-floor, several rooms connected therewith on the basement, and the western side of the upper floor. We do not pretend in these pages to act the part of in pointing out to our readers all the wonders of the Museum, together with the exact spot in which they are to be found: all that we can do is to ask the reader to accompany us in imagination through the various corridors whilst we endeavour to set before him a few of the most important and interesting objects that are here brought together.
Before, however, commencing our stroll through the galleries, we may simply remark that in the year extensive alterations were commenced in various parts of the building. Instead of the approach to the reading-room which we have described in the previous chapter, a lobby of half the length is substituted, entered through a new gallery of antiquities. New apartments in the
|basement are set apart for the display of some of those sculptures which have been for some time stored away and never yet exhibited. A new room above, which is to supersede half of the long approach to the reading-room, will serve for the exhibition of marbles. This alteration will involve the replacing of the ladies'-room in another part of the building. Another alteration will consist of an additional apartment on the upper floor of the building, intended also to be devoted to antiquities. Although the construction of these new rooms will place a large space at the disposal of the trustees, it is believed that this will soon be found insufficient, in consequence of the large additions which are constantly being made.|
Sir Hans Sloane's natural history collection, which, however limited it may now appear, was doubtless considered of the greatest importance at the time it was formed, served as the nucleus of the present extensive departments of zoology, paleontology, mineralogy, and botany. In the infancy of the Museum all miscellaneous artificial curiosities, and even antiquities and anatomical preparations, were consigned to the natural history departments; but all of these have since been separated from it. In the trustees purchased a fine collection of stuffed birds, which had been brought over from Holland, and many additions to it were afterwards made by purchase and donation. The voyages of discovery by Captain Cook and others, early in the reign of George III., brought numerous acquisitions, and in the valuable collection of British zoology, which had belonged to Colonel Montague, of Knowle, in Devonshire, and included a very large number of birds, was purchased. General Hardwicke's collection of stuffed birds was bequeathed to the Museum in , since which time still larger acquisitions have been made by presents and purchase, particularly in the case of ornithology, so that the aggregate now forms a collection probably as extensive as any in Europe.
With reference to the collection of mammalia, fishes, reptiles, insects, and crustacea in the , the late Dr. J. E. Gray, in the year , submitted the following statement to the Commissioners of Inquiry into the constitution and management of the :--
Since the above period the collections have continued to increase both in number and importance.
But it is time for us to proceed. Arrived at the top of the grand staircase, we find ourselves in the central saloon, the of large rooms devoted to the exhibition of specimens selected from the existing classes of animals. The collection here is extremely varied. Arranged round the walls, in glass cases, are a number of antelopes, sheep, goats, and bats; and above the cases are horns of various kinds of oxen, some of them of gigantic dimensions; whilst in the centre of the room are the towering giraffes, the morse or walrus from the Arctic regions, the rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and the Indian elephant. In large glass cases are shown stuffed specimens and skeletons of those apes or monkeys which, on the whole, are most like man, and therefore are named
however, it will be perceived that their similarity to man is much greater during their early youth than at an advanced age. To this group of monkeys belong the gorilla and chimpanzee, inhabitants of the forests of Western and Central Africa; and the kinds of orangoutang from Borneo and Sumatra, brutes possess, ing an extraordinary strength, which they well know how to use when attacked. Here are numerous
|specimens of antelopes; they are generally of a sandy colour, and specially fitted to inhabit extensive plains, with tracts of desert. A few of the species live among rocks, where they are as surefooted as the goat They are most abundant in Africa, especially in the southern districts. A few are found in India. Among the more interesting species may be pointed out the water-buck and sable antelope; the oryx, which, when seen in profile, probably suggested the unicorn mentioned by the ancients; the sassaybe of South Africa; the large-eyed gazelle, so often referred to by Eastern poets; the springbok, so called from its springing bounds, when the white fur of its back opens out like a sheet; the gnu, which at seems a compound of horse, buffalo, and antelope; the Indian antelope, with its curious cheek-pores; the wood antelopes, with short horns often concealed amongst a brush of hairs; and the chickara of India, with its little horns. North America and Europe have each a single species, namely, the prong-buck of the United States, and the chamois which frequents the Alps.|
Of the varieties of wild sheep from the mountains of Asia, North America, and North Africa, of the most remarkable is the bearded sheep of Morocco, which has enormous strength in its neck and horns; it sometimes reaches a great size, specimen exhibited measuring inches in a straight line from tip to tip. That these wild sheep are good climbers may be inferred from the fact that of them was discovered by the Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, in the century, on the great Pamir Mountains, at an altitude of feet. In or cases we find the various kinds of ibex and wild goats of Siberia, India, and Europe, together with some of their domestic varieties; and also the Cashmere and Angora goats, celebrated for the delicate wool growing among their hair, and manufactured into the finest shawls. Several of the larger bats, of which we here see specimens before us, are to be found in Africa, in the islands of the Indian Archipelago, the Pacific, and in Australia; they are called fox-bats, or flying foxes, have blunt, grinding teeth, and eat fruit only. Though bats in-general are sombrecoloured, some of these fox-bats have brilliantlycoloured furs. The blood-sucking bats, commonly called vampires, are, we are told, confined to South America, and perhaps it is as well that it should be so, seeing that they delight in attacking animals and
These bats are of small size, have a long tongue, and a deep notch in the lower lip; and the wounds which they inflict, it is stated, often continue to flow after the animals are satiated, and do not readily heal.
