Robert Curzon, 14th Baron Zouche (16 March 1810-2 August 1873), was a notable Victorian English traveler, travel writer, and diplomat, active mainly in the Near East. He is perhaps best known as being responsible for the “purchase” of some of the most important early Bible manuscripts from Eastern Orthodox monasteries.
In his Visits to Monasteries in the Levant , he described and justified his takings. He visited Mount Athos in 1837, and at the Monastery of St Paul, he recounts how the abbot said ‘We make no use of the old books, and should be glad if you would accept one,’ upon which he took two, including a fourteenth-century illuminated Bulgarian gospel, now in the British Library.(wikipedia)
How did this manuscript come to the British Library?
In 1837, the manuscript was held at the Monastery of St Paul on Mount Athos in Greece, and a young English collector of antiquities called Robert Curzon was astonished to be given it as a gift following his visit there. It was bequeathed to the British Library (then the British Museum) in 1917. (text website BL)
hv (did the copy/pasting to get this story about this shamefull event)
But if he didn’t accept this “gift”, the book would have been burnt at he end of the 19th century when Pavlou burnt to the ground…….
Close reading indeed, but if I was a monk in Paulou I rather had it burned in the fire then far away in an english museum knowing then it was purchased in a wrong way. And…This was not the only manuscript Curzon got. In almost every monastery he “bought” these valuable mansuscript cheap.
Robert Curzon neither cheated the monastery of the book nor stole it. He simply took advantage of the situation. World civilisation has not lost the book. Hindsight is always easy.