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An antiquarian or antiquary (from the Latin: antiquarius, meaning pertaining to ancient times) is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient artifacts, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts. The essence of antiquarianism is a focus on the empirical evidence of the past, and is perhaps best encapsulated in the motto adopted by the 18th-century antiquary Sir Richard Colt Hoare, "We speak from facts, not theory."

The Oxford English Dictionary first cites "archaeologist" from 1824; this soon took over as the usual term for one major branch of antiquarian activity. "Archaeology", from 1607 onwards, initially meant what is now seen as "ancient history" generally, with the narrower modern sense first seen in 1837.

Today the term "antiquarian" is often used in a pejorative sense, to refer to an excessively narrow focus on factual historical trivia, to the exclusion of a sense of historical context or process. Very few people today would self-describe themselves as an "antiquary" although the term "antiquarian bookseller" remains current for dealers in more expensive old books, and some institutions such as the Society of Antiquaries of London (founded 1707) retain their historic names.

History

Antiquarianism in ancient China

During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), the scholar Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072) analyzed alleged ancient artifacts bearing archaic inscriptions in bronze and stone, which he preserved in a collection of some 400 rubbings.[1] Patricia Ebrey writes that Ouyang pioneered early ideas in epigraphy.[2]

The Kaogutu (考古圖) or "Illustrated Catalogue of Examined Antiquity" (preface dated 1092) compiled by Lü Dalin (呂大臨) (1046–1092) is one of the oldest known catalogues to systematically describe and classify ancient artifacts which were unearthed.[3] Another catalogue was the Chong xiu Xuanhe bogutu (重修宣和博古圖) or "Revised Illustrated Catalogue of Xuanhe Profoundly Learned Antiquity" (compiled from 1111 to 1125), commissioned by Emperor Huizong of Song (r. 1100–1125), and also featured illustrations of some 840 vessels and rubbings.[1][3]

Interests in antiquarian studies of ancient inscriptions and artifacts waned after the Song Dynasty, but were revived by early Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) scholars such as Gu Yanwu (1613–1682) and Yan Ruoju (1636–1704).[3]

Antiquarianism in ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, a strong Oxford English Dictionary first cites "archaeologist" from 1824; this soon took over as the usual term for one major branch of antiquarian activity. "Archaeology", from 1607 onwards, initially meant what is now seen as "ancient history" generally, with the narrower modern sense first seen in 1837.

Today the term "antiquarian" is often used in a pejorative sense, to refer to an excessively narrow focus on factual historical trivia, to the exclusion of a sense of historical context or process. Very few people today would self-describe themselves as an "antiquary" although the term "antiquarian bookseller" remains current for dealers in more expensive old books, and some institutions such as the Society of Antiquaries of London (founded 1707) retain their historic names.

During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), the scholar Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072) analyzed alleged ancient artifacts bearing archaic inscriptions in bronze and stone, which he preserved in a collection of some 400 rubbings.[1] Patricia Ebrey writes that Ouyang pioneered early ideas in epigraphy.[2]

The Kaogutu (考古圖) or "Illustrated Catalogue of Examined Antiquity" (preface dated 1092) compiled by Lü Dalin (呂大臨) (1046–1092) is one of the oldest known catalogues to systematically describe and classify ancient artifacts which were unearthed.[3] Another catalogue was the Chong xiu Xuanhe bogutu (重修宣和博古圖) or "Revised Illustrated Catalogue of Xuanhe Profoundly Learned Antiquity" (compiled from 1111 to 1125), commissioned by Emperor Huizong of Song (r. 1100–1125), and also featured illustrations of some 840 vessels and rubbings.[1][3]

Interests in antiquarian studies of ancient inscriptions and artifacts waned after the Song Dynasty, but were revived by early Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) scholars such as Gu Yanwu (1613–1682) and Yan Ruoju (1636–1704).[3]

Antiquarianism in ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, a strong sense of traditionalism motivated an interest in studying and recording the "monuments" of the past; the Augustan historian Livy uses the Latin monumenta in the sense of "antiquarian matters."[4] Books on antiquarian topics covered such subjects as the origin of customs, religious rituals, and political institutions; genealogy; topography and landmarks; and etymology. Annals and histories might also include sections pertaining to these subjects, but annals are chronological in structure, and Roman histories, such as those of Livy and Tacitus, are both chronological and offer an overarching narrative and interpretation of events. By contrast, antiquarian works as a literary form are organized by topic, and any narrative is short and illustrative, in the form of anecdotes.

Major antiquarian Latin writers with surviving works include Varro, Pliny the Elder, Aulus Gellius, and Macrobius. The Roman emperor Claudius published antiquarian works, none of which is extant. Some of Cicero's treatises, particularly catalogues to systematically describe and classify ancient artifacts which were unearthed.[3] Another catalogue was the Chong xiu Xuanhe bogutu (重修宣和博古圖) or "Revised Illustrated Catalogue of Xuanhe Profoundly Learned Antiquity" (compiled from 1111 to 1125), commissioned by Emperor Huizong of Song (r. 1100–1125), and also featured illustrations of some 840 vessels and rubbings.[1][3]

Interests in antiquarian studies of ancient inscriptions and artifacts waned after the Song Dynasty, but were revived by early Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) scholars such as Gu Yanwu (1613–1682) and Yan Ruoju (1636–1704).[3]

In ancient Rome, a strong sense of traditionalism motivated an interest in studying and recording the "monuments" of the past; the Augustan historian Livy uses the Latin monumenta in the sense of "antiquarian matters."[4] Books on antiquarian topics covered such subjects as the origin of customs, religious rituals, and political institutions; genealogy; topography and landmarks; and etymology. Annals and histories might also include sections pertaining to these subjects, but annals are chronological in structure, and Roman histories, such as those of Livy and Tacitus, are both chronological and offer an overarching narrative and interpretation of events. By contrast, antiquarian works as a literary form are organized by topic, and any narrative is short and illustrative, in the form of anecdotes.

Major antiquarian Latin writers with surviving works include Varro, Pliny the Elder, Aulus Gellius, and Latin writers with surviving works include Varro, Pliny the Elder, Aulus Gellius, and Macrobius. The Roman emperor Claudius published antiquarian works, none of which is extant. Some of Cicero's treatises, particularly his work on divination, show strong antiquarian interests, but their primary purpose is the exploration of philosophical questions. Roman-era Greek writers also dealt with antiquarian material, such as Plutarch in his Roman Questions[5] and the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus. The aim of Latin antiquarian works is to collect a great number of possible explanations, with less emphasis on arriving at a truth than in compiling the evidence. The antiquarians are often used as sources by the ancient historians, and many antiquarian writers are known only through these citations.[6]

Despite the importance of antiquarian writing in the literature of ancient Rome, some scholars view antiquarianism as emerging only in the Middle Ages (see History of archaeology).[7] Medieval antiquarians sometimes made collections of inscriptions or records of monuments, but the Varro-inspired concept of antiquitates among the Romans as the "systematic collections of all the relics of the past" faded.[8] Antiquarianism's wider flowering is more generally associated with the Renaissance, and with the critical assessment and questioning of classical texts undertaken in that period by humanist scholars. Textual criticism soon broadened into an awareness of the supplementary perspectives on the past which could be offered by the study of coins, inscriptions and other archaeological remains, as well as documents from medieval periods. Antiquaries often formed collections of these and other objects; cabinet of curiosities is a general term for early collections, which often encompassed antiquities and more recent art, items of natural history, memorabilia and items from far-away lands.

William Camden (1551–1623), author of the Britannia, wearing the tabard and chain of office of Clarenceux King of Arms. Originally published in the 1695 edition of Britannia.

