Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Poole, Reginald Stuart

POOLE, REGINALD STUART (1832–1895), archæologist and orientalist, born in London on 27 Feb. 1832, was the younger son of the Rev. Edward Richard Poole, M.A., of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and Sophia Poole [q. v.], sister of Edward William Lane [q. v.] From July 1842 to October 1849 he lived with his mother and her brother at Cairo, where his education was directed by Lane and by the Rev. G. S. Cautley. He began very early to devote himself to the study of ancient Egypt, made minute researches in private collections of antiquities at Cairo and Alexandria, and twice ascended the Nile for the purpose of studying the monuments. The fruit of these labours was seen in a series of articles contributed, before he was seventeen, to the ‘Literary Gazette,’ and republished in 1851 under the title of ‘Horæ Ægyptiacæ, or the Chronology of Ancient Egypt,’ at the instance of Algernon Percy, fourth duke of Northumberland [q. v.] By the duke's influence he was admitted as an assistant in the department of antiquities in the British Museum, 26 Feb. 1852. When that department was rearranged in its present subdivisions, he was assigned to the new department of coins and medals, of which he became assistant keeper in July 1866, and keeper, 29 Oct. 1870.

Poole's work as head of the coin department is specially memorable for the initiation and superintendence of a system of scientific catalogues. While keeper he edited and collated thirty-five volumes, four of which and part of a fifth he wrote himself: viz. (in the ‘Catalogue of Greek Coins),’ ‘Italy,’ 1873; part of ‘Sicily,’ 1876; ‘Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt,’ 1883; and ‘Alexandria,’ 1892; and in the oriental series, ‘Shahs of Persia,’ 1887. During his administration a new feature was introduced in the exhibition of electrotypes of select Greek coins and English and Italian coins and medals in the Museum public galleries, for which ‘Guides’ were written by members of his staff; and a plan was carried out of exposing to public view successive portions of the original coin collections. By these methods, as well as by frequent lectures and by a vast amount of individual instruction freely given to numerous students, he did much to encourage the study of numismatics and medallic art, while inspiring his assistants with an exalted standard of learned work. Outside his official work, he compiled a laborious ‘Catalogue of Swiss Coins’ in the South Kensington Museum (1878), and wrote articles on Greek, Arabic, Persian, and other coins in the ‘Numismatic Chronicle’ and in the ‘Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature,’ in some of which he was the first to point out the value of Greek coins in illustrating classical literature and plastic art (Furtwaengler, Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture, ed. Sellers, 1894, p. 106). He also contributed an introductory essay to the volume on ‘Coins and Medals,’ edited by his nephew, S. Lane-Poole, in 1885. During his keepership the department acquired the Wigan collection, the South Indian series of Sir Walter Elliot, and Sir Alexander Cunningham's Bactrian cabinet, while it was owing to Poole's negotiation that the collections of the Bank of England and of the India Office were incorporated in the British Museum.

On Egyptology Poole lectured and wrote frequently, and some of his essays were collected in 1882, with the title ‘Cities of Egypt.’ He contributed numerous articles to Smith's ‘Dictionary of the Bible’ (1860 et seq.); wrote ‘Egypt,’ ‘Hieroglyphics,’ ‘Numismatics,’ &c., for the eighth and ninth editions of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica;’ read papers on Egyptian subjects before the Royal Asiatic Society and the Royal Society of Literature; and was an occasional reviewer in the ‘Academy.’ In 1869 he was sent by the trustees of the British Museum to report on antiquities at Cyprus and Alexandria, and the result was the acquisition of the Lang and Harris collections. In 1883–5 he was appointed to lecture on Greek, Egyptian, and medallic art to the students of the Royal Academy, and in 1889 he succeeded Sir Charles Newton as Yates professor of archæology at University College, where he converted what had been a special chair of Greek archæology into a centre for instruction in a wide range of archæological studies. His own stimulating teaching of Egyptian, Assyrian, and Arab art and antiquities, and numismatics, was supplemented by the co-operation of specialists in other branches. In 1882 he joined Miss Amelia B. Edwards in founding the Egypt Exploration Fund, to which he devoted most of his spare time and energy during his last twelve years, and of which he was honorary secretary and chief supporter until his death. He also founded, in conjunction with Mr. Legros, in 1884, the Society of English Medallists, in the hope of developing an improved style of medallic art. In 1876 he was elected a correspondent of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres of the French Institute, and in 1880 he received the honorary degree of LL.D. at Cambridge. In 1893, after forty-one years' public service, he retired from the keepership of coins, and, having resigned his professorship in 1894 in consequence of failing health, died on 8 Feb. 1895 at West Kensington. He married in 1861 Eliza Christina Forlonge, by whom he had four children, of whom three survived him.

Besides the works mentioned above, Poole edited a short-lived magazine, the ‘Monthly Review,’ 1856–7, to which he was an extensive contributor; and wrote, in collaboration with his mother, the descriptive letterpress of Frith's ‘Views in Egypt, Sinai, and Palestine.’

[Times, 9 Feb. 1895; Athenæum, 16 Feb. 1895; Lane-Poole's Life of E. W. Lane, pp. 111–121; information from F. A. Eaton, secretary of the Royal Academy; personal knowledge and private information.]