An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 1, Westminster Abbey. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1924.
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The present Volume deals with Westminster Abbey alone and thus differs from the previous volumes of the Commission's Inventories. The pre-eminent position of the Abbey as an imperial and national monument is sufficient to justify exceptional treatment so far as the description of the structure and its contents is concerned. It is also the excuse, if indeed such be required, for the large increase in the number of illustrations in proportion to the text. These factors have led us to alter the arrangement of matter, and require a few words of explanation.
In addition to the Terms of Appointment and a short official Report, the volume contains a historical introduction by the Provost of Eton, which combines, and to a certain extent replaces, the usual Sectional Preface. This is followed by an illustrated Inventory of the Abbey and its contents, arranged in groups according to position, together with illustrations of selected mouldings and of comparative groups of monuments, an armorial of mediaeval heraldry, a list of the monuments in the Abbey from 1714 to the present day and a glossary of architectural, heraldic, and archaeological terms.
The Commission owes a special debt of gratitude to Dr. M. R. James for his survey of the Abbey buildings as unfolded in the Introduction. I have particular pleasure in commending it as a contribution of unusual value and enlightenment to readers of the necessarily concentrated descriptions which form the substance of the actual Inventory, relieved though they are by an unusual wealth of illustrations.
The illustrations themselves are derived from photographs taken expressly for the Commission and reproduced by His Majesty's Stationery Office, whose work, I think, deserves special recognition, as does the work of Mr. J. W. Bloe, one of the Commission's Senior Investigators, who has been principally responsible for the actual photography and the selection of subjects. They have been chosen both for their educational and for their aesthetic value.
The standardization of the spelling of proper names in the Commission's inventories has always presented considerable difficulties, and almost any system is open to criticism. It is well known that during the period covered by our terms of reference, and indeed to a much later date, the art of spelling was in a very fluid state, proper names especially being subject to a wide variation, dictated partly by their phonetic values and partly by individual caprice. Instances in the Abbey are the spellings of Ben Jonson ("Johnson") and Michael Drayton ("Draiton"). In the matter of personal names, and in treating individual funeral-monuments, etc., the actual spelling of the memorial has been reproduced, while in the rest of the text the normal spelling of the name has been adopted.
It may also be well again to draw attention to the fact that our Record Cards may be consulted by properly accredited persons who give notice of their intention to our Secretary, at 66, Victoria Street, Westminster, S.W.1. The cards contain drawings of tracery and mouldings as well as plans and sketches of the monuments— forming in truth the complete National Inventory—and they will ultimately be deposited for reference in the Public Records Office.
In a work of such intricate detail there must be mistakes. But I hope these are neither numerous nor serious. My fellow Commissioner, Mr. Peers, has revised in situ, in company with Mr. Clapham, the description of the structure and of the monuments. As recorded in our Report, a special committee has supervised the order and method of descriptions adopted in the Inventory. Further, the heraldry has been checked by the Reverend E. E. Dorling, F.S.A.; the descriptions of armour by Mr. J. Murray Kendall, F.S.A. (Assistant to the Secretary of the Imperial War Museum); the descriptions of glass by Dr. M. R. James, F.S.A.; the descriptions of brasses by Mr. Mill Stephenson, F.S.A.; the spelling of names and descriptions of costumes by Mr. O. Barron, F.S.A. Nevertheless, I shall welcome any corrections and criticisms that may be sent to me with a view to their possible inclusion in some future edition.
It is much to be regretted that owing to the financial exigencies of the time, our staff has not yet been restored to its pre-war strength. The success that has already attended the publication of the Commission's Inventories, and their value in securing the preservation of monuments of historical interest that otherwise might have been destroyed, leads me to hope that the reduction of the work of investigation will be only temporary.