Brown, Rawdon Lubbock (DNB00)
BROWN, RAWDON LUBBOCK (1803–1883), is chiefly known for his researches in the Venetian archives. The story runs that about 1833, while on a holiday tour, Brown paid a first visit to Venice, and that the place exerted so powerful a charm over him that he could not bring himself to leave it. It is a fact that he never quitted Venice from 1833 till his death, fifty years later. He acquired a unique knowledge of its history and antiquities, and spent most of his life in studying its archives. He was the first to appreciate the importance of the news-letters which the Venetian ambassadors in London were in the habit of sending to the republic during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After completing some original investigations into the life and works of Marino Sanuto the younger, the Venetian historian, he wrote an account of 'Four Years at the Court of Henry VIII' (1854), from the despatches of Sebastian Giustiniani, the Venetian ambassador in London at the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII. The new light which this book threw on the relation of the Venetian archives to English history induced Lord Palmerston, at the instance of the chief literary men in England, to commission Brown in 1862 to calendar those Venetian state papers which treated of English history. This work engaged all Brown’s attention for the rest of his life. He spared himself no labour, and is computed to have examined twelve million packets of documents, most of them at Venice, but a few of them in other towns of North Italy. Brown was always ready to help scholars who applied to him for information. He died at Venice on 25 Aug. 1883, and was buried in the Lido cemetery three days later. He was popular with all classes in Venice, and was very hospitable to English visitors. Robert Browning wrote a sonnet on Brown's death (dated 28 Nov. 1883), which is printed in the 'Century Magazine' for February 1884, and in the 'Browning Society's Papers,' 132*-3*. The first volume of his 'Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts relating to English Affairs existing in the Archives and Collections of Venice, and in other Libraries of Northern Italy,' with an elaborate introduction, was issued in 1864, and covered the years from 1202 to 1509. It was succeeded by vol. ii. (1509-19) in 1867, by vol. iii. (1520-26) in 1869, by vol. iv. (1527-33) in 1871, by vol. v. (1534-54) in 1873, by vol. vi. pt. i. (1555-6) in 1877, by vol. vi. pt. ii. (1556-7) in 1881. The last volume (vol. vi. pt. iii.), issued in 1884, dealt with the years 1557-8, and an appendix supplied a large number of fifteenth-century papers which had been omitted from the earlier volumes. Mr. T. D. Hardy, in a report on the Venetian archives addressed to Sir John Romilly, master of the rolls, in 1866, praises highly Brown's accuracy and industry. Brown presented to the Public Record Office 126 volumes of transcripts of Venetian archives, dating from early times to 1797. Brown also published: l. 'Ragguagli sulla vita e sulle opere di Marino Sanuto . . . intitolati dall' amicizia di uno straniero al nobile J. V. Foscarini,' Venice, 1837-8. 2. 'Lettere diplomatiche inedite,' Venice, 1840. 3. 'Itinerario di Marino Sanuto per la terraferma Veneziana nell' anno 1483,' Padua, 1847. 4. 'Four Years at the Court of King Henry VIII,' a translation of the despatches sent home by Giustiniani, the Venetian ambassador in London, between 1515 and 1519, London, 1854. 5. 'Avviso di Londra,' an account of news-letters sent from London to Venice during the first half of the seventeenth century, published in vol. iv. of the Philobiblon Society's 'Bibliographical and Historical Miscellanies,' London, 1854. 6. 'L'archivio di Venezia con riguardo speziale alla storia inglese,' forming vol. iv. of the 'Nuova Collezione di opere storiche,' Venice and Turin, 1865. 7. 'Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Parma: Date of her Birth on Venetian Authority,' Venice, 1880. A folio sheet was issued at Venice in 1841 with a drawing and description, by Brown, of the 'Shield placed over the remains of Thomas Mowbray in St. Mark's Church,' Venice.
[Times. 29 Aug., 8 Sept., 13 Sept. 1883; Athenæum, 8 Sept. 1883; Brit. Mus. Cat.]