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BYERS or BYRES, JAMES (1733–1817), architect and archæologist, died at his seat Tonley, in the parish of Tough, Aberdeenshire, on 3 Sept. 1817, in the eighty-fourth year of his age (Scots Mag. N.S. 1817, i. 196). During a residence of nearly forty years at Rome, from 1750 to 1790, he assiduously collected antique sculpture. At one time he possessed the Portland vase, which he parted with to Sir William Hamilton. Bishop Percy, for whom Byers procured old Italian romances, calls him ‘the pope's antiquary at Rome’ (Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iii. 726, vii. 718–19). Byers also gave lectures for many years on the favourite objects of his study, and Sir James Hall, who has occasion in his ‘Essay on Gothic Architecture’ (1813) frequently to refer to his authority, bears testimony to ‘the very great success with which he contributed to form the taste of his young countrymen.’ In 1767 he proposed to publish by subscription ‘The Etruscan Antiquities of Corneto, the antient Tarquinii’ (Gent. Mag. xlix. 288); but for some not very satisfactory reason the book never appeared, a circumstance which gave rise to many complaints on the part of deluded subscribers (ibid. vol. lxii. pt. i. pp. 201, 317, vol. lxvi. pt. i. p. 222). Long after his death forty-one drawings from his collection were published with the title ‘Hypogæi, or Sepulchral Caverns of Tarquinia, the capital of antient Etruria; edited by Frank Howard,’ folio, London (1842). Byers was elected an honorary fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 24 Feb. 1785, and was also a corresponding member of the Society of Arts and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His profile is given at p. 101 of T. Windus's ‘Description of the Portland Vase,’ and there is a portrait of him by Sir H. Raeburn.

[New Statistical Account of Scotland, xii. 614; Thom's History of Aberdeen, ii. 193–4.]

G. G.