Henry Christy (Biographical details)
Henry Christy (academic/intellectual; collector; British; Male; 1810 - 1865)
Also known as
103 Victoria Street, London SW (Henry Christy's museum)
Banker and ethnographer; with a scientific and business background. He began to travel widely from 1850, when he saw looped fabrics in Turkey which his brother copied to make towelling. During his travels he collected thousands of objects from around the world (see King, p.146 for his contribution to the evolutionary scheme of stone, bronze and iron ages). The bulk of his large collection was offered to the British Museum by the trustees of his estate (who included AW Franks [q.v.]) and was accepted c. 1868. The collection remained on display at his house in Victoria Street until after the removal of the natural history collections to South Kensington in the 1880s. Christy also left a sum of money (used to establish the Christy Fund [q.v.]) which allows for the occasional purchase of important collections or individual objects.
Additional Information on his collection at the British Museum [by Marjorie Caygill]:
The Christy collection was bequeathed to four Trustees, including Franks, in 1865 and shortly afterwards it was agreed that it should come to the BM. However, there were certain conditions, including the compilation of a catalogue and proper exhibition. If these conditions were not met the Christy Trustees retained the right to withdraw the bequest.
It was therefore not possible to incorporate the Christy objects into the BM registration system, hence the slips. In 1862 Carl Ludvig Steinhauer, at Christy’s request, had produced a selective catalogue of his collection which was privately printed. Objects included in this catalogue now, usually, bear an St. prefix. After the collection came to the BM an attempt was made to revise Steinhauer. Objects similar to those in Steinhauer were slotted in. These bear an a, b, etc suffix e.g. St.400a follows St.400. Proofs of the partially printed catalogue appeared in 1870 but it was never finished or distributed.
At the same time, Franks’s clerk, T.K. Gay seems to have been going through the objects, producing the Christy slips starting with 1. He died in 1874 and the work was taken over by (Charles?) Hercules Read. This series goes up to 9999 then starts again with a + sign. At a relatively early stage objects added to the collection e.g. purchases from the Christy Fund, donations from Franks and others to the Christy Collection, are incorporated into this series. These are usually clearly marked with the name of the donor – Christy objects are not usually annotated as coming from him. Objects actually from Christy seem to peter out in the 4000s. The Christy slips do not always give their provenance, e.g. some Mexican objects in the collection. For example, although some Christy slips are marked ‘Doyle’ some objects, obviously from Percy Doyle’s sale at Sotheby’s, are not so marked. There are also in the AOA archives some early Christy Collection registers post 1865.
Quite how Gay and Read acquired the information in the slips we do not yet know. There may have been notes and in some instances it looks as though labels are being copied.
At the same time, Franks was continuing with the BM registers – the 0000,0000,00 series which is how ethnographic objects from 1753 onwards were recorded after the beginning of the 19th century. On the whole, it seems that Franks and Read largely kept ethnographic material within the Christy Collection series with other objects using the BM numbers.
J C H King, "Franks and Ethnography", in M Caygill and J Cherry, 'A W Franks', British Museum Publications, London, 1997; A W Franks, 'Guide to the Christy Collection', 1868.