The importance placed on lineage in early modern Europe meant that antiquarianism was often closely associated with genealogy, and a number of prominent antiquaries (including Robert Glover, William Camden, William Dugdale and Elias Ashmole) held office as professional heralds. The development of genealogy as a "scientific" discipline (i.e. one that rejected unsubstantiated legends, and demanded high standards of proof for its claims) went hand-in-hand with the development of antiquarianism. Genealogical antiquaries recognised the evidential value for their researches of non-textual sources, including seals and church monuments.

Many early modern antiquaries were also chorographers: that is to say, they recorded landscapes and monuments within regional or national descriptions. In England, some of the most important of these took the form of county histories.

In the context of the 17th-century scientific revolution, and more specifically that of the "Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns" in England and France, the antiquaries were firmly on the side of the "Moderns".lineage in early modern Europe meant that antiquarianism was often closely associated with genealogy, and a number of prominent antiquaries (including Robert Glover, William Camden, William Dugdale and Elias Ashmole) held office as professional heralds. The development of genealogy as a "scientific" discipline (i.e. one that rejected unsubstantiated legends, and demanded high standards of proof for its claims) went hand-in-hand with the development of antiquarianism. Genealogical antiquaries recognised the evidential value for their researches of non-textual sources, including seals and church monuments.

Many early modern antiquaries were also chorographers: that is to say, they recorded landscapes and monuments within regional or national descriptions. In England, some of the most important of these took the form of county histories.

In the context of the 17th-century scientific revolution, and more specifically that of the "Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns" in England and France, the antiquaries were firmly on the side of the "Moderns".[9] They increasingly argued that empirical primary evidence could be used to refine and challenge the received interpretations of history handed down from literary authorities.

Many early modern antiquaries were also chorographers: that is to say, they recorded landscapes and monuments within regional or national descriptions. In England, some of the most important of these took the form of county histories.

In the context of the 17th-century scientific revolution, and more specifically that of the "Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns" in England and France, the antiquaries were firmly on the side of the "Moderns".[9] They increasingly argued that empirical primary evidence could be used to refine and challenge the received interpretations of history handed down from literary authorities.

By the end of the 19th century, antiquarianism had diverged into a number of more specialized academic disciplines including archaeology, art history, numismatics, sigillography, philology, literary studies and diplomatics. Antiquaries had always attracted a degree of ridicule (see below), and since the mid-19th century the term has tended to be used most commonly in negative or derogatory contexts. Nevertheless, many practising antiquaries continue to claim the title with pride. In recent years, in a scholarly environment in which interdisciplinarity is increasingly encouraged, many of the established antiquarian societies (see below) have found new roles as facilitators for collaboration between specialists.

Terminological distinctions

adjectival sense).[10] From the second half of the 18th century, however, "antiquarian" began to be used more widely as a noun,[11] and today both forms are equally acceptable.

Antiquaries and historians

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, a clear distinction was perceived to exist between the interests and activities of the antiquary and the historian.[9]historian.[9][12][13][14] The antiquary was concerned with the relics of the past (whether documents, artefacts or monuments), whereas the historian was concerned with the narrative of the past, and its political or moral lessons for the present. The skills of the antiquary tended to be those of the critical examination and interrogation of his sources, whereas those of the historian were those of the philosophical and literary reinterpretation of received narratives. Francis Bacon in 1605 described readings of the past based on antiquities (which he defined as "Monuments, Names, Wordes, Proverbes, Traditions, Private Recordes, and Evidences, Fragments of stories, Passages of Bookes, that concerne not storie, and the like") as "unperfect Histories".[15] Such distinctions began to be eroded in the second half of the 19th century as the school of empirical source-based history championed by Leopold von Ranke began to find widespread acceptance, and today's historians employ the full range of techniques pioneered by the early antiquaries. Rosemary Sweet suggests that 18th-century antiquaries

... probably had more in common with the professional histor

... probably had more in common with the professional historian of the twenty-first century, in terms of methodology, approach to sources and the struggle to reconcile erudition with style, than did the authors of the grand narratives of national history.[16]

Antiquarians, antiquarian books and antiques