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race and family which had given to Switzerland several Book in, worthies who have left a mark in its national history. He History was born, on tlie twenty-first of February, 1744, at Casta- Mutmtm segna, where his father was the pastor of a reformed church. TMD*E
o' r Me. Planta.
The boy left Switzerland before he had completed the second vear of his age. He began his education at Utrecht, Liraor
» ° D _ Joseph
and continued it, first at the University of Gottingen, and Planta, afterwards by foreign travel—whilst yet open to the forma- Principal tive influences of youthful experience upon character—both LlBKA1IANin France and in Italy. It was thus his fortune to combine what there is of good in the characteristics-of the cosmopolite with what is better in those of a patriotic son of the soil. It was Joseph Planta's fortune never to live in Switzerland, as a resident, after the days of early infancy, but, for all that, he remained a true Swiss. And one of the acts of his closing years in England was to make a most creditable contribution to Helvetic history.
Andrew Planta, father of Joseph, came to London in 1752. He was a man of good parts and of pleasing address. He established himself as pastor of a German congregation, and was also made an Assistant-Librarian in the British Museum. Afterwards, he was chosen to be a Fellow of the Royal Society and a * reader' to Queen Charlotte. That appointment brought with it, in course of time, a measure of Court influence by which young Planta profited. His youthful ' Wanderjahre' had inspired the growing man with a keen desire to see more of foreign countries. When the father's favour at Court put him in a position to represent at head-quarters the youth's fancy to see life abroad, and to state (as he truthfully could) that neither talent nor industry were lacking in his character, the statement obtained for Joseph Planta the secretaryship of legation at Brussels. There, he felt himself Booiin, to be in an element which suited him; but his filial affecHistoet tion brought him back to England in 1773, in order that
M"euk be might solace the last days, on earth, of his father. In that year the elder Planta died.
It was also in 1773 that Joseph Planta became an Assistant-Librarian. In the next year he was appointed to succeed Dr. Maty in both of his then offices. At the Royal Society he succeeded him as Secretary; at the Museum, he succeeded him as an Under-Librarian—when the Doctor was made head of the establishment. His new post at the Museum brought to Planta the special charge of the Department of MSS.
Joseph Planta had already made:—immediately after his first appointment as Assistant-Librarian—his outset in authorship by the publication of his Account of the Momansch 129-160. Language. It is a scholarly production, though (it need hardly be said) not what would be expected, on such a subject, after the immense stride made in linguistical studies during the ninety-five years which have elapsed since it was given to literature, in pages in which nowadays such a treatise would hardly be looked for. Its first appearance was in the Philosophical Transactions. In 1776 it was translated into German and printed at Chamouni.
The subsequent years were devoted, almost exclusively, to the proper duties of his Museum office—on the days of service—and to those of the Paymastership of Exchequer Bills, a function to which Mr. Planta was appointed in 1788, and the duties of which he discharged, with efficiency and honour, for twenty-three years. Authorship had but little of his time until a much later period of life.
A little before his appointment in the administrative service of the country, Planta had married Miss Elizabeth Atwood. Eor him, marriage did just the opposite of what it has, now and then, been said to do for some other men. Book Hi, It took off the edge of his liking for foreign travel. For Histout it gave him a very happy home. Their union endured for Mutm*m twenty-four years. Planta was not a man of the gushing ^NKDp*ASTA sort. But, to intimates, he would say—in the lonely years; Faikenstein, there were to be but few of them—' She was an angel £f^£"' in spirit and in heart.' Mrs. Planta died in 1821. Reihe,Bd.ii,
pp. 3, seqq.
On the death of Charles Morton, Mr. Planta, as we have seen already, was made Principal Librarian. He found the Museum still in its infancy, although no less than forty-six years had passed since the bequest of Sir Hans Sloane was made to the British Public, and more than forty years since that Public had entered upon its inheritance. The collections had kept pace with the growth of science only in one or two departments. In others the arrear was enormous. The accessibility was hampered with restrictions. The building was in pressing need of enlargement, gradual as had been the growth of some sections, and glaring as was the deficiency of other sections.
Planta put his shoulders to the wheel, and met with support and encouragement from several of the Trustees. But the feeling still ran strongly against any approach to indiscriminate publicity in any department of the Museum. Men did not carry that restrictive view quite so far in 1800, as it had been expressed by Dr. John Ward —an able and good man—in 1760, and earlier; but they still looked with apprehension upon the combined ideas of a crowd of visitors, and irreplaceable treasures of learning and of art. A good many of the men of 1800 possessed, it must in candour be remembered, living recollections of the sights and the deeds of 1780. Residents in Bloomsbury were likely, on that score, to have particularly good Book m, memories. They had seen with their eyes precious manuH»Ton scripts, which treasured up the lifelong lore of a Mansfield,
or THE Museum
given by the populace to the flames.
Undeb 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.
From the outset he administered the Reading Room itself with much liberality. When he became Principal Librarian the yearly admissions were much under two Joseph hundred. In 1816, they had increased to two hundred
Planta, IN . 'J
and ninety-two. In 1820, to five hundred and fifteen. As respects the Department of Antiquities, the students admitted 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. Hiseicom- 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 Vabious 0f Printed Books, with reference more particularly to the
COLLEC- , ....
Tions. endeavour to perfect the National Library in the National
History—to that very limited extent to which the monu- Book in,
merits and memorials of our history are to be found in History
print. Virtually, the grants on behalf of the Manuscript M""
Department, not those on behalf of the Printed Book UNDEE
1 Me. Planta.
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 tastesand
. . . . . 8YMPATHIK3,
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 Monticklm'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
His CathoLicity Op