Henry Salt's firman

Egypt, dated 23 December 1813

Henry Salt (1780-1827) was a key figure in the history of the Egyptian collections of the British Museum. This document is the firman (letter of instruction) from Sultan Mahmud confirming Salt's appointment as British Consul.

In 1817 Salt wrote to the Earl of Mountnorris that he had begun to collect antiquities due to the 'lack of good society' in Egypt and also to provide himself with a means of income for when he retired or returned to England. Salt employed men such as Giovanni Belzoni to excavate at sites including Thebes, Giza and Abu Simbel, and was responsible for engaging Belzoni to move the upper part of a colossal statue of Ramesses II from Thebes, known as the 'Younger Memnon', now in the British Museum. In 1825, Salt published an essay on the decipherment of hieroglyphs, a subject at the forefront of research at the time.

Although he had been encouraged to collect by Joseph Banks, there were prolonged problems about the cost when he offered his first collection to the Trustees of the British Museum. It was eventually acquired in 1823, but the subsequent collection went to the Louvre in Paris. The third was sold after his death, in 1835, and many pieces were acquired by the British Museum.

Find in the collection online

More information


D. Manley and P. Ree, Henry Salt: Artist, Traveller, (Libri, 2001)


Museum number

EA 74092


Acquired by the British Museum in 1992


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore