Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 1
The British Museum.
The British Museum.
The very eminent and valuable collection made by Sir Robert Cotton Bruce and his son, Sir Thomas Cotton; the Lord Treasurer Harley, Earl of Oxford, and his son, Edward, Earl of Oxford; Sir Hans Sloane, and other learned and scientific persons, being in a scattered state, and therefore of little public utility, it became an object of parliamentary consideration to embody the whole as a public repository, so that it might form a grand national museum.
For this purpose, after various considerable purchases, from the several families, of such inestimable documents, it was thought requisite by Parliament,
This sum, together with the several collections purchased and granted, Parliament vested in an incorporate body of Trustees, consisting of the characters in the kingdom for rank, station, and literary fame; at the same time conferring on them ample powers to take such measures as they should deem expedient for the disposal, preservation, and management of the institution, which it was now determined should bear the name of the .
The act of these Trustees was to provide a proper house for the reception of the ample collections confided to their care; and after various proposals, they at length fixed on the noble mansion we are about to describe. This palace, together with its garden and appurtenances, occupying in the whole an area of acres and perches of land, was ceded by the representatives of the Montagu family for the moderate sum of .
The necessary repairs (which, the house having stood long empty, proved very expensive) were immediately proceeded upon, and the proper bookcases and cabinets having been completed, and the collections removed thither, and properly distributed and arranged, the Museum was at length opened for study and public inspection, .
The entrance to this magnificent structure is under a stately arched gateway, over which is a glazed dome, and a clock. On each side within the gate is a handsome colonnade of the Ionic order; which with the other sides, form a spacious quadrangle, the east and west sides being allotted for the residence of the principal and other librarians.
The Museum itself consists of a building feet in length, and in height to the top of the cornice, and is constructed from the plans of M. Peter Puget, a native of Marseilles, and an architect of the eminence in France, who had been sent from Paris by Ralph, Duke of Montagu, to erect the structure which was afterwards consumed by fire, and most probably was retained to give his assistance in forming the present splendid mansion as it now stands.
The ascent to the house is by handsome flights of stone steps, with iron railing, the centre of which leads to the Hall, of the Ionic order, and decorated with pilasters in pairs, the entablatures of which support a plain horizontal ceiling. The entrance to the Vestibule on the west side is under tall arches, ornamented with fanciful iron-work.
The paintings on the side of the staircase represent Cæsar and his military retinue, the chiefs of the provinces he had in part subdued attending on him, and others on their knees, imploring his protection and assistance.
In a compartmeut are the feasts and sacrifices of Bacchus.
In another, the rivers Nile and Tiber are represented by gigantic figures emblematically ornamented; and there are emblematical landscapes at a distance, and several fine pieces of architecture.
On the ceiling is represented the story of Phaeton: the gods are assembled, and a youth appears asking Phœbus to permit him to drive his chariot for a day; he consents, and in another part is seen conducting him to his chariot: Diana is near them, and Juno, attended by Iris.
Farther on, Phaeton, with all the ardour of youth, is driving the sun's chariot, accompanied by the Hours, in the form of women. Time is represented by Saturn; Eternity by a woman holding a serpent, and Cybele, or the goddess of the earth.
The landscapes and architectural decorations are by James Rousseau.
The Ground Floor consists of rooms, which contain the Library of printed Books. Strangers are not conducted through these apartments.
The companies, on being admitted according to the regulations, are immediately conducted up the great staircase, the decorations of which have been lately restored.
From the great staircase visitors are conducted into the Room of the Upper Story, containing a miscellaneous collection of modern works of art, from all parts of the world. The ceiling of this room, representing the fall of Phaeton, was painted by La Fosse. The contents are arranged geographically, as follows: Europe, Cases I. to IV. Asia, V. to VII. Africa, VIII. South America, IX. East Coast of North America, X. West Coast of North America, XI. to XIV. Otaheite, XV. to XVIII. Sandwich Islands and Marquesas, XIX. to XXII. Friendly Islands, XXIII. and XXIV. New Zealand, XXV. and XXVI. Various small
|articles, in tables. This collection, the greatest part of which consists of donations, not being strictly of a scientific nature, no further detail is here given of its contents.|
The Room.—This and the next rooms are appropriated for the use of the readers and other scientific persons.
Room.—Lansdown Library of Manuscripts. This library consists of volumes; of which contain an ample collection of Lord Burleigh's State Papers; volumes of Sir Julius Cæsar's papers; volumes of historical collections of Dr. White Kennet, Bishop of Peterborough; a considerable number of original royal and noble letters and papers; and a great store of historical, juridical, biographical, heraldical, and miscellaneous collections.
