Old and New London, A Narrative of its History, its People and its Places. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings from the Most Authentic Sources. vol 4

Thornbury, Walter
1872-78

The British Museum (continued).

The British Museum (continued).

 

Scripta Palatinus quacunque recepit Apollo.--Horace.

 

The difference of the appearance of Montagu House from that of the [extra_illustrations.4.502.1]  of the present day is very striking, not only with regard to the building in itself, but also as to its situation, relatively to the country and the town. The old house, as we have shown, remained down almost to the close of the last century quite open on the north side, and commanded views of the surrounding fields; whilst the present edifice, although occupying the same site, and indeed covering a much larger space of ground, is almost completely shut in on sides by streets and squares which are built up close to its walls, so that the only view of the edifice that can be obtained is that of the principal, or southern, front in .

The new buildings, which were commenced by Sir Robert Smirke, were continued in by his brother, [extra_illustrations.4.502.2] ; the walls of old Montagu House being removed piecemeal as the new edifice progressed; the last portion of it disappeared in . In place of the dull brick wall which separated the old house from , there was erected a handsome iron railing, partly gilt. Through this the magnificently enriched front of the new building can be surveyed by the passer-by in all its entire length; it presents a recessed portico and projecting wings; and as the edifice fronts the south, the play of light and shade caused by the forest of Ionic columns with which the whole is faced, is such as no other portico in London possesses. At either extremity of the court-yard is a range of houses for the resident officials of the Museum. In the centre of the iron railing-which is raised upon a granite curb, and is formed of spears painted of a dark copper-colour, with the heads gilt, and an ornamental band--is the principal carriage-gate and foot entrance, strengthened by fluted columns with composite capitals, richly gilt, and surmounted by vases.

The style of architecture adopted throughout the exterior of the new building is the Grecian-Ionic. The southern facade consists of the great entrance portico, columns in width, and intercolumniations in projection. This is approached by a broad flight of steps. On either side is an advancing wing, giving to the entire front an extent of feet; the whole surrounded by a colonnade of columns, raised upon a stylobate feet and a half high. The columns are feet at their lower diameter, and feet high; the height from the pavement of the front court-yard to the top of the entablature of the colonnade, upwards of feet. Professor Cockerell, in a lecture delivered in , remarked that

since the days of Trajan or Hadrian, no such stones have been used as those recently employed at the

British Museum

, the front of which is formed by

800

stones, each from

five

to

nine

tons weight. Even

St. Paul's

contains no approach to these magnitudes.

In the tympanum of the pediment there is a group of allegorical figures, representing the

Progress of Civilisation,

which has been thus described by Sir Richard Westmacott, R.A.:--

Commencing at the western end or angle of the pediment, man is represented as emerging from a rude savage state through the influence of religion. He is next personified as a hunter and tiller of the earth, and labouring for his subsistence. Patriarchal simplicity then becomes invaded, and the worship of the true God defiled. Next, Paganism prevails, and becomes diffused by means of the Arts. The worship of the heavenly bodies, and their supposed influence, led the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and other nations to study astronomy, typified by the central statue, the key-stone to the composition. Civilisation is now presumed to have made considerable progress. Descending towards the eastern angle of the pediment is the genius of Mathematics, in allusion to science being now pursued on known sound principles. The Drama, Poetry, and Music balance the group of Fine Arts on the western side; the whole composition terminating with Natural History, in which such objects or specimens only are represented as could be made most effective in sculpture.

