This page is referenced by:
Quick view of plates in Volume One
- Title page and Table of contents [page 3 and page 4] (scholarly commentary)
- Plate i: A bronze lamp excavated from St. Leonard's Hill near Windsor (scholarly commentary)
- Plate ii: Horn of Ulf (scholarly commentary)
- Plate iii: Baptismal Font, in St. James' Church, Westminster (scholarly commentary)
- Plate iv: Ancient image of Richard II, King of England (scholarly commentary)
- Plate v: Three ancient figures (scholarly commentary)
- Plate vi: Ruins of Walsingham Abbey in the county of Norfolk (scholarly commentary)
- Plate vii: Waltham Cross, in the county of Middlesex (scholarly commentary)
- Plate viii: The ruins of the walls and city of Verulamium [St. Alban's] in the county of Hertford (scholarly commentary)
- Plates ix, x, xi and xii: Fountains Abbey in the county of York (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xiii and xiv:Three views of the Gate of St. Bennet’s Abbey in Norfolk, in two plates (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xv: The Tomb of Robart Colles and Cecili, his wif (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xvi: The Tomb of St. Edward the Confessor, King of England (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xvii: The North Front of the Gate at Whitehall (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xviii: The North Front of King's Street Gate (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xix: Plans of the two proceeding Gates, in one Plate (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xx: Coins of Henry VIII, Elizabeth and James I, Kings of England: Likewise, and image of Elizabeth Expressed in encaustic work (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xxi: Excerpt from Edward Hall's Chronicle of Henry VIII (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xxii, xxiii, xxiv, xxv and xxvi: The Tournament of Henry VIII, February 12, 1510: Ingraved from an ancient roll in the Heralds Office, London in six plates. A-S (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xxvii: The present day appearance of Furness Abbey in the county of Lancashire (scholarly commentary)
- Plates xxviii, xxix, xxx, xxxi, xxxii and xxxiii: Letters from the English Barons to Boniface VIII (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xxxiv: Head gilded from bronze, of ancient work, excavated at Aquae Sulis (Bath) (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xxxv: Distant view of Colchester Castle, Essex
- Plate xxxvi: Ground plan, south and east prospects of Colchester Castle
- Plate xxxvii: A table of English silver coins
- Plate xxxviii: A table of English gold coins
- Plate xxxix: Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xl: Melbourne Castle, Derbyshire (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xli: Lancaster Castle, Lancashire (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xlii: Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xliii: Coins struck in France and Flanders relating to the History of England
- Plate xliv: Knaresborough Castle, Yorkshire
- Plate xlv: Image of the greatly revered Thomas Tanner, Bishop of St. Asaph's and not long ago a most worthy associate of this society
- Plate xlvi: Tickhill an old castle
- Plate xlvii: A plan of the Roman roads in Yorkshire (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xlviii: Coins struck in France and Flanders relating to the History of England (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xlix: Ancient chapel adjoining to the Bishops palace at Hereford
- Plates L, LI and LII : Roman mosaic peacock (scholarly commentary)
- Plate liii: Antient seals
- Plate liv: Antient seals
- Plate lv: Fronts and backs of medals and gold coins
- Plate lvi: Gold and silver coins annotated with weights and values
- Plate LVII: Hypocaustum Romanun Lincolniae (scholarly commentary)
- Plate lviii: Antient seals
- Plate lix: Antient seals
- Plate lx: Antient seals
- Plate lxi: Winchester Cross
- Plate lxii: Decree imposed against the papal jurisdiction in England in the year 1534
- Plate lxiii: True and exact draft of the Tower Liberties
- Plate lxiv: Chichester cross
- Plate lxv: Astianax vicit Kalendio
- Plate lxvi: Portrait of Robert Cotton
- Plate lxvii: "Bibliothecae Cognominiis conditoris, Effigies, Ad archetypum opera depictum accurate expressa "
- Plate lxviii: Codice Geneseos Cottoniano Dissertatio Historica (excerpt)
- Plate lxix: Codice Geneseos Cottoniano Dissertatio Historica (excerpt)
- Plate lxx: Fragmentorum codicis Cottoniani libri Geneseos Tabula I
- Plate lxx: Fragmentorum codicis Cottoniani libri Geneseos Tabula II
- Standard of weights and measures in the Exchequer
- "View of the Court of Wards and Liveries with the Officers, Servants and other Persons there Assembled"
- Brief account of the Court of Wards and Liveries [page 1]
- Brief account of the Court of Wards and Liveries [page 2]
- Brief account of the Court of Wards and Liveries [page 3]
Plate I: A bronze lamp excavated from St. Leonard's Hill near Windsor
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0
Transcription:Banner: Non Extinguetur.