The Room contains a collection of MSS. bequeathed by the late Dr. Birch, consisting of volumes. Sir Hans Sloane's library of MSS. consisting of volumes. Kæmpfer's MSS. Several journals of voyages; and some oriental MSS. Mr. Halhed's and some other collections of oriental MSS. MSS. and rolls relating to Kent, purchased by Mr. Hasted. Over the chimney is a drawing, presented by the Hon. Percy Wyndham, of the palace of Colomna, near Moscow, now demolished,
and Rooms.—The Harleian Library of Manuscripts is deposited in these rooms. Also fiftyseven volumes, containing a series of public acts relating to the history and government of England, from the year to , collected by Thomas Rymer, but not printed in his Fœdera; and volumes of rolls of Parliament: the whole ordered to be deposited in the Museum by the . Dean Milles's collection, in volumes, relating to the history of Ireland. volumes of Icelandic Manuscripts; presented by Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. K. B. Mr. Thomas Cowper's collection; containing the decisions of the commissioners for settling the city estates after the fire of London. Sir John Hawkins's collection, relating to the history of music. volumes of music, by old composers, bequeathed by James Mathias, Esq. Sir William Burrel's Manuscripts and Drawings; being a copious collection towards a topography and history of the county of Sussex. Sir William Musgrave's MSS. and Library. The Rev. Wm. Cole's collection of MSS. for the county and University of Cambridge. rolls of the Pentateuch on vellum; the former of considerable antiquity, and the latter much more recent: besides other Hebrew MSS. and printed books, presented by Solomon da Costa, Esq. Specimens of minute writing, forming the portraits of Queen Anne, Prince George of Denmark, and the Duke of Gloucester, their son. An original deed in Latin, written on papyrus, being a conveyance of some land to a monastery, dated Ravenna, Ao. , bought at the sale of the Pinelli library. Opposite to it is a large specimen of the Cyperus Papyrus, of which that kind of paper is made; and an Italian note to Sir. Wm. Hamilton, written on modern papyrus, explaining the mode of preparing it.
Room.—The Royal Library of Manuscripts, deposited in presses. The Cottonian Library of Manuscripts, deposited in presses. The original Magna Charta, belonging to the Cottonian Library; and a fac-simile engraving of it, by Pine: also the original of the Articles preparatory to the signing of the Great Charter, perfect, with the seal.
Saloon.—The dome of this grand apartment was painted by La Fosse. It has generally been described as representing the apotheosis of Iris; but the most probable conjecture is, that the painter meant to exhibit the birth of Minerva. The landscapes and architectural decorations are by Rousseau; the garlands of flowers by John Baptist Monoyer. Over the chimney a full-length portrait of King George II. by Shackleton.
Room.—Minerals. The valuable donation of Mr. Cracherode, disposed in tables, nearly in the Linnæan order: and a much more extensive series, arranged according to Werner's system of mineralogy, in drawers in the imposts round the room. A collection of specimens of rocks, arranged partly according to their natural affinities. Meteoric stones: of those that were seen to fall from the atmosphere, with many others, at Aigle, in France; a fragment of that fell at Siena; of another that fell at Wold Cottage, in Yorkshire, weighing ; and a fragment of that was seen falling in the East Indies. Volcanic productions. A collection of volcanic products, from Mounts Vesuvius, Somma, and Aetna. Miscellaneous large specimens of minerals. Derbyshire minerals. Siberian minerals.
Room.—Petrifaction and Shells. Cracherodean collection of shells. In this room is deposited Mr. Cracherode's valuable collection.
Tenth Room.—Vegetables. Zoophytes. A large series of the insect tribe (among which are the more select specimens) is, in order to prevent their receiving further injury by constant exposure to light, deposited in a large cabinet, and smaller ones. In a small separate case is contained a specimen of that curious and brilliant insect, the curculio imperialis, commonly termed the diamond beetle. In the imposts round this room runs a series of drawers, containing a very numerous collection of seeds, fruits, and other vegetable articles.
Eleventh Room. Birds. The birds in this room are disposed, so far as convenience would admit, according to the Linnæan mode of arrangement.
Twelfth Room.—Fishes, serpents, tortoises, lizards, frogs, &c. and many specimens of quadrupeds, preserved in spirits. In the glass case in the middle of this room, are contained many specimens of dried fishes, &c. The most remarkable are the foliated pipe-fish, from New Holland; and the southern trachichthys; also a chamæleon. dried.
|Department of Antiquities.|
Room—Terracottas, Most of the articles belonged to the collection of the late Chas. Towneley, Esq.
Room.—Greek and Roman Sculptures.
Room.—Greek and Roman Sculptures.
Room.—Greek and Roman Sculptures.
Room.—Roman Sepulchral Antiquities.
Room.—Greek and Roman Sculptures.
Room.—Egyptian Sculptures. The articles contained in this room are principally those which were collected by the French in different parts of Egypt, and came into possession of the English army in consequence of the capitulation of Alexandria, in the month of . They were brought to England in , under the care of Col. Turner, and were sent, by order of His Majesty, to the .
Tenth Room.—Greek and Roman Sculptures.
Eleventh Room.—Coins and Medals. This collection, the basis of which was formed by the cabinets of Sir Hans Sloane and Sir Robert Cotton, has been from time to time enlarged by many valuable purchases and donations, but principally by the munificent bequest of the Rev. C. M. Cracherode. It is comprehended under the following heads: . Ancient Coins. . Modern Coins. . Medals.
Ante-Room.—In the centre of the Ante-Room, at the head of the stairs, is placed the celebrated vase, which was for more than centuries the principal ornament of the Barberini collection. This superb specimen of Greek art was deposited in the , in , by His Grace the Duke of Portland.
Twelfth Room.—Collection of Sir William Hamilton. The intermediate and subsequent cases of this room are appropriated to the reception of the Greek vases, mostly found in sepulchres, within those parts of Naples denominated Magna Græcia. They are ornamented with paintings, elegantly representing chiefly mythological subjects.
Thirteenth Room.—Prints and Drawings, bequeathed by the Rev. C. M. Cracherode. The contents of this room, as well as those of the coins and medals, can be seen only by a few persons at a time, and by particular permission.
From the circumscribed limits to which this work is restricted, it would be impossible to give a detailed account of the many valuable curiosities contained in the , more especially as a very satisfactory and copious Synopsis has been published by order of the Trustees, to which the reader is referred, Suffice it generally to conclude, that a more excellent arrangement of valuable mementoes, preserved in so spacious and elegant a repository, under appropriate regulations for public benefit and inspection, is not easily to be found.