The building erected by Sir Robert Smirke consists of ranges of apartments-east, west, north, and south; and these formerly enclosed a hollow square, forming a large open quadrangle. The eastern range, which was completed in , was in use some years previous to the gradual erection of the others. It contains the apartments

p.503

appropriated to the manuscript collection, and also the Royal Library, of which we have spoken above; a magnificent series of corridors feet in length, and wide, with inlaid floors and coffered ceilings. The ground-floor of the northern range of apartments is allotted to the general library, and is less ornate in appearance than the eastern range; but it nevertheless contains or rooms of a striking character. The western range was erected partly on the site of the old Gallery of Antiquities, which was opened in , and presents large apartment, corresponding in length with the Royal Library; this is appropriated to Egyptian and other sculpture. The southern range, the last completed, occupies the exact site of old Montagu House. This range contains the great hall and staircase; on the east of which is a room containing the Grenville library, and on the west a saloon containing sculptured antiquities. The increasing collections of the Museum had rendered it necessary to make various additions to the original design of Sir Robert Smirke, some of them even before that design had been carried out. Of these may be mentioned a gallery or saloon for the Elgin marbles, which was erected on the western side of the western range. The most extensive addition, however, is that erected in the inner quadrangle, under the superintendence of Mr. Sydney Smirke, who had some time previously succeeded his brother, Sir Robert, as architect to the Museum. This new building contains the reading-room and the accommodation prospectively necessary for the annual increase of the collection of printed books. It is of the principal architectural features of the Museum, and the only that is visible at a distance, the dome that crowns it forming part of the view of London as seen from Hampstead Heath, and from the Norwood and Sydenham hills near the Crystal Palace. to the room is by a long passage, which is adorned with a bust of Sir Anthony Panizzi, who was some time principal librarian, and at whose suggestion the new reading-room was built. The subject had indeed been under consideration many years previously, and some discussion has arisen as to the real author of the original suggestion. Mr. Hawkins, an architect, who published a pamphlet of

Observations on the Reading-room,

in , assigns the earliest notion of building in the above-mentioned quadrangle to Mr. Edward Hawkins, in ; but the idea seems to have been ventilated even as early as the years and , when it was introduced in a series of letters on the Museum, published at that time anonymously in the , but which were subsequently acknowledged by Mr. Watts, of the officers of the Printed Book Department.

The space thus unfortunately wasted,

says Mr. Watts, speaking of the quadrangle,

would have provided accommodation for the whole library. A reading-room of ample dimensions might have stood in the centre, and have been surrounded on all

four

sides by galleries for the books, communicating with each other, and lighted from the top.

[extra_illustrations.4.503.1] 

On crossing the threshold of the reading-room, the visitor finds himself in a large circular apartment crowned with a dome of the most magnificent dimensions, feet in diameter, and feet high. It is the largest dome in the world, with exception, the Pantheon at Rome. The cylinder or drum which sustains the dome, presents a continuous circular wall of books, which are accessible from the floor, or from low galleries running round the apartment; it comprises in the part open to the

readers

about volumes of books of reference and standard works, and in the part round the galleries more than volumes of the principal sets of periodical publications, old and new, and in various languages.

In the decoration of the interior dome

--we use the words of the authorised

Guide to the Museum

--

light colours and the purest gilding have been used. The great room, therefore, has an illuminated and elegant aspect. The decorative work may be shortly described. The inner surface of the dome is divided into

twenty

compartments by moulded ribs, which are gilded with leaf prepared from unalloyed gold, the soffites being in ornamental patterns, and the edges touching the adjoining margins fringed with a leaf-pattern scalloped edge. Each compartment contains a large circular-headed window, with

three

panels above, the central

one

being medallion-shaped, the whole bordered with gilt mouldings and lines, and the field of the panels finished in encaustic azure blue, the surrounding margins being of a warm creamcolour. The details of the windows are treated in like manner--the spandril panels being blue; the enriched column and pilaster caps, the central flowers, the border moulding and lines being all gilded; the margins cream-colour throughout. The moulded rim of the lantern light, which is painted and gilded to correspond, is

forty

feet diameter. The sash is formed of gilt moulded ribs radiating from a central medallion, in which the royal monogram is alternated with the imperial crown. The cornice, from which the dome springs, is massive and almost wholly gilded, the frieze being formed into panels bounded by lines terminating at the ends with a gilt fret ornament.

