Antiquarianism: A Reinterpretation

in Erudition and the Republic of Letters
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Antiquarianism, the early modern study of the past, occupies a central role in modern studies of humanist and post-humanist scholarship. Its relationship to modern disciplines such as archaeology is widely acknowledged, and at least some antiquaries—such as John Aubrey, William Camden, and William Dugdale—are well-known to Anglophone historians. But what was antiquarianism and how can twenty-first century scholars begin to make sense of it? To answer these questions, the article begins with a survey of recent scholarship, outlining how our understanding of antiquarianism has developed since the ground-breaking work of Arnaldo Momigliano in the mid-twentieth century. It then explores the definition and scope of antiquarian practice through close attention to contemporaneous accounts and actors’ categories before turning to three case-studies of antiquaries in Denmark, Scotland, and England. By way of conclusion, it develops a series of propositions for reassessing our understanding of antiquarianism. It reaffirms antiquarianism’s central role in the learned culture of the early modern world and offers suggestions for avenues which might be taken in future research on the discipline.

Antiquarianism: A Reinterpretation

in Erudition and the Republic of Letters




Arnaldo Momigliano‘Ancient History and the Antiquarian’Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 13 (1950) 311. Cf. also the summary and analysis by Peter N. Miller ‘Momigliano Antiquarianism and the Cultural Sciences’ in Momigliano and Antiquarianism: Foundations of the Modern Cultural Sciences ed. Peter N. Miller (Toronto on 2007) 8–19.


Arnaldo Momigliano‘The Rise of Antiquarian Research’ in Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography (Berkeley ca 1990) 54. See Miller ed. Momigliano and Antiquarianism 21–22.


Momigliano‘Rise of Antiquarian Research’57–58.


Momigliano‘Rise of Antiquarian Research’ 58; Momigliano ‘Ancient History and the Antiquarian’286.


Peter N. Miller‘Major Trends in European Antiquarianism, Petrarch to Peiresc’ in The Oxford History of Historical Writing Volume 3: 1400–1800eds Jose Rabasa Masayuki Sato Edoardo Tortarolo and Daniel Woolf (Oxford 2012) 244–260; ‘A Tentative Morphology of European Antiquarianism 1500–2000’ in World Antiquarianism: Comparative Perspectives eds Alain Schnapp Lothar von Falkenhausen Peter N. Miller and Tim Murray (Los Angeles ca 2013) 67–87.


Cornell‘Ancient History and the Antiquarian Revisited’6.


Arnaldo Momigliano‘Gibbon’s Contribution to Historical Method’Historia 2 (1954) 450–463.


Anthony Grafton‘Jean Hardouin: The Antiquary as Pariah’Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 62 (1999) 243.


Ingo Herklotz‘Arnaldo Momigliano’s "Ancient History and the Antiquarian": A Critical Review’ in Momigliano and Antiquarianism127–153.


Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann‘Antiquarianism, the History of Objects, and the History of Art before Winckelmann’Journal of the History of Ideas 62 (2001) 523–541.


Kaufmann‘History of Art before Winckelmann’passimand see Joachim von Sandrart L’Academia Todesca della Architectura Scultura & Pittura: oder Teutsche Academie der Edlen Bau- Bild- und Mahlerey-Künste 3 vols. (Nuremberg 1675–1679).


Kaufmann‘History of Art before Winckelmann’541.


Rebecca Gould‘Antiquarianism as Genealogy: Arnaldo Momigliano’s Method’History and Theory 53 (2014) 212–233.


Gould‘Antiquarianism as Genealogy’214.


Gould‘Antiquarianism as Genealogy’233.


Momigliano‘Ancient History and the Antiquarian’285.






Momigliano‘Rise of Antiquarian Research’71; Johannes Rosinus Thesaurus linguae ­Romanae & Britannicae tam accurate congestus (London 1578) not paginated.


 For example in Miller‘Writing Antiquarianism’, 27 (‘we still know almost nothing about the history of antiquarian scholarship’). The imagery of continental exploration has been regularly applied to the study of the Republic of Letters in recent decades, perhaps most memorably in essays such as Anthony Grafton, ‘Latinland’Harvard Library Bulletinn.s. 12 (2001) 5–12.


