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Not less conspicuous had been the growth of the several Departments of Antiquities. And this part of the story of the Museum teems with varied interest. Within a period of less than thirty years, vast and widely-distant cities, rich in works of art, have been literally disinterred. In succession to the superb marbles of Athens, of Phigaleia, and of Rome, some of the choicest sculptures and most curious minor antiquities of Nineveh, of Calah, of Erech, of Ur-ofthe-Chaldees, of Babylon, of Xanthus, of Halicarnassus, of Cnidus, and of Carthage, have come to London.
The growth of the subordinate Collections of Archæology has been scarcely less remarkable. The series of ancient vases—to take but one example—of which the research and liberality of Sir William HAMILTON laid a good foundation almost a century ago, has come at length to surpass its wealthiest compeers. Only a few years earlier, it ranked as but the third, perhaps as but the fourth, among the great vase-collections of Europe. London, in that point of view, was below both Naples and Paris, if not also below Munich. It now ranks above them all; possessing two thousand six hundred vases, as against two thousand at Paris, and two thousand one hundred at Naples. *
Another department, lying in part nearer home—that of British, Mediæval, and Ethnological Antiquities—has been almost created by the labours of the last twenty years. The * British' Museum can no longer be said to be a misnomer, as designating an establishment in which British Archæology met with no elucidation.
* Birch, Ancient Pottery, vol. i, pp. 209, 210.
INTRODUCTION TO BOOK III(Continued):-GROWTH,
PROGRESS, AND INTERNAL ECONOMY, OF
“Whatever be the judgment formed on [certain contested] points at issue, the Minutes of Evidence must be admitted to contain pregnant proofs of the acquirements and abilities, the manifestation of which in subordinate office led to Mr. Panizzi's promotion to that which he now holds under circumstances which, in our opinionformed on documentary evidence-did credit to the Principal Trustees of the day.'-REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONERS APPOINTED TO INQUIRE INTO THE MANAGEMENT OF THE BBITISH MUSEUM (1850).
'In consideration of the long and very valuable services of Mr. Panizzi, including not only his indefatigable labours as Principal-Librarian, but also the service which he rendered as architect of the new Reading Room, the Trustees recommended that he should be allowed to retire on full salary after a discharge of his duties for thirty-four years.'
HANSARD's Parliamentary Debates (27 July, 1866).
The Museum Buildings.—The New Reading Room and its
History.— The House of Commons' Committee of 1860:
—Further Reorganization of the Departments—Summary of the Growth of the Collections in the years 1856-1866, and of their increased Use and Enjoyment by the Public.
No QUESTION connected with the improvement of the Book III, British Museum has, from time to tinje, more largely engrossed the attention, either of Parliament or of the Public Museum at large, than has the question of the Buildings. On none
Book III, have the divergences of opinion been greater, or the ex
pressions of dissatisfaction with the plans—or with the want of plan-louder or more general.
Yet there is no doubt (amongst those, at least, who have had occasion to examine the subject closely) that the architects of the new British Museum—first Sir Robert SMIRKE, and then Mr. Sydney SMIRKE—have been conspicuous for professional ability. Nor is there any doubt, anywhere, that the Trustees of the Museum have bestowed diligent attention on the plans submitted to them. They have been most anxious to discharge that part of their duty to the Public with the same faithfulness which, on the whole, has characterised their general fulfilment of the trust committed to them. Why, it is natural to ask, has their success been so unequal ?
Without presuming upon the possession of competence TISFACTORI. to answer the question with fulness, there is no undue con
fidence in offering a partial reply. Part of their failure to or the new satisfy the public expectations has arisen from a laches in Buildings. Parliament itself. At the critical time when the character
of the new buildings had practically to be decided, parsimoniousness led, not only to construction piecemeal, but to the piecemeal preparation of the designs themselves. Temporary makeshifts took the place of foreseeing plans. And what may have sounded like econony in 1830 has, in its necessary results, proved to be very much like waste, long before 1870.
Had a comprehensive scheme of reconstruction been looked fully in the face when, forty years ago, the new buildings began to be erected, three fourths at most of the money which has been actually expended would have sufficed for the erection of a Museum, far more satisfactory in its architectural character, and affording at least one
OF THE MUSEUM
fourth more of accommodation for the National Collections. Book III, The British Museum buildings have afforded a salient in- HISTORY stance of the truth of BURKE's words : 'Great expense may be an essential part in true economy. Mere parsimony is UNDER SIR not economy. But, in this instance, the fault is plainly in Parliament, not in the Trustees of the establishment which has suffered.
The one happy exception to the general unsatisfactori. ness of the new buildings—as regards, not merely architectural beauty, but fitness of plan, sufficiency of light, and adaptedness to purpose—is seen in the new Reading-Room. THE NEW And the new Reading-Room is, virtually, the production of Room. an amateur architect. The chief merits of its design belong, indubitably, to Sir Antonio Panizzi. The story of that part of the new building is worth the telling.
That some good result should be eventually derived from the large space of ground within the inner quadrangle had been many times suggested. The suggestion offered, in 1837, by Mr. Thomas WATTS was thus expressed in his letter to the Editor of the Mechanics' Magazine :
Mr. Watts began by criticising, somewhat incisively, THE SUG. the architectural skill which had constructed a vast quad- FOR BUILDrangle without providing it even with the means of a free TION circulation of air. He pinned Sir Robert SMIRKE on the SSS horns of a dilemma. If, he argued, the architect looked to or 1847. a sanitary result, he had, in fact, provided a well of malaria. If he contemplated a display of art, he had, by consenting to the abolition of his northern portico, spoiled and destroyed all architectural effect. The space,' he proceeded to say, which has thus been wasted, would have afforded accommodation for the whole Library, much superior to what is now proposed to afford it. A Reading-Room of ample dimensions might have stood in the centre, and
of Book III,
been surrounded, on all four sides, with galleries for the books. Afterwards, when adverting to the great expense which had been incurred upon the façades of the quadrangle,
he went on to say: 'It might now seem barbarous to proes pose the filling up of the square—as ought originally to
have been done. Perhaps the best plan would be to XXVI, pp. 295, design another range of building entirely [new ?], euclosing
the present building on the eastern and northern sides as the Elgin and other galleries do on the western. To do this, it would be necessary to purchase and pull down one side of two streets,- Montagu Street and Montagu
Place.' See Chap. ii
As I have intimated already, this alternative project was 1, unconsciously reproduced, by the present writer, ten years
later, without any idea that it had been anticipated. But neither to the mind of the writer of 1837, nor to that of the writer of 1847, did the grand feature of construction which, within another decade, has given to London a splendid building as well as a most admirable Reading, Rom, present itself. The substantial merit, both of originally suggesting, and of (in the main) eventually realising the actual building of 1857, belongs to Antonio Panizzi.
As to the claims on that score advanced by Mr. Hosking, formerly Professor of Architecture at King's College, they apply to a plan wholly different from the plan which was carried into execution.
Mr. Hosking's scheme was drawn up, for private circulation, in February, 1848 (thirteen months after the writing of my own pamphlet entitled Public Libraries in London and in Paris, and more than six months after its circulation in print), when it was first submitted to Lord ELLESMERE's Commission of Inquiry. It was first published (in The Builder) in June, 1850. His object was to pro