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John Dart: Westmonasterium

The History and Antiquities of the Abbey Church of St Peter’s Westminster (London, 1723).

John Dart's Westmonasterium is a rare 18th century volume containing a comprehensive survey of over one hundred tombs and monuments in Westminster Abbey.

Dart's text accurately records the funerary sculpture as it existed at the time, and it is still used today to verify the existence of monuments which have since been destroyed or damaged.

The fine line engravings, produced by J. Cole, show the building and individual monuments in great detail while the text provides a useful insight into popular opinions surrounding the sculpture.

Dart's biased narrative

Despite Dart's claims that much of the text was objective, his tour of the monuments has become infamous for its biased narrative. Dart describes Sir Cloudsley Shovel's monument as having often given him great offence and that 'instead of the brave rough English Admiral...he is represented on his tomb by the figure of a Beau, reposing himself against velvet cushions'. His opinion was shared by many others during the period who also remarked on the inappropriate attire of the sculptural effigies in England's most popular centre of Christian worship.

Other volumes in the Research Library on the history of the abbey include: Jodocus Crull's The Antiquities of St Peter's, or, The Abbey-Church of Westminster (1722) 3rd edition,  David Henry's A Historical Description of Westminster Abbey (1830), and Herbert Francis Westlake's St Margaret's Westminster: The Church of the House of Commons (1914).