1902 Encyclopedia > Academy > Academies of Archaeology and History

(Part 4)


Italy. -- Under this class the Academy of Herculaneum properly ranks. It was established at Naples about 1755, at which period a museum was formed of the antiquities found at Herculaneum, Pompeii, and other places, by the Marquis Tanucci, who was then minister of state. Its objects was to explain the paintings, &c., which were discovered at those places; and for this purpose the members met every fortnight, and at each meeting three paintings were submitted to three academicians, who made their report on them at their next sitting. The first volume of their labours appeared in 1775, and they have been continued under the title of Antichita di Ercolano. They contain engravings of the principal paintings, statues, bronzes, marble figures, medals, utensils, &c., with explanations. In the year 1807, an Academy of History and Antiquities, on a new plan, was established at Naples by Joseph Bonaparte. The number of members was limited to forty; twenty of whom were to be appointed by the king, and these twenty were to present to him, for his choice, three names for each of those wanted to complete the full number. Eight thousand ducats were to be annually allotted for the current expenses, and two thousand for prizes to the authors of four works which should be deemed by the academy most deserving of such a reward. A grand meeting was to be held every year, when the prizes were to be distributed, and analyses of the works read. The first meeting took place on the 25th of April 1807; but the subsequent changes in the political state of Naples prevented the full and permanent establishment of this institution. In the same year an academy was established at Florence for the illustration of Tuscan antiquities, which published some volumes of memoirs.

France. -- The old Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres was an off-shoot from the French Academy, which then at least contained the elite of French learning. Louis XIV. was of all French kings the one most occupied with his own aggrandizement. Literature, and even science, he only encouraged so far as they redounded to his own glory. Nor were literary men inclined to assert their independence. Boileau will represented the spirit of the age when, in dedicating his tragedy of Berenice to Colbert, he wrote- "The least things become important if in any degree they can serve the glory and pleasure of the king." Thus it was that the Academy of Inscriptions arose. At the suggestion of Colbert, a company (a committee we should now call it) had been appointed by the king, chosen from the French Academy, charged with the office of furnishing inscriptions, devices, and legends for medals. It consisted of four academicians: Chapelain, then considered the poet laureate of France, one of the authors of the critique on the Cid (see above); l'abbe de Bourzeis; Francois Carpentier, an antiquary of high repute among his contemporaries; and l'abbe de Capagnes, who owed his appointment more to the fulsome flattery of his odes than his really learned translations of Cicero and Sallust. This company used to meet in Colbert's library in the winter, at his country-house at Sceaux in the summer, generally on Wednesdays, to serve the convenience of the minister, who was constantly presents. Their meetings were principally occupied with discussing the inscriptions, statues, and pictures intended for the decoration of Versailles; but M. Colbert, a really learned man and an enthusiastic collector of manuscripts, was often pleased to converse with them on matters of arts, history, and antiquities. Their first published work was a collection of engraving, accompanied by descriptions, designed for some of the tapestries at Versailles. Louvois, who succeeded Colbert as a super-intended of buildings, revived the company, which had begun to relax its labours. Felibein, the learned architect, and the two great poets Racine and Boileau, were added to their number. A series of medals was commenced, entitled Medailles de la Grante Histoire, or, in other words, the history of le Grand Monarque.

But it was to M. de Portchartrain, comptroller-general of finance and secretary of state, that the academy owed its institution. He added to the company Tenaudot and Tourreil, both men of vast learning, the latter tutor to his son, and put at its head his nephew, l'abbe Bignon, librarian to the king. By a new regulation, dated the 16th July 1701, the Royal Academy of Inscriptions and Medals was instituted, being composed of ten honorary members, ten pensioners, ten associates, and ten pupils. On its constitution we need not dwell, as it was an almost exact copy of that of the Academy of Science. Among the regulations we find the following, which indicates clearly the transition from a staff of learned officials to a learned body: - "The academy shall concern itself with all that can contribute to the perfection of inscriptions and legends, of designs for such monuments and decorations as may be submitted to its judgment; also with the description of all artistic works, present and future, and the historical explanation of the subject of such works; and as the knowledge of Greek and Latin antiquities, and of these two languages, is the best guarantee for success in labours of this class, the academicians shall apply themselves to all that this division of learning includes, as one of the most worthy objects of their pursuit."

Among the first honorary members we find the indefatigable Mabillon (excluded from the pensioners by reason of his orders), Pere La Chaise, the king's confessor, and Cardinal Rohan; among the associates Fontenelle, and Rollin, whose Ancient History was submitted to the academy for revision. In 1711 they completed L'Histoire Metallique du roi, of which Saint-Simon was asked to write the preface. In 1716 the regent changed its title to that of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres, a title which better suited its new character.

In the great battle between the Ancients and the Moderns which divided the learned world in the first half of the 18th century, the Academy of Inscriptions naturally espoused the cause of the Ancients, as the Academy of Sciences did that of the Moderns. During the earlier years of the French Revolution the academy continued its labours uninterruptedly; and on the 22d of Janury 1793, the day after the death of Louis XVI., we find in the Proceedings that M. Brequigny read a paper on the projects of marriage between Queen Elizabeth and the Dukes of Anjou and Alencon. In the same year were published the 45th and 46th vols. of the Memories de l'Academie. On the 2d of August of the same year the last sxance of the old academy was held. More fortunate than its sister Academy of Sciences, it lost only three of its members by the guillotine. One of these was the astronomer Sylvain Bailly. Three others sat as members of the Convention; but for the honour of the academy, we must add that all three were distinguished by their moderation.

In the first draught of the new Institute, October 25, 1895, no class corresponded exactly to the old Academy of Inscriptions; but most of the members who survived found themselves re-elected either in the 2d class of moral and political science, under which history and geography were included as sections, or more generally under the 3d class of literature and fine arts, which embraced ancient languages, antiquities, and monuments.

In 1816 the academy received again its old name. The Proceedings of the Society embrace a vast field, and are of very various merits. Perhaps the subjects on which it has shown most originally are comparative mythology, the history of science among the ancients, and the geography and antiquities of France. The old academy has reckoned among its members De Sacy the Orientalist, Dansse de Villoison the philologist, Du Perron the traveler, Sanite-Croix and du Theil the antiquarians, and Le Beau, who has been named the last of the Romans. The new academy has already inscribed on its lists the well-known names of Champollion, A. Remusat, Raynouard, Burnouf, and Augustun Thierry.

Celtic Academy. -- In consequence of the attention of several literary men in Paris having been directed to Celtic antiquities, a Celtic Academy was established in that city in the year 1800. its objects were, first the elucidation of the history, customs, antiquities, manners, and monuments of the celts, particularly in France; secondary the etymology o all the European languages, by the aid of the celto-British, Welsh, and Erse; and, thirdly, researches relating to Druidism. The attention of the members was also particularly called to the history and settlement of the Galatae in Asia. Lenior, the keeper of the museum of French monuments, was appointed president. The academy still exists as La Société Royale des Antiquaires de France.

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