Francis Vernon, the Early Royal Society and the First English Encounter with Ancient Greek Architecture
|Published in:||Architectural History, 2013, v. 56|
Francis Vernon (c. 1637-77) is not a particularly well-known figure in the history of British architecture, but perhaps he should be. In 1675 he became one of the first English people to have set foot in Athens and, the following year, published what was undisputedly the first account in the English language of the city and its architecture. Vernon was a member of the recently founded Royal Society and one of a group of English and French travellers who journeyed through central Greece and Turkey in the 1670s. He was murdered in Isfahan in early 1677. Vernon's account of the time he spent in Athens was published in the Society's journal, thePhilosophical Transactions, in 1676, and it included brief but illuminating descriptions of the Erechtheion, the Temple of Hephaestus and the Parthenon, the latter written over ten years before the bombing of the temple by a Venetian army in 1687. TheTransactionsoften contained both travel writing and antiquarian material and, in this respect, Vernon's account was typical of the journal's somewhat eclectic content in its early years. Significantly, Vernon's publication predated more famous accounts of Greece from the period, such as those written by his travelling companions Jacob Spon (who released hisVoyage d'ltalie, de Dalamatie, de Grèce et du Levantin France in 1678) and George Wheler, whoseA journey into Greecewas published in 1682. Unlike Vernon, both Spon and Wheler survived their journeys. The only European publication on Athens that preceded Vernon's was a French text of 1675 that would prove to be a fabrication. As this article will demonstrate, Vernon's initial exposure of this fabrication was one of the reasons why his account of the city became so important in English intellectual culture at the time.
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