4.1.1 The importance of format

While Cadell and Davies were prepared to take on the work of the Lysons brothers, their volumes were funded primarily through subscription. Volumes published by subscription were commonly in quarto or folio form, and lists of subscribers were usually included, with eminent members of the aristocracy listed first (Sher 2006, 225). As noted by Sher (2006, 225), 'the purpose of these books was typically to patronize a worthy (and often needy) author, who received the profits from subscription as well as a conspicuous display of support in the form of the subscription list itself'. For example, Robert Adam's Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia was a sumptuous folio volume which was produced as a result of subscription. Subscribers paid three guineas each in order for their names to be included in the list of patrons (Figure 3; Sher 2006, 225). The cost to produce this volume was enormous, yet was deemed worthwhile as a means to attract potential clients, while the subscription list served to identify patrons as men of 'fashion and taste' (Brown 1992, 46). D'Hancarvilles' publications of Hamilton's vases have similarly been seen as a sophisticated marketing enterprise, with the aim of encouraging the British Museum to purchase Hamilton's collection, in addition to elevating his own status as a scholar (e.g. Jenkins and Sloan 1996; Scott 2003, 175; Brylowe 2008; Orrells 2011).

Figure 3

Figure 3: Dedication to George III ('To George the Third, king of Britain, these remains of the magnificence of the Romans among the British are given, donated and dedicated with the greatest humility (by) Samuel Lysons')(Woodchester 1797. Volume in Special Collections of the University of Leicester published as Reliquiae IV). Photograph by Colin Brooks. Image courtesy of the Special Collections of the University of Leicester.

The motivations of authors in the early part of this period have received considerable attention in recent years. Authors in the latter part of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were often inspired by the Enlightenment values of humanity and sensibility, which were seen as underpinning civilization (Sher 2006, 33). Financial considerations were often important, but if authors were financially independent, whether through writing or through other means, they were able to write for reasons other than profit e.g. books could promote individual and national achievements (Sher 2006, 36). Sher describes how the 'Scottish literati of Hume's circle were engaged in a self-conscious attempt to bring fame and glory to themselves and the Scottish nation by means of their intellectual accomplishments' (Sher 2006, 44).

The Lysons brothers were not motivated by profit but by a belief in the national significance of the remains and of the importance of recording and preserving these for the nation. An equally important factor was the need to encourage aristocratic interest and investment in Romano-British remains at a time when cosmopolitan tastes were dominant (Scott forthcoming 2014). The support of the leading publishing house of the day would have lent considerable status to their cause. Self-publication, including self-publication by subscription, represented by the phrase 'Printed for the Author', carried a significant stigma, while publication by Cadell and Davies placed their work alongside some of the most influential volumes on classical antiquities. Paratextual devices, such as titles and subtitles, prefaces and dedications, are important devices used by authors and/or publishers to mediate books to readers (Genette 1997, xviii). In Samuel's volumes these devices serve to assert the status of Romano-British remains and to emphasise the national importance of these (Figure 3; Scott forthcoming 2013).

While the Lysons brothers may have seen their volumes as an opportunity to generate wider interest and support for the recording and preservation of British remains and antiquities, it was also the case that the reputation of Cadell and Davies would have benefitted from the association with their projects, which attracted significant national and international recognition. For example, Francois Artaud (1806) published equally sumptuous volumes on the antiquities of Lyon, possibly inspired by Samuel's work, copies of which he sent to him (only 20 copies of this were produced; see for example, a copy sold at auction, by Christie's in 2009, as part of a sale of Valuable Printed Books and Manuscripts, Including Fine Plate books from an Historic Continental Library (sale 7725, lot 193)).

