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'"What do we, as a nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether on our Libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses? If a man spends lavishly on his Library, you call him mad,—a Bibliomaniac. But you never call any one a Horse-maniac, though men ruin themselves every day by their losses, and you do not hear of people ruining themselves by their books. Or, to go lower still, how much do you think the contents of the bookshelves of the United Kingdom, public and private, would fetch, as compared with the contents of its wine-cellars.'—
Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, pp. 75-77.
The various Projects and Plans proposed, at different times, for the Severance, the Partial Dispersion, and the Rearrangement, of the several integral Collections which at present form 1 The British Museum.'
Book in, The first reconstruct or, in imagination, of the British Kibcotm' Museum on the plan of severing the literature from the Structors scientific collections, was a speculative and clever French
And Pro- 1
Jkctors. man, Peter John Grosley, who visited it within less Sea Otts ^an s*x years °f being first opened to public inspection. Severing Grosley expressed great admiration for much that he saw, Collec- an d he also criticised some of the arrangements that seemed nous, 1765. ^o defective, with freedom but with courtesy. Some of my readers will probably think that he hit a real blot, at that time, when he said: 'The Printed Books are the weakest part of this immense collection. The building cannot contain such a Library as England can form and ought to form for the ornament of its capital. It has a building quite ready in the "Banquetting-House" [at Whitehall], and that building could be enlarged from time to time as occasion might require.1
Other writers, at various periods, have advocated Book in, the severance of collections which seemed to them Recontoo multifarious to admit of full, natural, and equable I^pmtm development, in common. There is perhaps no apparent ,ECIOESreason, on the surface, why a great Nation should not be able to enlarge the most varied public collections as effectively, and as impartially, within one building, as within half a dozen buildings. Nor does there seem to be any necessary connection between the wise and liberal government of public collections, and their severance or division into many buildings, rather than their combination within a single structure. Nevertheless it is certain that many thinkers have, by some process or other, reached the conclusion that severance would favour improvement.
Seventy years after Groslet wrote, Thomas Watts re- Me. Wattsvived the proposition of dividing the contents of the British TM°P°HSTM0N Museum, but he revived it in a new form. His idea was to seveeanc'
remove the Antiquities and to retain at Montagu House Mmetm
both the Libraries and the Natural History Collections, Tions, 1837. 'The pictures have been removed,' wrote Mr. Watts in 1837, 'why should not the statues follow? The collections at the Museum would then remain of an entirely homogeneous character. It would be exclusively devoted to conveying literary information; while the collection at the National Gallery would have for its object to refine and cultivate the taste/
It was not by any oversight that Mr. Watts spoke of the 'homogeneity' of Manuscripts, Printed Books, and Natural-History Collections. He (at the time) meant what he said. But I doubt if the naturalists would feel flattered by the reason which he gives in illustration of his ^at!8- ^,
*> o Mechanics
opinion. 'The various curiosities accumulated at the Ma9«^<-. Museum might be considered/ he continues, 'as a vast pp.295,seqq. assemblage of book-plates, serving to illustrate and elucidate the literature of the Library.'
Be that as it may, the idea of removing either the Antiquities or the Printed Books has long ceased to be mooted. All who now advocate severance advise, I think, that the Natural History Collections should be removed, and none other than those. But hitherto the idea of severance, in any shape, has been uniformly repudiated both by Royal Commissions of Inquiry, and by Parliamentary Committees. The question, however, is sure to be revived, and that speedily. Ere long it must needs receive a final parliamentary solution—aye or no.
In this chapter I shall endeavour to state,—and as I hope with impartiality,—the main reasons which have been severally adduced, both by those who advocate a severance, and by those who recommend the continuance of the existing union of all the varied and vast Collections now at Bloomsbury. There can be no better introduction of the subject than that which will be afforded by putting before the reader, on the one hand, a detailed and well-considered plan which contemplated the maintenance of the Museum as it is; and, on the other, the elaborate report in favour of transferring the scientific collections to a new site,—in order to gain ample space at Bloomsbury for a great Museum of Literature and Archaeology, such as should be in every point of view worthy of the British Empire,—which was approved of by a Treasury Minute more than eight years ago.