The floor of the room is occupied with

p.504

large and smaller tables, fitted up with ample accommodation for more than readers; of these are reserved for the exclusive use of ladies, who have been admitted as

readers

since about the year ; ladies, however, are always at liberty to take a seat at any other table which they prefer. By the simple expedient of raising the partition down the middle of each of the larger tables so high that a reader cannot see his opposite neighbour, privacy is secured to the literary workingbees, and on entering the room when it is quite full, a stranger might at suppose that it was nearly empty. The tables are all arranged so as to converge towards the centre of the room, near which, are circular ranges of stands for the gigantic Catalogue, the entries of which--all in manuscript-fill upwards of large folio volumes, and a portion of which is thus, if not at the reader's fingers' ends, yet actually at the end of every table. In the centre is the

quarter-deck

of the chief superintendent, whose position commands a general view of all the tables and their occupants, often between and in number, and comprising among them some of the best known names in the world of literature and learning-

names that

The Reading-Room Of The British Museum.

are familiar now,

says a writer in the

English Encyclopaedia,

to all the readers of Europe and America, and will be familiar, in all probability, centuries hence, from the very labours in which they are aided by the

Museum reading-room

. . . From the nature of the library around them, not only such men as Carlyle and Thackeray, Kossuth and Montalembert, but the humblest labourer in the literary vineyard, from the most distant corners of the world, may be certain that on the walls around them there exists some record of his labours, or the copy of some lines traced by his hand.

What a difference exists between the readingroom of to-day and that of a century ago! Not only is its whole aspect changed with regard to the building, the accommodation provided, and the regulations respecting its management and rules for admission, but the increase in the number of its

readers

has kept equal pace with the increase in the thousands who visit the other parts of the Museum. The regulations for its management at the outset, in , were, as we have shown in the previous chapter, of the same cautious and restrictive character with those for the general establishment. Gray, the poet, was of the

p.505

to avail himself of the opening of the room; and some mention of it will be found in or of his letters. Thus, in , dated , he writes,

I often pass

four

hours in the day in the stillness and solitude of the reading-room;

and in another letter he describes the company, which at that time consisted of only other readers, of whom were Prussians, while Dr. Stukeley, the antiquary, and a copyist made up the number. In like manner, Mr. D'Israeli tells us that when his late father, the author of

Curiosities of Literature,

&c., frequented the reading-room, at the end of the last century, his companions never numbered half a dozen. In , after the removal of the readers' quarters to more spacious rooms, the numbers rose to nearly daily; and on the opening of the present reading-room the number was instantaneously doubled, the daily average in the year being . Those who obtain admission have at their command, arranged on the walls around them, a library of volumes, comprising books of reference of all kinds. They may at pleasure, by merely writing for what they want, obtain as many volumes as they please of a printed and manuscript library of above
volumes, of the best and largest general collections in Europe. Their seats are furnished with every accommodation for writing and reading, and they are met on all sides with attention and civility; indeed, a nobleman in his private library may often miss facilities to be found in the readingroom of the Museum. The following are the most important directions respecting it, taken from a printed paper which is given to every reader :--

The reading-room of the Museum is open every day, except Sundays, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Christmas Day, and any Fast or Thanksgiving days appointed by authority; except also from the 1st to the 7th of January, the 1st to the 7th of May, and the 1st to the 7th of September, inclusive.

The hours are from nine till four in the months of November, December, January, and February; from nine till five in the months of September, October, March, and April; and from nine till six in the months of May, June, July, and August.

Any person desiring to be admitted into the reading-room is to apply in writing,--addressed To the Principal Librarian --specifying his (or her) profession or business, and place of abode, and accompanying his letter with a written recommendation, satisfactory to an officer of the Museum; and thereupon the principal librarian may grant him or her admission for a term not exceeding six months, or refer the application to the trustees at their next meeting. Any reader, once admitted, may apply at the close of his term for the renewal of his ticket, without a fresh recommendation, but producing his last ticket of admission.

