The Antiquities of Athens

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by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett

Antiquities of Athens
George Wythe bookplate.jpg
Title not held by The Wolf Law Library
at the College of William & Mary.
Author James Stuart and Nicholas Revett
Published London: Haberkorn
Date 1762-1830
Volumes volume set

Recognized as the first accurate survey of ancient Greek architecture to ever be completed, The Antiquities of Athens had a profound influence on the Greek Revival. James Stuart (1713-1788) and Nicholas Revett (1720-1804) have been credited as developing the field of classical archeology and creating "the principal source-book for the Greek Revival."[1]

The early professional careers of Stuart and Revett were obscure until the two developed their scheme to survey ancient Greek architecture. Their planned excursion to Greece was met with great interest, and the proposal for the trip itself was published four times before the first publication of The Antiquities of Athens.[2] By 1750, Stuart and Revett secured funding and support from various scholars, and after election into the Society of Dilettanti, the society’s members also backed the journey. Stuart and Revett arrived in Greece in 1751 and had great success in surveying ancient Greek structures. However, they faced a variety of obstacles to gathering architectural measurements, including quarrels with Greek officials, threats by Turkish gangs, and an outbreak of the plague of in Athens. Eventually, the two returned to London in 1754 to prepare their drawings for publication.[3]

Upon publication in 1762, The Antiquities of Athens became the preeminent work on Greek architecture due to the authors' careful measurements, technical commentary, and accurate reproductions. Most notably, The Antiquities of Athens superseded Les Ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce by Julien-David Le Roy. Les Ruines and its English translation, Ruins of Athens, contained inaccurate measurements by Le Roy, while The Antiquities of Athens offered a more definite and proper series of measurements on classical Greek architecture.[4] (The delay of publishing The Antiquities of Athens occurred because Stuart took ample time working critiques of Le Roy’s work into the text.)[5] Continued public interest led to four published volumes of The Antiquities of Athens, with Stuart’s descendants publishing the final volume in 1816.[6]

Stuart and Revett later worked on a variety of artistic projects. Stuart became widely known for his classical interior work in family homes, and his dedication to Greek architectural styles led to the nickname "Athenian Stuart." After a well-renowned career, Stuart passed away suddenly in 1788.[7] Even more than two centuries after his death, rediscovery of Stuart’s work still makes news.[8] Revett, on the other hand, received most of his commissions through one patron, Francis Dashwood, Lord Le Despenser, who had close ties with the Society of Dilettanti. After finishing his final building in 1780, Revett died years later in 1804.[9]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Stewart & Revett's Antiquities of Athens" and given by Thomas Jefferson to James Dinsmore, a carpenter at Monticello. Both Brown's Bibliography[10] and George Wythe's Library[11] on LibraryThing suggest Wythe only owned volume one (1762) perhaps because Jefferson only owned volume one.[12]

As yet, the Wolf Law Library has been unable to procure a copy of The Antiquities of Athens.

See also


  1. James Curl, Georgian Architecture, rev. ed. (1993; repr., Singapore: CS Graphics Pte., 2002), 78.
  2. Lesley Lawrence, "Stuart and Revett: Their Literary and Architectural Careers," Journal of the Warburg Institute 2, no. 2 (October 1938): 128-129.
  3. David Watkin, "Stuart, James (1713-1788)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed April 16, 2015.
  4. Timothy Webb, English Romantic Hellenism, 1700-1824 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1982), 90.
  5. Watkin, "Stuart, James."
  6. Lawrence, "Stuart and Revett," 129.
  7. Watkin, "Stuart, James."
  8. Kerry Bristol, "A Newly-Discovered Drawing by James Stuart," Architectural History 44 (2001): 39.
  9. Anne Purchas, "Revett, Nicholas (1721-1804)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed April 16, 2015.
  10. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012, rev. 2014) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  11. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on June 28, 2013.
  12. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 4:368 [no.4190].