Bonomi (1796-1878) was a draughtsman, artist, sculptor and curator of Sir John Soane's Museum in London. Sharpe (1799- 1881) was an Egyptologist and Biblical scholar. They collaborated on many publications, including one about the sarcophagus of Seti I in Soane's museum, and developed a close friendship when working together on the Crystal Palace Exhibition. Bonomi worked with some of the greatest scholars of that time, including Robert Hay, James Burton, Sir John Gardner Wilkinson and Richard Lepsius. Some 500 of his watercolours, sketches and tracings are now held at the Griffith Institute in Oxford.
These letters, held in the archive of the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, are important primary evidence of the Egyptological situation of that time - the politics of excavation, the state of the monuments, the wilful destruction of sites and the relationships between collectors and Egyptologists of the day.
This source of evidence is crucial to a better understanding of the history of Egyptology, an area that has been somewhat neglected by the discipline, but which is finally being recognised as an important source of information for not only Egyptology, but for material culture as a whole. I am in no doubt that many letters, documents and photographs from the nineteenth century are housed in museums, institutions and hidden away in the lofts of surviving descendants waiting to be rediscovered. What a wonderful thought...!
Image from The Griffith Institute