Oldalképek
PDF

Book III,
Chap. I.
HISTORY
OF THE
MUSEUM
UNDER
MR. PLANTA.

PLANTA’s
LABOURS ON
THE
MUSEUM’s
PUBLICA-
TloNs;

Naples by Sir William HAMILTON, and by the Collector
given (as I have already recorded) to the Trustees. In
a similar spirit he promoted the acquisitions which
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 trea-
sures to show them to the world at large by the combined
labours of the painter, the draughtsman, the engraver, and
the printer. It will ever be an honourable distinction—in the
briefest record of his Museum labours—that he promoted
the publication of the beautiful volumes entitled Description
of the Ancient Marbles in the British Museum; of the
Catalogue of the Anglo-Gallic 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 trea-
sures of the Nation widely known even to such foreigners,

interested in the study of antiquity, as circumstances pre- Book in, eluded from ever seeing the marbles themselves. When anL watching—in the bygone years—the late Henry Corbould Museum busy at the work into which he threw so much of his love, UNDEB as well as of his skill in drawing, I have been tempted, now and then, to envy the craft which, in its results, made our national possessions familiarly known, in the far parts of the world, to students who could never hope to see the wonderful handicraft of the old Greek sculptors, otherwise than as it is reflected and transmitted by the handicraft of the skilled modern draughtsman. Corbould had the eye to see artistic beauty and the soul to enjoy it. He was not one of the artists who are artisans, in everything but the name. In the 'Ancient Marbles in the British Museum] published under the active encouragement of the Trustees and of their Principal Librarians, during a long series of years, Corbould, as draughtsman, had just the work for which Nature had pre-eminently fitted him.

Joseph Planta also took his share in the compilation of „C°'LTM*"T the Catalogues both of Printed Books and of Manuscripts. OhthkcaIn 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 Cotlonian 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,

Book III,
Chap. I.
HISTORY
OF THE
MUSEUM
UNDER
MR. PLANTA.

THE
GARDENs of
THE BRITISH
MUSEUM
AND THE
DUKE of
BEdFoRd.

very trivial as is the incident of Museum history that occa-
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
to the Bloomsburians, and, consequently, a not less undoubted
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 railway-jobbers
to defile them, at pleasure, with railway ‘architecture.”
They construct, by dint of large taxation, magnificent

river-embankments, and permit every sort of smoke-belching Bookiii, chimney and . eye-killing corrugated-iron-monstrosity to Hbtoet spoil the view. What the old Duke of Bedford intended Mdtmm to make a metropolitan improvement, as well as a defence ^EDp*Aim to his own property, has come to be a cause of public detriment,—simply because our legislation, in the year of Grace 1870, affords protection to no kind of public property that is insusceptible, by its nature, of direct valuation in pounds and pence.

The action of the ninth Duke of Bedford was in contrast with that of his predecessor. It was not altogether selfish, since there was an actual abatement of public enjoyment in that step which he was opposing. The Trustees of the British Museum were really compelled to take something from the Public with one hand ;—but, with the other, they gave a tenfold equivalent. Their contention, of course, prevailed against the Duke's opposition.

It may not be intrusive here to mention that it is known that by the present Duke of Bedford very generous and liberal furtherance would be given to new schemes of extension for the Museum, were Parliament, on full consideration, to think enlargement at Bloomsbury the right course to be taken in pending matters. But this subject will demand a few words hereafter.

Planta's energies seem for several years to have been given, almost exclusively, to his Museum duties, in combination (as was perfectly practicable and befitting, under the then circumstances) with his Exchequer Paymastership. But in the closing years of his Under-Librarianship many months were (not less fitly) given to a worthy literary undertaking. He wrote his History of the Helvetic Confederacy towards the end of the last century, and published Book Hi, ft soon after his appointment to the Principal-Librarianship. HI3TOET In the next year he published a supplement to it, under M"«tm the title of A View of the Restoration of the Helvetic Mtplnta Confederacy. The History reached its second edition in 1807.

Based primarily on the great work of Johannes Von Muller, Planta's History of the Helvetic Confederacy is both a very able production and one that is animated by a spirit of patriotism which is wise as well as strong. It was an enduring contribution to the literature of the author's fatherland. After its appearance, his official duties mainly engrossed his attention. He died, full of years and honours, in the year 1827, leaving a son, who, like his father and his grandfather, distinguished himself in the civil service of their adopted country.

Joseph Planta, in his fifty-three years of service, had seen the British Museum pass from its infancy into the early stages of its maturity. But it still, at the time of his death, was too much regarded, both by the general Public and by Parliament, as, in the main, a place of popular amusement. His next successor saw the beginning of further improvements, such as lifted the Museum upon a level with the best of its fellow-institutions in all Europe. His second successor saw it lifted far above them, in several points of view. And what he witnessed of augmented improvement—when leaving office three or four years ago —was, in a very large measure, the result of his own zealous labours and of his eminent ability.

« ElőzőTovább »