Of the several schemes and projects of extension which rest on the twofold basis of (1) the retention at Bloomsbury of nearly all the existing collections, with ample space for their prospective increase, and (2) such an effective internal
Structors And ProJectors.
rearrangement of the collections themselves as would greatly Book in, increase the public facilities of access and study, none Recotm' better deserves the attention of the reader than that which I^pio-8 was submitted in the first instance to the Trustees of the •rECT0ESBritish Museum, and subsequently to Parliament (in 1860) by Mr. Edmund Oldfield, then a Senior Assistant in the Department of Antiquities, entrusted (in succession to Mr. C. T. Newton, on his proceeding to Greece) with the charge of the Greek and Roman Galleries. By this plan it is proposed to erect on the west side of the Museum a new range of Galleries for Greek and Roman, Antiquities. The facade in Charlotte Street—prolonged to the house No. 4 in Bedford Square—would extend to about 440 feet in length, with an usual depth of 140, increased at the southern extremity to 190 feet. This new range would provide for the whole of the present Greek, Roman, Phoenician, and Etruscan Antiquities, and for considerable augmentations. To Assyrian Antiquities would be assigned the present Elgin Gallery, the 'Mausoleum Room,' and the 'Hellenic Room,' together with two other rooms—gained in part by new adaptations of space comprised within the existing buildings. The rooms now devoted to the Antiquities of Kouyunjik and Nimroud would then be applied to the Me. reception of Egyptian Antiquities, together with a room to Pmtm. be constructed on the site of the present principal staircase. fraD°c""I0N The Lycian Gallery would retain its site, with an enlarge- °* TMERIJ!S ment westward. I quote Mr. Oldfield's own descriptive or Ahti«otaccount of his project, in full, from the Appendix to the (i858-i860). Minutes of Evidence of 1860.
I. Entrance Hall.—On the north side is a staircase, such as suggested Entkakce by Mr. Panizzi, forming the access to the galleries of Natural History. Hall.
II. Room for the first reception, unpacking, and examination of sculp- Pmvate tures, the consideration of such as are offered for purchase, the cleaning RooM roE
and repairing of marbles and mosaics, and storing of pedestals, mason's apparatus, and machinery, &c.
III. First Egyptian Room.—The present two staircases, and the wall at the east end of the Assyrian Transept being removed, a handsome entrance would be obtained to the galleries of Antiquities. The room would be about seventy-six feet by thirty-five, and though not very well lighted, might suffice for the monuments of the first twelve dynasties of Egypt, at present in the northern vestibule and lobby, which have no very artistic character.
IV. Second Egyptian Boom.—The monuments of the Eighteenth Dynasty would here commence. Terminating the vista from the north would be the head of Thothmes III, more advantageously seen than in its present position, where it stands in front of a doorway, and exposed to a cross light.
V. Third Egyptian Boom.—For smaller remains of the same period. The alcoves should be removed, and a door opened on the north side.
VI. Fourth Egyptian Boom.—To remedy the darkness of this room, an opening should be made in the ceiling, inclosed by a balustrade in the room above (v. Plan of Upper Floor), and covered with glass; whilst the roof of this upper room should be lightened, at least in the central compartment, by substituting glass for its present heavy ceiling. The small space thus sacrificed in the floor of the upper room would be a less serious loss than the virtual uselessness of so large an apartment below. With the proposed improvement in the lighting, the Fourth Egyptian Room would be well adapted for the colossal monuments of Amenophis III; without it, the room could hardly serve for any purpose but a passage.
VII. Fifth Egyptian Boom.—In the middle would be arranged, in two rows, the remaining sculptures of the Eighteenth and part of those of the Nineteenth Dynasty. In the recesses between the pilasters might be fixed wall cases, which would rather improve than impair the architectural effect of the room, and for which the light is well adapted, the rays from the opposite windows striking sufficiently low to obviate the shadow occasioned by shelves in rooms lighted from above. Such cases would contain small objects from the Egyptian collection now on the Upper Floor.
VIII. Siseth Egyptian Boom.—This room, originally ill lighted, has been further darkened by the new Reading Room, erected within a few yards of its windows. If, however, an opening were made in the ceiling (as proposed for Room VI, and if the roof of the room above were somewhat modified, light might be thrown both on the magnificent bust of Rameses II and on the east wall of the room. The middle window in that wall, which furnishes no available light, might then be blocked up; and bef ore it might stand the cast from the head of the