An antiquarian or antiquary (from the Latin: antiquarius, meaning pertaining to ancient times) is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient artifacts, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts. The essence of antiquarianism is a focus on the empirical evidence of the past, and is perhaps best encapsulated in the motto adopted by the 18th-century antiquary Sir Richard Colt Hoare, "We speak from facts, not theory."
The Oxford English Dictionary first cites "archaeologist" from 1824; this soon took over as the usual term for one major branch of antiquarian activity. "Archaeology", from 1607 onwards, initially meant what is now seen as "ancient history" generally, with the narrower modern sense first seen in 1837.
Today the term "antiquarian" is often used in a pejorative sense, to refer to an excessively narrow focus on factual historical trivia, to the exclusion of a sense of historical context or process. Very few people today would describe themselves as an "antiquary" although the term "antiquarian bookseller" remains current for dealers in more expensive old books, and some institutions such as the Society of Antiquaries of London (founded 1707) retain their historic names.
During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), the scholar Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072) analyzed alleged ancient artifacts bearing archaic inscriptions in bronze and stone, which he preserved in a collection of some 400 rubbings.Patricia Ebrey writes that Ouyang pioneered early ideas in epigraphy.
The Kaogutu (考古圖) or "Illustrated Catalogue of Examined Antiquity" (preface dated 1092) compiled by Lü Dalin (呂大臨) (1046–1092) is one of the oldest known catalogues to systematically describe and classify ancient artifacts which were unearthed.Another catalogue was the Chong xiu Xuanhe bogutu (重修宣和博古圖) or "Revised Illustrated Catalogue of Xuanhe Profoundly Learned Antiquity" (compiled from 1111 to 1125), commissioned by Emperor Huizong of Song (r. 1100–1125), and also featured illustrations of some 840 vessels and rubbings.
Interests in antiquarian studies of ancient inscriptions and artifacts waned after the Song Dynasty, but were revived by early Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) scholars such as Gu Yanwu (1613–1682) and Yan Ruoju (1636–1704).
In ancient Rome, a strong sense of traditionalism motivated an interest in studying and recording the "monuments" of the past; the Augustan historian Livy uses the Latin monumenta in the sense of "antiquarian matters."Books on antiquarian topics covered such subjects as the origin of customs, religious rituals, and political institutions; genealogy; topography and landmarks; and etymology. Annals and histories might also include sections pertaining to these subjects, but annals are chronological in structure, and Roman histories, such as those of Livy and Tacitus, are both chronological and offer an overarching narrative and interpretation of events. By contrast, antiquarian works as a literary form are organized by topic, and any narrative is short and illustrative, in the form of anecdotes.
Major antiquarian Latin writers with surviving works include Varro, Pliny the Elder, Aulus Gellius, and Macrobius. The Roman emperor Claudius published antiquarian works, none of which is extant. Some of Cicero's treatises, particularly his work on divination, show strong antiquarian interests, but their primary purpose is the exploration of philosophical questions. Roman-era Greek writers also dealt with antiquarian material, such as Plutarch in his Roman Questionsand the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus. The aim of Latin antiquarian works is to collect a great number of possible explanations, with less emphasis on arriving at a truth than in compiling the evidence. The antiquarians are often used as sources by the ancient historians, and many antiquarian writers are known only through these citations.
Despite the importance of antiquarian writing in the literature of ancient Rome, some scholars view antiquarianism as emerging only in the Middle Ages (see History of archaeology).Medieval antiquarians sometimes made collections of inscriptions or records of monuments, but the Varro-inspired concept of antiquitates among the Romans as the "systematic collections of all the relics of the past" faded. Antiquarianism's wider flowering is more generally associated with the Renaissance, and with the critical assessment and questioning of classical texts undertaken in that period by humanist scholars. Textual criticism soon broadened into an awareness of the supplementary perspectives on the past which could be offered by the study of coins, inscriptions and other archaeological remains, as well as documents from medieval periods. Antiquaries often formed collections of these and other objects; cabinet of curiosities is a general term for early collections, which often encompassed antiquities and more recent art, items of natural history, memorabilia and items from far-away lands.