The tickets of admission given. to readers are not transferable, and each person must, if required, produce his ticket.

Persons under twenty-one years of age are not admissible, except under a special order from the trustees.

Readers, before leaving the room, are to return the books, manuscripts, or maps which they have received to an attendant, and are to obtain the corresponding ticket; the reader being responsible for such books, manuscripts, or maps so long as the ticket remains uncancelled.

It may be sufficient merely to suggest, that silence is absolutely requisite in a place dedicated to the purposes of study.

There are various printed catalogues of portions of the collection, such as the King's Library, the Grenville Library, &c., and subsidiary catalogues to the magazines, newspapers, and serial publications, as well as to the Bibles and works illustrative of the Holy Scriptures. But the is the General Catalogue, to which reference has been already made. The entries are all made in manuscript by an army of scribes, whose daily work it is to add to it the names of all the new books which reach the Museum. These are entered under their author's name, or, where published anonymously, according to the subjects of which they treat. To the title of each book is affixed a

press-mark,

which, by certain figures and letters familiar to the practised eyes of the officials, though unintelligible to the outer world, gives a clue to its whereabouts on the shelves of the Leviathan Collection. Every reader who wants a book must give in writing its full title and

press-mark,

in order to enable the attendants to bring it to him when seated at his table. It is to be much wished that there were another catalogue as well, in order to help the literary explorer when he knows the subject of a book, but is at a loss for the name of the author whom he wishes to consult.

The New General Catalogue, having the Old Catalogue and the Supplemental Catalogue embodied in it, was begun in , and is completed to the end of letter R, the number of volumes thus far amounting to , each containing about pages. After letter R, at the present time () we have only the Old and the Supplemental Catalogues to guide us; but, in course of time, this portion will be swallowed up by the Leviathan, which is of such slow growth. The following curious and interesting information on this subject we quote from the

English Encyclopaedia:

--

The catalogue of the British Museum has been a subject of frequent discussion in the public press, since the committee of the House of Commons in 1835. Before that time, in 1824, the Rev. Thomas Hartwell Home had been appointed to superintend the preparation of a classed catalogue; but in 1834, his labours, and those of his colleagues, had been suspended, and the Rev. Mr. Baber had been directed to draw up plans for an alphabetical catalogue. A long correspondence on the subject will be found in the Appendices to the Reports of the Commons' Committee, and of the Royal Commission. When, after Mr. Panizzi's appointment to the keepership, the library had been removed from the old to the new building, the question of cataloguing and of printing the catalogue again came up, and a small committee of the Printed Book Department, presided over by Mr. Panizzi, drew up, in 1839, a series of rules for that purpose, which amounted, when they finally received the sanction of the trustees, who re-discussed them, to the number of ninety-one. Objection has been made to their number; but it must be remembered that it was requisite to provide beforehand for all the contingencies to be foreseen in operating on a large library for several hands; and experience shows that the variety in the notions of catalogues is wonderful. In the King's Library Catalogue, for instance, though it is professedly alphabetical, all the novels and tales by anonymous authors, from Amadis de Gaul to Waverley, are entered in a mass, under the singular heading of Fabulae Romanenses. In such a title as the Second Report of the Auxiliary Trinitarian Bible Society, of St. James's, Clerkenwell, there is hardly a word, except the particles, which has not been selected by some cataloguers as a heading, many taking even the word Second ; though it is evident that, on that principle, a set of twenty of these reports would figure in twenty different parts of the same list. It is evident that difficulties of this kind do not diminish when foreign languages are to be treated, which, in the case of the Museum Library, are not few in number. A commencement was made of printing the catalogue compiled on the new principles, and in 1841 the first volume, containing the letter A, appeared under the superintendence of Mr. Panizzi; but immediately afterwards the printing was suspended, and one of the objects of the Royal Commission of 1847 was to inquire into the cause of this suspension. The commission approved of the step which had been taken, for the reasons assigned by Mr. Panizzi, that it was evidently unadvisable to print any portion of an alphabetical catalogue before the whole was ready for the press. Since this decision has been arrived at, the revision of the old catalogues has continued in manuscript, while all the fresh books added have been dealt with on the same principles; but, as has already been stated, the number of volumes in the Museum before the year 1839 was about 235,000, while the number since added exceeds 335,000, so that the bulk of the supplements, had the catalogue been printed, would in 1859 have already exceeded that of the principal. The immense labour expended on this gigantic work would, perhaps, have been more highly appreciated by the public, had some of its results been embodied in print. The knowledge and care required in settling the items of an extensive catalogue might often win a reputation if exerted in some other direction, but apparently will never in England win a reputation in this.

