Ruins of Athens, with Remains and Other Valuable Antiquities in Greece

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by David Le Roy

Ruins of Athens
George Wythe bookplate.jpg
Title not held by The Wolf Law Library
at the College of William & Mary.
Author David Le Roy
Published London: Robert Sayer
Date 1759
Volumes volume set

In 1759, Robert Sayer published Ruins of Athens as a translated version of Julien-David Le Roy’s Les ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce. Les ruines was a highly controversial work on classical Greek architecture that fueled the intellectual debate among scholars of Greek and Roman art during the eighteenth-century Greek Revival.

Despite being billed as a direct translation of Les ruines, Sayer’s publication of Ruins of Athens did not include any of Le Roy’s observations on architectural theory and history, nor did Sayer include Le Roy’s narrative regarding his voyage to Greece. Instead, Ruins of Athens was largely based on George Wheeler’s late seventeenth-century voyage to Greece. [1] Ruins of Athens was not faithful to Le Roy’s original architectural figures and drawings, either, as Sayer’s adaptation had "monuments crowded together in invented locations" and was viewed as "a cheap 'pirate' edition" of Les ruines. [2]

Despite its flaws, Ruins of Athens still served as one of the first works to heavily critique Le Roy’s architectural assertions in Les ruines. In Ruins of Athens, Sayer accused Le Roy’s architectural measurements of being incorrect, stating that "the small and great Measurements disagree" due to Le Roy’s "own Want of Attention, or inaccuracy of the Engraver." [3] Le Roy’s work was critiqued by others as well. Three years after the publication of Les ruines, James Stuart and Nicholas Revett published Antiquities of Athens, a book detailing monumental remains of ancient Greek architecture. Throughout the work, Stuart’s written footnotes continually critiqued Le Roy’s Les ruines. In turn, Le Roy offered "savage critiques" of Antiquities of Athens, even while many others praised Stuart and Revett for their work. [4]

Ultimately, Stuart and Revett’s Antiquities of Athens became credited for developing the field of classical archeology and served as "the principal source-book for the Greek Revival." [5] However, both Le Roy’s Les ruines and Sayer’s Ruins of Athens have been hailed as "less accurate, but nevertheless important" works on classical architecture. [6] Figures from Ruins of Athens still appear in modern works on classicism in Greek archeology. [7]

Robert Sayer was an English print, map, and chart publisher catered to the growing public interest in architectural and decorative works in London in the 1750s. Described as a "shrewd and cautious" publisher, Sayer found success based not on his commercial skills, not creative skills. Sayer eventually expanded his publication business by reaching provincial, colonial, and foreign markets, but remained based in London. Sayer passed away in 1794. [8]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library


  1. Christopher Drew Armstrong, Julien-David Leroy and the Making of Architectural History, (New York: Routledge, 2012), 6.
  2. Richard Stoneman, Land of Lost Gods: The Search for Classical Greece, rev. ed. (1987; repr., New York: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2010), 323.
  3. Armstrong, Julien-David Leroy, 6.
  4. Jason M. Kelly, "Society of Dilettanti (act. 1732-2003)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed March 20, 2015.
  5. James Curl, Georgian Architecture, rev. ed. (1993; repr., Singapore: CS Graphics Pte., 2002), 78.
  6. Ibid, 79.
  7. Michael Shanks, The Classical Archaeology of Greece: Experiences of the Discipline, (New York: Routledge, 1996), 71.
  8. Susanna Fisher, “Sayer, Roberts (1224/5-1794)Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed March 25, 2015.