In the next room are exhibited the continuation of the collection of hoofed quadrupeds, such as oxen, elands, deer, camels, llamas, horses, as well as the various species of swine. Here also are placed the species of armadillo, manis, and sloth. The corners of this room are occupied by various specimens of the wild cattle and buffaloes of Europe, Africa, and Asia; by the eland, the largest kind of antelopes acclimatised in England and Ireland; and by the elk, the most bulky species of deer inhabiting North America and some districts of North-eastern Europe. In the centre of this gallery there is a magnificent specimen of the basking shark, captured in , near Shanklin, in the Isle of Wight. It is about feet in length, and feet in its greatest circumference. This shark is an inhabitant of the northern parts of the Atlantic Ocean, and approaches annually the west coast of Ireland, rarely straying to the coasts of England and Scotland. It is of a harmless disposition, its food consisting of small fishes and other marine animals swimming in shoals. On the west coast of Ireland it is chased for the sake of the oil which is extracted from the liver, fish yielding from a ton to a ton and a half. However, its capture, we are told, is attended with great danger, as blow from its enormously strong tail is sufficient to stave in the sides of a large boat.
The llamas, of which there are some fine stuffed specimens here, are used as beasts of burden in the Andes of South America, species furnishing an excellent wool. The wild species are brown, while the domesticated ones are black, white, or brown, and often variegated.
Among the animals in this gallery, classed under the heading of
may be specified the Lithuanian bison, or aurochs, which in ancient times inhabited the European forests, but is now nearly extinct, a few only having been preserved by the care of the Russian Emperors; the American bison, or
which still wanders in gradually diminishing herds over the prairies of North America; the musk-ox, limited to Arctic America, where, with its peculiar head and feet, it manages to find food even during the long winter of those regions; and the yak of Thibet, the tail of which is used as a fly-flap by the Asiatics.
Then we have a continuation of the series of antelopes, such as the bontebok, with its inscribed sides; the fine striped strepsiceros, with spiral horns; the nylghau, often called the horned horse of India; and the anoa of the Celebes. In these
| cases are also contained some others of the thickskinned beasts, as Baird's tapir of Central America; the African swine, with warts on the head, and formidable tusks; the babyrussa, with recurved horn-like tusks; the social South American peccaries, with a gland on their back emitting a foetid odour. All these animals have muscular and callous noses, which fit them well for grubbing in the ground. The curious hyrax, of the species of which is the |
of Scripture: in structure it resembles a diminutive rhinoceros. The
as the manis, or scaly ant-eaters of India and Africa, with very long claws, which are turned in when they walk; the burrowing armadilloes of South America, which, if danger threatens, can roll themselves into a ball, covered with jointed mail, whence they have derived their name. The ant-eaters of South America, which are covered with hair, and have a very long worm-like tongue which they exert into ant-hills, and, when covered with ants, draw into their mouths. [extra_illustrations.4.522.1] [extra_illustrations.4.522.2]
The next room eastward is called the Saloon of Mammalia. Here there is a very extraordinary collection, which includes the various species of monkeys. of the most remarkable is the proboscis monkey of Borneo, with its singular long nose. Here also may be noticed the sacred monkey of the Hindoos, which is religiously preserved about their sacred enclosures. Other notable
in this group are the
so called from their fore-hands wanting the thumb. Of these the most handsome is the Abyssinian guereza, with long white hairs flowing over its sides, and with the white tail contrasting strongly with the deep black fur. The skin of this monkey is used to ornament the shields of the Abyssinian chiefs. In this saloon are also animals of the feline tribe, such as lions, tigers, leopards, bears, &c. The collection of corals, too, is very perfect. Suspended from the ceiling of this saloon is the skeleton of a whale from New Zealand, a species as important to commerce as the whale of the northern hemisphere. It is stated to be a young
|individual, not quite half grown. Near it is the skeleton of the bottle-nosed dolphin, of which a large shoal was taken near Holyhead in . Here is also the skeleton of the narwhal, of the most singular animals of the whale tribe, distinguished by a long spirally twisted tusk, which projects from the snout in the line of the animal's body. This tusk is developed on side of the snout only (the left), very rarely on both sides. In the adult male it reaches a length of or feet, but is seldom developed in the female; hence it is probable that its use is the same as that of the antlers in the stag. The ivory of the tusk commands a high price in the market, and was still more valued in former times, when it was believed to be the horn of the unicorn. The narwhal is an inhabitant of the Arctic seas, and rarely strays to more temperate regions.|
The eastern zoological gallery corresponds in length and general arrangement with the King's Library, above which it is situated. The wall-cases of this gallery contain the general collection of birds, and in the table-cases are displayed the shells of molluscous animals arranged according to their peculiar characteristics. In the limited space at our command it would be a difficult task to make a selection here for special mention. Suffice it to say that the system observed in the arrangement of the different specimens is that of Temminck, whose generic names are in most cases adopted, with the specific names of Linnaeus, and the English synonyms of Latham. Thus we have, in Cases to , the diurnal birds of prey, such as the condor, or great vulture of the Andes, which soars higher than any other bird; the Turkey buzzards, or carrion vultures, which clear away putrifying carcases, and are the most useful scavengers in the warmer parts of America; the eagles, falcons, hawks, and owls. In Cases to we have the perching birds, subdivided into the widegaped, as the goatsuckers, the swallows, kingfishers, and the like. Among the tenuirostral birds may be noticed the hoopoes and sun-birds of Africa and
|Asia. The brilliant-plumaged humming-birds come next in order; and then follow the honey-eaters, nuthatches, wrens, wood-warblers, thrushes, and chatterers of the American forests, &c. Further on we find cases filled with conirostral birds, including the crows and finches; the scansorial, including the parrots and cuckoos; the gallinaceous birds, as pigeons, turtles, pheasants, and partridges. Lastly, we have the wading and web-footed birds, which comprise the ostriches, trumpeters, storks, cranes, flamingoes, swans, and ducks. An extensive series of cases of eggs of birds, ranged to correspond with the cases of the birds themselves, and placed opposite them, gives completeness to the whole.|
In an important addition was made to the Natural History Department by the acquisition of Mrs. J.E. Craig's collection of shells, comprising some specimens, and representing about different species. In the same year the collection of beetles formed by Mr. Edward Saunders, and numbering upwards of specimens, was purchased for its use.
