Memorandum On The Subject Of The Earl Of Elgin's Pursuits In Greece. - Second Edition, Corrected.

RA Collection: Book

Record number



London:: Printed For John Murray, Albemarle-Street, By W. Bulmer And Co. Cleveland-Row., 1815.

Physical Description

[4], 100p., frontis.; 214 mm. (Octavo.)


[Half-t., frontis., t.p.] - [Text] - Appendix (A-E); [colophon].

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece and the in-text headpiece and tailpiece are signed as engraved by H. Moses.

The printers' name is repeated in the colophon.


Royal Institute of British Architects, British Architectural Library ... Early printed books, 5 (2003), no. 4009, p.2704-5.

On the reception of the sculptures in western Europe and on Lord Elgin see: I. Jenkins, Archaeologists & aesthetes in the Sculpture Galleries of the British Museum 1800-1939 (1992); S. Checkland, The Elgins, 1766-1917 (1988); B.F. Cook, The Elgin marbles (1984; repr. 1993); W. St.Clair, Lord Elgin and the marbles (3rd. ed., 1998); J. Rothenberg, "Descensus ad terram": the acquisition and reception of the Elgin marbles (1977); M. Pavan, 'A. Canova e la discussione sugli Elgin Marbles', in Riv. Ist. N. Archeol. & Stor. A., 21-22 (1974-5), p.219-344; S.A. Larrabee, English bards and Grecian marbles (1943); T.L. Donaldson, 'Report of the Committee appointed to examine the Elgin Marbles', in Transactions of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 1st series 5:2 (1837-42), p.100-08; Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons, Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Earl of Elgin's collection of sculptured marbles etc. (1816) [incl. testimonies of Nollekens, Flaxman, Westmacott, Lawrence, R.P. Knight, B. West PRA]; B.R. Haydon, The judgement of connoisseurs upon works of art compared with that of professional men, in reference more particularly to the Elgin marbles (1816); G. Cumberland [Letter], in Monthly magazine (1808 July 1), p.519-20.

Summary Note

This publication is described on the title-page as 'The Second Edition, Corrected', i.e. the third edition. The first edition appeared in 1810 (Edinburgh: Balfour, Kirkwood and Company); the second, in 1811 (London: William Miller). New to this 'Second Edition, Corrected' are the letter of E.Q. Visconti and a letter written 'to a friend of Lord Elgin'.

The anonymous text is attributed by the Dictionary of National Biography to William Richard Hamilton - who had been a member of Elgin's embassy to Constantinople from 1799 to 1803, had taken custody of the Rosetta Stone in 1801, and had superintended the removal of the Parthenon marbles in 1802. But W. St Clair in Lord Elgin and the marbles states that its first edition largely reproduced a letter composed by Philip Hunt, and that W.R. Hamilton advised Elgin to improve Hunt's style for the second edition.

The memorandum is followed by five appendices: A. Benjamin West, Esq. To The Earl Of Elgin (Feb. 6, 1809, and March 20, 1811); B. Notes On Phidias And His School: Collected From Ancient Authors; C. Description D'Un Bas-Relief Du Parthenon, Actuellement Au Musée Napoléon. Par A.L. Millin; D. Lettre De E.Q. Visconti À Un Anglais (25 Nov. 1814); E. Letter to a friend of Lord Elgin by a person who had paid particular attention to the subject of this Memoir (January 1815).

The whole collection is a contribution to the debate on Elgin's acquisition of the marbles, their aesthetic value and the possibility of their purchase by the British government. Elgin had negotiated their removal while he was British ambassador at Constantinople in 1801-3. The marbles were displayed in London in 1807 and first offered for sale to the British Government. They promped sharp debate - firstly on whether the Government would be condoning plunder or saving the works from neglect, and secondly on the aesthetic merits of the works themselves. Most viewers preferred them to the more familiar copies or adaptations of ancient Greek sculpture collected at Rome, and several saw in them an admirable naturalism. Before the British Government bought them (in 1816), a Select Committee of the House of Commons sought the opinions of artists and connoisseurs, including those of the President of the Royal Academy, Benjamin West.

The frontispiece is a reprint of that of the 1811 edition. It shows the part of the Parthenon frieze housed in the Louvre and is a copy of a plate in Millin's Monumens antiques, inédits (2 v., 1802-6). The two in-text illustrations consist of a headpiece and a tailpiece to the text. The former shows a female in a four-horse chariot being presented with a wreath by a winged female figure; the latter, a figure with a shield and helmet addressing two figures, one male and one female.

St Clair writes that the Murray archives record that 750 copies of this 'Second Edition, Corrected' were printed.


The front pastedown is inscribed in pencil, 'S.A.H.', i.e. S.A. Hart, librarian of the Royal Academy 1864-81.

Binding Note

19th-century half calf, marbled-papered boards; rebacked and recornered in 20th century, spine lettered 'Elgin's Pursuits In Greece'.

Name as Subject


Sculpture, Greek - Bas-reliefs - Statues - Site-specific works - Public sculpture - Monuments - Temples - Greece - Athens - Acropolis - Parthenon - History - 5th century B.C.
British - Archaeologists - Archaeology - Cultural property - Ownership - Greece - Athens - 19th century
Collections - Cultural property - Ownership - Great Britain - London - 19th century
Art criticism - Art history - Great Britain - 19th century


John Murray, publisher
William Bulmer, printer
Henry Moses, engraver
Benjamin West PRA
Aubin Louis Millin de Grandmaison, Description D'Un Bas-Relief Du Parthenon, Actuellement Au Musée Napoléon
Ennio Quirino Visconti
William Richard Hamilton, author?
Philip Hunt, author?