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Booiiii, memories. They had seen with their eyes precious manuHutom scripts, which treasured up the lifelong lore of a Mansfield,
Ondee Under the influence of such memories as these, Mr. Planta
Mr. Planta. . . .
had to propose abolition of restrictions, with a gentle and very gradual hand. He began by improving the practice, without at first greatly altering the rules. By and by he brought, from time to time, before the Trust, suggestions for relaxations in the rules themselves. Ihpkote- From the outset he administered the Reading Room itself with much liberality. When he became Principal Librarian the yearly admissions were much under two hundred. In 1816, they had increased to two hundred The and ninety-two. In 1820, to five hundred and fifteen. As Ecosoht of respects the Department of Antiquities, the students adMu»euh mitted to draw were in 1809 less than twenty; in 1818 two hundred and twenty-three were admitted. In 1814 he recommended the Trustees to make provision for the exhibition every Thursday, 'to persons applying to see them,' the Engravings and Prints;—the persons admitted not exceeding six at any one time, and others being admitted in due succession. He also recommended a somewhat similar system of exhibition for adoption in the Department of Coins and Medals. And the Trustees gave effect to both recommendations. Eventually Mr. Planta proposed, for the general show Collections of the Museum, a system of entirely free admission at the instant of application, abolishing all the hamper of preliminary forms. Hiseecox- It was also, I believe, at Mr. Planta's instance, or partly so, that the Trustees applied to Parliament, in 1812, for special grants to enable them to improve the Collection of Printed Books, with reference more particularly to the now. endeavour to perfect the National Library in the National
History—to that very limited extent to which the monu- Book in,
ments and memorials of our history are to be found in Hktort
print. Virtually, the grants on behalf of the Manuscript M""
Department, not those on behalf of the Printed Book CNDE*
_ . ... Me. Plakta.
Department, were, in 1812, as they still are in 1870, the grants which mainly tend to make the British Museum what, most obviously, it ought to become, the main storehouse of British History and Archaeology, both in literature and in art.
The magnificent additions made by private donors to every section of the British Museum during the administration of Planta, have been sufficiently passed under review in the closing chapters of Book II. Several of them, it has been seen, were the fruits of the public spirit of individual Trustees. Such gifts amply vindicated the wisdom both of Sir Hans Sloane and of Parliament, when both Founder and Legislature gave to men of exalted position a preference as peculiarly fit, in the judgment of each, for the general guardianship of the Museum.
But private gifts—munificent as they were—left large gaps in the National Collections. It is one of Mr. Planta's distinctive merits that his tastes and sympathies embraced the Natural History Department, as well as those literary departments with which, as a man of letters, he had a more direct personal connection. He supported, with his influence, the wise recommendation to Parliament—made in 1810—for the purchase of the Greville Collection of Minerals. He recommended, in 1822, the purchase, from the representatives of the naturalist Monticelli, of a like, though minor Collection, which had been formed at Naples. The Cavaliero Monticelli's Collection was, in the main, one that had been undertaken in imitation of an earlier assemblage of volcanic products which had been also gathered at
Book in, Naples by Sir William Hamilton, and by the Collector History given (as I have already recorded) to the Trustees. In Mu1"ux a similar spirit he promoted the acquisitions which Undke were made from time to time, by the instrumentality of Claudius Rich, of Henry Salt, and of several other workers in the fruitful field of Classical, Assyrian, and Egyptian archaeological exploration. Both in the literary and scientific departments of the Museum he also gave some special attention to the due continuance and completion of the various collections bestowed on the Public by the munificence of Sir Joseph Banks.
Another conspicuous merit belongs to Joseph Planta. He supported the Trustees in that wise and large-minded policy which induced them to regard publication, as well as accumulation, to be one of the chief duties of their Trust for the Nation. He thought it not enough, for example, to show to groups of Londoners, from time to time, and to occasional foreign visitants, in almost solitary state, the wealth of Nature and of Art in the Museum Collections. He saw it to be no less the duty of the faithful trustees of such treasures to show them to the world at large by the combined labours of the painter, the draughtsman, the engraver, and PLAirrva the printer. It will ever be an honourable distinction—in the The015 0!< briefest record of his Museum labours—that he promoted Museum's tne publication of the beautiful volumes entitled Description
HoiTM; of the Ancient Marbles in the British Museum; of the Catalogue of the AnghrGallic Coins; of the Mausoleum and Cinerary Urns; of the Description of Terra Cottas; and other like works. The first-named work in particular is an especial honour to the Trustees of the Museum, and to all who were concerned in its production. Beautifully engraved, and ably edited, it made the archaeological treasures of the Nation widely known even to such foreigners, interested in the study of antiquity, as circumstances pre- Bookiit, eluded from ever seeing the marbles themselves. When EuL watching—in the bygone years—the late Henry Corbould busy at the work into which he threw so much of his love, X"""B
as well as of his skill in drawing, I have been tempted, now
Joseph Planta also took his share in the compilation of AXD'
r r TICULAR1T,
the Catalogues both of Printed Books and of Manuscripts, """^i
. 1 1 • 1 11 TAL00UI3.
In this department, as in the archaeological one, he extended the benefits of his zealous labour to the scholar abroad as well as to the scholar at home. What was carefully prepared was liberally printed and liberally circulated. Planta wrote with his own hand part of the published Catalogue of the Printed Books, and much of the Catalogue of the Cotionian Manuscripts. To the latter he prefixed a brief life of the Founder, by which I have gladly and thankfully profited in my own more extended labour at the beginning of this volume.
One incidental employment which Mr, Planta's office entailed upon him—as Principal Librarian—was of a less grateful kind. It merits notice on more than one account, OF THE
Boor Hi, very trivial as is the incident of Museum history that occaHistory sioned it, when looked at intrinsically.
In 1821, the then Duke of Bedford (John, ninth Duke) filed in Chancery an injunction against the Trustees to restrain them from building on the garden-ground of the Museum. To build was—at that time—an undoubted injury Museum to the Bloomsburians, and,consequently, a not less undoubted
A y D THE
Dike Of depreciation of the Duke's estate. It is hard, nowadays, to realise to one's fancy what the former Museum gardens were in the olden time. They not only adorned every house that looked over them, but were—in practice, and by the indulgence of the Trustees and officers—a sort of small public park for the refreshment of the vicinity at large. Their neighbourhood made houses more valuable in the market.
Almost seventy years before the filing of the Chancery injunctions of 1820-21, a predecessor of the Duke (John, seventh Duke) had compelled Parliament—and with great reason—-to enact that the 'New Road' should be made a broad road; not a narrow lane. He had carried a proviso for the construction of gardens in front of all the houses along the road. Were public property,and public enjoyments,protected by English law with one tenth part of the efficiency with which private property and private enjoyments are protected, that clause in the 'New Road Act' of 1750 would have proved, in our own present day, a measure advantageous to public health. But public easements are unknown, or nearly unknown, to English law. And the Duke's clause has come, in course of time, to teem with public nuisance, instead of public benefit. Englishmen build at the national cost magnificent cathedrals, and then permit rail way-jobbers to defile them, at pleasure, with railway 'architecture.' They construct, by dint of large taxation, magnificent