Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parker, John Henry

PARKER, JOHN HENRY (1806–1884), writer on architecture, born on 1 March 1806, was the son of John Parker, a London merchant. He was educated at the Manor House school, Chiswick, and in 1821 went into the business of a bookseller. In 1832 he succeeded his uncle, Joseph Parker, as bookseller and publisher at Oxford. He published for Dr. Pusey and other participators in the ‘Oxford Movement,’ and brought out the libraries of the Fathers and of Anglo-catholic theology. The series of ‘Oxford Pocket Classics’ was also published by his house. Parker devoted his leisure to architectural studies, and published in 1836 a ‘Glossary of Terms’ used in architecture, which had a rapid sale. In 1848 he edited the fifth edition of Rickman's ‘Attempt to discriminate the Styles of Architecture in England,’ and in 1849 published his ‘Introduction to the Study of Gothic Architecture,’ a handbook which, like his ‘Glossary,’ has gone through many editions, and has had a large share in the instruction of English students of mediæval architecture. Parker's zeal for the ‘restoration’ of ancient buildings has had a decidedly less beneficial influence (cf. Athenæum, 9 Feb. 1884, p. 191). On 7 June 1849 he was elected F.S.A., and between 1851 and 1855 he contributed to the ‘Archæologia’ a series of papers on ‘Ancient Churches in the West of France.’ Among his other contributions to the ‘Archæologia’ he regarded as the most important ‘The English Origin of Gothic Architecture’ (xliii. 273) and ‘The Architectural History of St. Hugh's Chair in Lincoln Cathedral’ (xlvii. 41). In 1851 he began to edit and continue Hudson Turner's ‘Domestic Architecture of the Middle Ages.’ In 1863 he went to Windsor to make investigations for a history of the castle. While thus engaged he was attacked with rheumatic fever, and was ordered to Mentone, and thence to Rome. Being advised to spend his winters in Rome, he devoted himself with enthusiasm to the study of the ancient remains. The results of his researches were principally set forth in his work ‘The Archæology of Rome,’ published 1874–6. Dr. J. H. Middleton (The Remains of Ancient Rome, 1892) censures Parker's writings on Rome for their baseless theories and inaccuracy. In spite of his architectural knowledge and single-minded enthusiasm, Parker was undoubtedly impatient of controversy, uncritical in his handling of ancient authorities, and too much disposed to treat legend as history (cf. Pelham's review of Parker's ‘Via Sacra’ in the Academy for 23 Feb. 1884, p. 136). He rendered a humbler but valuable service to Roman archæology by publishing his numerous series of photographs, prepared under his direction, in illustration of the history of Rome and its remains (see Brit. Mus. Cat. and A Catalogue of 3,300 Historical Photographs of Antiquities in Rome and Italy, published 1879).

On 27 June 1867 Parker was created honorary M.A. of the university of Oxford. In 1869 he endowed the keepership of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, with a sum yielding 250l. a year, and under the new arrangement he was appointed the first keeper in 1870. He gave an inaugural lecture on the history of the museum on 2 Nov. 1870 (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. vi. 429). He remained keeper till his death, which took place at his house in Turl Street, Oxford, 31 Jan. 1884.

Parker was vice-president of the Oxford Architectural Society, and was from the first an active member. He was also vice-president of the British and American Archæological Society of Rome, and for many years took part in the annual congresses of the Archæological Institute. For his Roman researches Parker was decorated by the king of Italy, and was awarded a gold medal by Pope Pius IX. On 30 Oct. 1871 he was nominated a companion of the Bath (civil division), on the recommendation of Mr. Gladstone. Parker married Frances, daughter of the Rev. J. W. Hoskyns, D.D. His son James succeeded to the Oxford publishing business.

Parker's principal publications are: 1. ‘A Glossary of Terms used in Grecian, Roman, Italian, and Gothic Architecture,’ 1836, 8vo; 4th ed. 1845; abridged as ‘A Concise Glossary of Terms,’ &c., 1846, 8vo; 5th ed. 1850; also 1866, 1869. 2. ‘A Companion to … a Glossary of Terms used in Gothic Architecture,’ 1841, 8vo; 1846, 8vo. 3. ‘A Guide to the Architectural Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Oxford,’ 1842, &c., 8vo. 4. ‘A Handbook for Visitors to Oxford,’ 1847, 8vo, &c. 5. ‘An Introduction to the Study of Gothic Architecture,’ 1849, 16mo; 2nd ed. 1861, 8vo; 6th ed. 1881. 6. ‘The Mediæval Architecture of Chester,’ Chester, 1858, 8vo. 7. Turner's ‘Account of Domestic Architecture in England,’ edited and continued by Parker, 1851, &c., 8vo. 8. ‘Mosaic Pictures in Rome and Ravenna,’ London, 1866, 8vo. 9. ‘The Architectural Antiquities of the City of Wells, Oxford,’ 1866, 8vo. 10. ‘The Archæology of Rome,’ Oxford, 1874–6, 8vo; 2nd ed. enlarged, Oxford and London, 1878, 8vo. 11. ‘A B C of Gothic Architecture,’ 1881.

[Proceedings of the Soc. of Antiquaries, 1884, pp. 79–81; Builder, 9 Feb. 1884, p. 189; Men of the Time, 11th ed. 1884; Athenæum, 9 Feb. 1884, p. 191; Saturday Review, 9 Feb. 1884, p. 179; Martin's Handbook of Contemporary Biogr., 1870; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Gent. Mag. passim.]

W. W.