PALMA di CESNOLA, Alexander (1840-1914)
Lawrence-Cesnola Collection. Cyprus Antiquities, excavated ...1876-1879
London: W. Holmes and Son, 1881. Oblong small folio. (11 x 14 1/2 inches). Letterpress title mounted on verso of the front free endpaper (as issued), 50 letterpress text leaves mounted on the verso of plates. 60 albumen photographs (1 photograph of a map, 59 photographs of objects in the collection).
Contemporary red pebble grained morocco, upper cover elaborately bordered in gilt and blind and titled in gilt in the central panel, spine with raised bands in six compartments, tooled in gilt on either side of each band, metal clasp and latch, silk moire endpapers
Scarce photographically illustrated catalogue of the Cesnola Collection, the most significant collection of Cypriot antiquities ever assembled.
"The story of the Cesnola Collection is almost as colorful as that of its creator, Luigi Palma di Cesnola. After a military career in both Europe and the American Civil War, Cesnola was appointed American consul in Cyprus in 1865. During the next few years, he amassed an unrivalled collection of Cypriot antiquities through extensive excavations and by purchase. The whole enterprise was funded from his own resources. At the time, a number of antiquarians from various European countries were beginning to collect Cypriot antiquities, but they were soon outmatched by Cesnola, who came to dominate the scene in Cyprus. Cesnola saw his work as rivalling that of Heinrich Schliemann at Troy and intended his discoveries on Cyprus to provide important evidence for the so-called missing link between the biblical and classical worlds.
The final destination of the Cesnola Collection was for a long time uncertain. In 1870, negotiations were held first with Napoleon III of France, who wished to acquire the entire collection for the Musée du Louvre in Paris, then with Russian officials for their possible transfer to the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. But soon afterward, Cesnola shipped the collection to London, where its exhibition aroused considerable public interest. It was at this point that the newly founded Metropolitan Museum of Art intervened and acquired the bulk of the collection for New York. The purchase was funded by public subscription with several leading business tycoons making substantial contributions. Cesnola accompanied his collection back to New York and devoted himself to supervising the work on its installation and publication. In 1877, he accepted a place on the Museum's board of trustees and served as its first director from 1879 until his death in 1904.
The Cesnola Collection remains a wonderful storehouse of ancient art and artifact, and it is by far the most important and comprehensive collection of Cypriot material in the Western Hemisphere. The objects illustrate the unique character of Cypriot art and highlight the exotic blend of Greek, Near Eastern, and Egyptian influences in Cyprus throughout antiquity" (Metropolitan Museum website).
This early photographically illustrated catalogue of the collection is quite scarce, with OCLC locating but 12 copies.