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USES, AND VALUE
AS INTERPRETERS OF ANCIENT HISTORY; AND AS ILLUSTRATIVE
OF ANCIENT ART:
WITH HINTS TO GEM COLLECTORS.
BY REV. C. W. KING, M. A.,
FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.
"Gemme supersunt et in arctum coacta rerum naturze majestas multis
pulla qui parte mirahilor.' -PLIN Sat Eist xxxviii,
PROBABLY at no period in England has art in its various relations been so intelligently illustrated and so fully investigated as during the last ten years. The numerous exhibitions of works of art, both in this country and on the Continent, have doubtless partly contributed to this result; and with increased development of taste there has sprung up at the same time an earnest desire to investigate the principles of ancient art in its various productions, and to trace the different phases through which it has passed before it attained its highest degree of excellence. Every department of art, both ancient and mediæval, has found its expositor or historian; and the amateur or student who desires to make himself acquainted with the painting, sculpture, or pottery of ancient or mediæval times, can at once be referred to able treatises which will furnish him with the fullest information on those and kindred subjects. But there is one department of art in which the ancients peculiarly excelled, and of which
they have bequeathed us the most exquisite specimens of their genius and skill, which has been comparatively neglected in this country, or at least has not received the attention due to its importance: I mean their Engraved Gems. It may with truth be asserted that there are few remains of ancient art so replete with grace and beauty as the engraved gems of antiquity; and when we take into consideration the important uses they have subserved to the historian, archæologist, and artist, it seems unaccountable that this valuable branch of art should have been so long neglected; yet it is a fact that there does not exist in our language any scientific treatise or popular manual to which the student can be referred who is desirous of entering upon the study of this most instructive subject. Of this I can speak from experience, for on myself commencing the study of antique gems several years ago, during a long residence at Rome and Florence, though with ample opportunities of gaining practical information as far as regards the gems themselves, I felt greatly the want of some manual to guide me, not merely in the first principles and the history of the glyptic art (which has been attempted, though very sketchily, by Millin), but of one that should, to some extent at least, serve to guard me against the usual errors into which beginners fall, and one which should supply, as far as possible, that experience to obtain which practically, we must, as Goethe says, pay many a heavy apprentice-fee. Hitherto, as far as my reading has gone, nothing of the kind has been attempted in our language, except in the excellent series of essays, entitled Old Rings,' which appeared in Fraser's Magazine' during the year 1856; and the standard work has remained the ‘Pierres Gravées' of Mariette, published more than a century before. The books named in the list of authors given at the end of this volume furnish indeed many valuable hints, but these are dispersed through voluminous treatises, and are only to be selected, with profit to himself, by a reader already to some degree conversant with the practical details of the science. I have therefore here put together my own observations, the accumulated memoranda of many years, and the results of the careful examination of many thousands of gems of all ages and of every style. These I have illustrated by passages from ancient authors, and by copious extracts from other sources, tending to elucidate the matters herein discussed. This book had in fact its first origin in a series of notes jotted down in my pocketbook whenever a gem of particular interest came under my inspection, or whenever any passage of the author I chanced to be reading contributed at all to the explanation of the difficulties that beset my entrance upon this study; so that it may be described as a series of solutions of the numerous problems which the incipient gem-collector has hitherto been obliged to work out for himself, at a vast expenditure of time, temper, and money. Most of these translated passages will be found given at length (though occasionally but in part bearing upon or illustrating the point under consideration) whenever it appeared to me that they would lose their interest by curtailment. Many repetitions will be found in the course of these pages, and these I have allowed to remain in revising the sheets, in order to make each article, as it were, complete in itself, this treatise being chiefly designed for a book of reference, to be consulted by means of the copious index annexed. Thus by the aid of these repetitions the reader will to some degree be spared the trouble of referring from one article to another, since many of them may be considered as independent essays, in each of which the particular subject discussed, together with everything bearing upon it, has been worked out to the best of my ability, and according to the extent of the materials