Tourists and Texts
: Latin Inscriptions in the Grand Tour Collections of Eighteenth-Century England

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the acquisition of Latin inscriptions by the Grand Tourists of eighteenth century England - while there are many previous surveys of the private collections of antiquities made in this period, there has been no comprehensive study of the inscriptions in their own right. Previous research has focused on the collection and display of ancient statuary but the Latin inscriptions that were included in the majority of collections in this period have largely been overlooked, or considered 'minor' objects by comparison. This thesis has investigated the types of inscriptions that were acquired by collectors such as Thomas Hollis, William Weddell, the 1st Earl of Shelburne and Charles Townley, the objects on which the inscriptions were placed and the motivation behind their acquisition and suggests that they were included in collections throughout the eighteenth century for very specific reasons. Analysis of the content of the inscriptions and the way in which they were displayed has identified the different intellectual and aesthetic value attributed to them by the Tourists, from an antiquarian interest in their potential to deliver historical facts to their utility in aesthetically pleasing gallery arrangements. It also argues that these responses are indicative of the changing perception of antiquity in the eighteenth century. Archival material has been used to clarify the process by which the inscriptions were acquired and to illustrate how the interests and aesthetic criteria of the Tourists drove the art market and the dealers of antiquities in Rome. This thesis suggests that far from the 'minor' status accorded to them in most previous studies, inscriptions played a vital role in the Grand Tourists' experience of antiquity in the eighteenth century.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorHenrik Mouritsen (Supervisor)

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