Caption: Lucerna aenea Romana ex Monte S.ti Leonardi juxta Windesoram effossa A.o 1717.
Credit Line: Societas Londini Rei Antiquariae Studiosa. Ian: A.0 MDCCXVIII
Translation [EB]:Banner: Shall not be extinguished.
Caption: Bronze roman lamp excavated from St. Leonard's Hill near Windsor in 1717.
Credit Line: Society of Antiquaries of London. January 1718.Unsigned engraving (probably by George Vertue) from a drawing by John Talman (1677-1726), Director, who presented it for use as a “symbol” of the Society and a “headpiece or Emblem” to be used in the Society’s publications (SAL Minutes I.19, 22). The image appears here in this capacity, as it does in most publications of the Society down to the present. Different versions of the image have appeared as this symbolism evolved over three centuries, but this engraving is recognizable as the basis of the later versions.
Object:Circa-fourteenth-century bronze lamp, with circular base added in the early eighteenth century. Its history is neatly summed up in a recent catalogue entry: “At first the lamp was presumed to be Roman; it was found at St. Leonard’s Hill, Windsor, in 1717 together with various Roman remains, and closely resembles oil lamps discovered at Pompeii and Herculaneum. However, it is now known to be medieval and recent research suggests it may be Jewish” (Gaimster et al. 2007: 61). Emanuel (2000) recounts the historiography of the object and presents evidence that it was in fact a medieval Jewish Sabbath lamp.
Provenance/Location:Presently in the museum of the Society of Antiquaries of London, LDSAL 56. First excavated at Windsor in 1717 and given to the Society by the original owner, Sir Hans Sloane, in 1736.
Commentary [NH]No image could convey more clearly how important Vetusta Monumenta was for defining the identity of the Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL). The first print in the series documents an important archaeological find, a lamp presumed at the time to be Roman, but reinterpreted as medieval in the mid-twentieth century and as specifically Jewish in 2000. This bronze lamp, loaned for the purpose by Sir Hans Sloane, its original owner, was discussed at an early meeting of the SAL in 1717, even before the Society’s articles of incorporation were drawn up (at the very end of that year). Inspired by the rarity of this find and by the symbolic association of the lamp with knowledge, Talman must have had two aspects of his role as the Society’s first director in mind when he produced his image of the lamp. Visual documentation of antiquities was crucial to the Society’s research mission, superintended by the director; yet certain symbolic enhancements, including the Latin motto, suggest that Talman was also reaching beyond visual documentation to establish a program of continuity between ancient and modern learning.
The early Society’s decision to order an engraving of the lamp was the first step in a long series of symbolic restatements, extending from the use of this image as a frontispiece in other publications, to its reiteration as a pattern inlaid in brass in the floor of the Society’s modern space in Burlington House, to its prominent placement on the SAL web site today (sal.org.uk). Initially, having declared their intention “to collect and print . . . all the ancient Monuments that come into their hands,” the SAL chose to launch their primary scholarly endeavor with this engraving. Fittingly, it was Talman who both instigated the collective project of a print series and made the preparatory drawings of this particular subject (Evans 1956: 62n7). The persistence of the image, which also recurs eighteen years later in Vetusta Monumenta (I.xlv), paradoxically betrays the shifting status of the object itself, which in turn reveals how methods and values changed in the study of ancient objects.