When a new book has been catalogued, the next step to be taken with it is to place it on one of the shelves in a press, or book-case, that it may receive its appropriate press-mark, that is, the indication of its locality. At the Museum each press or book-case has a certain number, and the different shelves are indicated by the letters of the alphabet. Thus the press-mark 1,340 a indicates that the book is placed on the a, or topmost shelf of press or book-case 1,340. Nothing can be more simple, yet this simplicity is rare. In another library in London, for instance, the system is exactly reversed: the presses are marked with the letters of the alphabet, and the shelves with numbers; the consequence is, that as the letters of the alphabet are soon exhausted, the librarians have to commence a second series by repeating them thus, AA, BB, &c.; then a third and a fourth on some other principle, and long before they have arrived at as high a number as 1,340, the system will be found involved in inextricable entanglement. As the shelves in any book-case never amount to the number of the letters of the alphabet, no difficulty of the kind can occur with them. Yet the system of numbering the presses appears to have been slow in suggesting itself to librarians in general. Sir Robert Cotton named his book-cases after the Twelve Caesars, and in order to find a book it was necessary to remember the succession of Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. When his bookcases outgrew the number of twelve, he abandoned even this system for a worse, and instead of proceed, ing in succession with the five good Emperors, arbitrarily introduced Cleopatra and Faustina. At the Advocates' Library in Scotland, the presses were patriotically named after the succession of the Scottish kings, then the additional presses after the signs of the zodiac, &c., till necessity drove them to the adoption of numbers, lest they should be compelled to make every new attendant go through a course of the sciences before he could find a book. The great problem in the arrangement of a library, which is increasing, is so to place every book as it comes in, that it may receive a press-mark which will never have to be altered, and yet to provide that the classes of books shall be kept together; that a new book of travels in Australia, for instance, shall stand with other books of travels in Australia, and not with Spanish plays or Acts of Parliament. A system of this kind would seem to be peculiarly difficult to establish in a library which is increasing at the rate of 20,000 volumes a year, and yet at the Museum a plan of extreme simplicity has been adopted, which is found to answer its purpose. Let us suppose that a room has been built which contains 100 bookcases, each capable of containing 150 volumes, and therefore that the room will contain 15,000 volumes in all, but that the possessor has 1,000 volumes only to place in it at the outset, intending to purchase for the next fourteen years 1,000 volumes a year. It is evident that if he numbers his presses from i to 100, and proceeds to place his several books, the very first few volumes that he marks with a press-mark hamper him in a certain degree as to the places of all the others. If he assumes that his purchases of books in English history will finally occupy a single press, and therefore places an edition of Hume in press 77, and occupies press 76 on one side of it with ancient history, and press 78 with the history of France; he may find a year after that his purchases in English history have filled press 77, and in French history press 78, and that he requires more room for both, but that the only space he has left is in press 2, among the Bibles, or in press 99, which is entirely vacant, but stands next to the works of Shakespeare. The order which he has endeavoured to preserve is therefore spoiled: he must either fill up the vacant spaces