1. Introduction

The priorities set for archaeology in a given period have often been strongly influenced by those of preceding generations and archaeologists do not always reflect on how or why this is the case. If we wish to understand how early British archaeology developed we must seek to understand the processes by which the results of enquiry entered the public domain, and how public understanding affected the choices made by, and for, investigators; archaeological significance is always the product of a discourse between specialists and the public. A major, perhaps the most important, factor in this negotiation was, and still is, the publishing industry. This paper will identify key trends in archaeological publishing in the period 1816-51, based on the London Catalogue of Books, and will show how and why this kind of study should be seen as an essential component of any research which considers the history of the discipline.

This was a formative period in the development of archaeology as a discipline and archaeological publishing played a key role in this. The antiquities of Greece and Rome remained popular subjects, and volumes on these were an essential marker of social and intellectual status and have been extensively studied (e.g. Kelly 2010; Coltman 1999; 2006; Scott 2003; Jenkins and Sloan 1996; Dyson 2006). It was also in this period that archaeological discoveries further afield attracted significant attention (such as Assyria and Egypt). There now exists a considerable body of scholarship on the most impressive publications of the day (e.g. Malley 2012 on Layard). The majority of this research focuses on the intentions of authors, looking in particular at the ways in which the interests and achievements of 'pioneer' archaeologists, such as Austin Henry Layard, were shaped by wider social, intellectual and political concerns; the relationship between authors and publishers and the impact of publishers and the publication process on the presentation and dissemination of knowledge has not yet been addressed.

The crucial part which publishers played in the selection and dissemination of scholarship in the early part of this period has been eloquently shown by Richard Sher, in his comprehensive study of the relationship between authors and publishers in the Scottish Enlightenment (2006), while William St Clair and Simon Eliot similarly demonstrate the importance of commercial and political factors in the production and distribution of knowledge in the nineteenth century (St Clair 2004; Eliot 1994; 1995; 2006b).

There is also a significant body of literature which examines the role of publishers in the dissemination of scientific knowledge in the nineteenth century, focusing in particular on how and why particular scientific opinions came to dominate when so many competing views existed (Topham 2000). Yet, as Topham (2000) argues, there is still much scope for exploring the ways in which ideas and beliefs were transferred from authors, to publishers, printers, booksellers and readers, and for evaluating the impact of this on subsequent scholarship as well as on public perceptions.

Within archaeology, the ways in which authors and subjects were selected for publication in national and regional journals has been addressed to some extent within broader studies of the growing professionalism evident in this period (e.g. Levine 1986; Hoselitz 2007), but a comprehensive study of the range of archaeological volumes produced in this period, the relationship between authors and publishers, and the impact of this on the selection and dissemination of knowledge, is completely lacking. This study will show the importance of such analyses for understanding the development of priorities in archaeological research, both in the past and present, and for providing valuable insights into the dissemination of archaeological knowledge and subsequent access to this.

The importance of collecting basic book production data will first be explained, looking at recent work in other disciplines. Publishing patterns in archaeology in the period 1816-1851 will then be examined, based primarily on the London Catalogue of Books (1816-1851). The numbers of volumes produced on British, continental and world archaeology will be calculated and the relationship between authors, publishers, format and price will be scrutinised.

The data obtained from these sources shows that while significant numbers of publications on continental and world archaeology were produced in this period, the majority of publications focus on British antiquities. However, it is undoubtedly the case that publications on world archaeology, such as Layard's publications of the remains at Nineveh, and Gell's descriptions of antiquities in Greece and Pompeii, attracted more attention at the time, and are certainly better known by most archaeologists today, than any of the publications produced on British antiquities. This is due in part to the intense rivalry between nations in the formation of national collections of art and antiquities, and a perception, certainly on the part of the government and national institutions, that investment in these areas was most appropriate for a nation at the heart of a vast empire (e.g. Hoock 2010). The role of British archaeologists in the discovery of archaeological sites across the world has been celebrated since this period, attracting a great deal of interest in both national and regional newspapers (e.g. Bacon 1976).

Figure 1

Figure 1: "Nemroud." Lady's Newspaper [London, England] 26 Oct. 1850. © British Library Board. BL shelf mark: LON M66096

The excitement and importance of overseas discoveries, and Britain's role in these, was disseminated to all social classes through penny magazines, and even to children through Sunday School publications (Figures 1 and 2). It is therefore unsurprising that publishers were keen to produce volumes relating to these discoveries, for which they would have predicted a significant market. Yet despite this enthusiasm for drama and exoticism, it is clear that there were many authors and publishers who felt it worthwhile to produce volumes on British antiquities; for example, in the first quarter of the nineteenth century a number of impressive folio volumes were published which rivalled those on Mediterranean classical antiquities, but these are rarely discussed in studies of classical scholarship in this period or in histories of the discipline. While this lack of interest can be explained in part as a consequence of changing tastes and interests, it will be argued here that the format in which they were published was also a factor. Nevertheless, these volumes were seen as worthy of serious investment by both authors and publishers and this phenomenon merits further attention.

Figure 2

Figure 2: "The new British ambassador to Turkey". Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times [London, England] 21 Apr. 1877: 244. © British Library Board. BL shelf mark: LON M40498

A significant number of volumes on British antiquities were published by the authors themselves and funded by subscription. This is in contrast to those published on overseas discoveries, which were generally taken on by leading publishers. It is the 'pioneers' such as Layard who achieved celebrity status and who are best known today, yet the evidence shows that there were many 'pioneers' working on British antiquities in this period whose efforts and achievements merit further recognition and study. They produced work which equalled or surpassed that of their better-known contemporaries, often at considerable personal expense. The case of Charles Roach Smith will be examined here for he published extensively on British, and in particular Romano-British remains, producing works of outstanding scholarship, but he is little known outside the field of Romano-British archaeology nor is he mentioned in the Oxford Companion to Archaeology (Fagan 1996). While this is due in part to the growing enthusiasm for overseas exploration, it will be shown that the manner in which his volumes were published significantly impacted on the wider dissemination of his work and in this respect served to further marginalise the study of British antiquities. This study will therefore show the immense, and previously unacknowledged, importance of decision-making by authors and publishers on the development of archaeological interests in Britain and on wider perceptions of the value of these, and will identify areas for future research.


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