The lamp’s Romanness was a crucial property during the Society’s early decades. Many of the early members saw the Roman past of Britain as a material connection between English scholarship and classical civilization, as an archive that secured the legitimacy and the prestige of British antiquarianism. Roman artifacts from the same site, St. Leonard’s Hill, were shown repeatedly at meetings (SAL Minutes I.37, 62, 163), along with objects from other find spots; a Roman urn excavated by the Society’s president in Norfolk was dramatically opened at a meeting, but was found to contain “Nothing but Bones” (SAL Minutes I.27). Vetusta Monumenta featured several Romano-British subjects (I.viii, xxxiv, xlvii, and xlviii, among others), and Colchester Castle (I.xxxv-vi) may have been the first medieval castle to be chosen because of its particularly strong (if semi-legendary) association with Roman Britain. Finally revisiting the question of the lamp’s Roman origins in 1950, I. A. Richmond observed that the image gained currency because the lamp was “believed to be Roman,” but “once the badge and seal were adopted, the object on which they were based was taken for granted . . . until after the recent war” (Richmond 1950: 24-25).
The print has provided a point of orientation for modern scholars seeking to recover the complex history of the lamp itself, but the print has a fairly complicated history in its own right. The Society’s Minute Book documents clearly enough the early interest in this lamp, the prominent role taken by Talman in its depiction, and its association with Sir Hans Sloane, who eventually donated the lamp to the Society in 1736 (SAL Minutes II.215). The minutes also provide a suggestive, but incomplete record of events leading to the production of this plate. Concerning the discovery itself, we must trust the caption on the plate: the lamp was excavated at St. Leonard’s Hill near Windsor in 1717. Scholars have assumed that it was acquired immediately by Sloane, but neither the caption (which often did identify the collector) nor the minutes are clear on this point. Stukeley’s personal copy of the minutes (Ants MS 265) include his own drawing and mention the print as early as summer 1717, which may support the notion that he had the lamp on loan from Sloane. This date suggests that the first print in the series actually was the first to be conceived, and that the engraved date of 1 January 1718 is a symbolic one, meant to cement the lamp’s association with the articles of incorporation, which carry the same date. The official Minute Book account of this print differs in two important respects from its account of the next three prints in the series. First, this print was apparently not distributed to booksellers, as the other three were (SAL Minutes I.19). Second, there is no record of a vote having been taken to order this engraving (as there is in the other cases).
Although we are left to infer a prior history, predating the first Minute Book entry (5 February 1718), of events leading to the making of the print, the minutes do indicate clearly that at least two different versions of the image were in circulation.[i] In the official record, the image is first mentioned on 14 January 1719: “Mr. Director brought us a proof of an Etch’d plate of a Roman Lamp, to be usd as a Symbol or Ticket of the Society” (SAL Minutes I.19). Initial discussion of the object and the decision to make a print must predate the first official Minute Book entry, and in fact the minutes refer to a pre-existing drawing of the lamp in the “old Minute Book” (SAL Minutes I.94), presumably Stukeley’s personal copy (Ants MS 265: 11). (Initial discussion of plate III—which may have been second print to be completed—also predates the official record.) The decision to “order 100 more of the Lamp” on 18 February (I.20) probably refers to the print of 1717 rather than the “etch’d Plate” presented in proof the previous month, which might therefore be referred to as Version B. The Vetusta Monumenta plate is engraved rather than etched (and the word “more” implies some previous unrecorded order). Another detail from 18 February is of particular interest: “inscription to be added.” The Latin motto non extinguetur (shall not be extinguished) appears in the finished plate and accompanies the version of the lamp chosen for the Society’s seal in 1770.[ii] If the inscription on the lamp itself (Lucerna aenea) is meant, however, this could signal a larger print run meant for public consumption.