with incongruous books, or shift the position of a number of them and alter the press-marks. The problem will be certain to recur over and over again before the room is filled, and each time the remedy will be more hard to effect and more wearisome. One simple change of feature in the arrangements adopted at the outset will obviate all the difficulty. We have supposed that he has marked his presses with fixed consecutive numbers from 1 to 100; let us suppose that he marks them instead with movable numbers not consecutive, leaving gaps between, and the whole trouble is got over. Assume, for instance, that he places his Hume just in the same position, but marks the press 283, and places the French history still in the next press, but marks that press 315. When, in the course of a year or two, he finds that he wants additional room for English history, and that the last press but one in the room is vacant, he removes the contents of the last press but two into the last press but one, removing the number with it, and by repeating the process obtains a vacant press immediately after his press of English history, which is exactly what is required. Each new press between 283 and 315 he marks with some intermediate number. The process can be repeated as often as requisite, and the gain is obvious; the press-marks remain the same, and, though not consecutive, they stand in sequence, and serve as a ready and easy guide. The books are movable, and yet the press-marks are permanent. The processes we have supposed are precisely those which have actually occurred at the British Museum. When, in 1838, the old library was moved from Montagu House to the new apartments in the northern range, the press-mark of every book, and of every tract in a book (and there are sometimes more than a hundred tracts in a volume), was altered. The task of arranging the library in its new position was entrusted to Mr. Watts, who, in the course of that and the eighteen following years, during which every book that entered the Museum passed through his hands, must have examined and classed upwards of 400,000 volumes. The rapid augmentation of the collection, and the system of marking the presses with consecutive numbers, made it necessary that the accumulations should be arranged in three successive sets or series. The idea of the plan of inconsecutive numbers occurred to Mr. Watts long before it could be carried into effect, as, in order to carry it out practically, it was required that all, or nearly all, the presses should be of similar height and size, and the presses in the new building often varied considerably. The new scheme, on receiving the sanction of Mr. Panizzi, was finally commenced in the long room by the side of the King's Library. The presses in that room amounted to about 600, but in the numbering a range of numbers was assumed from 3,000 to 12,000. The numbers from the beginning of 3,000 to the end of 4,000 were assigned to Theology; from 5,000 to 6,000, to Jurisprudence; from 7,000 to 8,000, to Philosophy, Science, and Art; from 9,000 to 10,000, to History; from 11,000 to 12,000, to Literature. A particular sub-division was assigned to each century of numbers; it was assumed, for instance, that dramatic literature would occupy a hundred presses, from 11,700 to 11,799, and thus every drama which has been placed on the new system bears in its press-mark 117 for the first three figures of the five. This system, which is known by the name of the elastic system, appears to promise several advantages besides those which have been already derived from it. It is evident, for instance, that if one copy of the title-slips of the books thus placed and marked were arranged in the order of the press-marks instead of that of the author's names, it would ipso facto produce a rough classed catalogue; and thus a problem, which has been thought insoluble, would be solved in the simplest manner.

