My new biography of Dr John Disney, founder of the John Disney Chair of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and benefactor of the Disney Marbles now displayed at the Fitzwilliam Museum, has been published by Archaeopress.
The family’s origins lay at Norton Disney in Lincolnshire where they had settled after the Norman conquest. Disney’s father, the Reverend John Disney, inherited The Hyde near Ingatestone in Essex from Thomas Brand-Hollis. The house contained the Grand Tour collection formed by Brand-Hollis and Thomas Hollis. The Reverend John Disney had met Brand-Hollis through the Unitarian Essex Street Chapel in London where he had ministered after leaving the Church of England.
John Disney inherited The Hyde from his father and presented much of the collection to the University of Cambridge. The objects were described in his Museum Disneianum. Some of the items can be traced back to his wife, Sophia, or uncle (and father-in-law), Lewis Disney-Ffytche, during their time in Naples after they had been forced to flee Paris during the Revolution. Disney-Ffytche had been the owner of Le Désert de Retz, the pleasure gardens near Paris.
Disney himself helped to establish a new museum in Chelmsford through the Chelmsford Philosophical Society. He was a key member of the Essex Archaeological Society.
1. The Disney family of Lincolnshire
2. The Break with the Church of England
3. Collectors of the Grand Tour: Thomas Hollis and Thomas Brand
4. The Disney family and Essex
5. The Hyde and its collection
6. Disney and Learned Societies
7. The Museum Disneianum and Cambridge
8. Going for Gold
9. The Disney legacy
The World of Disney: From Antiquarianism to Archaeology (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2020). ISBN 9781789698275.
A former colleague challenged me to Tweet seven book covers. The challenge did not allow me to comment or explain my choices, and here are my short explanations.
I was introduced to Hoskins’ classic study of the English landscape in my teens. It explained the layering and development of the countryside around me. I suspect the appeal was that it expanded on my love of maps. (I was very tempted to include The Making of the Cretan Landscape.) The book connects me with archaeological landscapes from field-surveys in Greece to walking in the Cheviots.
Northumberland is a county rich in heritage. One of the key features is Hadrian’s Wall and my companion on numerous occasions has been Collingwood Bruce’s Handbook (I have chosen the cover of the edition I had as a student). For a more recent waterproof edition see here.
My copy of Dilys Powell’s The Traveller’s Journey is Done which explores the life of Humfry Payne, Director of the British School at Athens, was purchased in a secondhand bookshop in York. This book captures Greece in the inter-war period. I was later invited to revise Payne’s memoir in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. (See Payne’s grave at Mycenae.) This is probably one of the books that stands in the background of my own research into the history of archaeology in Greece.
Manning’s The Balkan Trilogy set in Bucharest and Athens is the only work of fiction in my list. I love the characterisation of the novels: Guy, Harriet, and Prince Yakimov. The fall of Greece connects with my study of Alan Wace who (like the Pringles) was evacuated to Egypt (The Levant Trilogy).
There are two guidebooks in my selection. The handbook by Sumner-Boyd and Freely prompted me to explore the more remote corners of this complex city.
To my surprise there is no Greek archaeological book on my list. But Zanker’s approach to material culture challenged my approach to the visual world of antiquity.
My last book is a much loved companion that continues to sit on my office desk (though I do have a more modern edition). It was a recommended purchase as a graduate student and has been a welcome addition to my working library.
I was one of the contributors to Paul Bahn’s, Archaeology: The Essential Guide to Our Human Past (Washington DC: Smithsonian, 2017) [website]. The volume has been selected as one of the American Library Association Choice Outstanding Academic Titles for 2017.
In Britain the volume has been published as Archaeology: The Whole Story (London: Thames & Hudson, 2017) [website].
The shortlist for the Current Archaeology Book of the Year 2015 has appeared and voting is now taking place. In the shortlist is Paul Bahn’s The History of Archaeology: an Introduction (Routledge, 2014) [publisher].
The History of Archaeology: An Introduction provides global coverage with chapters devoted to particular regions of the world. The regional approach allows readers to understand the similarities and differences in the history of and approach to archaeology in various parts of the world. Each chapter is written by a specialist scholar with experience of the region concerned. Thus the book focuses on the earliest beginnings of archaeology in different parts of the world, and how it developed from being a pastime for antiquarians and collectors to a serious attempt to obtain information about past societies.
Woven into the text are various boxes that explore key archaeologists, sites and important discoveries in the history of archaeology enriching the story of the discipline’s development. With such far ranging coverage, including an exploration of the little covered development of Russian and Chinese archaeology, The History of Archaeology is the perfect introduction to the history of archaeology for the interested reader and student alike.
Among the contributors to the volume is Professor David Gill, Director of Heritage Futures at UCS. His section was on the Classical World covering Greece and Rome.
Lord Renfrew concludes the volume with an essay on ‘The future of archaeology’.
Details of the Current Archaeology awards (including other categories) and how to vote can be found here.
Dr John Disney established the Disney chair of archaeology. The lecture will explore the background to his benefaction. First, how did the Disney family acquire the collection of classical sculpture from Thomas Brand Hollis of the Hyde, near Ingatestone in Essex? Second, how did Disney gain an interest in archaeology?
Some of the sculptural material was derived by Brand Hollis and his friend Thomas Hollis on the Grand Tour during the 1750s. Other pieces, some of modern creation, were acquired by Disney during his visit to Rome in the 1820s. Essex was also linked to early excavations at Colchester on the site of the new county hospital. He was president of the Chelmsford Philosophical Society that had an interest in archaeology. The Society established a museum in the town. After the foundation of the Disney chair of archaeology, Disney helped to form the Essex Archaeological Society along with the first Disney Professor, the Reverend John H. Marsden.