Further complicating matters, Talman is described as bringing a “Sketch of a Design,” apparently based on the lamp, to a meeting on 25 March, “which he was ordered to have etched” (SAL Minutes I.22)—more than a month after 100 copies of an already existing print had been ordered. Joan Evans, in her generally meticulous history of the SAL, assumes that this “head piece or Emblem” is identical with the plate in Vetusta Monumenta (Evans 1956: 70) but the chronology clearly indicates that this sketch must be at least a revision of an existing print, and might therefore be referred to as Version C of this subject. In fact, the lamp is not mentioned in this entry at all, but since it does eventually appear as an “Emblem of the Works of the Society at the beginning of any publications” (SAL Minutes I.22), some connection is warranted. Talman’s original design does not survive, and the earliest title page on which it appears is that of Archaeologia I (1770), where it is incorporated into the seal of the newly chartered SAL. Evans implies that other versions might have appeared on earlier title pages (Evans 1956: 70) and gives a detailed account of the design of the seal as a product of eighteen years’ deliberation (106-07). The seal, incorporating the lamp and the motto above a shield bearing the cross of St. George, with the English crown at its center, features on SAL title pages through the twentieth century; today, a more schematic image of the lamp appears on the title pages of The Antiquaries’ Journal and other current publications.
Attention to this complex history is warranted by the unique symbolic importance of this plate in its many versions, as attested by the rich vocabulary used ever since to capture its symbolic function: this lamp has been described in print as the Society’s “emblem,” “badge,” “ticket,” “seal,” “head piece,” and “symbol.”
Even from the start, the circulation of this lamp in multiple visual forms suggests that the symbolic import of the object mattered as much as visual documentation in the case of this particular print. A comparison with the photograph (Gaimster et al. 2007: 61) shows that liberties were taken with the lamp not only by Talman, and probably by Vertue, but even by the antiquaries who prepared the object itself for display by adding a base to emulate its presumed original function as a table lamp. Richmond (1950) was the first to notice an eyelet concealed by this base that shows it was originally a hanging lamp, suspended by the arms at the top and with a chain attached to this eyelet to support a drip pan for leaking lamp oil. This bronze base, taken from a different artifact altogether, is broken at the bottom and may have been hexagonal; the engraving shows it neatly rounded off and inserts imaginary wicks in the original lamp’s four nozzles. The addition of the wicks and the smoke underscores the symbolic recoding of this lamp as a lamp of learning. Drawing on well-known conventions of neoclassical design, the engraving adds a cartouche with botanical flourishes for the caption (reminiscent of Wenceslaus Hollar’s designs) as well as a banner above to bear the motto (“Non Extinguetur”). The engraving may contain elements from more than one of the versions presented by Talman, though some of the flourishes may be Vertue’s own.
Stukeley’s drawing of the lamp appears on a page with several other “Brasse Antiquitys” found “under a Stone” at St. Leonard’s Hill. Richmond points out that the four other objects on this page of drawings are Bronze Age axe and spear heads (Richmond 1950: 23) and traces the long history of occupation on this site on through Roman Britain to the fourteenth century, when a hermit’s chapel on the hill became a popular pilgrimage site. (Richmond, however, wrongly assumes that Stukeley owned the lamp and “presented” it to the SAL.) Like many archaeological sites, this one poses the difficulty of disentangling different objects different periods, sometimes a very remote from each other in time. The Bronze Age artifacts depicted by Stukeley were “in the possession of Robert Butler at the Hermitage,” and Butler exhibited further finds at meetings of the Society in 1722 and 1725. In the latter instance, Stukeley (as secretary) notes that the Society purchased the artifacts from Butler, adding, “they dig up many Urns of all sorts thereabouts” (SAL Minutes I.163). Sloane, who presumably acquired this lamp from Butler, also lent other objects from his collection to be exhibited at SAL meetings or engraved for their publications (cf. plate 1.20 below). One of these was a “copper trumpet” also found at St. Leonard’s Hill (SAL Minutes II.94).