When the title-slip of a new book has received the press-mark of its locality, it is ready to be entered in the manuscript catalogue, and passes therefore into the hands of the Transcribers. The present catalogues of the Museum are as novel as many other of its arrangements. Formerly, the titles were simply written into an interleaved copy of the printed catalogue, a copy of which was kept in the reading-room. As it could not be calculated beforehand what the insertions were to be, the same difficulty was perpetually recurring with the alphabetical order of the entries as with the classified arrangement of the books, and the only remedy in use was to cancel a sheet whenever required, and re-write the entries over a larger space. The system was not found adequate to the requirements of the Museum, when the augmentations rose to the rate of 20,000 volumes a year. The present system is that of using prepared paper and a kind of stylus, so that four copies of each entry are produced at once. These copies, which are necessarily on thin paper, are mounted on thicker paper by the bookbinder, so as to be equal to considerable wear and tear, and are then fastened on the pages in the volumes of the catalogue, in such a way that, if required, they can be readily taken up again and removed to another page. By this means the exact alphabetical arrangement of the catalogue is continally kept up, to the great advantage of the readers who consult it.

The chief books of reference in the readingroom, as we have already shown, are arranged on shelves round the floor of the building, and are available for readers without the necessity of writing an order for them. They are divided into Theology;

p.509

Law; Philosophy; Fine Arts; Biography; Belles Lettres; Poets; Bibliography; Ancient Classics; Geography; Voyages and Travels; Topography; History; Literary Journals and Libraries; Encyclopaedias; Dictionaries of Languages; and lastly, Peerages and Genealogical works. To each of these subjects a separate department of the shelves is assigned; and there hangs up on every table in the room a

ground-plan

which will show their order and distribution, so as to save the searcher's time.

Of the scene to be daily witnessed in the readingroom, a classic picture is presented to us by a writer in the

Comprehensive History of England,

which we here take the liberty of quoting :--

So immense an accumulation in every language, of every period, and upon every department of human study, is adequately furnished for the purpose it was designed to serve, and the accommodation of those who use it. An ample readingroom, properly lighted and heated, well served by a numerous staff of attendants, and provided with all the apparatus for reading and writing, leaves the student no cause to regret that by the rules of the institution he can only use the books within the premises, instead of carrying them to his own home. Equally liberal, also, are :the terms of admission, so that with a simple recommendation from some literary person or even known respectable householder, an applicant is at once admitted to the full use and range of the collection, let his rank, station, or country be what it may. Here, then, the chief amount of British authorship is daily, weekly, and yearly to be found collected, the veritable living men and women whose names only are known in the provinces, and regarded with veneration and wonderment; and here those works are elaborated which swarm from the press with an abundance and facility at which our ancestors would have been astonished. As intellect also is of no sex, here may be found among the hundreds who regularly assemble within that crystal dome, ladies mingled with gentlemen, but each pursuing his or her separate task apparently unconscious of the presence of another.

One

is extracting notes from a pile of volumes, or carrying on a hunt of hours or days after a stray fact, date, or name. Another is transcribing from an old smoke-dried or half-burned MS., which none can read but himself. Another is dashing on with pen in full career, and against time, in the lighter departments of literature, where imagination is half the game, and where the work of research is confined to an occasional glance at

two

or

three

volumes lying before him. What strange varieties of country, of station, of physiognomy, of intellectual occupation meet daily within these walls; and what results are there produced, from the, ponderous folio to the fugitive essay or tale! No conversation the while--no whispering-nothing is heard but the slight rustle of the pen upon paper, or the occasional roll of the truck-wheels along the oaken floor, conveying volumes too heavy to be carried, while foreigners, astonished at such silence among so great a multitude, cannot comprehend how mind can possibly live in such an atmosphere. But it is a true British characteristic; and, like the awful silence of a British battle-charge, it is the expression of confirmed and concentrated resolve.

It may be as well to add here a list of a few of the offences against the code of rules and regulations for which

readers

have at various times been excluded from the reading-room. Writing (or making marks) in pencil as well as ink, in Museum books, manuscripts, &c., even corrections of the press and the author; damaging book-bindings, &c.; tracing and colouring without permission; leaving the library-books on the tables, instead of returning them, and obtaining the vouchers, or book-tickets; transferring reading-tickets to other persons for their use; taking books out of the reading-room; annoying lady-readers; insulting the officials; disturbing students; carrying lighted cigars into the room; uncleanly habits; conveying away the property of the trustees (for which offence, we need hardly say, a term of imprisonment has followed the exclusion); and also for employing fictitious names and initials in order to gain admission, or for passing under fictitious names and titles after admission gained. For this offence a

reader

of some standing, a foreigner, who had fraudulently assumed a sham title of nobility, in , had his reading-ticket stopped.