Above the cases which line the walls of this gallery is a series of portraits, in number, among which are a few of particular interest, notably those of Oliver Cromwell, painted by Walker, and bequeathed to the Museum in the year by Sir Robert Rich, to whose great-grandfather, Nathaniel Rich, Esq., then serving as a Colonel of Horse in the Parliamentary Army, it was presented by the great
himself; of Mary Queen of Scots, by Jansen; and of Queen Elizabeth, by Zucchero. Here, too, may be seen portraits of Charles II. (by Sir Peter Lely), Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Hans Sloane, and Sir Robert Cotton; Sir William Dugdale, William Camden, and John Speed, the historians; Shakespeare, Algernon Sidney, and Alexander Pope; Philip Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield, and Thomas Britton (the
). But still the does not even claim, or pretend to contain, a National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Englishmen: we shall find such a gallery, and shall have much to say about it, when we reach South Kensington.
The room in the northern zoological gallery contains an interesting display of the nests of birds and insects from various countries.
The succeeding rooms devoted to zoology, in number, contain chiefly the various specimens of reptiles, such as serpents, tortoises, crocodiles, and lizards; toads, frogs, and efts; and the various species of marine products, such as star-fishes and sea-wigs. Here, too, are the spiny-rayed and anomalous fishes; insects; crustacea, including such varieties as the crab and lobster; and also sturgeons and pikes, &c.; whilst over the wallcases, or suspended from the roof, are ranged the larger fish which could not be accommodated within, such as the famous flying sword-fish, sharks, and congers.
On the north side, running parallel with the above-mentioned rooms, is the gallery of minerals and fossils. In no department, probably, is the Museum richer than in its minerals. These occupy the table-cases of large rooms; the fossil remains of the invertebrate animals being displayed on the floor of the and rooms, and in the wall-cases throughout the entire gallery. In the
| lobby, at the eastern end of this gallery, is a restored model of the shell of an extinct fossil tortoise, of gigantic size, from the Siwalik Hills, in India. Portions of the shell, and of other parts of the skeleton of several different individuals of this species of tortoise, are deposited in the room of the gallery, and it is of casts from some of these portions that the restored model is, in a great measure, composed. In this gallery will be found the fossil remains of those gigantic antediluvian animals and reptiles, which for so many years have excited the curiosity and stimulated the energies of men learned in geological science --such as the mastodon, the megatherium, the iguanodon, and the megalosaurus; then there are fossil plants, fishes, mammalia, insects, and shells; and perhaps the most extraordinary of all, a fossil human skeleton. This last-named |
was brought from Guadaloupe by Sir Alexander Cochrane, and presented to the Museum by the Lords of the Admiralty. It was found embedded in the solid limestone rock, and much discussion has arisen as to its antiquity;
writes Sir Henry Ellis,
This skeleton (which is described in the
of the Royal Society) wants the skull, and it is a curious fact, mentioned by Sir Charles Lyell, in his
that in the Museum at Charleston, South Carolina, he was shown a fossil human skull from Guadaloupe, embedded in solid limestone,
Dr. Moultrie, of the Medical College of that State, has described the bones, together with the entire skeleton disentombed from the limestone deposit at Guadaloupe, and is of opinion-taking for granted the relation of the skull at Charleston to the headless trunk in London--that the latter is not the skeleton of a Carib, as has been generally supposed, but that of of the Peruvians, or of a tribe possessing a similar craniological development."
