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Ancient Marbles, which is already published,* costs twenty pounds and fifteen shillings; a catalogue of the Greek coins (up to 1814). costs four guineas; a catalogue of a very small portion of the printed books (up to 1819) costs the same sum; and the catalogue of the Royal Library (printed by Bulmer, in 5 vols. folio,) is not sold at all, though there appears to be a stock of it on hand. The stock on hand of the other publications is very large.
OF CASTS FROM THE ANCIENT MARBLES, &c. “15. That it be recommended to the trustees to take into con- Casts from sideration the best means of giving to the public a facility of ob- marbles. taining casts from the statues, bronzes, and coins, under competent superintendence, and at as low a price as possible.”
Moulds have been completed of the figures of the Progress pediments of the Pantheon, of its metopes, and of al- made : see
return of most all the frieze; and measures are in progress for August,
1836. making moulds of other marbles and of bronze. The dispersion of casts from these moulds will do much towards the cultivation of the public taste.
The committee further resolved:
16. That they are well aware that many of the alterations they have suggested cannot be carried into effect, except by increased liberality on the purt of parliament, both with respect to the establishment of the Museum, and also, to a much greater extent, for the augmentation of the collections in the different departments: but they confidently rely on the readiness of the representatives of the people to make full and ample provision for the improvement of an establishment which already enjoys a high reputation in the world of science, and is an object of daily increasing interest to the people of this country.”
Namely, Nos. 1 to 7, 4to, figured in outline.
The greatly “increased liberality of parliament” is Parliament indeed indispensable to any adequate improvement of the
Museum, whether in the extent of its collections, or, lity.
which is of still greater importance, in the fulness and sufficiency of the means by which these collections are applied to the onward progress of civilization.
In taking a general review of the course of that enquiry, the more immediate results of which we have just seen, we are impressed with the same want of any systematic plan as to what the Museum should become, which we have already observed in the case of the National Gallery of pictures, with the additional disadvantage that in the case of the Museum, the want of any definition of its aims is the more felt, on account of the very multifarious nature of the objects, which, in course of time, it has been allowed to embrace.
Were the establishment of the British Museum to be constructed de novo, few, acquainted with its actual working hitherto, would recommend the combination, within one building and under one management, of collections so diversified, as are libraries of MSS. and printed books, antiquities of every kind, drawings, and prints, and collections in all the various branches of natural history. Whether under such new arrangement it would be desirable to unite even the collections of lite. rature (strictly speaking) with those of antiquities and art, is perhaps doubtful; but it is quite certain that it would not be desirable to unite such collections with those of natural history.
No collection of printed books, worthy to rank as the first public library of Great Britain, can be comprised at the present time within a less number of volumes than 600,000, and this number will increase yearly. No collection of antiquities, however rich in original works, can be considered complete, whether viewed in relation to the
pursuits of history, or to those of art,without an extensive collection of casts from those fine antiques, which it does not possess, and has no prospect of acquiring. And no great museum of natural history ought to rest satisfied without constantly approximating, as nearly as is possible, to the possession of all the various species of animals, . which the progress of discovery has made known. The number of each distinct species, already discovered, is calculated at considerably above 575,000,000. Would it then be wisest to attempt to bring all these immense collections together, or to keep them separate?
But unfortunately we have to do, not with a reconstruction de novo, but with the best sort of improvement which may be found practicable in an institution which has grown up step by step, very much according to chance, and for which, with reference to the continued conservation of all its multifarious collections, new and expensive buildings have just been erected. And possibly it would be a far less beneficial course now violently to disturb these arrangements than to attempt to give them as good a direction as may be.*
The first step is to improve the governing board. Not 1. Constithat the present trustees yield to any corresponding trust. nuniber of men in Europe, in respect either of high public
But it will scarcely be desirable to extend the range of these collections, except in so far as may be absolutely necessary to carry out what seem to be the present objects. It has been proposed to entrust the registration of copyright to the British Museum. However well founded may be the objections to the continuance of this registration in the hands of a private city company, that recommendation is one of more than doubtsul propriety. Mr. Martin also proposed (before the Arts' committee) to muke the Museum the central medium for the protection of copyright in all fabrics involving design; and went so far as to recommend that “the National Gallery, and the National Gallery of Practical Science, should be made branches of the British Museum.” All this appears to afford cumulative proof of the necessity of settling what the British Museum is to aim at becoming, so that the public may understand its real nature and objects.
select committee on record commissi
character or of that enlightened and general cultivation which marks the foremost rank of gentlemen. But most of them are men overburthened with other public duties, far more exciting in their nature, and pressing on them with a heavier and more immediate responsibility. The result is obvious and inevitable.
The same eulogium might with justice have been passed upon the late board of Commissioners upon the Public Records; and the defects of that board in practical working, took their origin from precisely the same cause.
“Your committee," say the select committee of the Report of Commons on the record commission, of 1837, “in re
marking on the defective management of past commis
sions, has attributed their errors, not to any particular on, 1837, incapacity or negligence of the individuals who composed page 82,
these commissions, but to the defective principle which has pervaded the constitution of all those different bodies. Our experience of them furnishes but one additional and almost superfluous proof of the folly of expecting efficient labour and systematic care at the hands of a numerous body, unpaid for the discharge of its duties, and occupied by other avocations of a more important, a more imperative, and a wholly foreign nature.”
But not only has there been a preponderance of official persons already overworked, and a further number of persons of eminent station, who have regarded the office as an honorary distinction, and have omitted altogether to discharge its active duties, but there has also been, in past time, too great a disregard of those particular and special distinctions and attainments which mark a man as eminently fitted for high office in the government of an institution devoted to science, to literature, and to art.* It is a general remark, says Sir Harris Nicolas,
• It was not sojin earlier times. In 1753, at the establishment, the names of William Sloane, James West, Hardinge, Charles Gray, Sotheby,
vol. ii. 3732.
“that the position of men of science and literature in this country is very unlike their position in every other country of Europe; and perhaps the most forcible illustration of that fact is the extraordinary circumstance that for the Evidence, last forty years they have been entirely excluded from the Museum government of the only literary institution of the kingdom committee, which is supported by parliament.”
The same view is maintained by the high authority of the Quarterly Review: “we cannot," it says,
6 blame the honorable men on whom the yoke has heen imposed; we blame the meanness,—shall we not add the ignorance?-of the British government who, with a culpable indifference to the best interests of their country, have kept out of every board the only men qualified to fill Quarterly
Review, them, and with false views of economy have devolved them on the gratuitous management of our nobility and p. 324. gentry.”
There is reason to hope that in this respect better days are at hand.
A board of officers, reporting and recommending to 2. Board the trustees on matters of internal
arrangement, would be a further means of greatly benefiting the institution, and would obviate the complaints of the heads of departments, as to the want of proper intercourse with the trustees. The Reverend Henry Baber, late keeper of printed books, replies to the question:
“Then, in the resolutions which the trustees come to with regard to the arrangement of the library, do not they previously consult
Birch, Ward, and Watson; in 1761 and later down to 1791, those of James Harris, Wray, Duane, Kaye, Henry Cavendish, Astle, Tyrwhitt, Clayton, Cracherode, and Charles Townley, Sir William Hamilton and Sir William Musgrave occur among the elected trustees. And in fact, these were the men the founder had always in view as directing trustees ; adding to them men of bigb rank as visiters. See bis will published in the appendix to the Report.