The importance placed on lineage in early modern Europe meant that antiquarianism was often closely associated with genealogy, and a number of prominent antiquaries (including Robert Glover, William Camden, William Dugdale and Elias Ashmole) held office as professional heralds. The development of genealogy as a "scientific" discipline (i.e. one that rejected unsubstantiated legends, and demanded high standards of proof for its claims) went hand-in-hand with the development of antiquarianism. Genealogical antiquaries recognised the evidential value for their researches of non-textual sources, including seals and church monuments.
Many early modern antiquaries were also chorographers: that is to say, they recorded landscapes and monuments within regional or national descriptions. In England, some of the most important of these took the form of county histories.
In the context of the 17th-century scientific revolution, and more specifically that of the "Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns" in England and France, the antiquaries were firmly on the side of the "Moderns".They increasingly argued that empirical primary evidence could be used to refine and challenge the received interpretations of history handed down from literary authorities.
By the end of the 19th century, antiquarianism had diverged into a number of more specialized academic disciplines including archaeology, art history, numismatics, sigillography, philology, literary studies and diplomatics. Antiquaries had always attracted a degree of ridicule (see below), and since the mid-19th century the term has tended to be used most commonly in negative or derogatory contexts. Nevertheless, many practising antiquaries continue to claim the title with pride. In recent years, in a scholarly environment in which interdisciplinarity is increasingly encouraged, many of the established antiquarian societies (see below) have found new roles as facilitators for collaboration between specialists.
"Antiquary" was the usual term in English from the 16th to the mid-18th centuries to describe a person interested in antiquities (the word "antiquarian" being generally found only in an adjectival sense).From the second half of the 18th century, however, "antiquarian" began to be used more widely as a noun, and today both forms are equally acceptable.
From the 16th to the 19th centuries, a clear distinction was perceived to exist between the interests and activities of the antiquary and the historian.The antiquary was concerned with the relics of the past (whether documents, artefacts or monuments), whereas the historian was concerned with the narrative of the past, and its political or moral lessons for the present. The skills of the antiquary tended to be those of the critical examination and interrogation of his sources, whereas those of the historian were those of the philosophical and literary reinterpretation of received narratives. Francis Bacon in 1605 described readings of the past based on antiquities (which he defined as "Monuments, Names, Wordes, Proverbes, Traditions, Private Recordes, and Evidences, Fragments of stories, Passages of Bookes, that concerne not storie, and the like") as "unperfect Histories". Such distinctions began to be eroded in the second half of the 19th century as the school of empirical source-based history championed by Leopold von Ranke began to find widespread acceptance, and today's historians employ the full range of techniques pioneered by the early antiquaries. Rosemary Sweet suggests that 18th-century antiquaries
... probably had more in common with the professional historian of the twenty-first century, in terms of methodology, approach to sources and the struggle to reconcile erudition with style, than did the authors of the grand narratives of national history.
In many European languages, the word antiquarian (or its equivalent) has shifted in modern times to refer to a person who either trades in or collects rare and ancient antiquarian books; or who trades in or collects antique objects more generally. In English, however, the word (either as antiquarian or antiquary) very rarely carries this sense. An antiquarian is primarily a student of ancient books, documents, artefacts or monuments. Many antiquarians have also built up extensive personal collections in order to inform their studies, but a far greater number have not; and conversely many collectors of books or antiques would not regard themselves (or be regarded) as antiquarians.
Antiquaries often appeared to possess an unwholesome interest in death, decay, and the unfashionable; while their focus on obscure and arcane details meant that they seemed to lack an awareness both of the realities and practicalities of modern life, and of the wider currents of history. For all these reasons they frequently became objects of ridicule.
The antiquary was satirised in John Earle's Micro-cosmographie of 1628 ("Hee is one that hath that unnaturall disease to bee enamour'd of old age, and wrinkles, and loves all things (as Dutchmen doe Cheese) the better for being mouldy and worme-eaten"),in Jean-Siméon Chardin's painting Le Singe Antiquaire (c. 1726), in Sir Walter Scott's novel The Antiquary (1816), in the caricatures of Thomas Rowlandson, and in many other places. The New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew of c. 1698 defines an antiquary as "A curious critic in old Coins, Stones and Inscriptions, in Worm-eaten Records and ancient Manuscripts, also one that affects and blindly dotes, on Relics, Ruins, old Customs Phrases and Fashions". In his "Epigrams", John Donne wrote of The Antiquary: "If in his study he hath so much care To hang all old strange things Let his wife beware." The word's resonances were close to those of modern terms for individuals with obsessive interests in technical minutiae, such as nerd, trainspotter or anorak.