Before proceeding to describe the antiquities, we may say a few words about the botanical collection. This is very extensive, and is exhibited in rooms, which are entered by a doorway on the eastern side of the central zoological saloon. The collection consists of dried plants, and other botanical specimens, and had its origin in the collection of herbaria formed from time to time by Sir Hans Sloane during his long life, or, at all events, from the year , when he went out to Jamaica as physician to the Duke of Albemarle,
On his return to England, he brought with him a collection of species of West India plants. These, together with various others presented to or purchased by Sir Hans Sloane, are contained in about volumes. To these have been added the herbarium of Baron von Moll, of Munich; and also that of Sir Joseph Banks. The latter alone formed at time, it is said, the most valuable assemblage of dried plants in Europe, and is still of the most important, not only on account of its extent, but as containing the original and authentic specimens of many published species. Besides the above, we learn that additions have since been made from various other sources, which make the entire number of species amount to about --
The department of antiquities is divided into series: the , consisting of sculpture, including inscriptions and architectural remains, occupies the ground-floor of the south-western and western portions of the building, besides some rooms in the basement, not originally designed for exhibition, but now supplying the only space which the extensive acquisitions recently made from Assyria and other countries have left available for that purpose. The series, placed in a suite of rooms on the upper floor, comprises all the smaller remains, of whatever nation or period, such as vases, terracottas, bronzes, coins, and medals, and articles of personal or domestic use. To the latter division is attached the collection of ethnographical specimens. In the infancy of the Museum, the antiquities being few in number, and of comparatively little value, were considered, with other artificial curiosities, as an appendage to the natural history; the coins, medals, and drawings were at that time appended to the department of manuscripts; and the prints and engravings to the library of printed books. On the purchase of Sir William Hamilton's collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, in , for the sum of , the augmentations even then were not considered sufficient to require an increase of the establishment; but on the acquisition of the Egyptian monuments at the capitulation of Alexandria, in the year , and the purchase of the Towneley marbles shortly afterwards, additional accommodation was needed, and several new buildings were erected, as we have already shown. It was then that a new department was created, by the name of the Department of Antiquities; and thus, as Sir Henry Ellis writes,
[extra_illustrations.4.526.1] [extra_illustrations.4.526.2] [extra_illustrations.4.526.3]
On leaving the rooms containing the botanical specimens, and crossing the central saloon, the visitor enters the Ethnographical room, where will be found a curious and interesting collection of antiquities, and the objects in modern use, belonging to all nations, not of European race. In table-case are antiquities discovered during excavations in India; in another, a group of Peruvian and Mexican antiquities; whilst others contain dresses and implements in use among the Esquimaux tribes, as well as objects illustrative of the late Arctic expeditions, chiefly collected by Sir John Barrow. With reference to the contents of the wall-cases in this room, we can only remark that they comprise a very miscellaneous assortment of articles, including specimens of wearing apparel, warlike implements, idols, musical instruments, sepulchral vases, pottery, domestic utensils, &c.
The British and Mediaeval room contains collections-namely, the British, consisting of antiquities found in Great Britain and Ireland, extending from the earliest period to the Norman Conquest; the Early Christian; and the Mediaeval, comprising all remains of the Middle Ages, both English and foreign. Here we have in abundance such relics of the past as urns and other funeral remains found in tumuli; flint implements of a peculiar pear-shaped form, believed to be the oldest objects of human industry hitherto discovered; stone hammers and axe-heads; implements and weapons made of bronze; also vases and lamps. Among the historical relics in the mediaeval collection we may mention the casket made out of Shakespeare's mulberry-tree, at time in the possession of David Garrick; the punchbowl of Robert Burns; and portions of the frescoes in Chapel, , executed in the latter half of the century.
Between the rooms above mentioned is a doorway leading to a small ante-room containing the collection of gold ornaments and gems. Here we find specimens of mediaeval and modern jewellery, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan ornaments of an early period. And here also are exhibited the unrivalled collection of cameos and intaglios, formed chiefly by the bequests of the Payne Knight and Cracherode collections, and by the purchase of those of Towneley, Hamilton, Blacas, and [extra_illustrations.4.526.4] . On of the cases in this room is placed the celebrated glass vase, placed here in by its owner, the Duke of Portland, and thence popularly known as the [extra_illustrations.4.526.5] . It was found in a marble sarcophagus in the Monte del Grano, near Rome, about the middle of the century, and was afterwards deposited in the Barberini Palace, where it remained until , when it was purchased by Byres, the antiquary, who sold it to Sir William Hamilton, of whom it was bought, for guineas, by the Duchess of Portland, at the sale of whose property it was bought in by the family for . The ground of the vase is of dark-blue glass, and the design is cut in a layer of opaque white glass, the figures standing out in bold relief. The composition is classical; it is supposed by some to represent the meeting of Peleus and Thetis on Mount Pelion, and Thetis consenting to be the bride of Peleus, in the presence of Poseidon and Eros. On the bottom of the vase, which is detached, is a bust of Atys. This vase is considered of the principal ornaments of the Museum, and till it was as perfect as when it was fashioned. In that year a drunken mechanic, named William Lloyd, found his way into the Museum, and appears to have taken a dislike to the vase, a feeling which he gave vent to by deliberately hurling at it a stone which was lying close at hand; the result was that this peerless vase, as well as the glass case which contained it, was smashed to pieces. The man was at once taken before the magistrate, who sentenced him to pay the cost of damage to the case, but had no power to commit him for breaking the vase, except at the instigation of its ducal owner, who happened at the time to be out of town. In the meantime the money was paid, and the fellow was accordingly discharged. Although the vase was literally smashed into a pieces, the fragments were carefully collected, and a drawing made of them, which is preserved. The fractured pieces were afterwards replaced and cemented together by Mr. Doubleday, a gentleman who had for a long time been engaged at the Museum in repairing pottery and sculpture; and the manner in which he accomplished his task was so far successful that the exquisite form and proportions of the vase have been restored in such a way that scarcely a blemish can be detected. The vase is inches high, and its diameter inches at the broadest part near the centre, and it has handles. It diminishes gradually towards the base, and more rapidly upwards into the narrow neck, which again opens towards the lip by a graceful flower-like expansion. Copies of the vase were executed by Wedgwood, and sold at guineas each; the model is said to have cost guineas. [extra_illustrations.4.526.6] [extra_illustrations.4.526.7] [extra_illustrations.4.526.8]
p.527[extra_illustrations.4.527.1] [extra_illustrations.4.527.2] [extra_illustrations.4.527.3] [extra_illustrations.4.527.4]
Among the miscellaneous curiosities which are preserved in this room are the [extra_illustrations.4.527.5] and ornamented with a miniature portrait of Napoleon, who, in , presented it to the Hon. Mrs. Damer, the sculptress, by whom it was bequeathed to the Museum; a gold snuffbox, with a cameo lid, presented by Pope Pius VI. to Napoleon, and by him bequeathed to Lady Holland, with a card in Napoleon's handwriting; and also a cast taken from the face of Oliver Cromwell after death.
