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Architecture at Edward Worth Library

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‘And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie,
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die’.

John Milton, ‘On Shakespeare’, 1630.


Bernard de Montfaucon, L’antiquité expliquée, et représentée en figures (Paris, 1719), 5 vols. in 10, Suppl. vol. 5, plate 56 (Etruscan tomb).

Worth was clearly fascinated with ancient antiquities, including Greek Temples, Egyptian pyramids, Etruscan tombs and Roman Mausolea, such as the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Ancient funerary architecture was built to last – for a variety of reasons : the Pyramids of Giza were designed to be the homes of the Pharoahs for all eternity ; the Mausoleum of Hadrian was designed to be as much a symbol of the Emperor’s power in life as it would be after his death. Even the humbler Etruscan tombs were constructed in an attempt to outwit Death and carry the fame of their subjects into Eternity. The sarcophagi in the above image are typically Etruscan. They represent a move away from cremation to inhumation and with it the necessity of building a lasting funerary monument.


Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Entwurff Einer Historischen Architectur: in Abbildung unterschiedener berühmten Gebäude des Alterthums und fremder Völcker; umb aus den Geschicht-büchern, Gedächtnüß-münzen, Ruinen, und eingeholten wahrhafften Abrißen, vor Augen zu stellen (Leipzig, 1725), Book 2, plate 8 (bridge leading to Hadrian’s Mausoleum).

One of the most famous tombs of all was the Mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome which is described by Bernard de Montfaucon in his L’antiquité expliquée, et représentée en figures (Paris, 1719) and is illustrated here, with the Pons Aelius leading to it, in a plate from Johann Bernhard von Erlach’s Entwurff Einer Historischen Architectur (Leipzig, 1725). Fischer von Erlach rightly concludes that ‘this Bridge of Ælius’s was built for no other End than to give a greater Lustre to the Mausoleum.’ Fischer von Erlach’s view of the Pons Aelius (now Ponte Sant’ Angelo) is rather fanciful and lacks the versimilitude of Buonanni’s depiction of roughly the same view, visible in the Mausoleum of Hadrian webpage.


All English quotations are from Fischer von Erlach, Johann Bernhard, A Plan of Civil and Historical Architecture in the Representation of the Most noted Buildings of Foreign Nations…. Divided into Five Books…. Tr. Thomas Lediard, (London, 1737), 2nd edition. Lediard notes that his translation was initially based on the French translation but on chancing to find a German original he then incorporated as much material as possible.

‘Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia’ : UNESCO World Heritage List :

Text : Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library.