The connoisseur Horace Walpole, who shared many of the antiquaries' interests, was nonetheless emphatic in his insistence that the study of cultural relics should be selective and informed by taste and aesthetics. He deplored the more comprehensive and eclectic approach of the Society of Antiquaries, and their interest in the primitive past. In 1778 he wrote:
The antiquaries will be as ridiculous as they used to be; and since it is impossible to infuse taste into them, they will be as dry and dull as their predecessors. One may revive what perished, but it will perish again, if more life is not breathed into it than it enjoyed originally. Facts, dates and names will never please the multitude, unless there is some style and manner to recommend them, and unless some novelty is struck out from their appearance. The best merit of the Society lies in their prints; for their volumes, no mortal will ever touch them but an antiquary. Their Saxon and Danish discoveries are not worth more than monuments of the Hottentots; and for Roman remains in Britain, they are upon a foot with what ideas we should get of Inigo Jones, if somebody was to publish views of huts and houses that our officers run up at Senegal and Goree. Bishop Lyttelton used to torment me with barrows and Roman camps, and I would as soon have attended to the turf graves in our churchyards. I have no curiosity to know how awkward and clumsy men have been in the dawn of arts or in their decay.
In his essay "On the Uses and Abuses of History for Life" from his Untimely Meditations, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche examines three forms of history. One of these is "antiquarian history", an objectivising historicism which forges little or no creative connection between past and present. Nietzsche's philosophy of history had a significant impact on critical history in the 20th century.
C. R. Cheney, writing in 1956, observed that "[a]t the present day we have reached such a pass that the word 'antiquary' is not always held in high esteem, while 'antiquarianism' is almost a term of abuse".Arnaldo Momigliano in 1990 defined an antiquarian as "the type of man who is interested in historical facts without being interested in history". Professional historians still often use the term "antiquarian" in a pejorative sense, to refer to historical studies which seem concerned only to place on record trivial or inconsequential facts, and which fail to consider the wider implications of these, or to formulate any kind of argument. The term is also sometimes applied to the activities of amateur historians such as historical reenactors, who may have a meticulous approach to reconstructing the costumes or material culture of past eras, but who are perceived to lack much understanding of the cultural values and historical contexts of the periods in question.
A College (or Society) of Antiquaries was founded in London in c. 1586, to debate matters of antiquarian interest. Members included William Camden, Sir Robert Cotton, John Stow, William Lambarde, Richard Carew and others. This body existed till 1604, when it fell under suspicion of being political in its aims, and was abolished by King James I. Papers read at their meetings are preserved in Cotton's collections, and were printed by Thomas Hearne in 1720 under the title A Collection of Curious Discourses, a second edition appearing in 1771.
In 1707 a number of English antiquaries began to hold regular meetings for the discussion of their hobby and in 1717 the Society of Antiquaries was formally reconstituted, finally receiving a charter from King George II in 1751. In 1780 King George III granted the society apartments in Somerset House, and in 1874 it moved into its present accommodation in Burlington House, Piccadilly. The society was governed by a council of twenty and a president who is ex officio a trustee of the British Museum.
In addition, a number of local historical and archaeological societies have adopted the word "antiquarian" in their titles. These have included the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, founded in 1840; the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, founded in 1883; the Clifton Antiquarian Club, founded in Bristol in 1884; the Orkney Antiquarian Society, founded in 1922; and the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, founded in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1919.
Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time. Consider, for example, the use of a timeline or sequence of events. It is also "the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events".
William Camden was an English antiquarian, historian, topographer, and herald, best known as author of Britannia, the first chorographical survey of the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Annales, the first detailed historical account of the reign of Elizabeth I of England.
William Stukeley was an English antiquarian, physician, and Anglican clergyman. A significant influence on the later development of archaeology, he pioneered the scholarly investigation of the prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury in Wiltshire. He published over twenty books on archaeology and other subjects during his lifetime.
