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Roman Mosaics Discovered in Great Britain, Lysons & Smirke, c. 1796-1814

Samuel Lysons (1763-1819) and Richard Smirke, R.A. (1778-1815) (after)
H. Bennett, T. Tovey, H. Weddell, et al. (etchers)
[Roman Mosaics Discovered in Great Britain]
Samuel Lysons, London: c. 1796 to 1814
Aquatints, some folding
Sizes vary, 22.5 x 16 inches, folio sheet, to 22.5 x 38 inches, multiple folding sheet
$250 to $750 each

Series of prints recording Roman mosaic floors excavated in Great Britain in the late 18th century. The Romans briefly invaded Britain in 55 B.C., but their real impact on the region came later, when Emperor Claudius ordered another invasion in 43 A.D. By the end of the first century, England was fully occupied by the Romans and they built villas and settlements, mainly in the southern and eastern regions. Lysons was an archaeologist, author and illustrator who published several illustrated books documenting Roman mosaics. These plates are probably from his major work Reliquiae Britannico-Romanae.


Samuel Lysons was one of the first archaeologists to investigate the Roman sites in Britain, as well as being a leading intellectual of his time and a benefactor of the British Museum, to which he donated many artifacts. Between 1793 and 1796, he undertook extensive excavations of Roman ruins which were published with his illustrations in 1797 as Account of the Roman Antiquities discovered at Woodchester in the County of Gloucester. That year he was made a fellow of the Royal Society and later served as its vice-president and treasurer. He was also an antiquary professor in the Royal Academy 1818. He published several works on Roman mosaics, including contributions to Archaeologia, a periodical published by the Society of Antiquaries in London. His greatest work is deemed to be Reliquiae Britannico-Romanae, containing figures of Roman Antiquities discovered in England, a multi-volume illustrated work published from 1807 to 1817. He also assisted his brother Daniel Lysons on the book Magna Britannia, a major topographical study of the regions of England. Through his scholarly work and meticulous illustrations he made a lasting contribution to the study of Roman mosaics.

Richard Smirke was from a family that produced several British artists. He won a gold medal for history painting at the Royal Academy in 1800 but was most active as a draftsman, and best known for his archaeological drawings and drapery studies for the Society of Antiquaries.

Condition: Generally very good, the usual toning overall, some with moderate wear especially to edges, some with light soiling or soft creases. Folding plates, as issued, some with light offsetting.

References:Abbey. Scenery of Great Britain and Ireland: In Aquatint and Lithography 1770-1860.

Bateman, Jonathan. “Samuel Lysons and Roman Britain.” British Museum. 26 November 2001. (3 April 2003).

Thomas, Graham. “Samuel Lysons: An Account of Roman Antiquities discovered at Woodchester in the County of Gloucestershire. London 1797.” (3 April 2003).

Thomas, Graham. “The Romans at Woodchester.” (3 April 2003).