Samuel Lysons in particular was a well-known and well-connected figure at the time, and rapidly became something of a celebrity. He was at the centre of a social circle which played a key role in the development of art, science and exploration, and he had a number of influential acquaintances and supporters, including Sir Joseph Banks, Joseph Farington and members of the royal family (Fleming 1934; Steer 1966; Scott forthcoming 2013). However, it is clear that, like contemporary folio volumes of the antiquities of Greece and Rome, the estimated market for his works was small. Sher (2006, 86) notes that the numbers of copies printed depended on a range of factors, including the subject matter, format, price and estimates of sales. He shows that the size of the print run for the majority of books published in the latter part of the eighteenth century was between 500 and 2000, and that the number printed was closely linked to predicted sales. The format and cost of the volumes was undoubtedly the most important factor impacting on the size of the print run. The folio format employed by Samuel was seen as essential by him because it was believed to be important 'to offer to the Public representations of the most remarkable of the Roman Antiquities, that have been discovered in England, engraved on a scale sufficiently large to admit of satisfactory explanation of the whole, and also the details of each example' (Lysons 1813, Reliquiae I, iii, Advertisement), but this meant that only very small numbers were produced and they were incredibly expensive (Table 7).

Publication by subscription meant that the financial risks taken by the publisher was minimized, particularly for volumes which included significant numbers of costly illustrations. The process of engraving was hugely time consuming and expensive (on costs see Sher 2006, 64-5; on the importance of accuracy e.g. Lindley 2012; Smiles 2007; Nurse 2007; Ballantyne 2002; Sweet 2001). Samuel Lysons possessed significant means (Fleming 1934, 28), but nevertheless his publications, and in particular the illustrations, proved a huge and costly undertaking. He invested £6000 in the production on Reliquiae (Todd 1996, 95) and he was often struggling to break even, as was the case with many similarly ambitious projects in this period (Calhoun 2006). In a letter to an unnamed recipient, he apologies for his inability to pay a debt as a result of delays in publication (Samuel Lysons to unnamed recipient, Temple and ?King's Bench Walk, 1796, in Lysons Family Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, Series 13). Difficulties arose in part because Lysons found it challenging to get all of the engravings coloured under supervision, which was deemed essential for maintaining accuracy and consistency (Lysons 1813; Lowndes 1834, 1178-9). A further challenge, which impacted significantly on the format of his Reliquiae Britannico-Romanae (1813-1817), resulted from a change in the copyright law. The introduction of the Copyright Act of 1818, which under an Act of Parliament for the encouragement of learning, required a tax of eleven copies of a work for public libraries if plates were accompanied by letterpress, placed him under further financial pressures (Oates 1972; see also St Clair 2004, 436 and Sher 2006, 25 and Loewenstein 2002 on the importance of copyright issues in this history of the book). Letterpress is therefore absent from Volume II, part I, although copies of his articles published in Archaeologia are included in the later volumes (Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 89, Part 1, 460; Scott forthcoming 2013).

Figure 4 Figure 5 Figure 6

Figure 4: Fragments of painted stucco and figure of a bust found in the hypocaust (Bignor, Sussex). Drawn by Richard Smirke. (Reliquiae Britannico Romanae 1817, III, plate XXXII). Photograph by Colin Brooks. Image courtesy of the Special Collections of the University of Leicester.
Figure 5: Hand tinted engraving of 'Venus' from Bignor, drawn by Samuel Lysons and Richard Smirke (Reliquiae Britannico Romanae 1817, III, plate XIX). Photograph by Colin Brooks. Image courtesy of the Special Collections of the University of Leicester.
Figure 6: The Diana and bull sculpture. The reconstruction by John Flaxman (1755-1826) is illustrated alongside the original (Woodchester 1797, pl. XXXVIII. Volume in Special Collections of the University of Leicester published as Reliquiae IV). Photograph by Colin Brooks. Image courtesy of the Special Collections of the University of Leicester.

