HC Deb 25 February 1825 vol 12 cc664-6
Sir Charles Long

presented a petition from the trustees of the British Museum, the statement contained in which he begged permission to repeat to the House. Mr. Rich, who had been in the service of the East India Company, as their resident at the court of the pacha of Bagdat, had made, during the many years which he resided in India, a very extensive and valuable collection of manuscripts, medals, and antiquities. It was the wish of that gentleman, who was since dead, that this collection should be in the possession of the British Museum, in order that, by being opened to public inspection, it might be the means of facilitating the discoveries and studies of persons of science. His widow, in pursuance of this desire of her late husband, had offered the whole of his collections to the trustees of the Museum at a reasonable price, to be fixed upon by persons who were acquainted with its value. The trustees, when this offer was made to them, felt bound to make an inquiry into the value of the collection. They procured the opinions of Dr. Macbride, Dr. Nicholls of Oxford, Dr. Leigh of Cambridge, and of Dr. Young. They gave their concurrent testimony, that it was highly valuable, and would form an important acquisition to the British Museum. The collection consisted of 900 volumes of manuscripts, in the Persian, Turkish, Chaldaic, Syriac, and Arabic languages. They contained commentaries on the scriptural writings, and were likely to afford very important illustrations of the sacred text. Another part of the collection was composed of Oriental and Greek medals, the value of which would be satisfactorily proved to the House when he told them, that they were held in the highest estimation by the late Mr. Payne Knight, who had carefully examined them. The last part of the collection was a large quantity of antiquities, which had been discovered in the neighbourhood of Babylon and Nineveh, on which were inscribed characters which had not yet been deciphered, and which it was obvious, never could be deciphered, but by means of comparing them with other similar remains. Notwithstanding the long and intimate connexion which we had had with Asia, the library of the British Museum was almost wholly destitute of the productions of oriental literature. This was one reason why he recommended the purchase of the collection. Another was, that it was in itself complete and entire, and contained not one duplicate of any thing the Museum at present possessed. He had, in the course of the last session, when he called the attention of the House to the munificent gift which his majesty had made of the late king's library, expressed a belief that this example would be followed by others. He had great pleasure in stating now—(not because it was a fulfilment of his own prediction, but because it was highly honourable to the generosity and public spirit of the individual to whom he alluded)—that sir Richard Colt Hoare had expressed his intention of presenting to the trustees of the British Museum, for the use of the public, the large and valuable library which had been collected by himself and his family. It contained among other valuable books, a complete collection of Italian history and topography, and amounted to not less than 17 or 18,000 volumes. After stating, that the computed value of the collection of the late Mr. Rich was 8,000l., of which 6,000l. was for MSS.; 1,000l. for the medals; and 1,000l. for the antiquities, the right hon. bart. brought up the petition. He then moved, that a committee be appointed to report to the House their opinion on the proposed purchase; which was agreed to.

The House being in a committee of supply, Mr. Bankes moved "That 15,416l. be granted for the service of the British Museum, from 25th Dec. 1824 to the 25th March 1825."

Mr. Croker

rose, not for the purpose of opposing the vote, or to repeat an observation which he had made last year respecting the price at which the catalogue of the Museum was sold. A catalogue was, as it were, the key of the Museum, and highly necessary to the persons who wished to consult the books. The price of it was 7 or 8 guineas, and this made it wholly impracticable for poor scholars to procure it. He was sure the House would agree to no vote more readily than to One which would enable the Museum to sell their catalogue at a cheaper rate.

Mr. Bankes

said, the price of the catalogue was four guineas, but-that, he was aware, was too large a price.

Mr. Hume

wished to know whether there was any objection to adding one or two days in each week to the three on which the Museum was open to the public.

Mr. Bankes

said, that there were only two days at present reserved for private inspection of the Museum, and this reservation was made with a view to accommodate foreigners and other curious persons, and whose object would be frustrated by the admission of a crowd.

Mr. W. J. Bankes

reminded the House of the circumstance of the collection which had been ceded by Mr. Salt to the British Museum; 4,000l. had been given to him for that collection; but he was still a loser by it, owing to the sum which he had had to pay for the alabaster sarcophagus. Mr. Salt made no demand for the sum he had lost, but he (Mr. B.) hoped that some opportunity would offer of remunerating him.

The vote was agreed to.