The medal-room contains a collection of coins and medals superior to almost that of any other country. Sir Hans Sloane's collection, which formed the nucleus, was worth about as bullion. To these were added those of Sir Robert Cotton, the Hamilton and Cracherode, valued at several guineas; Roberts's collection of coins from the Conquest to George III.; a series of Papal medals; a collection of Greek coins; a vast collection of foreign coins, presented by Miss Banks; and many others, both by bequest and purchase. Of Queen Anne's farthings here are varieties, only of which was circulated, the others being pattern pieces. Mr. John Timbs, in his
In this room are preserved a few coins which have acquired an interest from their former owners or from other circumstances, rather than from their own intrinsic value; and of these we may mention the
respecting which the following story is told :--
The bronze-room, which we now enter, contains the collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan bronzes, with the exception of such as have been found in Great Britain, which are placed in the British and Mediaeval room. It was originally composed of the Sloane, Hamilton, Towneley, and Payne Knight collections, to which have been added, in recent years, the bronzes bequeathed by Sir William Temple, and many other interesting objects acquired by purchase or donation, including figures of divinities, furniture, mirrors, lamps and vases, personal ornaments, tripods, candelabra, &c. Several of the objects here exhibited were discovered by Mr. Layard in Assyria; whilst others are from the sepulchres of ancient Etruria, and the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Here, too, are the exquisite bronzes bequeathed by Mr. R. Payne Knight and Mr. Felix Slade. Among the most recent additions to the contents of this room may be noticed John Milton's watch. This curious timepiece, made by W. Bunting, and worn and used by the poet, was bequeathed to the nation by the late Sir C. Fellows, in ; the rest of his collection was added by his widow in .
The vase-rooms, through which we now pass, contain a large number of Graeco-Italian vases painted from the myths or popular poetry of the day; and in the next room (Egyptian room) is displayed the collections of ancient and more recent glass, including the very valuable bequest made to the Museum in by Mr. Felix Slade, numbering about specimens, to which additions have been made since his death out of a fund bequeathed for the purpose, making a total of specimens. This room and also the next in order should be carefully inspected, not merely for its own intrinsic
|interest, but as furnishing a valuable preparative for the due appreciation of the series of sculptures (the Egyptian) which we shall find on the groundfloor. The smaller antiquities of Egypt which are here exhibited comprise divinities, royal personages, and sacred animals; sepulchral remains; and miscellaneous objects illustrative of the domestic manners of the Egyptians. They were acquired mainly by purchase from private collections, and by donations from the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Northumberland, the late Sir Gardner Wilkinson, and other travellers in Egypt, Charles Knight, in|
| his |
as we learn from Herodotus in the words of the
of the most remarkable objects in the Egyptian collection is part of the mummy-shaped coffin of King Menkara, the Mycerinus of the Greeks, builder of the Pyramid. This is not only the oldest coffin in the collection, but of the earliest inscribed monuments of Egypt. Near it is part of a body, supposed to be that of the king, found in the same pyramid. There is also a small Graeco-Egyptian mummy of a child from Thebes; on the external wrapper is painted a representation of the deceased. [extra_illustrations.4.530.1]
In the [extra_illustrations.4.530.2] , at the top of the staircase by which we descend to the ground-floor, the walls are partly covered with casts from sculptured and coloured bas-reliefs in Egypt, painted in imitation of the originals.
Upon the walls of the staircase are placed Egyptian papyri-documents of various character, inscribed on rolls, formed of thin layers or slices of the papyrus plant. The characters presented comprise
In the vestibule at the foot of the stairs are placed monuments of the dynasties of Egyptian monarchs. Though small in size, they have considerable interest, being the most ancient sculptures in the Museum. The plaster cast from the head of the colossal statue of Rameses II., at Ibsamboul, placed over the east doorway of the vestibule, seems to keep watch and ward over the assembled treasures.