The confusion created by the simultaneous excavation of objects from multiple periods provides one of the clues that allowed Richmond to reclassify the lamp as medieval. Having established that the lamp depicted here differed from ancient Roman lamps in two key respects, Richmond identified closely analogous lamps from the Middle Ages. The closest analogue was a lamp discovered at Lincoln, near the “southernmost gate of the Roman town,” and seemed to present a similar chronological ambiguity. Both lamps, though the general shape resembles that of some Roman lamps, have open nozzles and a fixture for attaching the drip pan, proving that they were hanging lamps. With this general analogy in place, the Windsor and Lincoln lamps can be linked to other lamps with a firm medieval date, even though the number of nozzles and the type of ornament on the hanging arms vary considerably. Richmond presents additional analogues from London, France, and Flanders, most dating from the fourteenth century. More recently, R. R. Emanuel presented another analogue from Bristol with a thirteenth-century date, quite similar in form to the engraved lamp but with three nozzles instead of four.
The significance of Emanuel’s contribution lies not in the date or the form of the Bristol lamp, but in the find spot. Emanuel reports that this lamp was excavated on “the site of the New Jewry” and identified as a Jewish Sabbath lamp (Emmanuel 2000: 310). Emanuel’s brief note is rich in illustrations that support this identification, not only for the Bristol lamp but also for the Windsor lamp. He presents numerous pictorial analogues representing Sabbath lamps from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century. Oddly, however, Emanuel does not engage with Richmond’s paper, which assumes that these lamps were commonly used in Christian settings, including the hermit’s chapel at St. Leonard’s Hill and a London church where another example was found (Richmond 1950: 23). While Emmanuel presents convincing evidence that this style of lamp was used as a Sabbath lamp, more work may be needed to establish the religious context of the Society’s lamp, and the use of a prevalent style of lamp in secular settings should not be ruled out either.
The target audience of Vetusta Monumenta plate 1.45, which depicts this lamp in a very different context, would have been expected to recognize the allusion to the plate we are discussing here. The bound volume first issued in 1747 facilitated this recognition for later readers, and the second lamp is now only a mouse click away. The later plate, a portrait of Bishop Thomas Tanner, a prominent member of the SAL from 1718 until his death in 1735, incorporates the lamp into a decorative border. Vertue’s engraving depicts Tanner’s portrait in an ornate oval frame resting on an imaginary tabletop with other objects: antiquarian books and seals to the left, and a three-quarters view of the lamp to the right. Though the lamp is not to scale, Vertue achieves a daring trompe-l’oeil effect here by and depicting the lamp as lit and burning—the flames are much more pronounced than in the original engraving—and rendering the banner as a physical object suspended on the arms of the lamp. He places his signature (G. Vertue Sculpt.) on the base of the lamp, indirectly asserting his authorship of the earlier print. This rich layering of symbolic resonance is typical of Vertue’s art and of the visual culture produced by the early Society of Antiquaries more generally. The lamp functions here to honor a learned prelate, much as it functions in plate one to set up the light of knowledge as sacred to the society. The lamp appears as an emblem for wisdom in at least one Renaissance emblem book (Ripa 1709: 67), and lamps of knowledge or learning begin to appear regularly in the seals of universities and other institutions, mainly after 1800.
In its initial iconic representation, the bronze lamp known informally today as the “lamp of knowledge” forms a bridge between ancient and modern learning very much in the spirit of the founders of the SAL. The lamp reminds us, too, that the Society of Antiquaries is an Enlightenment institution founded by Dissenters and by Catholics such as Talman and Vertue—not secular, but invested in religious pluralism. The recent recontextualization of the lamp as Jewish provides continuity with the religious perspective suggested by the original find spot, while the shifting status of the object itself—first Roman, then medieval—beautifully captures the fallible human quality of knowledge making as a practice.[i] According to Evans, the print of the lamp (plate I) was published as early as late summer 1717 (Evans 1956: 62); her source for this early date seems to be Stukeley’s personal, unofficial copy of the minutes (Ants MS 205, qtd. in 61n2).
[ii] It cannot be established with certainty from the Minute Book that this print was “the first . . . to be issued to members” of the society (Gaimster et al. 2007: 61), even though it was placed first when the series was bound into a volume in 1747. Depending on which version of the lamp we take to be the Vetusta Monumenta plate, the printing sequence could be construed as plates 3-2-4-1. Beginning with the fifth print in the series, the printing chronology correlates more clearly with the order in which they appear in the bound volumes.
