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The Ruins Of Pæstum, Otherwise Posidonia, In Magna Græcia. By Thomas Major, Engraver to His Majesty.

Thomas Major ARA

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London:: Published by T. Major, in St. Martin's Lane. Printed by James Dixwell,, MDCCLXVIII.

Physical Description

[4], 45, [1] p., 24 [i.e. 25] pl.: illus.; 532 mm. (Broadsheet).

General Note

The twenty-five plates are numbered 1-19A, 19B-24. The 'Explication Of The Plates' calls for thirty-one plates numbered 1-19A, 19B-30, but those which it lists as nos. 25-30 are in-text headpieces and tailpieces.


[T.p., dedic.] - Subscribers to the Ruins of Pæstum - To the Reader - [Text] - Explication Of The Plates - The Works of T. Major, Engraver to His Majesty, taken from capital Paintings in the most eminent Collections of England and France; Printed on Grand Eagle Paper, contained in one Volume, or sold separate, by the Author, in St. Martin's Lane, London, 1768. - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

All plates and the six numbered head- and tail-pieces are signed as engraved by T. Major. Additionally two plates are signed as painted by Jolli (pl. 2, 3), and one as drawn by Magri (pl. 19A), and the headpiece of the dedication is signed as drawn by S. Wale. In his address 'To the Reader' Major states that an English gentleman 'to whom the following work owes its birth' procured views of the temples at Naples, that others were taken in the presence of Sir James Gray, and that the plans, elevations and measures were taken on the spot by J.G. Soufflot, who 'has generously assisted the engraver'. The work is dedicated by Major to George, Duke of Montagu.


Royal Institute Of British Architects, British Architectural Library ... Early printed books, 3 (1999), no. 2008 (French ed.), p.1057-8; National Gallery (Washington), Mark J. Millard Architectural, 2 (1998), 41; E. Harris and N. Savage, British Architectural Books (1990), p. 303-11; Johns Hopkins University, The Fowler Architectural Collection (1961), no. 187, p.157. On Major see H.A. Hammelmann, 'First engraver at the Royal Academy', in Country life, 142 (1967 September 14), p.616-8. More recent studies of Paestum and the Greek Revival include J. Raspi Serra, Paestum idea e immagine: antologia di testi critici e di immagini di Paestum 1750 - 1836 [1990]; Paestum and the Doric revival [exhibition catalogue] (1986); D. Constantine, Early Greek travellers and the Hellenic ideal (1984); J.M. Cook, The Greek Revival (1972, rev. 1995); D. Wiebenson, Sources of Greek Revival architecture (1969); S. Lang, 'The Early Publications Of The Temples At Paestum', in Journal of the Warburg And Courtauld Institutes., XIII: 1-2 (1950 Jan-Jun), p. 48-64.
ESTC, T100079

Summary Note

The publication-date of 1768 is repeated on all head- and tail-pieces and on all plates but three (5, 6, 13). The work describes three Doric temples at Posidonia (renamed Paestum in 273 B.C.): the first temple of Hera (ca. 550-525 B.C.), the second temple of Hera (ca. 460 B.C.), the temple of Athene (late 6th century B.C.). The last-named is the first known building to use both Doric and Ionic orders. The main text is arranged under the following headings: An Enquiry Into The Origin and Ancient State of Posidonia, or Pæstum; A Description Of The Temples; A Dissertation On The Coins and Medals Of Posidonia, or Pæstum; Description Of The Coins and Medals; Table Of Posidonian and Pæstan Coins. The plates show views, plans, elevations and sections of the buildings. The last plate shows forty coins or medals. From 1749, after working with Gravelot, J.-P. Lebas and A. Laurent [i.e. Andrew Lawrence], Major had published reproductive engravings of paintings, several from the royal collections. In 1753 he had engraved architectural plates for The Ruins of Palmyra; which he had followed with the Ruins of Balbec in 1757. In 1770 he became the first Associate Engraver of the Royal Academy (when engravers were not admitted to full membership). His book on Paestum is an expression of interest in ancient Greek architecture that in the preceding century had been shown only sporadically, in such publications as those of Spon (1678), Wheler (1682), Pococke (1743-5) and Dalton (1751). From 1758 appeared a more scholarly series of works - Le Roy's Ruines (1758), Stuart and Revett's Antiquities of Athens (1762), and the Suite de plans de trois temples antiques à Paestum (1764), with engravings by G.-P.-M. Dumont after drawings by Soufflot (who had visited the site with Marigny in 1750-1). Major issued his book in French in 1768; and a German version appeared in 1781. All these publications, together with the paintings and engravings of Cozens and Piranesi (1778), led to a 'Greek Revival' in European architecture. Stuart's Greek Doric portico for a garden temple at Hagley Hall appeared as early as 1758; the direct influence of Paestum has been traced in in Bonomi's church at Great Packington (1789-90), Latrobe's Hammerwood Lodge, East Grinstead (1792), and Soane's vestibules at Tyringham (1797) and Bentley Priory (1798).


Presented by the author before 30 January 1769 (RAA Council Minutes I, 12).

Copy Note

On p. 45 the note on Fig. 7 of Plate 23 has the word 'Entablature' struck out and the word 'architrave' written above it in ink, in an unidentified hand.

Binding Note

Contemporary reversed calf, blind-tooled panels; re-backed retaining original red morocco spine-label lettered 'Major's Ruins Of Paestum'.


Architecture, Greek - Temples - Ruins - Antiquities - Numismatics - Italy - Paestum (Extinct city) - Pesto - History - 6th century B.C. - 5th century B.C. - Doric
Greeks - Italy - Campania - Paestum (extinct city) - History - 6th century B.C. - 5th century B.C.
British - Italy - Campania - Paestum (extinct city) - Description and travel - History - 18th century
Views - Plans - Elevations - Sections - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 18th century


George Brudenell Montagu, Duke of Montagu, dedicatee
James Dixwell, printer
Antonio Joli, source artist
Cajetanus Magri, draughtsman
Samuel Wale RA, draughtsman
Jacques-Germain Soufflot, draughtsman
Thomas Major ARA, engraver, previous owner, donor