Collection Of Etruscan, Greek, And Roman Antiquities From The Cabinet Of The Honble. Wm. Hamilton His Britannick Maiesty's Envoy Extraordinary At The Court Of Naples.

RA Collection: Book

Record number


Variant Title

Antiquités Etrusques, Grecques Et Romaines, Tirées Du Cabinet De M. Hamilton, Envoyé Extraordinaire De S. M. Britannique En Cour De Naples.


Naples.: , MDCCLXVI. (- MD.CCLXVII.)

Physical Description

4 vols.; 504 mm. (Folio.)

General Note

Vol. I: 177, [3] p., 130 [i.e. 110] pl. (incl. two, dedic. pl.): illus. The 110 pl. and 20 in-text illus. share one sequence of numbers, 1-130. Fourteen pl. are dble. (pl. 14, 25, 32, 40, 48, 55, 56, 74, 88, 109, 127-130). (The RIBA copy is catalogued as having 114 pl. incl. 2 and dedic. pl.) Pages 130, 131 are misnumbered 126, 127. - Vol. II: 168 p., 130 [i.e. 109] pl.: illus. The plates are hand-numbered as if forming one sequence with the unnumbered in-text illustrations. There are 116 pl. numbered 1-4, 9, 14, 15, 22-130 and 13 in-text illus., forming a total of 129 prints (there is no plate or illustration to represent the number '21'). Twenty pl. are dble. (9, 22, 25, 37, 41, 45, 56, 68, 74, 84, 86, 106, 113, 116, 119, 121, 124, 126, 129, 130). (The RIBA copy is catalogued as having 108 pl. incl. 2 and 2


Vol. I: [ (English), (French), dedic. pl.] - Avertissement - Preface (by D'Hancarville) - [Text]; Explanation of the Plates ... (with pl. and illus. 1-29) - [Imprimaturs] - Errata; [colophon] - [Plates 30-130]. - Vol. II: [ (English), (French), 2 dedics.] - Avertissement - [Text, with 7 pl., 13 illus.] - Explications - [Plates 22-130].

Responsibility Note

In Vol. I no plate is signed. In Vol. II the first dedication-plate is signed as drawn by G. Bracci and engraved by C. Pignatari; the second, as drawn by Gius. Bracci and engraved by Ant. Cardon. Plate 22 is signed as engraved by Carmine Pignatari; all others are unsigned.

Most in-text illustrations in both volumes are signed by draughtsman (Giuseppe Bracci or Edmondo Beaulieu) and/or engraver (Ant. Cardon, Car. Nolli, Carmine Pignatari, Filip. de Grado). The illustration of the Trebbia tomb (v.II. p.57) is said by Winckelmann to have been based on a sketch made by Hamilton himself.

The printer is named in the colophons of Vols. I, II: 'Imprimé a Naples - Par François Morelli'.

Volume I is dedicated by William Hamilton to King George III. Volume II has two dedication-plates - one by D'Hancarville to the memory of J.J. Winckelmann, the other to 'Sodalibus Amor Patr. Congreg In Augmentum Agric. Commercii Et. Bonar. Art. Mag. Britanniae' [i.e. the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce].


Royal Institute of British Architects, British Architectural Library ... Early printed books, 2 (1995), no. 1568, p.826-8; U. Limentani, Bibliografia Hamiltoniana (1962), no.21.

G. Ceserani and A. Milanese, edd., Antiquarianism, museums and cultural heritage. Collecting and its contexts in eighteenth-century Naples, = Journal of the History of Collections, 19:2 (2007) [complete issue]; L. Burn, 'Sir William Hamilton and the Greekness of Greek vases', in Journal of the history of collections, 9:2 (1997), p.241-52; I. Jenkins and K. Sloan, Vases & Volcanoes Sir William Hamilton And His Collection [exhibition catalogue] (1996); M. Vickers, 'Value and simplicity', in M. Vickers and D. Gill, Artful crafts: ancient Greek silverware and pottery (1994); D. Constantine, 'Winckelmann and William Hamilton', in Oxford German Studies, 22 (1993), p.55-83; P. Griener, Le Antichità Etrusche, Greche e Romane 1766-1776 di Pierre Hugues d'Hancarville: la pubblicazione delle ceramiche antiche della prima collezione Hamilton (1992); C.L. Lyons, 'The Neapolitan context of Hamilton's antiquities collection', in Journal of the history of collections, 4 (1992), p.1-26, and 9:2 (1997), p.229-39; N. Ramage, 'The dating of the four volumes of Sir William Hamilton', in Ars ceramica, 8 (1991), p.35; F. Bologna, 'The rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the artistic culture of Europe in the eighteenth century', in B. Contello, ed., Rediscovering Pompeii [exhibition catalogue] (1990), p.79-91; N. Ramage, 'Wedgwood and Sir William Hamilton', in Proceedings of the thirty-fifth annual Wedgwood international seminar (1990), p.71-90; N. Ramage, 'Owed to a Grecian urn: the debt of Flaxman and Wedgwood to Hamilton', in Ars ceramica, 6 (1989), p. 8-12; A. Schnapp, 'La pratique de la collection ... chevalier d'Hancarville', in L'anticomanie (1992), p.209-18; N. Ramage, 'The initial letters in Sir William Hamilton's collection of Antiquities', in Burlington magazine, 129 (1987 July), p.446-56; F. Haskell, 'The Baron d'Hancarville', in Past and Present in Art (1987).

