Monday, 27 January 2014

Scoop! -- Ruth and Vincent Megaw's supplement to Paul Jacobsthal's Early Celtic Art

Gold torc from The Glauberg, Wetteraukreis 
Photo: Rosemania (cropped)

"Dear Jope,
           ...Why are people always in a hurry?... Can't you get your dept to pay for ECA?"
Excerpt of typed letter from Paul Jacobsthal to Martyn Jope, 19th January, 1950. Early Celtic Art (ECA) was published in 1944.
(Jacobsthal Archive)
The cognoscente will immediately see some irony in Jacobsthal's words. Early Celtic Art in the British Isles (ECABI, as Jacobsthal later abbreviated it), was originally intended to be a collaborative effort between Jacobsthal and Jope, but Jacobsthal died in 1957 and Jope continued the work alone, until only weeks before his own death in 1996. I first heard of it in an autograph letter from Martyn Jope to me in 1989, where he said, "... I am currently finishing the British Isles successor to Paul Jacobsthal's Early Celtic Art". I waited, learning patience along the way, and it was finally published in 2000. Ian Stead had worked to get it to its publishable state.

In 2003, Vincent Megaw told me in an email:
"Our ECAS will not be a revision of ECA but will attempt in a very art-historical manner to follow Jacobsthal's lead in offering a selection of material which (a) he couldn't/didn't see in the '20s and '30s before having to leave his post at Marburg in 1935.  It will of course have to review the major developments since 1944. When will we finish? 1-2 years is my best guess."
I passed on the news to the Council for British Archaeology's "Britarch" discussion list, saying: "All we can do is to wait patiently..."

The subject of early Celtic art has been demanding for everyone who has tackled it. Its difficulties have gone far beyond those of the subject, itself. Jacobsthal was a German Jew who managed to leave Germany a couple of years after the establishment of the Third Reich and he settled in England. In 1937, he was appointed lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford. Hitler's atrocities to the Jewish people was not the only problem facing Jacobsthal's passion. Even had he not been Jewish, Hitler hated and persecuted intellectuals of all faiths. He didn't like the Celts either: the Gauls' last leader was Vercingetorix who had long been a national hero to the French.

Scholars around the world have been waiting patiently for the Megaws' supplement to Paul Jacobsthal's Early Celtic Art (ECAS). The subject has taken its toll with this work, too: from Vincent Megaw's fight against a serious illness, the annoyances of the Celtoskepticism fad of the mid-nineties to the greatest tragedy of all, the passing of Ruth Megaw last year. It was Ruth who had, as Vincent said "suggested that they should approach Oxford University Press with a proposal for a supplement to Jacobsthal, not a second edition but rather a presentation of that material which could not be included in his Early Celtic Art concentrating in finds made since the 1940's"

All the rest of us have only had to face our impatience.

A couple of days ago, Vincent shared more details with me -- I had not known that Jacobsthal had actually been denied access to much of the material before he went to England. He also added the following:
"Work began early in the 90's.  There followed about a decade of field work in museums and private collections collecting a visual archive now numbering some 5000 photos and drawings. ... currently the text volume of some 72,000 words has been completed and a start made on the Catalogue.  From a database of some 2500 entries has been selected c.850 objects which will form the Catalogue to be illustrated by a selection of 1800 images forming the second volume of the publication.  Work on the Catalogue entries continues... 
"The structure of the publication does not closely follow that of Jacobsthal; who was largely concerned with major stylistic classes and their association with the Classical world. After a Preface and Forward outlining the scope of the volume and also offering some discussion of the nature of art in an Iron Age context, the opening chapter offers a historiography of early Celtic art studies since Jacobsthal while the following three chapters cover a more or less chronological discussion of various regional developments within the earlier La Tène phases. 
"As to what might be regarded as the contribution to scholarship of ECAS it will form a natural successor to Jacobsthal and Jope and it will present much material unfamiliar and indeed unknown to many workers in the field while the main text will offer an assessment of previous publications and an overall discussion of the antecedents and evolution of what is not so much a single style but rather an interrelated series of regional styles."
If that were not great enough, Oxford University Press has a notional publication date of March 2016 and a cost for the two volume set of only £180! The moment it goes on sale, I will be placing my order. I strongly suggest you do also. Until then -- patience. Oh, and by the way, references to Jacobsthal's patterns will be included, but it will not have its own pattern section. Vincent sagely commented, "People will have to use their eyes".

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