By a doorway at the foot of the stairs we enter the series of galleries devoted to [extra_illustrations.4.531.1] . The collection embraces a wide range of antiquity, commencing as far back as years before the Christian era, and closing with the Mohammedan invasion of Egypt, A.D. .
as we learn from the report of Dr. Birch, the keeper of this department,
In the gallery the larger sculptures belong to the ith dynasty. It commenced with the expulsion of the
from Lower Egypt, and its monarchs extended their conquests into AEthiopia and Asia, and built great edifices at Thebes. In the centre of the gallery towers aloft the colossal head of King Thothmes III., discovered by Belzoni near the granite sanctuary at Karnak, and near it is the arm of the same figure. Close by is a monument sculptured on sides, representing in bas-relief the abovenamed king, supported by the god Muntra and the goddess Athor. In the central recess, on the east side of the gallery, is fixed the tablet of Abydos, said to be an inscription of great value in determining the names and succession of the kings of the various dynasties. It appears originally to have commemorated an offering made by Rameses II. to his predecessors on the throne of Egypt; and it was discovered by Mr. W. Bankes in a chamber of the temple of Abydos, in . Among the curious objects here brought together are several statues of the cat-headed goddess Sekhet (Bubastis), inscribed with the name of the same monarch; the head of a colossal ram, from an avenue of ramheaded sphinxes, which led to a gateway built by King Horus, at Karnak. The king himself is also represented by statues in black marble, of which represents him under the protection of the god Amen-ra. The central saloon, through which we now pass, is chiefly occupied by monuments of the age of King Rameses II. Between the columns on the right is a colossal fist, in red granite, from of the statues which stood before the great temple at Memphis, and close by are colossal heads; of these is a cast from a statue of Rameses, at Mitraheny; the next, a head and shoulders from the building called the Memnonium, at Thebes; and the other that of a queen. The principal objects in the southern gallery are the granite sarcophagus of Hapimen, a royal scribe; the elaborately-worked sarcophagus of the Queen of Amasis II., and another of King Nectanebo I., dating some or centuries before the Christian era; on the exterior are representations of the sun passing through the heavens in his boat, and on the interior various divinities; then there is a finely-sculptured group, in sandstone, of a male and female figure seated; and also a statue of King Menephtah II., on a throne, with a ram's head on his knees. of the most interesting and valuable of the objects exhibited in this department is the famous [extra_illustrations.4.531.2] . This stone, a black basalt, is inscribed in hieroglyphics, the ancient spoken
| language of Egypt, and in Greek, with the services of Ptolemy V. Tradition tells us that Professor Porson used to visit the Museum in order to read and decipher this stone, whence he got from the officials the name of |
Several of the most important relics in the Egyptian Galleries were discovered by Belzoni, and came into the possession of the Museum through the bequest of a Mr. Salt, to whom Belzoni had engaged himself. Belzoni was a native of Padua, and came to England early in the present century. He was called
a name which he no doubt merited, seeing that he stood nearly feet in height, and was well formed and stout in proportion. He exhibited his feats of strength in the minor theatres in the metropolis, and at Edinburgh. It was at Cairo that he became engaged to Mr. Salt, and from that time he was regularly employed in making discoveries, all of which are fully described in Belzoni's
this great work was published shortly after his return to England. In , Belzoni, accompanied by his wife, again left England, on another journey of discovery into Africa; but he died at Benin, on his way thither, from an attack of dysentery, in the same year.
The south end of the Egyptian Galleries opens into the Assyrian transept, which, together with a long and narrow gallery connected with it, running north and south, contain the collection of sculptures excavated, chiefly by Mr. Layard, in the years -, on the site, or in the vicinity, of ancient Nineveh. To these has been added a further collection, from the same region, excavated in - by Mr. Hormuzd Rassam and Mr. W. K. Loftus, under the direction of Sir H. C. Rawlinson, who was at that time Her Majesty's Consul-General at Bagdad. [extra_illustrations.4.531.3] are covered with pictorial representations of historical events, and inscribed with cuneiform characters. In - valuable additions were made to this collection in the shape of a large number of burnt clay tablets, excavated at Kouyunjik, by Mr. George Smith. These tablets have been in part deciphered by Mr. Smith, who has found them to contain Chaldean legends of the creation, fall, deluge, building of the Tower of Babel, &c. The tablets were presented to the Museum by the proprietors of the at whose expense Mr. Smith's labours in Assyria were conducted.
Mr. Layard's discoveries, as we learn from his
were, for the most part, made in extensive mounds formed by the natural accumulation of the soil over the of ruined edifices, in the following localities:-- . Nimroud, believed to be the ancient Calah of Scripture, on the banks of the Tigris, about miles below the modern Mosul. . Khorsabad, a site about miles to the north-east of Mosul, which was excavated for the French Government by M. Botta, and from which was procured the greater part of the valuable collection now in the Louvre, though a few specimens of sculpture have also been obtained for the . . Kouyunjik, still indicated by local tradition as the site of Nineveh, nearly opposite Mosul, on the Tigris.
There is monumental evidence that of the various buildings which Mr. Layard excavated, that of the palace of Nimroud was older by several centuries than the edifices of Khorsabad and Kouyunjik. To this palace, the son of a founder added a ; subsequent additions are recorded in the inscriptions, and the place at last attained the dimensions ascribed to it by Jonah.
