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M E. Plant A
Bom Hi, ^ soon after his appointment to the Principal-Librarianship. H.stoht In the next year he published a supplement to it, under Mu»ra the title of A View of the Restoration of the Helvetic Confederacy. The History reached its second edition in 1807.
Based primarily on the great work of Johannes Von Mcller, 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.
INTRODUCTION TO BOOK HI (Omtmuei): -GROWTH,
'It if expedient that the Trustees should revise the
Rkpoet noa Select Committee on British
Internal Economy of the Museum at the time of the death
When Sir Henry Ellis was appointed to be the successor Hmtoet of Mr. Planta (20th December, 1827), the British Museum Museum was still composed of but four departments, in conformity H!elli»tm
with the organization of 1809. It was publicly open on three days in each week, but only during forty weeks of every year. This was a great improvement of the previous arrangements, as we have seen, under Maty and Morton. But Mr. Planta's most conspicuous improvements lay in the (admittedly more important) direction of access to the Medal, Print, and Reading Rooms. To his administration, students in all these departments were much indebted. Sir Henry Ellis was to witness and to carry out, very efficiently as Principal Librarian, some more extensive modifications of the old system of things; but he, in his turn, was to be quite eclipsed (so to speak) in the character of Museum improver, by his successor in office. And it was, in fact, to the latter that such among the conspicuous improvements of the last twenty years of Sir Henry's official administration as related to the Department of Printed Books—and in no department were the improvements more striking—were pre-eminently due.
Sir Henry Ellis (who has but so recently departed from amongst us) entered the service of the Trustees, as a temporary assistant in the Library, in the year 1800, having had already three years' experience in Bodley's Library at Oxford. When coming occasionally to London during his employment at Oxford he would see Dr. Charles Morton, who had helped to organize the Museum almost fifty years before. The public life of those two acquaintances spread, conjointly, over a period of a hundred and twenty years.*
* Morton died at eighty-three; Planta, at eighty-four; Ellis, at ninety-two. Morton, as we have seen, was known to Sir Hans Sloane. Sloane was already a noted man in the days of Charles the Second; and he also lived to be ninety-two. The joint lives of Sloane, Morton, and Ellis extended over nearly two hundred and ten years.
Had it never fallen to the lot of Henry Ellis to render Book Hi, to the Public any service at all, in the way of administering Histo«t and improving the National Museum, he would still have J,'TM^ earned an honourable niche in our literary history. His Htm^111 contributions to literature are, indeed, very unequal in their character. Some of them are fragmentary; some might be ^0BBS thought trivial. But very many of them have sterling TM*«TM value. And his archaeological labours, in particular, were Ellu. zealous and unremitting. He began them in 1798. He had not entirely ceased to add to them in 1868. In the closing year of the eighteenth century he was giving furtherance to the labours on British history of Richard Gough. In the sixty-eighth year of the nineteenth century he was still taking an intelligent and critical interest in the large undertakings of Lord Romilly and of Mr. Duffus Hardy, for affording to future historians the means of basing the reconstruction of our national history upon the one firm foundation of an exhaustive search of our national records.
The fourth Principal Librarian of the British Museum was born at Shoreditch, in London, on the 29th of November, 1777. He was of a Yorkshire family long settled (and still flourishing) at Dewsbury. Henry Ellis was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, and at St. John's College, Oxford, where he graduated B.C.L. in 1802. His first book (but not, perhaps, his first publication) was the History of the Parish of St. Leonard, Shoreditch, printed in 1798. He became F.S.A. in 1800; one of its Secretaries in 1813; and its Director in 1854. To the Archeeologia he was a contributor for more than fifty years. In 1800, he sent to the first Record Commission a Report on the Historical Manuscripts at St. John's. For the same Commission he wrote, in the year 1813, and the three following years, an Introduction to Domesday Book.
Book in, Of this he would speak very modestly in after-days,
H«To»i saying: 'I have worked on Domesday for years; but only
Mutmum m making an opening into the mine. Other men will
Undersi* nave yej j-0 brinnr 0ut the metal.' For the second Record
H. Ellis. ....
Commission he re-edited his Introduction and considerably improved it. This was done in 1832 ; and, to say the least, it brought some very good ore to the surface. When both these Commissions had given way to the better organization recently framed by Lord Romilly, he edited, for the series of Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain, the Latin Chronicle of John of Oxenedes, from a MS. belonging to Sir Robert Cotton's Library. When Oxenedes was published, just sixty years had passed from the publication of Sir Henry's first Record labour, undertaken at the instance of Lord Colchester.
In the interval, he had had a great opportunity, the first glimpse of which needs must have dilated the heart of so genuine a lover of antiquity. The publication of an improved edition of the Monasticon Anglicanum of Dods Worth and Dugdale ought to have made a new epoch in British archaeology. But the opportunity was lost. In those days, there was no encouragement for such labours at the Treasury; no enlightened promoter of them at the Rolls House. The control of the new Monasticon passed into the hands of mere tradesmen. Neither of Mr. Ellis's co-editors ever buckled to the work. Ellis himself became simply the servant of the associated publishers, who had no aim whatever beyond turning a golden penny out of the traditional prestige of Sir William Dijgdale's name, and out of the standing advertisement that the Monasticon was indubitably one of those books ' which no gentleman's library ought to be without.' Heaps of crude, untranslated, and unelucidated information were thrust into the book, against the