The volumes of Reliquiae Britannico Romanae were lavish affairs which in many respects resembled better-known publications on Mediterranean classical antiquities. In the production of illustrations Samuel was assisted by leading artists, architects and engravers of the day (Scott forthcoming 2013; Figures 4-6), and the volumes have long been praised for the accuracy and beauty of their illustrations (e.g. Burke 1820, 462). The four volumes of Reliquiae Britannico-Romanae (1813-1817) (Priced at £46 6 shillings in Table 7) which comprised 111 plates, many hand-coloured and on whole sheets, proved especially challenging (156 plates are mentioned by Lowndes, but Lysons' own copy, and the British Library copy, contained 111 plates, and 3 plain plates in Lysons' copy (Jeudwine sale, Bloomsbury, 29 Nov 1984, lot 370)). He states in the Advertisement that most of the plates have been cancelled, 'not with the view of making a scarce book, but from the great difficulty of getting even that number properly coloured under the Editor's inspection'. Just before his death, Lysons had been working to finish 20 complete copies, with a view to preparing subsequent volumes as and when they were required (Daniel Lysons to John Hawkins, July 8th 1819, in Fleming 1934, 55), however, the responsibility fell to Daniel after his brother's sudden death, and the limited numbers of plates proved problematic:

'My object now will be to make up a certain number of the whole work including the Woodchester- and offer it to sale to Payne or some other bookseller. The number cant (sic) exceed 75- the plates of the Woodchester having been destroyed, and I shall have a better chance perhaps of disposing of the whole than if I attempted a larger number. My meaning is to destroy the plates. It occupied me some days to ascertain the stocks of each plate and I was sorry to find but small numbers of some- it will be attended with considerable expense therefore to make up the 75 copies and I can scarcely expect to dispose of them in such a manner as to get back anything like the large sums which my brother expended. I must make up a greater number of Bignor to enable those who have the former volumes already to complete their sets- your set shall not be forgotten.'
It is my intention to present a copy of the works pursuant to my brothers intention to the Prince Regent'
(Daniel Lysons to John Hawkins, July 8th 1819, in Fleming 1934, 55; see also letter from D. Lysons to T. Cadell regarding losses incurred in the publication of Reliquiae, D. Lysons to T. Cadell, April 14 1823, in Yale University Library, Lysons Family Collection, Series 1).

While Lysons and his brother Daniel were closely involved with the production of the volumes, and Samuel invested considerable time, effort and money on the plates in particular, the support of a leading publisher meant that publicity was well organised (for costs of advertising see St Clair 2004, appendix 5, 506-24). When Cadell and Davies, or later the Strahan-Cadell syndicate, produced a new volume advertisements were placed in at least one newspaper in London, and sometimes in newspapers elsewhere (Sher 2006, 361). Advertising often started in advance of publication, and culminated in 'This day is published…', as can be seen in this advertisement for Magna Britainnia:

'This Day is Published, handsomely printed in One large Volume Quarto, with Forty-four Plates of Maps, Antiquities &c, &c. Price 3l 3s in Boards.' 'A few copies on super-royal Paper, with first Impressions of the Plates, Price 5l 5s in Boards'. Sold by Cadell and Davies (Strand). (Morning Chronicle, Tuesday, August 18th, 1807; Issue 11935)

These advertisements often ran past the publication date.

A survey of reviews and library catalogues shows that Lysons' volumes were indeed acquired for notable private and public libraries of the day, and they achieved a similar status to those on Greek and Roman antiquities. Copies could be found in the King's library and on the shelves of many other famous private libraries (Christie 1819; Phillips 1823; Richter 2008; Scott forthcoming 2014). The nature and quality of bindings provide important insights into the perceived status of a volume (see St Clair 2004, Appendix 5, 514 for costs of bindings; Sher 2006, 83;; for example, the copy of Reliquiae sold by Christie's in 2009 was bound in contemporary Russia by Ph. Selenka, with his ticket, described by Christie's as 'ornate panelled covers composed of a series of borders in gilt and blind with the central panel enclosed by a wide gilt border with stylized foliate scroll tools and cornerpieces, gilt spine with raised bands, lettered in 2nd and 5th compartments, china blue endpapers, gilt turn-ins, gilt edges' (sale 7725, lot 233).


Internet Archaeology is an open access journal. Except where otherwise noted, content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) Unported licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that attribution to the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI are given.

University of York legal statements

File last updated: Fri Aug 30 2013