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Sir William went to Naples as British envoy in 1764, and became fascinated by the vases often discovered at the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum. He became a scholar and collector of these vases, and had his collection catalogued and engraved by Italian engravers named Cardon, Pignatoro, Bracci and Nolli. The engravings, which were of the highest quality, were sent to Josiah Wedgwood by Hamilton's brother in law, Lord Cathcart. When Wedgwood opened his new pottery works in 1769, he made six black vases painted with figures from Hamilton's book, and much of his subsequent work drew inspiration from the engravings. Robert Adam, James Wyatt, John Flaxman and many other artists and designers were also influenced by Hamilton's book.