Sir William Gell’s long-famous Pompeiana


Sir William Gell, FRS, FSA &c. and John P. Gandy, architect.

The first comprehensive guide to Pompeii in English.



Sir William Gell, FRS, FSA &c. and John P. Gandy, architect [Pompeii], Pompeiana. The Topography, Edifices, and Ornaments of Pompeii. New Edition (large paper issue of the 1817 first edition with new Title pages), 2 vols., London: Rodwell and Martin, New Bond Street, 1824, printed by Thomas Davison at Whitefriars, Vol. I: xxxi including Frontispiece engraved by Henry Moses and Preface, 138 pages; Vol. II: ix, paginated 139-275 pages, 77 plates including two coloured and two maps, with tissue guards, many vignettes in both vols., small Quarto, marbled and quartered covers, marbled endpapers, spines with colour title labels, S.V. Dashwood’s bookplate on front pastedown of each volume.

Condition: Scattered foxing throughout both volumes, as usual, otherwise very good, with bindings tight.

The ruins at Pompeii were discovered in the 16th century, but excavations did not begin until 1748. Although marking the beginning of modern archaeological science, diggings were frequently haphazard from the mid-18th century with much unearthed material stolen or damaged. Excavation methodology began to improve with better organisation during French control of Naples (1806-15) and, with widespread European interest in classical culture, there was a constant demand for books illustrated with accurate pictures of the site. Sir William Gell (1777-1836), a classical archaeologist, wrote many books illustrated with his own sketches and drawings. Pompeiana is Gell’s best-known work, for which he made drawings on the spot using the camera lucida which allowed for highly accurate representations. His Pompeiana was the foundation for the popular myths of the Victorian age and beyond. It provided the basis for Edward Bulwer Lytton’s immensely popular historical novel The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), which introduced many Victorian cultural conventions that are still familiar clichés.

William Gell was born at Hopton, Derbyshire, into one of England’s oldest families with a tradition of service in the Army, Navy and the Church from 1209. Gell was the great-grandson of the Parliamentarian Sir John Gell and nephew of Admiral John Gell. William Gell was educated at Cambridge (B.A. 1798, M.A. 1804), elected a Fellow of Emmanuel College and enjoyed close friendships with Lord Byron, Walter Scott and Thomas Moore. William Gell was sent in 1801 on a diplomatic mission to Greece (where he fixed the site of Troy) travelling from 1804-1806 in Greece and the Greek Islands. In 1807 he was elected FRS and to the Society of Dilettanti, which commissioned him in 1811 to explore Greece and Asia Minor, resulting in publications which made his reputation as a classical topographer. Gell was knighted in 1814. From 1820 until his death in 1836, Sir William Gell resided in Rome and Naples and, though crippled by gout, showed the novelist Sir Walter Scott around the Pompeii excavations. He is seen by some scholars as one of the chief founders of historical topography studies of the hinterland of Rome. Gell’s numerous drawings of classical ruins and Greco-Roman localities, executed with great detail and exactness, are preserved in the British Museum.

The dedicatee of Pompeiana, Sir Henry Charles Englefield, FRS, FSA (1752-1822) was an English antiquary and scientist. He never married, devoting his life to study. For many years he served as Vice-President and President of the Society of Antiquaries, and was secretary of the Society of Dilettanti for 14 years, making many contributions to Archaeologia. Henry Moses (1782?–1870), who engraved the Frontispiece to Vol. 1 of Pompeiana, contributed engraved work to many books including Vases from the Collection of Sir Henry Englefield (1819), A Collection of Antique Vases, Altars, &c., from various Museums and Collections (1814) Select Greek and Roman Antiquities (1817) and James Hakewill’s Tour of Italy (1820). Thomas Davison (c.1766-1831), who printed Pompeiana, was an eminent London typographer and printer who for some years held the secret of the drying of inks. His easy manner and sweet singing voice retained until his final years earned him wide respect.

The bookplate of the Rev. Samuel Vere Dashwood (died 1877) appears on the front pastedown of each volume of this set of Pompeiana. Dashwood was born into an extensive and wealthy English family of landed gentry, gentlemen, benefactors, military officers and Anglican Rectors. He entered Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1823 and graduated B.A. in 1826 as a Grand Compounder, i.e. a student obliged to pay extra for his degree because of his wealth. Dashwoods were associated from 1741 to 1953 with Stanford, near Loughborough; three of them served as Rectors of a medieval church in Stanford on Soar (St John the Baptist), with S.V. Dashwood the longest-serving incumbent, from 15 June 1829 until his death on 10 November 1877. The Rev. Samuel Vere Dashwood had acquired Stanford Hall—its first Dashwood occupier—in the grounds of Stanford Park, consequently gaining the incumbency. Though a small Nottinghamshire parish, near Loughborough, it gave Dashwood an annual net income of £435, a very substantial sum in today’s terms. He became High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and in 1839 was elected to the English Agriculture Society. His first wife died the following year.

By the 1840s the Rev. Dashwood lived in style at Stanford Hall, with 13 resident staff and more employees living in housing in the grounds of Stanford Park. His large Library showed his interest in natural history and classics; he bought the Lord Chancellor of Ireland’s 1817 copy of Travels in Asia Minor and Greece: Or, an Account of a Tour Made at the Expense of the Society of Dilettanti. Dashwood’s bookplate appears in books held in university libraries and special collections (e.g. Delaware and Toronto) and in Canterbury Cathedral Library UK. The Rev. Dashwood’s sister Maria unfortunately married a bigamist and took her son Francis in 1844 to be baptised by her brother, who insisted that the child’s surname be recorded as Dashwood, despite a state registration in the father’s surname. Maria’s brother made appropriate remarks in the baptism and marriage records confirming the situation. Maria then separated from the bigamist, spending the rest of her life living stylishly with five servants near Loughborough. Dashwood took a second wife in 1866 and his two marriages produced a total of 17 children. One son, Capt. Charles Dashwood, a graduate of Oriel College, Oxford, served in the Indian Mutiny, was present at the capture of Lucknow and was awarded the Indian Mutiny Medal and Clasp. Three of Rev. Dashwood’s daughters married clergymen and another the son of a clergyman.