Summary Note

The publication-dates are given on the title-plates as 1766 (vol. I) and 1767 (vols. II-IV). But in vol. I one of the imprimaturs carries the date of 1767; and advertisements in the Novelle letterarie indicate that vol. II was published in 1770 and vols. III, IV, in 1776.

The title-plates of Volumes II-IV have the words 'And Plenipotentiary' after 'Envoy Extraordinary', and Volume II continues with the words 'Vol. Second'. Each volume has a parallel French title-plate, which reads, 'Antiquités Etrusques, Grecques Et Romaines, Tirées Du Cabinet De M. Hamilton, Envoyé Extraordinaire De S.M. Britannique En Cours De Naples' (Vols. II-IV with 'Et Plenipotentiaire' after 'Extraordinaire', and Vol. II. continuing 'Tome Second').

The text of Volumes I, II, is given in English and French in parallel; that of Volumes III, IV, in French only. The dedications of Vols. I, II, are in Latin; the imprimaturs in Vol. I, in Italian and Latin.

This four-volume publication combines vivid and influential images with speculation on the development of ancient art. William Hamilton collected modern pictures and antiquities. Here his 'Antiquities' are almost all vases - described on the title-plates as 'Etruscan, Greek, And Roman' but known to be Greek, whether from south Italy ('Magna Graecia') or the Greek mainland. Both Hamilton and Hancarville (to whom Hamilton entrusted the preparation of the text) regarded this large collection of vases as providing not only 'exquisite Models' but also a possible basis for tracing the 'progress of Painting and Design' and the 'stiles of the different periods in the Art of the Ancients' (v.I., p. vi, 168). For this reason, although Explanations of the plates are included in Vols. I, II, and the text of Vol. II includes a Discourse Upon Painting and a chapter on the Uses the Ancients made of their Vases, How they are found, and the manner of painting them, Hancarville allows his speculations to range very widely, including in Volume I a history of the Etruscans, their letters and customs and the Tuscan order, and in Vols. III, IV, a history of Greek sculpture to the death of Alexander. Here he adumbrates ideas later expounded in his Recherches sur l'origine, l'esprit et les progres des arts (1785-6), tracing the oscillation in art between concentrated symbol and explicit, sophisticated representation.

The plates generally show vase paintings of myths or social subjects, with views of the vases and detailed measurements. One mythological painting shows a nude Silenus - overpainted as clothed by its previous owner, Passeri (vol. II. pl. 68; cf. G.B.Passeri, Picturae Etruscorum In Vasculis, II, pl.103). An example of a social subject is pl. 74 of vol. II, representing a symposium. An interesting in-text illustration shows a group of vases newly discovered in a tomb (vol. II, p.57). Many plates are coloured by hand (in Vol. I 46 plates; in Vol. II 53 plates).

The images were most notably taken up by Josiah Wedgwood, one of whose first-day vases made at his new pottery, 'Etruria', in 1769 carries a design based on plate 129 of Vol. I, and who also reproduced the vase shown in the dedication-plate of Vol.I. Whole rooms drew on these images for their decoration (as at Newtimber Place, Sussex, and Bowood, Wiltshire); and they played a considerable part in fostering the Neoclassical taste for outline drawing and engraving.

In 1772 Hamilton's first collection of vases and antiquities was bought for the British Museum, where one red-figure volute crater is known as the 'Hamilton Vase' (shown in Vol. I. pl. 52-6). For many years Hamilton made gifts to the Royal Academy, including casts of bas-reliefs and Piranesi's prints of the 'Warwick' vase, but oddly did not donate a copy of this work. Although (unsurprisingly) John Flaxman included it in a list of desiderata of 'Books essentially useful in the Arts' that the RA Council resolved to purchase at a meeting on 23 October 1801 (Council Minutes III, 113-14), there is no evidence of a copy having entered the RA Library until the present incomplete set arrived on 6 August 1835 as part of Prince Hoare's bequest to the Academy of books and prints from his library in London (see RA Council Minutes VIII, 123-25).


The front loose endpapers of Vols. I, II are inscribed in pencil, 'Beq. of P.H. Esqre' (i.e. Prince Hoare, 1835).

Copy Note

Imperfect: lacks vols. III, IV.

Binding Note

18th-century half calf, marbled-papered boards; rebacked and recornered in 20th century, retaining earlier black morocco spine-labeles lettered 'Hamilton's Antiquities Vol. I (II)'.

Name as Subject


Mythology, Greek
Vases, Greek - Italy - Campania - History
Collections - British - Italy - Campania - Naples - History - 18th century
Art history - Catalogues - Pattern books - Italy - 18th century
Pictorial works - Hand coloring - Italy - 18th century


Images from this book

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