4.1.2 The impact of marketing

It is clear that the works of the Lysons brothers, Samuel's in particular, rivalled sumptuous volumes on a range of subjects, most notably those on Mediterranean classical antiquities and botany, and indeed surpassed many of these in terms of the standard of scholarship (Scott forthcoming 2013), and they were lavishly praised by contemporary reviewers (e.g. Burke 1820, 462). Nevertheless, they are little known today outside of Romano-British archaeology. The same is true for the Magna Britannia volumes produced by the brothers, which have been seen as a 'false start' for medieval archaeology in Britain (Todd 1996).

The same could also be said for many of the volumes on British archaeology and antiquities listed in the Table 1, which were clearly deemed worthy of a considerable investment of time and expense on the part of authors, and were taken on by notable publishers, yet are little known today. One notable exception is Charles Alfred Stothard's Monumental Effigies (1832) (Table 5), which included etchings of medieval tomb effigies, brasses and 'weepers', and which was issued to approximately seventy subscribers between 1811 and 1832.

Stothard (1786-1821) was widely acknowledged to be one of the finest antiquarian draughtsmen of the day, indeed, he worked closely with the Lysons brothers on a number of their projects, and Samuel was a great admirer of his (Lindley 2012; Scott forthcoming 2013). While this reputation for 'supremely knowledgeable and accurate draughtsmanship' has survived in part as a result of his contribution to the historicist genre (Lindley 2012, 385), which was extremely important at the time, this is by no means the only reason. The equally impressive Monumental Effigies of Great Britain (see Table 1) by George and Thomas Hollis, published by Nichols, which was intended as a continuation of Stothard's project, in the same format, size and paper, is little known today. As shown by Lindley (2012), Stothard's posthumous reputation was profoundly influenced by the efforts of his wife Eliza, who after his tragic death in 1821, took it upon herself to manage the completion of the project. The application of her impressive literary talents, most notably in the publication of her memoirs of her husband (1823), in which he was cast as something of a 'Romantic' hero, all served to consolidate and enhance his reputation. A new edition of his work was produced by Bohn in 1876, Eliza having sold the copyright to this publisher, resulting in the wider dissemination of his work and underpinning a reputation which has survived to the present (Lindley 2012, 423).

The impact of 'marketing' on the subsequent reputation of an author is very clear from this example. In the absence of such commitment and drive on the part of Eliza, and the subsequent edition of his work produced by Bohn, it is unlikely that Stothard would have achieved the reputation that he did. In contrast, while Samuel Lysons' work was similarly celebrated by his contemporaries, his brother Daniel struggled to complete the planned volumes of Reliquiae after his death, and apart from his papers in Archaeologia, which had a limited audience in the nineteenth century, his most impressive works resided in a small number of private or institutional libraries throughout the nineteenth century and beyond. The firm of Cadell and Davies was less influential in the nineteenth century than in the eighteenth, and the business was sold off after the death of Thomas Cadell in 1836 (Dille 2004). While his work has underpinned an exemplary tradition of mosaic recording in Britain (e.g. the volumes by Cosh and Neil), Lysons' wider contribution to the discipline of archaeology remains little known (Scott forthcoming 2013).The format in which his work was published was also undoubtedly a factor; the limiting effect of format on the impact of a volume was recognised at the time. When James Boswell thought of publishing his Life of Samuel Johnson as one folio volume rather than two quarto volumes, he was advised by his friend Edmond Malone that he 'might as well throw it into the Thames, for a folio would not now be read' (Boswell 1790, Great Biographer, 32-33, 13 Jan 1790 in Sher 2006, 82).

Of course, many folio volumes on Mediterranean classical antiquities did remain influential throughout the nineteenth century and beyond; James 'Athenian' Stuart's Antiquities of Athens exerted a profound influence on taste well into the nineteenth century (Weber Soros 2006). In contrast, the enthusiasm for British classical remains diminished as travel to the continent became a possibility once more, and institutional and publishers interests were increasingly focused on the quest for monumental classical and 'exotic' antiquities as the 'war over antiquities' intensified (Hoock 2010). As a result of these changing priorities, combined with the beautiful yet inaccessible format, Lysons' most impressive achievements were lost to all but a small circle of privileged individuals and remain little known today outside of Romano-British archaeology, and mosaic studies in particular. Yet, they were deemed worthy of serious investment on the part of both author and publisher, were greatly admired at the time and were aimed at the same audience as contemporary volumes on Greek and Roman antiquities. The ways in which British antiquities were 'marketed' by authors and publishers in a period of significant social upheaval and intense national rivalry is undoubtedly a topic which merits serious investigation.


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