Richard Gough was a prominent and influential English antiquarian. He served as director of the Society of Antiquaries of London from 1771 to 1791; published a major work on English church monuments; and translated and edited a new edition of William Camden's Britannia.
John Stow was an English historian and antiquarian. He wrote a series of chronicles of English history, published from 1565 onwards under such titles as The Summarie of Englyshe Chronicles, The Chronicles of England, and The Annales of England; and also A Survey of London. A. L. Rowse has described him as "one of the best historians of that age; indefatigable in the trouble he took, thorough and conscientious, accurate – above all things devoted to truth".
The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland is the senior antiquarian body of Scotland, with its headquarters in the National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh. The Society's aim is to promote the cultural heritage of Scotland.
The Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL) is a learned society "charged by its Royal Charter of 1751 with 'the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries'." It is based at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, and is a registered charity.
Prehistoric archaeology is the study of the past before historical records began. It is a field of research that looks at all the pre-urban societies of the world. It also has distinctive set of procedures for analysing material remains so that archaeologists can reconstruct their ecological settings. The study of prehistoric archaeology reflects the cultural concerns of modern society by showing interpretations of time between economic growth and political stability. It also has very close links with biology, biological anthropology, and geology. It is also sometimes termed as anthropological archaeology because of its indirect traces with complex patterns.
Stuart Ernest Piggott,, FRSE FSA Scot was a British archaeologist, best known for his work on prehistoric Wessex.
Archaeology is the study of human activity in the past, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes.
Arnaldo Dante Momigliano was an Italian historian known for his work in historiography, characterised by Donald Kagan as "the world's leading student of the writing of history in the ancient world".
The Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland is a learned society based in Ireland, whose aims are "to preserve, examine and illustrate all ancient monuments and memorials of the arts, manners and customs of the past, as connected with the antiquities, language, literature and history of Ireland". Founded in 1849, it has a countrywide membership from all four provinces of Ireland. Anyone subscribing to the aims of the Society, subject to approval by Council, may be elected to membership. Current and past members have included historians, archaeologists and linguists, but the Society firmly believes in the importance of encouraging an informed general public, and many members are non-professionals.
Historiography is the study of how history is written. One pervasive influence upon the writing of history has been nationalism, a set of beliefs about political legitimacy and cultural identity. Nationalism has provided a significant framework for historical writing in Europe and in those former colonies influenced by Europe since the nineteenth century. According to the medieval historian Patrick J. Geary:
[The] modern [study of] history was born in the nineteenth century, conceived and developed as an instrument of European nationalism. As a tool of nationalist ideology, the history of Europe's nations was a great success, but it has turned our understanding of the past into a toxic waste dump, filled with the poison of ethnic nationalism, and the poison has seeped deep into popular consciousness.
Tim J. Cornell is a British historian specializing in ancient Rome. He is Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at the University of Manchester, having retired from his teaching position in 2011.
Christopher John 'Chris' Scarre, FSA is an academic and writer in the fields of archaeology, pre-history and ancient history. He is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Durham and was head of its archaeology department 2010-2013.
A text publication society is a learned society which publishes scholarly editions of old works of historical or literary interest, or archival documents. In addition to full texts, a text publication society may publish translations, calendars and indexes.
Archaeology, sometimes spelled archeology, is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural anthropology, but archaeologists also draw from biological, geological, and environmental systems through their study of the past. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts and cultural landscapes. Archaeology can be considered both a social science and a branch of the humanities. In Europe it is often viewed as either a discipline in its own right or a sub-field of other disciplines, while in North America archaeology is a sub-field of anthropology.
Charles Boutell was an English archaeologist, antiquary and clergyman, publishing books on brasses, arms and armour and heraldry, often illustrated by his own drawings.
Fernacre, also known as Fernacre stone circle or Fernacre circle, is a stone circle located on the slopes of the De Lank River, 1.25 miles (2.01 km) northeast of St Breward on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall in the United Kingdom.
Katherine Harloe FHEA, FRHistS, is Professor of Classics at the University of Reading. She is an expert on the history of classical scholarship, the reception of Greek and Roman antiquity, and the eighteenth-century German classicist and art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann.