Sidebilder
PDF

that will go down to posterity with a greater share of fame, than that of Thomas Bodley, a private gentleman of Exeter. Pity it was, that the queen’s meanness, and the rapacity of the Burleigh faction, prevented him from possessing more of what he so emphatically calls, Purse Ability. But by the liberality of several successive contributions, a noble collection has been formed; and it is to be hoped, that every man of fortune, who receives his education at Oxford, will continue to contribute towards the completion of this noble library; while the gentlemen who have the care of it should, by persevering study, enable themselves to point out to the new contributors, all such books as would make the library a complete system of intelligence. In the neighbourhood of Oxford, it is impossible to overlook the Sunderland library at Blenheim. This library was formed in the beginning of the last century, and consists of many beautiful specimens of early typography. The successors of the Marlborough family have added but little to it since its first formation. The present heir, however, the marquis of Blandford, seems to be making the amende honorable for the neglect of his forefathers—we heartily wish him success in so laudable a pursuit. In Scotland, there is but one library of any great extent—the Advocates' Library—of which a catalogue is printed in two volumes, folio. It is very full, as indeed it ought to be, on the civil law—the law of Scotland being founded on the Roman, or as it is called, the civil law—But a library calculated for the use, and supported by the contributions, of gentlemen of the long robe, should

be complete in the laws of every country—even in all local and municipal laws, as the laws of this, and every country, however perfect, may be improved by comparison and analogy. There are at Glasgow some very fine books, which were bequeathed to the university, with the other objects of his museum, by Dr. William Hunter. They were collected by that gentleman for their rarity, without any plan of utility, beyond the books on his profession —but they will be a lasting monu

ment of his taste and liberality—

and certainly they will form an excellent foundation for the additions of some succeeding members of that university; so that in time, it is to be hoped that Dr. Hunter's library may rival that of sir Thomas Bodley. After saying so much, what the libraries of this country are, how much and how little they are calculated to disseminate general Knowledge, perhaps it would be proper to say a few words upon the means of obtaining, in a more certain manner, that great end. It is conceived this may be done, in a great capital like London, at a small expense to the parties, by dividing knowledge into all its numberless ramifications. Every public office, or body of men, ought to have all the books on the subject of their pursuit. For instance: the treasury should have every book that ever was written upon finance—the secretary of state's office every thing diplomatic—the admiralty every thing nautical—the board of trade everything commercial—the India company every thing on the commerce and history of those countries they trade with, or governthe bank every thing on bullion, paper credit, the course of exchange, &c.—the inns of court every thing on law, from Bracton to Blackstone—the college of physicians everything from Galen and Hippocrates downwards—the surgeons’ hall every publication on anatomy, surgery, &c. &c. &c. There is, in London, a most eminent example of the success of confining the collection of a library to the pursuit of its proprietor. Sir Joseph Banks’s library of voyages and natural history, with all their relative branches, will, of course, occur to every intelligent reader. This library, in those branches of knowledge it professes to possess, is unparalleled; and the catalogue of it so luminously arranged, that any person may, with perfect facility, see, at once, everything, that has ever been written, on the subject he wishes to consult; and for such consultation, every man of science, both at home and abroad, knows the library is constantly open, with all that liberality and accommodation that so much distinguishes its proprietor. It is in vain that the expense of

libraries is urged against forming

such a collection. We frequently see men of fortune giving many thousand pounds for a single picture, which, when viewed a few times, loses its charms, and ceases to amuse; whereas the knowledge to be acquired from books is inexhaustible. . The greatest libraries on the continent are, those of the Vatican at Rome, the Imperial Library at

Vienna, and the Royal Library at

Paris; of which mention will be made hereafter. The libraries for use are principally in Germany, and there they are where they ought to be—at the universities. That at Gottingen is among the first, for it has had the advantage

of the great and liberal patronage of a prince, who, during a long reign, has wisely foreseen, that he could not improve the rising generation of his subjects in Hanover more, than by contributing to the library at Gottingen, and supplying it with all the knowledge that books convey. The publications of this country, so celebrated for the sciences, formed a considerable part of his majesty's contributions. Indeed, the universities of Germany are greatly distinguished for teaching the sciences, and their libraries, of course, are well stored with books on such subjects; insomuch, that most of the university libraries possess a copy of that great code of scientific knowledge, The Philosofhical Transactions of the Royal Society of London at large; which is undoubtedly the most extensive and valuable body of miscellaneous information, on the subject of the sciences, that the talents of mankind have hitherto produced. In the public libraries of France, there is none of that sound sense in the selection as in those of Germany; and the private collections consist principally in pretty books, and books of prints. It is true, indeed, that Didot, and other eminent printers at Paris, have lately published some very magnificent books, that enter into all their libraries. The royal library at Paris is, however, a wonderful collection of fine books; but then it has been the successive effort of every sovereign, for several centuries past:— indeed, under the direction of such men as William Budeus, James Amyot, J. A. de Thou, the Abbés Louvois, Sallier, Bignon, &c. &c. aided with the patronage of all the succeeding sovereigns, it could not

fail to become a fine library. It has been greatly improved and enriched of late, by the very superior intelligence of the present librarians, Mr. Van Pract, and Mr. De Bure; but it is apprehended, not always by the most justifiable means; but in that respect, no blame attaches to them; they have had the merit of pointing out the articles that were wanted;—how they were obtained was not their concern. On that subject there was a very good story told by the auctioneer, at the sale of the duke of Roxburghe's library, immediately before Valdarser's edition of the Decameron of Boccacio was sold. —It seems the gentleman who had the care of the Imperial Library, as it was then called, was asked, which of the two desiderata of the library he would prefer, the Psalter of 1457, or the Decameron of 147 l? His answer was, “the Decameron, for that is in England, and can only be obtained by fair purchase. Of the Psalter, the king of Bavaria has got a copy: it is true, we are at present good friends with him, but it is very likely we may soon quarrel with him, and then we shall take the Psalter.” This library is not only very rich in printed books, but possesses a very large number of curious MSS. in all languages; insomuch, that it may perhaps be called the most valuable library in the world. A catalogue of it in folio was commenced many years ago, and several volumes printed; the first so early as 1739; but it is not, even now, finished. It is to be hoped, that when common sense shall again obtain its influence in that country, this library, and a catalogue of it, will be attended to,

as a great national object. For what can be such a boast to any nation, as to possess a library which contains the whole circle of human knowledge. * One of the most magnificent private libraries of Europe was possessed by a Count M-Carthy now deceased, but for forty years a resident of Thoulouse in France. The catalogue embraces two stout volumes in octavo The count had a particular passion for works printed on vellum, and made the most numerous and precious collection of them ever formed by an amateur. There are 825 voiumes of this description, the greater part exceedingly rare, ancient, and splendid. Of these the Bible of Jenson of 1476 is unique; unparalleled for the multitude and richness of the miniatures with which it is ornamented. The series belonging to M*Carthy’s library, of the first books printed at Mayence at the commencement of the art of printing, is more complete than that of which any other library,..private or public, can boast, except the Royal Library of Paris. The manuscripts on vellum are, likewise, very numerous and of the greatest possible beauty in the characters and miniatures. His first editions are abundant, and in a state of perfect preservation. They comprise the rarest description of books;– those engraved on plates of wood, and those in Gothic characters so eagerly sought after, and so very scarce. The classics, chronicles, histories, works on natural history, &c. are complete, and among the first specimens of art which Europe can furnish. M'Carthy was

*What follows is from the Editor of this Register.

[ocr errors]

in the habit of buying, when he could procure them, several copies of the most costly works, and selecting their best leaves so as to form one more perfect. He induced an able binder of London to establish himself at Thoulouse, and employed him exclusively, for many years, on his library. The catalogue which he left in his own hand-writing proves him to have been a man of the most extensive acquirements, and furnishes excellent materials for the study of literary history. This collection, the last of the kind remaining in France, is offered for sale by the children of M*Carthy. Several of the cities of the United States of America, although they cannot boast of collections of books equal in extent or value to those enumerated above, possess, however, very respectable public libraries. The university of Cambridge, near Boston, has a rich fund of the ancient classics and biblical works: the Athenaeum of Boston is well supplied with general modern literature, particularly history. The library of the Historical Society of New-York contains much curious matter appropriate to the character of the society. But the most extensive of all our repositories of the kind is the Philadelphia Library, of which the number of volumes is not less than twenty thousand. It is a miscellany of all branches of knowledge, and abounds in curious tracts on the early history and revolutionary struggle of North America. Great care has been taken to procure for it the principal works in general literature that have been published of late years in England, and these comprise many very costly editions. The part of it which is called the Loganian library,<-a donation

from the celebrated William Logan of Pennsylvania—is chiefly composed of the most rare and valuable of the ancient classics, besides much of the European literature of the seventeenth century. There is where withal to form an accomplished scholar, and to satisfy the most recondite enquiry. The library of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia is destined to supply the great desideratum in the western hemisphere, an ample store of works in science, and the techknical arts. It already possesses the best elementary treatises, and the transactions of most of the learned societies of Europe. This establishment will be very soon, in the department of physical science, what the Loganian collection is in erudition. There will not be wanting in Philadelphia abundant food of the choicest kind both for the savant and the scholar of Europe. Baltimore has a miscellaneous public library of several thousand volumes selected with judgment and knowledge. This city has a particular merit on this score, when we take into view the freshness of its date, and the rapidity of its growth, the fruit of commercial enterprise alone, allowing of course but little opportunity for attention to literary objects. The regular library of the congress of the United States was burnt in the capitol at Washington, at the time of the barbarous conflagration of that edifice by the British. It consisted of the best English works in history, politics, and polite literature, and of the records of the federal administration. It is now replaced by a much more valuable collection—the library of the ex-president Jefferson, which the federal government purchased from him at the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars. There would have been something more satisfactory in this transaction, had the legislature of Virginia been the purchaser and bestowed it as a gift on the federal government. However this may be, it was an inestimable acquisition. There are, in all, about six thousand two or three hundred volumes. Mr. Jefferson, while in Europe, at the commencement of the American war, spared no pains nor expense, in collecting from every quarter, whatever could serve to elucidate or complete American history. He was indefatigable, too, in accumulating the best materials, in the shape of memoirs, abridgments, &c.—of European history, particularly the diplomatic. Hence the catalogue which he furnished to congress presents a multitude of books equally curious and useful, which would have been unattainable for this body in any other way. The deficiencies—which are, no doubt, considerable—are, however, such that they may be readily supplied. There is but a slender provision of the historical and political literature of the last ten years. What the proprietor received as an homage to his character and taste, is, for the most part, of no value. The collection is exuberant in the ancient classics; richly stocked with the best classical history ancient and modern, in the principal languages of Europe. The titles History Ancient and Modern, Politics, Geografi.hy, and Criticism, of the catalogue, are particularly full and select. The head of Criticism presents a number of precious works relating to the Anglo-Saxon and old British languages. When we advert to the real condition of the Fine Arts in the United States, —whatever may be the pretensions

advanced,—we cannot attach too much importance to the contents of the chapters under that title in Mr. Jefferson’s catalogue. There is in the most attractive and splendid form, all that could be desired,—especially in architecture, where we are most lame, for the diffusion of techknical knowledge and the improvement of the public taste. Most of the great works and celebrated elementary treatises, in the mathematical and physical sciences, are included in this collection. Three fourths, indeed, of the whole number of volumes are of the highest reputation and of acknowledged authority. A better nursery or substratum for a great national library could not be found, and it surely will be admitted that nothing less is to come within the aim of congress, both on the score of pride and patriotism. If it could be done by no other agency, it was a sort of duty with this body to transfer the literary treasures of Mr. Jefferson to a spot where they would be easily accessible to them and the nation, and stand out as a monument of the national tastc and discrimination. There is an absolute obligation on the part of the federal government, to provide, in the federal metropolis, in the shape of a library, a great reservoir of instruction in all the departments of human knowledge for the use of the public as well as of its own members; and the library, certainly, may be so administered as to be open to the one, without at all interfering with the studies or researches of the other. The idea of an establishment of the kind Sct apart, and peculiar in the charac. ter of its materials, for the use of congress, could only spring either from great poverty of invention as to the discipline of such establish

« ForrigeFortsett »