Within this space there are many mounds, ruins of edifices, vestiges of streets and gardens; and the face of the country is strewed with fragments of pottery and bricks. As to the number of inhabitants, mentioned in the book of Jonah (chap. iv. ) to be above , a number which seems apparently incommensurate with a city of such vast dimensions, Mr. Layard remarks that cities in the East are not like those in Europe; for such places as London or Paris would not contain above a of the number of their inhabitants. The women have separate apartments from the men; there is a separate house for each family; and gardens and arable land are inclosed by the city walls. Hence it is mentioned in the book of Jonah that there was
within the walls of the city, and, of course, there was pasture for them. The existing ruins, Mr. Layard tells us,
The monuments obtained by Mr. Layard from Kouyunjik are stated to date from the supposed era of the destruction of Nineveh, and were procured from the remains of a very extensive Assyrian edifice, which appears, from the inscriptions remaining on many of its sculptures, to have been the palace of Sennacherib, who is presumed to have commenced his reign about B.C. . For the most part, these remains consist of large slabs of alabaster or limestone, covered with carved figures and inscriptions, which occupied the place of panels in the walls of the palace.. group of slabs, in number, formed originally part of a series illustrating the architectural works of King Sennacherib, including, probably, the construction of the very edifice from which the slabs were obtained. On of them is seen the conveyance of a colossal human-headed bull, lying sideways on a sledge, which is propelled, over wooden rollers, partly by ropes in front, partly by a lever behind. On side is a lofty mound, which labourers are erecting with stones or earth, and which is, perhaps, designed for the platform of the future palace. The workmen are guarded by soldiers, and superintended by Sennacherib himself, in a chariot drawn by men. A similar mound is represented on the next slab, with an adjoining stone-quarry or clay-pit, where the materials of construction are prepared; whilst on the succeeding is a portion of. a group moving some weighty object. On the next slab is another colossal bull, represented as before; and on the last is depicted the monarch, in his chariot, directing some operation sculptured on a lost portion of the series. The background of the slabs exhibits men carrying axes, saws, ropes, and other implements; and along the top are representations of the natural scenery of the country, water filled with fish, anglers-floating on inflated skins, boats, banks lined with trees, and a jungle of reeds, in which are deer, and a wild sow with her young.
By a doorway on the west side of the Nimroud Central Saloon, we pass into the Hellenic Room. Among the marbles here exhibited, the in importance is a collection discovered by Professor Cockerell, in i, among the ruins of the Temple of Apollo near the ancient Phigalia, in Arcadia. This edifice was erected by Iktinos, the architect of the Parthenon, at Athens, in commemoration of the delivery of the Phigalians from the plague, B.C. . The chief part of these treasures consists of sculptured slabs, originally belonging to a frieze in the interior of the of the temple. of them represent in high relief the contest between the Centaurs and Greeks, and the remaining the invasion of Greece by the Amazons.
[extra_illustrations.4.532.3] , which is next entered, forms the western side of the Museum. Here are arranged the noble sculptures from the Parthenon, [extra_illustrations.4.532.4] of the Temple of the Wingless Victory, at Athens, some architectural remains from the Erectheum, together with a number of fragments and casts, all from Athens. The sculptures from the Parthenon, and nearly all the marbles in this room, were obtained by the Earl of Elgin, when Ambassador at Constantinople, in the years -, by virtue of a firman from the Sublime Porte. We have already spoken of the purchase of the Elgin collection by the Government in a previous chapter.
A doorway at the southern end of the Elgin Room leads into the Mausoleum Room, where are arranged the fragments of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, erected by Artemisia, about B.C. , over the remains of her husband, Mausolus, Prince of Caria, and discovered by Mr. Newton, in . The structure, we are told, when perfect,
Passing through the Greek ante-room, we enter the [extra_illustrations.4.533.1] . The antiquities exhibited in this room comprise architectural and sculptural remains obtained from ancient cities in Lycia, of the south-western provinces of Asia Minor. They were removed from that country in expeditions, undertaken by Her Majesty's Government in the years -, under the direction of Sir C. Fellows, by whom the greater part of the marbles in this room were discovered. The building, of which the sculptures and various architectural members here brought together formed a part, has, by some, been considered a trophy in memory of the conquest of Lycia by the Persians, under Harpagos, B.C. .
In , an addition was made to the collection in this gallery, in the shape of fragments of columns, bases and capitals, &c., from the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, which had been discovered by Mr. Wood, in explorations made during the or previous years. Among the fragments sent hither by Mr. Wood were
These sculptured drums, it is considered,
The architectural marbles present many interesting features; some of the smaller fragments, for instance,
A staircase in the south-west corner of the building leads into the Greco-Roman basement room, to which the basement of the Lycian Room is annexed. In this room are shown figures and reliefs of the Graeco-Roman period, miscellaneous objects in marble and other material, and the collection of tessellated pavements and mosaics, which has been formed chiefly from the discoveries at Carthage and Halicarnassus in -.
The next rooms, extending along the southern front of the building, are known as the [extra_illustrations.4.533.3] , and are appropriated to statues, busts, and bas-reliefs, of quite a mixed class, and mostly of a classic character. Here we find several statues and busts of gods and goddesses, such as Hercules, Venus, Bacchus, Pan, and the like; but we can here notice only a few of them. In an alcove in the centre room is the Towneley Venus, found at Ostia, in ; and in the alcove on the opposite side is the celebrated Discobolus, or Quoit-thrower, presumed to be a copy of the famous bronze statue made by the sculptor Myron. In the western room is the beautiful female bust commonly called
The bust is represented as emerging from the petals of a flower, and it was esteemed by Mr. Towneley as the gem of his collection. It was bought at Naples, from the Lorrenzano Palace, in . The following curious anecdote connected with this piece of sculpture we quote from Charles Knight's
Passing on through the Roman Gallery, the last of the series of rooms devoted to the department of sculptured antiquities, we arrive once more in the entrance-hall, and so end our perambulation of this great national storehouse. There is, however, more object which we should mention, and that is the skeleton of, we believe, the largest whale ever captured. This monster of the deep, measuring some feet in length, was for many years an attraction at country fairs throughout the kingdom, a large number of caravans being used for its conveyance and exhibition; and it has at last found a resting-place in the basement of the Museum, under the Grenville Library, where it can be seen on application to the attendants.
