Notes & Queries | Image of the British Museum

Posted in notes & queries by Editor on February 3, 2013

Yesterday, Arlene Leis posted a question to C18-L regarding this print. Since, however, the list (like most listservs) doesn’t allow for attachments, I thought it might be useful to include the query here. -CH

This small picture (10 x 12 cm)  is from a lady’s pocket book, circa 1780. Tents are set-up around the garden wall, but in the middle are rows of tiny triangles. Does anyone know what these might be? Also, I would appreciate any information pertaining to the camp set up in the museum’s garden.

Arlene Leis

Please feel free to respond with comments below.

8 Responses

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  1. theboullelady said, on February 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    They are just badly-drawn small tents! See for example, this other representation of the same encampment, http://www.britishmuseum.org/collectionimages/AN01047/AN01047012_001_l.jpg Search for ‘camp british museum 1780 on http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database.aspx for other prints and drawings.

  2. Editor said, on February 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks for the link to the other, much clearer image. The two prints make for an interesting comparison. Any information more generally on the encampment? -CH

    • theboullelady said, on February 3, 2013 at 8:10 pm

      Not really, just that it was set up during the Gordon Riots. Kim Sloan or Sheila O’Connell at the BM are the people to ask, I should think.

  3. AL said, on February 3, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Many thanks for passing along the link. I just found this…Page’s pocket-book image is engraved after this watercolour produced by Samuel Heironymus Grimm in 1780.



    • Guess... said, on February 4, 2013 at 9:49 pm


  4. EG said, on February 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    For the Encampment in the British Museum gardens during the Gordon Riots, see Marjorie Caygill, ‘The Story of the British Museum’ (any of the several additions) or David Wilson’s magisterial ‘The British Museum – A History’ 2003 – I’m afraid they are books and not online…

  5. AL said, on February 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks to those of you who responded to this query both here and by way of the 18th-century list. This pocket-book image has fascinated me for quite some time, so I’m pleased to have finally found the source in the Royal Collection.
    From June 1780 to August 1780, in response to the Gordon riots, 600 soldiers of the York Regiment camped in the British Museum gardens to protect the Bloomsbury neighborhood from the effects of rioters (Caygill, 2002,15).
    When the images from Grimm and Page are viewed side by side, a range of issues emerge, including the way images work on viewers, the portrayal of troops within urban landscapes, and how information was disseminated to a mass audience. In response to some of the comments/questions I received, I think what’s most striking about Grimm and Page’s pictures is the way information is being altered. Both images attempt to convey the ‘peace’ supposedly achieved by the military during the riots (in fact, nearly 300 civilians were shot dead and many wounded). Both pictures promote the idea of stability as opposed to a disordered society/government. And yet, upon closer observation, these peaceful views may be interpreted quite differently. Grimm’s watercolour represents the social-exchange taking place between military personnel and civilian visitors, while Page’s camp is empty. Instead, it seems as if Page focuses on order; the camp is perfectly systematized, especially those small triangles set-up across the lawn (soldiers tents!). Daniel Solander, who was cataloging the museum’s collections at that time, commented that the British Museum’s camp was ‘by all esteemed the neatest of any seen’ (Wilson, 2003, 49). One consequence of Page’s miscalculation of scale is to emphasize the higher social status of the genteel visitors in comparison to the lower ranks of society, especially soldiers. Unlike Grimm’s picture, social ranks don’t intermingle.

    *I’ve cited from the sources mentioned above.

  6. Editor said, on February 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Let me echo Arlene’s words of thanks to all of you who commented (and read!) this posting with interest. Thanks also to Arlene for participating in this Notes & Queries experiment. I hope readers will feel free to contact me with ideas for future N&Q postings. -CH

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