Works CitedEmanuel, R. R. 2000. “The Society of Antiquaries’ Sabbath Lamp,” Antiquaries Journal 80: 309-15.
Gaimster, David, et al., eds. 2007. Making History: Antiquaries in Britain, 1707-2007. London: Royal Academy. Cat. No. 32, p. 61
Richmond, I. A. 1950. “Stukeley’s Lamp, The Badge of the Society of Antiquaries.” Antiquaries
Journal 30: 22-27.
Ripa, Cesare. 1709 . Iconologia: or, Moral emblems. London: Printed by Benjamin Motte.
Further ReadingPiggott, Stuart. 1951. “The Society’s Lamp.” Antiquaries Journal 31: 74.
Introduction to the digital edition of Vetusta Monumenta
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0
(Alain Schnapp, Discovering the Past)
Vetusta Monumenta [Ancient Monuments], published in seven volumes between 1747 and 1906, was the first of four major publication series launched by the Society of Antiquaries of London in the eighteenth century. Plates i, ii, iii and iv were published individually in 1718, the year the society was formally re-established at the Mitre Tavern. By commissioning these engravings, the society defined its research agenda in terms of preservation, visual documentation, and collecting. This agenda, and the publication of images as a means of pursuing it, remained consistent throughout the eighteenth century, even though membership grew steadily—and steadily richer—from the original socially diverse group of eighteen members to 300 in 1770 and 800 by 1820 (Pearce 2007: 147).
In 1751, the Society of Antiquaries received its royal charter, which gave it a status equal to the Royal Society and charged its Fellows with “the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries.” In keeping with this broad mission, the objects selected for inclusion in Vetusta Monumenta form a large and varied set, ranging from artifacts such as a Romano-British Marble bust and medieval monastic seals to architectural monuments including Fountains Abbey. The objects depicted range in age from roughly the 3rd to the 17th century CE. Since some charters, maps, and other documents were also engraved for the series, the distinction between “history” and “antiquities” can be deployed to class the engravings loosely as historical (documents) and antiquarian (artifacts and monuments), but this distinction is more a product of twentieth-century historiography than of the antiquaries’ own motives.
The first secretary, William Stukeley, recorded at the first meeting that the society was formed “with a design at their own charge to collect and print and keep exact Registers . . . of all Antient Monuments that come into their hands” (qtd. in Evans 1956: 58). John Talman, the first director, was later credited with the original idea of publishing a series of prints (Evans 1956: 62n7). Fellows of the society received a copy of each engraving as a benefit of membership and additional copies went to book- and printsellers--but rarely enough to make up the deficit between the cost of the prints and revenue from membership dues.
Selecting subjects for the engravings was a major responsibility of the Fellows, and later specifically the Council, of the Society of Antiquaries. Neither the engraver nor the director had editorial control of these decisions, and some entries in the Society’s Minute Books record the lively discussion that sometimes accompanied the selection process. Although some critics protested that the objects were miscellaneous and often trivial, Vetusta Monumenta effectively promoted the history of everyday life. “By producing representations of everyday objects,” as Bernard Nurse has observed, “the Society extended the idea of what would be acceptable for publication” (Nurse 2007: 143).
Vetusta Monumenta tells a story that is both deeply illuminating for the history of preservation and uniquely relevant for readers and scholars in a digital age. By looking at the kinds of objects chosen for these engravings, we gain insight into the debate over what counts as evidence and what counts as history. By tracing the series from the early individual plates to the formation of a lavish scholarly book publication, we witness the transformation of eclectic private scholarship into a public discourse of antiquities engaged with the literary marketplace. The highly finished, visually captivating quality of many of these prints is matched by their historical significance as records of the state of many monuments that have deteriorated since the eighteenth century; in more than a few cases, these prints provide the sole record of artifacts and monuments that do not themselves survive. A digital scholarly edition of the images and accompanying text materially furthers this goal of preservation and makes the work accessible to a much wider audience. The images owe their strong aesthetic appeal as well as their accuracy to the laborious technique of copper engraving, which also made the original volumes prohibitively expensive for most readers. Now the volumes are extremely rare and even the existing digital version is neither open access nor of high quality. The present edition makes Vetusta Monumenta genuinely accessible, not just by reproducing the content but by providing scholarly commentary, digital search tools, and all the features of a modern digital edition.
