Archaeological priorities, and in particular the identification of figures or publications which are seen as representative of an age, are mediated by a number of factors, including the interests of publishers, who became increasingly commercially oriented during the nineteenth century. Priorities established and consolidated in this period are still important today, most notably a taste for exoticism and adventure, and, as in the nineteenth century, the success of an author is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of scholarship. As Díaz-Andreu (2007, 60) points out, the ways in which archaeological interests developed in relation to emerging notions of national identities in Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century have to date received little attention. In a period when archaeology was in its formative stages and not yet institutionalised, individuals, including leading publishers of the day, could exert enormous influence on the selection and dissemination of archaeological knowledge. The study of the relationship between authors and publishers, and in particular the social and political networks in which they operated, has the potential to provide a more nuanced understanding of this filtering process, and the impact that it had.
The study of publishing in archaeology may also afford important new insights into the ways in which individual and national agendas were defined and asserted in this crucial period in the history of the discipline. For example, for the United States, it is often assumed that 'literary forms plot … home cultures' (Bercovitch 1994, i, 26). Yet, as shown by St Clair, the situation was far more complex, and from the earliest period of European settlement, the English-speaking colonies were an integral part of a 'wider world' in which texts and books circulated (St Clair 2004, chapter 19). Writing in the 1880s, Bryce described America as 'the land of the general reader … Nowhere in the world is there growing up such as vast multitude of intelligent, cultivated and curious readers' (Bryce 1880, cited in St Clair 2004, 389). The development of archaeological publishing in the United States in the nineteenth century, and the acquisition, dissemination and reception of European archaeological literature, has received little attention, but is at least as important as the study of national and private collections of antiquities for understanding the history of the discipline and its wider impact. The dissemination, exchange and reception of knowledge throughout Europe, the United States and further afield can be explored through the wealth of publishing and library catalogues which are now available on-line (e.g. Hathi Trust Digital Library]; see also Sher 2006, chapter 9, on the 'extensive diffusion of useful knowledge' in Philadephia, for the potential value of this kind of research).
There is no reason why British antiquities should be seen as less important than those from elsewhere. Indeed, they were accorded particular importance in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by leading publishers, and the significance of this body of literature has not been fully explored. Publications of Mediterranean classical and world antiquities have received a great deal of attention in recent years, in part because they are seen as characteristic of the period, and as integral to the definition and assertion of national identities, yet the ways in which 'local' antiquities were recorded and presented for a British and continental audience deserves equal attention. For example, different approaches to classical archaeology in Germany and France are particularly evident in relation to the study of Roman provincial archaeology in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the ways in which discoveries were presented and disseminated to a national and international audience has yet to be addressed (Dyson 2006, 91).
The critical role played by 'amateur savants' has also been overlooked (Dyson 2006, 250). The achievements of Roach Smith are at the very least equal to those of Layard and the fact that he managed to publish numerous high-quality volumes, mobilising the support of an extensive network of like-minded individuals at home and overseas, in a period where institutional and publishers interests increasingly lay elsewhere, is a topic which merits further study. The efforts of many other scholars working on British antiquities (or 'local' antiquities elsewhere) are likewise worthy of greater attention. As Levine points out, in order to understand how the search for antiquities developed into the science of archaeology it is important that we look beyond the most climactic events, such as discoveries in Assyria and Egypt, and consider instead the 'deliberate and continuous efforts of scholars and antiquaries who were trying… to retrieve and classify all the non-literary remains of Antiquity so that they might realize their ancient goal of comprehending the whole life of the past' (1978, 340). While there is now a considerable body of scholarship relating to archaeological and antiquarian endeavour in the nineteenth century (e.g. Sweet 2001; Hingley 2008; Hoselitz 2007), the collection and scrutiny of basic book production data has the potential to further transform our understanding of the priorities and interests of previous generations, which are not always what we believe them to be.
The format and cost of books is similarly of critical importance since this determines the nature of access to knowledge and hence the wider impact of a body of scholarship. This fact was astutely observed by Samuel Lysons' close friend, John Hawkins, who was acutely aware of the limited audience for Lysons' larger volumes and stressed, in contrast, the greater impact that the guidebook for the Bignor villa would have.
'I have reason to think that this little book has materially contributed to the renommée of the Roman Villa and that it will continue to have this influence and made it better known & understood. Your great work will be in the hands of a few, but your little one will, through our Sussex Bathers, be dispersed over the whole kingdom and by offering a new object of enquiry may lead to many interesting discoveries' (Hawkins to Lysons, 22 November 1815, Steer 1966, 30).
Further insights into the dissemination of volumes and their subsequent impact can be gained through the collection of data relating to print runs and the numbers of editions produced. Advertisements and reviews in newspapers and magazines and the catalogues of booksellers, in Britain and further afield, are likewise important sources of information regarding the distribution of books and their reception. Library catalogues and borrowing records are of particular consequence since the purchase of books on archaeology was not a possibility or a priority for the majority of the population in this period (see also Nelson 1997 on the importance of library classification for shaping and reinforcing research priorities). The London Catalogue of Books, used as the basis for this study, like all catalogues in this period, is not a comprehensive listing of works produced. The collection of data from a range of additional sources is absolutely critical if we are to obtain a comprehensive picture of volumes produced, including those works published and distributed privately which, as observed by Hawkins, could nevertheless have a significant impact. Later catalogues, such as the Publishers Circular and the English Catalogue of Books, include the year and month of publication, and the data from such catalogues can be supplemented through additional sources, such as the Nineteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue and the archives of publishers. The analysis of data from national and local journals, and in particular the ways in which authors and subjects were selected for publication, would provide further insights.
The collection and analysis of publication data in archaeology is undoubtedly a huge and complex task but should be seen as a fantastic opportunity. Such research has the potential to transform our understanding of the ways in which the subject developed, and to shed new light on how the priorities which underpin the funding and publication of archaeological research today were defined and consolidated. The study of archaeological publishing is a topic of the utmost consequence and should be seen as essential element of any research which addresses the origins and development of the discipline.
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.
File last updated: Fri Aug 30 2013