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Benefactors of the institution were, previously to their gifts, numbered amongst its Trustees.
If the liberality of Parliament failed to be elicited in due correspondency—in respect either to the amount or the frequency of its grants—to that of individuals, the failure is rarely, if ever, ascribable to oversight or somnolency on the part of the Trustees. If, during the lapse of those seventy years, they obtained grants of public money which amounted, in the aggregate, to but £151,762—little more, on an average, than two thousand pounds a year—they made not a few applications to which the Treasury, or the House of Commons, refused to respond. Meanwhile, the gifts of Benefactors probably much more than trebled the public grants.
At the outset, the Museum was divided into three ‘ Departments ’ only: (1) Manuacrzpls ; (2) PrintedBoo/cs ; (3) Natural History.
The acquisition, in 1801, of the Alcxandrian monuments, was the first accession which gave prominence to the ‘ Antiquities ’—theretofore regarded as little more than a curious appendage to the Natural History Collections. Four years later came the Townlcy Marbles. It was then obvious that a new Department ought to be made. This change was effected in 1807. The Marbles and minor Antiquities, together with the Prints, Drawings, Coins, and Medals (formerly appended to the Departments of Printed Books and of MSS.) were formed into a separate department. Twenty years afterwards the ‘ Botanical Department’ was created, on the reception of the Banksian herbaria and their appendant Collections. The division into five departments continued down to the date of the Parliamentary inquiry of 1835-36 [Book III, Chapter 1]. Soon afterwards (1837), the immediate custody of the ‘Prints and
Drawings ’ was severed from that of the ‘ Antiquities ' and made a special charge. In like manner, the Department of ‘ Natural History ’ was also (1837) subdivided; but in this instance the one department became, eventually, three: (1) Zoology; (2) Palaeontology; (3) Mineralogy. The two last-named divisions were first separated in 1857. How the eight departments of 1860 have become twelve in 1869 will be seen hereafter.
It will also, I think, become apparent that this subdivision of Departments has contributed, in an important measure, to the enlargement of the several Collections; as well as to their better arrangement, and to other exigencies of the public service.
We have now to enumerate the more salient and important among the many successive acquisitions of the last forty years. Taken collectively, they have so enlarged the proportions of the national repository as to make the ‘ British Museum ’ of 1831 seem, in the retrospect, as if, at that time, it had been yet in its infancy.
In 1831 there were still living—here and there—a few ancient Londoners whose personal recollections extended over the whole period during which the Museum had existed. One or two of them could, perhaps, still call to mind something of the aspect which the gaily painted and decorated rooms of old Montagu House presented when—as children—they had been permitted to accompany some fortunate possessor of a ticket of admission to ‘see the curiosities ;’ and were hurried by the Cerberus in charge for the day from room to room; the Cerberus aforesaid (unless his memory has been libelled) seeming to count the minutes, if a visitor chanced to show the least desire for a closer inspection of anything which caught his eye. And, in some points—although certainly not in that point—the Museum of 1831 was not very greatly altered, much as it had been enlarged, from the Museum Of 17.59. Cerberus had long quitted his post; but many portions Of the Collections he had had in charge retained their wonted aspect, much as he had left them.
Such octogenarian survivors—if endowed with a good memory—would see, in their latest visits to Great Russell Street much more to remind them of what they had seen in the first, than a new visitor Of 1831 could now see,-—in 1869,—were he, in his turn, striving to recall the impressions Of lu's earliest visit.
The period now to be briefly outlined—in order to a fair preliminary view Of our subject—is marked, like that Of 1759-1831, by continued munificence on the part of private donors; but it is also marked—unlike that—by some approach towards proportionate liberality from the keepers of the public purse; as well as by energetic and persistent efforts for internal improvement, on the part both of Trustees and of Officers. It forms a quite new epoch. It may be said, unexaggeratedly, to have witnessed a re-foundation of the Museum, in almost everything that bears on its direct utility to the public.
In regard to this last period, however—no less than in regard to the foregoing one—only the more salient Collections can here be enumerated. Many minor ones have been passed over already, notwithstanding their intrinsic value. Many others—equally meriting notice, were space for it available—will have, in like manner, to be passed over now.
zoo: 1. CLASS III.--Recent Accession-Collections.
222;... 1833—1869. (xxxv1) 1833. The BORELL CABINET of GREEK and ROMAN Coms.
Collected by the late H. P. Borell, Of Smyrna. Purchased by the Trustees for £1000.
Collected by Joseph Sams. Purchased, by a Parlia‘ mentary grant, for £2500. [See BOOK III, Chapter 3.]
(xxxvm) 1834 (and subsequent years). The HAWKINS FossILs.
Collected by Thomas Hawkins, of Glastonbury. Purchased, by successive grants Of Parliament, in the years 1834 and 1840.
[See BOOK III, Chapter 3.]
(xxxrx) 1835. The HARDWICKE ORNITHOLOGICAL MUSEUM. Collected by Maj or-General Hardwicke. Be
gueathed by the Collector.
(XL) 1835. The SALT MusEUM of EGYPTIAN ANTIQUI'rIns, Collected by Henry Salt, British Consul at Alex
andria (Died 30 October, 1827). times) by Parliamentary grants.
Of Mr. Salt’s successive Collections of Egyptian antiquities the most valuable portions have come to the Museum; chiefly in the years 1823 and 1835.
[See BOOK III, Chapter 3.]
Purchased (at various
(XLI) 1836. The MansDEN CABINET of ORIENTAL COINS. Collected by William Marsden (Died 6 October,
1836). Bequealhed by the Collector.
(XLII) 1836, The SHEEPSHANKS COLLECTION of ETCHINGS, Pamrs, &c.
Collected by John Sheepshanks (Died October, 1 863) ; and Given by the Collector.
(XLIII) 1837-43. The CANINO Vases.
A selection from the superb Museum of the Prince of Canino (Died 29 June, 1840); acquired by successive purchases before and after the Collector’s death.
(XLIV) 1839, The MANTELI. FOSSILS.
Collected by Gideon Algernon Mantell (Died November 10, 1850). Purchased by a Parliamentary grant. [See BOOK III, Chapter 4.]