By 1747, 70 engravings had been published, enough to form a substantial volume (for which the title Vetusta Monumenta was created). The second volume, with 55 more plates, appeared in 1789. Beginning with Plate xx of this volume (originally published in 1763), the editors began to include letterpress “explanations of the plates” with each engraving or subset of engravings, instead of including text in the form of a caption or on the plate itself. (Some essays on the objects depicted were also written before 1763, but these were published separately.) These explanations considerably swelled the size of the volumes, and not coincidentally the Society launched its second serial publication, the learned journal Archaeologia, at about the same time (1770). Volume III, the last volume included here, was published in 1796 with 44 plates and about 200 pages of letterpress.
During its first fifty years of publication, the most important figure involved with Vetusta Monumenta was the engraver George Vertue (1684-1756), who was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. Vertue engraved all but one of the first 90 plates and also made several of the original drawings. During the rest of the eighteenth century, the central figure was Richard Gough (1735-1809), who became Director of the Society of Antiquaries in 1768. After Vertue, there were no engravers in the Society, which was by now more expensive to join and more genteel in its composition. Gough’s predecessor hired the engraver James Basire (Sr), whose workshop (later led by James Basire Jr) created all the engravings for Vetusta Monumenta from 1765 as well as hundreds of engravings for Archaeologia, the society’s Cathedral Series (1795-1810), and individual publications by members. The last of Vertue’s plates (II.xx) was published posthumously in 1763 and the engraving work passed to Basire in 1765 (II.xxi-ii).
For a brief period, the Society turned its attention to a new series of larger historical prints and no new engravings were published for Vetusta Monumenta between 1770 and 1780 (Nurse 2007: 144). Gough, however, ensured the continuation of the series with seven new plates in 1780 and twenty more by 1789, all with extensive letterpress explications. Though the objects depicted varied widely, the standard form of the prints in each of the two phases (under Vertue and Gough, respectively) helped to establish a recognizable connoisseurial and scholarly idiom. Imperial folio size paper (21 ½ x 14 ½ inches) was used throughout along with a relatively uniform style of engraving and captioning, later giving way to added letterpress. When the first series was bound into a volume, a Latinized subtitle was added, pointing toward conservation (“preserving the memory of [British] things”) as the unified research agenda; this language is reminiscent of Stukeley's insistence on visual documentation in the preface to his Itinerarium Curiosum (Stukeley 1724; Nurse 2007: 143).
The gradually increasing emphasis on text and interpretation in Vetusta Monumenta reflects the shift of primary editorial responsibility from Vertue, an artist and engraver, to Gough, a scholar whose agenda for the society as a whole centered on research and publication. The decision not to include commentary (even when available) over the first 1 ½ volumes, however, does not imply any defect of scholarship on the part of Vertue or the society’s first director, John Talman. Rather, the later expansion of Vetusta Monumenta reflects an increasingly strict division of labor characteristic of the later eighteenth century. In the early decades, not only the engravings, but also some of the original drawings, were produced by Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries including Stukeley and Talman. Later in the century, by contrast, both Basire and draftsmen such as John Carter and Jacob Schnebbelie were hired on a contract basis and regarded as more or less menial. They were considered “practical antiquaries” (Gough 1799: II.i.7) as distinct from those who wrote the scholarly text now seen as central to the discipline. Horace Walpole’s assessment of Vertue captures the earlier integral relationship between engraving and art historical scholarship, along with the emphasis on preservation, embodied in the earlier decades of Vetusta Monumenta: “The many valuable monuments relating to our history, and the persons of our monarchs and great men, which he saved from oblivion, are lasting evidences of his merit” (Walpole 1796: I.i).
As Nurse has observed, three of the plates in volume I (33, 42, 48) were engraved from rediscovered drawings of monuments that had already been destroyed, and Sam Smiles notes that the series was produced “at a time of social and economic change, with many sites vulnerable to ‘improvement’ or demolition” (Smiles 2007: 123). A remark from one of Gough’s independent scholarly books, Sepulchral Monuments, signals a generalized anxiety about the loss of monuments that is also indicative for Vetusta Monumenta. “In a few years more we shall have no foundation left for such a work,” Gough declares, and proceeds to list several monuments that are “crumbling away without having been drawn” (Gough 1799: I.3-4).
Modern scholarship has attended to some individual plates from Vetusta Monumenta, but there has been no systematic account of the publication series as a whole. In recent years, discussion of these plates has revolved around the question of preservation. Maria Grazia Lolla, Rosemary Sweet, and Martin Myrone have all commented specifically on two plates depicting Waltham Cross, one of the “Eleanor Crosses” erected by Edward I in memory of his queen between 1291 and 1294 (vol. 1, plate vii, and vol. 3, plate xvi). The society paid for wooden posts to protect the cross from traffic, but this was a trifling effort compared to the expense and care lavished on the print series and other scholarly activities intended to serve preservation. The antiquaries themselves noticed this paradox: “Vetusta Monumenta flourished and the monuments of medieval England fell into decay,” as Joan Evans reflected in her history of this phase of the institution (Evans 1956: 192).
Although Vetusta Monumenta has made real contributions to preservation, the engravings collected here also served purposes that were clearly not subservient to the ostensible intention of preserving monuments, including social prestige and aestheticizing representation. These contradictions have led some scholars, such as Lolla and Myrone, to caution against taking the antiquaries’ preservationist claims at face value and instead to emphasize the ideological character of antiquarian prints as representations. A contrasting modern view, represented by Smiles and Matthew Reeve, insists on their continuing evidentiary function as visual documentation. More popular illustrated collections of antiquities, by such figures as Samuel and Nathaniel Buck and later John Britton (himself a Fellow of the Society), competed with and ultimately displaced Vetusta Monumenta among general readers by the late eighteenth century.
Vetusta Monumenta provides a uniquely rich record for scholars in the humanities today, who are increasingly interested in the study of objects and material culture. These engravings provide an intimate record of the kinds of objects collectively judged to be important, not by a single author or thinker, but by a large body of scholars and amateurs over the course of eight decades (and beyond, although the nineteenth-century volumes are outside the scope of the present edition). The energies of these wildly diverse objects, ranging from a Roman plumbing system to a lavish royal portrait to an early Tudor table of weights and measures, exceed the aesthetic framework in which they are placed. In some cases, the engravings become entangled with the afterlives of the objects themselves; the engraving of the Westminster portrait of Richard II (plate iv), for instance, preserves a record of the raised gesso ground confirmed as an original feature of the painting by modern scholars after it was scraped off the original by Victorian restorers. Humanists from many disciplines, whether embracing or resisting influential methodologies such as Actor-Network Theory (Latour 2005), Thing Theory (Brown 2004), or Object-Oriented Ontology (Harman 2002), may find in Vetusta Monumenta a cluster of objects both highly mediated and uniquely redolent of the intimacy in which their humans lived with them.
While many of the plates present objects in a state of ruin, it would be unhistorical to divorce ruin as a merely picturesque state from ruin as a material condition that demanded archaeological knowledge. Readers of this edition, who also have the Internet at their disposal to compare these beautiful engravings with modern photographs and research, can decide for themselves. While every effort was made not to damage the books in the course of scanning their pages for this edition, some inevitable wear and tear led us to contemplate a similar paradox. Preservation is one legitimate motive for producing a state-of-the-art digital analogue for these images that represent the state of the art in mechanical reproduction for their time. More important, we hope this edition will stimulate the same curiosity, wonder, and skepticism that we have experienced, especially for readers who do not have access to the original volumes. Vetusta Monumenta (I-III) offers a rich repository of antiquarian images and scholarship from a time when the scope and status of antiquity became open and often fiercely contested questions.
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