It will be evident that the expenses of such an establishment as the must be very considerable, and that many persons must be occupied in fulfilling the duties attached to it. We have already spoken of the principal librarian as being head and chief, under the trustees, of the whole working body of the establishment. Besides this officer, there are upwards of persons engaged in the various departments, either as
and in addition, there is a little army of assistants dispersed through the libraries and saloons, perhaps upwards of another strong. Then there are a few
or castmakers, and a regular corps of index-makers and bookbinders, constantly employed, as well as a goodly number of household servants. It may, perhaps, be almost needless to remark here that every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of the collection. Like the , this building has a detachment of the Guards nightly sent to keep watch and ward against intruders from without; whilst the destruction of the edifice by fire is a thing well nigh impossible, seeing that no light is allowed to be carried about whatever, either by night or by day, and that, through the same fear of fire, all night studies are forbidden.
We conclude this subject with a few general remarks. If we compare it with similar institutions abroad, such as the Bibliotheque Nationale and the Louvre, at Paris, the Royal Libraries of Munich
|and Berlin, and the Vatican Library at Rome, we may safely claim for our national Museum a very high place. Viewed with reference to its collection of books, both as to quality and in quantity, it stands among the in the world, combining as it does some volumes, including nearly all the rarest specimens. Its manuscripts, also, are certainly -rate in number, being fully equal to those of the Bibliotheque Nationale, though, perhaps, in intrinsic value, they fall short of the treasures of the Vatican. Our statues from the antique, Greek and Roman, are the finest in the world, and our vases and bronzes are very good, though in modern statuary, just as in pictures, we do not pretend to make a show. Passing on to the other part of our art treasures, a very high rank may be claimed for our prints from the works of the ancient masters, though in topography, both English and foreign, the collection is poor, and our stores of portraits can be hardly said to be more than mediocre. Our coins are acknowledged to be very fine indeed; in Roman gold coins the Museum is superior even to the Bibliotheque Nationale, though inferior to it in Greek coins, and also in medallions. Our collection of gems comprises the Blacas, the|
|Towneley, the Payne-Knight, the Crackerode, and the Castellani cabinets, all of which are now incorporated together, and arranged in a mythological series. As a whole the collection ranks with that of Berlin, and though inferior to that of St. Petersburg, especially in respect of gold ornaments, it can hardly acknowledge any other rivals. Then, as to antiquities of a miscellaneous character, thanks, mainly, to Belzoni, who commenced the Egyptian collection, we stand at the head of all; Lord Elgin robbed the Parthenon at Athens to enrich our stores of Greek statuary, as already mentioned; thanks to Mr. Layard, we are extremely rich, far richer than our rivals, in respect of treasures dug up in Assyria and at Nineveh; Sir Charles Fellows has given us a very beautiful collection of Carian and Lycian specimens; Mr. C. T. Newton has brought hither nearly all that was grand from Halicarnassus, including a large part of its celebrated Mausoleum; and more recently, as we have shown, Mr. Wood has contributed some most interesting relics from ancient Ephesus, including a large part of the famous Temple of Diana of that city, familiar to every reader of the Acts of the Apostles. [extra_illustrations.4.534.1]|
[extra_illustrations.4.522.1] Natural History Museum
[extra_illustrations.4.522.2] Collection in Bronze Room
[extra_illustrations.4.526.1] Cyrene Marbles
[extra_illustrations.4.526.2] Scriptural Museum
[extra_illustrations.4.526.3] Smith's Collection of London Antiquities
[extra_illustrations.4.526.5] Portland Vase
[extra_illustrations.4.526.6] Cameo of Claudius
[extra_illustrations.4.526.7] Shield and Scabbard
[extra_illustrations.4.526.8] Asorted Items from the Museum including coins, bristol cup, hypnos and an Actium prow
[extra_illustrations.4.527.1] Coin of Domitrary
[extra_illustrations.4.527.2] Ethnographical Room
[extra_illustrations.4.527.3] Medieval Brass Vessel
[extra_illustrations.4.527.5] gold snuff-box, set with diamonds
[extra_illustrations.4.530.1] Letter from Edward A. Bond
[extra_illustrations.4.530.2] Egyptian ante-room
[extra_illustrations.4.531.1] Egyptian monuments and sculptured antiquities
[extra_illustrations.4.531.2] Rosetta Stone
[extra_illustrations.4.531.3] Many of the objects here brought together
[extra_illustrations.4.532.1] The Bowdroum Marbles
[extra_illustrations.4.532.2] View of Acropolis
[extra_illustrations.4.532.3] The Elgin Room
[extra_illustrations.4.532.4] a portion of the frieze
[extra_illustrations.4.533.1] Lycian Gallery
[extra_illustrations.4.533.2] Greek Antiquities
[extra_illustrations.4.533.3] Graeco-Roman Rooms
[extra_illustrations.4.534.1] Bank Hoiliday at British Museum, 1887