 For Ole Worm see Ole Peter Grell‘In Search of True Knowledge: Ole Worm (1588–1654) and the New Philosophy’ in Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: Practices Objects and Texts 1400–1800ed. Pamela H. Smith and Benjamin Schmidt (Chicago il and London 2007) 214–232 Ella Hoch ‘Diagnosing Fossilization in the Nordic Renaissance: An Investigation into the Correspondence of Ole Worm (1588–1654)’ in A History of Geology and Medicine eds C. J. Duffin R. T. J. Moody and C. Gardner-Thorp (London 2013) 307–327 Klavs Randsborg ‘Ole Worm: An Essay on the Modernization of Antiquity’ Acta Archaeologica 65 (1994) 135–169 H. D. Schepelern ‘Museum Wormianum: dets forudsætninger og tilblivelse’ (Doctoral Thesis Copenhagen University Copenhagen 1971) as well as the Latin and Danish editions of his letters Olai Wormii et ad eum doctorum virorum epistolae 2 vols. (Copenhagen 1751) and Breve fra og til Ole Worm 3 vols. ed. H. D. Schepelern (Copenhagen 1965–1968). For later Anglophone reception of the Scandinavian tradition of which Worm was a part see Kelsey Jackson Williams ‘Thomas Gray and the Goths: Philology Poetry and the Uses of the Norse Past in Eighteenth-Century England’ Review of English Studies 65 (2014) 694–710.


WormEpistolaei. 41–51.


WormMonumenta Danica1–99.


 For Innes see David Allan‘Historiography of the Scottish Enlightenment’ in A Companion to Enlightenment Historiographyed. Sophie Bourgault and Robert Sparling (Leiden 2013) 307–342 Colin Kidd ‘Antiquarianism Religion and the Scottish Enlightenment’ Innes Review 46 (1995) 139–154 and James F. McMillan ‘Thomas Innes and the Bull ‘Unigenitus” Innes Review 33 (1982) 23–30 as well as Thomas Innes A Critical Essay of the Ancient Inhabitants of the Northern Parts of Britain or Scotland 2 vols. (London 1729) The Civil and Ecclesiastical History of Scotland ed. George Grub (Aberdeen 1853) and ‘Papers by Father Innes’ in the Miscellany of the Spalding Club Vol. 2 (Aberdeen 1842) 353–380. The present author will consider Innes and his relationship to European antiquarianism in more detail in a forthcoming monograph.


Daniel Papebroch‘Propylaeum antiquarium circa veri ac falsi discrimen in vetustis membranis’ in Acta SanctorumAprilis tomus secundus (1675; reprinted Paris and Rome 1866) ilii.


Ernst Ekman‘Gothic Patriotism and Olof Rudbeck’Journal of Modern History 34 (1962) 52–63; Stina Hansson ‘The Lament of the Swedish Language: Sweden’s Gothic Renaissance’ Renaissance Studies 23 (2009) 151–160.


Allan Ellenius‘Johannes Schefferus and Swedish Antiquity’Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 20 (1957) 59–74and Jackson Williams The Antiquary 37–41.


Jason Harris‘Exiles and Saints in Baroque Europe: George Conn and the Scotic Debate’ in The Ulster Earls and Baroque Europe: Refashioning Irish Identities 1600–1800ed. Thomas O’Connor and Mary Ann Lyons (Dublin 2010) 306–326.


Peter N. Miller‘The ‘Antiquarianization’ of Biblical Scholarship and the London Polyglot Bible (1653–57)’Journal of the History of Ideas 62 (2001) 463–482 at 464 quoting Thomas Fuller The Holy State (Cambridge 1642) 69–72 which goes on to describes the ‘true Church Antiquary’ as ‘a traveller into former times whence he hath learnt their language and fashions. If he meets with an old manuscript which hath the mark worn out of its mouth and hath lost the date yet he can tell the age thereof either by the phrase or character’ (69). For another example of the theological implications of antiquarian and philological scholarship see Anthony Ossa-Richardson The Devil’s Tabernacle: The Pagan Oracles in Early Modern Thought (Princeton nj and Oxford 2013).


ParryTrophies of Time228.


WilliamsThe Antiquary117.


 See Miller‘Writing Antiquarianism’ and the reflections in Giovanna Ceserani, ‘Antiquarian Transformations in Eighteenth-Century Europe’ in World Antiquarianismed. Schnapp 317–342.


Anthony Grafton‘From Politian to Pasquali’Journal of Roman Studies 67 (1977) 176.


Christopher S. Wood‘The Credulity Problem’ in Antiquarianism and Intellectual Lifeed. Miller and Louis 156.


Wood‘Credulity Problem’162.


Wood‘Credulity Problem’166–167.

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