William John Banke's collection of drawings and manuscripts relating to Ancient Nubia
The portfolio of fifteen-hundred drawings made by the wealthy and brilliant William John Bankes (1786-1855) and his artists, travelling and working in Egypt and Nubia between 1815 and 1822, constitutes an important early scholarly record. Of particular interest are sites and monuments in Nubia and the Sudan, many of which are now destroyed, damaged, or have been moved due to the creation of Lake Nasser. Together with Henry Salt, Henry William Beechey, L-M-A. Linant de Bellefonds, and Alessandro Ricci, Bankes produced plans, views, descriptions, and, above all, remarkably accurate copies of reliefs and inscriptions. This mass of information was never arranged and published. A catalogue raisonné of the Nubian drawings covers the sites running between Dabod and Naqa, including Gebel Barkal, Meroë, and Musawwarat; many virtually unknown at that time. The catalogue provides the data for an assessment of the archaeological and epigraphic significance of the record. In addition, the unsigned drawings can now be attributed to individual artists on stylistic criteria, and, using unpublished journals and correspondence, the two journeys of 1815 and 1818-9 can be reconstructed. Many previously unrecognised drawings can now be identified, and sections of texts of particular interest recorded on the drawings have been hand-copied in an appendix. Bankes' role as a pioneer in the field of Egyptology, and his contribution to the study of decipherment are also examined.