The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

October 9, 2016

October 9, 1796

We have a nice essay on Joseph Bonomi (October 9, 1796 to March 3, 1878) as we again mine ancient Egypt for a cat reference. Here is a drawing Bonomi made in his studies of Egyptian history; his artistic talents in copying the scenes of Egyptian art won him fame.

Joseph Bonomi, whose father was an architect, traveled in Egypt and other nearby countries documenting antiquities. Later he assisted the wealthy in archiving the treasures brought back, and even did work for the British Museum.  We see the regard in which Bonomi was held by scholars in passages such as this, from a Fraser's Magazine article in 1839. 

The author below is writing about two 1837 books: Mythological Inquiry into the Recondite Theology of the Heathens by Isaac Preston Cory of Caius College Cambridge and another text by Robert Mushet, The Trinity of the Ancients. I am not confident I got the significance of their ideas concerning "mythological corruptions", but Bonomi was cited in support of the idea

...., the animal consecrated to the ... divinity in order, together with its species, would become the receivers of the souls of the defunct, as well as the souls of those who had previously inhabited the sacred animals of the preceding divinity; and so on, until the great cycle of migration was completed.

The author is concerned to "explain the reason why vast numbers of mummied animals [were extant.]"

He cites Bonomi this way, to establish the fact of the quantity of mummies involved:

The following is an extract from a communication on this question, with which We have been favoured by one of the best-informed of our Egyptian travellers, Joseph Bonomi, Esq.,....—" Cats are abundant, but the most abundant of all is the ibis: I have seen large deposits ...
[of their mummified remains] at Succara, and near Kammoun ; in both cases,[in] long, ...horizontal excavations, in various directions, unadorned,— the pots containing the birds being piled in order against the sides of the excavations. The mummied crocodile is found to occupy entirely to himself several unadorned excavations.

Here is a portrait of Joseph Bonomi, with a biographical essay mentioned above, excerpted:

As the son of successful architect Joseph Bonomi the Elder and brother of another architect, Ignatius, it was perhaps a natural assumption that Bonami would also follow this career path but instead he showed an early interest and talent for sculpture. This interest burgeoned as he grew older and the young man attended the Royal Academy before travelling to Rome to study under Antonio Canova. When Canova died before Bonomi arrived the would-be pupil faced his disappointment with stoicism and remained in Rome to continue his studies under his own steam. However, it was not long before mounting debts forced Bonomi to seek another opportunity and he enthusiastically accepted an offer from antiquarian Robert Hay to accompany him to Egypt. The trip was to prove a fateful one for Bonomi, who found himself energised and inspired by his newly-discovered love of Egyptian history and culture....

The expedition left in 1824 and for two years Bonomi laboured over hugely detailed sketches and casts of the antiquities the group encountered, sharing some with Hay and keeping others for his portfolio. Although Bonomi had initially been happy to accept a token salary, as his own reputation grew he approached Hay to discuss the matter of remuneration; it was to prove an unhappy meeting. As Bonomi resented his low salary, Hay in turn disapproved of the artist using the trip to forward his own career and the two men's relationship grew increasingly fractured. His patience exhausted, Bonomi resigned his position in 1826, remaining in Cairo to take on lucrative illustration work for private clients.
Bonomi finally returned to his homeland in 1844 and followed the family tradition, doing some architectural work inspired by his years in Egypt. He married Jessie Martin, with whom he had 12 children, and immersed himself once more in Egyptology, finding himself in demand as an illustrator and archivist of collections of Egyptian artefacts including those at the British Museum and the Crystal Palace.

The man who had travelled so far from home was finally settled, living a long and happy life and indulging his love for design, sculpture and Egyptology. From the expedition with Hay that was taken simply to clear his debts, Bonomi found the passion that would shape his life and make his name, immersed in Egypt and the antiquities that fascinated him to his dying day.

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