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(Elgin Marbles)

Memorandum on the subject of the Earl of Elgin’s pursuits in Greece.

London, printed for William Miller 1811.

Reference: 13052
Price: £450 [convert currency]

Full Description

8vo. (2) + 77 + (1)pp, engraved plate. Original boards, with printed paper label on upper cover, neatly rebacked. An untrimmed copy. No ownership inscription, but from the library of the Ruggles-Brise family, Spains Hall, Finchingfield, Essex, largely formed by Thomas Ruggles (died 1813), author and barrister.

The most skilful contemporary published defense of Lord Elgin’s role in the dismantling and removal of the Parthenon frieze and of other sculptures from the Acropolis at Athens. Its authorship is conventionally attributed to William Richard Hamilton (1777-1859), Lord Elgin’s private secretary, but it appears that the actual author was Lord Elgin himself (William St.Clair, Lord Elgin and the Marbles, 1967, pp 182-4), Hamilton’s role being merely that of adviser. The publication describes the various archaeological and other operations financed by Lord Elgin in a deliberately uncontentious manner, while taking every opportunity to stress the sculptures’ artistic quality. Appendices print two letters to Lord Elgin from Benjamin West, President of the Royal Academy, praising Elgin for bringing “these treasures of the first and best age of sculpture and architecture into London”, to found “a new Athens for the emulation and example of the British student”, as well as an article by the French scholar A.-L.Millin expressing his admiration for another slab from the Parthenon frieze taken to Paris by Choiseul-Gouffier. The Memorandum was originally printed at Edinburgh in 1810, in a small number of copies for private distribution by Lord Elgin, and was reissued in the present revised and expanded version in 1811. BAL Cat 4009 (1815 edition).