PR to EB Tylor 5.2.1883

L106 Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum Pitt-Rivers papers

4 Grosvenor Gardens | 5 Feby 83

Dear Mr Tylor,

Thanks for your note. If I were going to lecture about my collection, I should draw attention to the value of the arrangement, not so much on account of the interest which attaches to the development of the tools, weapons in themselves, but because they best serve to illustrate the development that has taken place in the branches of human culture which cannot be so arranged in sequence because the links are lost and the successive ideas through which progress has been effected have never been embodied in material forms, on which account the Institutions of Mankind often appear to have developed by greater jumps than has really been the case. But in the material arts, the links are preserved, and by due search and arrangement can be placed in their proper sequence.

The psychological continuity can therefore be better demonstrated by means of them than by means of the Institutions and Religions of Mankind they should therefore serve as a preliminary study for the Anthropologist who will by that means have to appreciate the gaps that are to be found in the latter and avoid the errors which the apparent absence of continuity may in some cases engender, and show how in studying the Institutions of Mankind those missing links must be supplied by conjecture which in the material arts can be arranged in rows so obvious that those who can run may read.

This is what I consider to be the main use of my collection for educational purposes. Each object must be regarded as the representative of an idea or a combination of ideas. The continuity is not in them, but in the human mind that begets them and have hence the analogy that exists between the development of the arts and the development of species: both follow the operation of physical laws.

As regards the details, a selection might be made from any of the following points:- the development of the shield from the parrying stick, the development of the boomerang by the selection of natural forms of bent sticks, the division of the bow into two classes, the simple and the composite, possible origin of the latter and of the former from the bow trap, the bow trap suggested by two hunters pressing through the jungle, the foremost letting the branches spring back in the face of the hindmost, as every sportsman knows. The development of clubs of natural origin, of the ornamentation upon them, ornamentation as derived from from [sic] disused appliances. The distribution of iron corrugated blades in India, Africa and Europe, the distribution of the double bellows, of skins, and its development. The origin of the Greek "kopis" blade in the bronze leaf-shaped sword. The cases of realistic representations of the human form and the cases of conventionalized ornamental forms, the development of bronze axes and gradual formation of a socket; Primitive drawings, those of savages compared to those of European children, drawing power of savages under European influenced; the distribution of the outrigger canoe, the development and distribution of loop, coil and fret ornaments and their connection; the transition of form in ornament New Ireland, New Guinea block (pulley) ornament, & transition, European peasant wood carving. The development of door locks; the changes of the impressions on coins, the way in which the arts of savages may be made to illustrate those of prehistoric or non-historic times, notably the quiver of the Assyrians explained by that of the American Indian hunter, primitive clothing, weaving and basket making, and distribution of spindle whorls, the substitutes for pottery, personal ornaments, its derivation from armour and copies of natural forms, primitive bagpipes, origin of wind and vibrating musical instruments, conch-shell trumpets, their distribution; Jew's harp, nose flutes, sounding boards, wooden drums, parallel development of the body of a fiddle from a gourd in India and Africa, use of a separate bow for each string in Africa; similar forms of the votive offerings in Europe and the East, distribution of emblems of maturity, Isis and Horus, Virgin & child, India, Peru &c; use of crow's feet in the various countries, development of agricultural implements, origin of money and of objects used as a a means [insert] medium [end insert] of exchange, distribution of fire sticks and lamps, Games, origin of the Hookah in a Coconut, and gradual transition of its form in brass.

I should be glad if you would kindly mention that I look upon my Museum as being in no way an exception from the ordinary laws affecting all human affairs in regard to development, and that so far from considering it perfect as it is, I cannot conceive any idea of finality in a Museum of the kind. It might embrace all the arts of Mankind, but all that can be done is to keep on perfecting certain typical series which shew the sequence best. In doing this an arrangement to shew the distribution of like objects must necessarily precede an arrangement to show developments. I have on one or two occasions had to carry on the first arrangement for some years before the course of development became apparent, and then a new arrangement commences, so that a collection of this kind must necessarily be in a constant state of transition. The difficulty of collecting links is of course very great as one only tumbles upon them accidentally but I believe that any traveller who had previously obtained an idea of the course of development in a Museum of this kind might add enormously to the number of links and varieties in the country from which they come and so add largely to the Museum. There has however been no instance as yet of any traveller who has systematically collected on this plan, and one can therefore form an idea of the great increase which may become necessary hereafter, and the necessity of allowing space for it, either by a larger building than is necessary to contain the present collection, or by building it in such a situation that an extra room can be added to it at some future time. If you would like to have any large diagrams showing the sections of the tombs in which the Egyptian flints were found I shall be happy to send them to Oxford.

Yours very truly
A. Pitt Rivers.

Transcribed by AP as part of the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project, 2011

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