HC Deb 16 May 1867 vol 187 cc615-7

I wish, Sir, to ask the Vice President of the Committee of Council, Whether any agreement has been made with The Times newspaper to print the Art Catalogue for a certain sum; and if not, whether the printing of this catalogue will be suspended until the House shall have decided whether the object to be obtained justifies the expense? I also wish to ask whether, in the correspondence which took place between the Department of Science and Art and the manager of The Times newspaper, it was represented to the manager of The Times that it would be to the public advantage if The Times newspaper would take up this undertaking; and also whether, if the object of the Science and Art Department were to obtain a complete Art Catalogue, that object could not be secured at far less expense and with far greater efficiency if the Department were to forward a number of circulars to the different libraries of Europe and among the booksellers of London? May I also ask, whether we now see the end of the expenses connected with this catalogue, whether a considerable staff is not occupied in carrying out the design, and whether the Department, if it intends to complete the catalogue, will have recourse to what I have suggested — namely, the printing and circulating of catalogues?


Sir, the hon. Member's Questions may be divided into two portions—one as to the determination of the authorities of the South Kensington Museum to have a Universal Catalogue, and the other as to whether that determination led to an agreement with The Times. Now, there has been no "agreement" in the strict sense of the word, in the sense in which the hon. Member has used it. The Times has behaved in a very generous manner upon the subject; its manaqer was told that it would be for the advancement of art education throughout the country if the catalogue appeared in the advertisement sheet of The Times; and on that ground they consented to charge for the insertions what was barely sufficient to cover the actual cost, including the additional stamps which would be required by the addition of another sheet of advertisements, and which would be thus repaid to the revenue of the country. The arrangement was therefore no gain to The Times, and they do not care whether it is continued or not. The plan of printing pamphlets and issuing them, as the hon. Member has suggested, would have resulted in securing the information desired in driblets, whereas by publishing the catalogue in The Times it was hoped the corrections and additions would come in simultaneously and necessitate only one reprint. This was an experiment, and was therefore approved for only four insertions. On taking the question into consideration, we have come to the conclusion that the two insertions, at a cost of only £132, are sufficient; and we have therefore passed a Minute suspending the continuance of the insertions for the present. I must, however, remind the hon. Member that the House last year and the year before also sanctioned the compilation of this Universal Catalogue; last year a vote of £1,500 for that object was taken, and the year before £500 was voted for it.


The noble Lord has not answered the material point of the question, whether he intends to proceed with this extraordinary advertisement?


It is evident the hon. Member for Nottingham was not listening to the material point of my answer. I stated that a Minute has been made limiting the insertions of the advertisement to the two which have already appeared.


The original estimate for the cost of a Catalogue was £500, and last year, for the first time, there appeared on the Estimates, sanctioned by the late Government, a demand for £1,000 for the formation of an Art Catalogue. The whole sum asked for was not £1,500 but £1,000; and it was asked for upon one occasion only.


The Vote last year was £1,500.