Passing from the reading-room to the

printed book department,

we will proceed to note down a few of the many interesting works that are here preserved. At the time when the was opened, towards the close of the reign of George II., the library of printed books, as we have shown above, had already received a donation which emphatically marked it as the national library of England. This was the royal library, which had been presented to it by the king. The collection, although not large, being estimated only at about volumes, was nevertheless rich in interest, from its numerous memorials of the Tudors and the Stuarts. The volumes brought together by Henry VII. comprised a remarkable series of illuminated books on vellum, from the press of the early French printer, Anthony

p.510

Verard. of them, a French Boethius, has a dedication addressed to the King of England, while in another copy in the library, the dedication is to the King of France; but on examination it will be found that, in the King of England's copy, the word

Engleterre

has been inserted with a pen. A splendid vellum copy of the Bible of is interesting, as containing in the title-page, said to be from a design by Holbein, a figure of Henry giving the Bible to his subjects. It is something to know that

bluff King Hal

possessed a Bible; but the sacred work does not, it is true, bear marks of having been much used by its royal owner. We will not pretend to say that this is the identical copy of the Bible which was placed upon the floor by a companion of the youthful and pious
Edward VI., in order that, by standing upon it, he might reach something from a shelf in the room in which they were amusing themselves. At ail events, such an anecdote is told; and it is added that the young offender was warmly reproved by his royal playmate for his want of reverence for the Scriptures. In the same press is a copy of the New Testament which belonged to Anne Boleyn. There is also King Henry's copy of his

Assertion of the

Seven

Sacraments,

the book which procured for him, from Pope Leo X., the title of

Defender of the Faith,

ever since borne by the British sovereigns. Of the children of Henry who successively came to the throne, there are likewise interesting memorials to be found here--in the Greek Grammar of Edward VI.; in Queen Mary's

p.511

p.512

copy of Bandello's novels, which, it is asserted, supplied many of the plots for Shakespeare's plays; and in the volume of the

Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury,

the book privately printed in England; the last-named work is handsomely bound in embroidered velvet, and was presented to Queen Elizabeth by its author, Archbishop Parker. Another volume, which must once have belonged to the royal collection, but which came to the Museum through the bequest of a private gentleman, is Queen Elizabeth's copy of the book printed in Anglo-Saxon, the edition of the Gospels superintended by John Fox, who, as a memorandum in the title-page assures us, personally presented it to the queen. There are numerous memorials of James I., in books offered to him by the universities, the synod of Dort, &c.; and of his unfortunate successor, Charles I., there are the volumes of almanacks in which he scribbled his name when Prince of Wales; then there is Bacon's

Advancement of Learning,

printed at Oxford in , which contains apophthegms inserted by King Charles with his own hand. Here, too, are some beautifully-bound volumes of the Protestant nuns of Huntingdonshire, the illustrated

Harmony of the Evangelists;

this work was brought to the king, by Nicholas Ferrar, , and a minute account of the delightful reception of it by his Majesty will be found in the

Life of Ferrar.

Among the books which belonged to Charles II. is a fine copy of the edition of the

Pilgrim's Progress.

The collection of pamphlets and publications bearing on the state of public affairs during the time of the Civil War, is of great interest. It was commenced in , at the very outbreak of the rupture between the King and the Parliament, by George Thomason, a bookseller of , who, observing the direction which public affairs were taking, and the extraordinary activity of the press, conceived the idea of collecting all the pamphlets and publications on either side, from folios to broadsides, as they made their appearance.

For the

twenty

years following,

says the author of the article in the

Encyclopaedia

already quoted,

though we are told it was a heavy burden to himself and his servants, and though at

one

time it was thought advisable to effect a colourable sale of the collection to the University of Oxford to save it from the Commonwealth, the design appears to have been never relinquished for a day. On

one

occasion, the king himself sent to borrow a pamphlet, and chancing to drop it in the dirt, sent :a courteous apology to Mr. Thomason, who made a memorandum of the circumstance in the volume (

one

which contains Shawe's

Broken Heart

) on which the dirt remains to this day to attest the fact. The whole collection at last amounted to about

30,000

pamphlets, bound up in chronological order, in

2,220

volumes. Ill, indeed, was the collector requited. In a statement bound up with his catalogue, and written apparently by his son, we are told that in his lifetime, which lasted till

1666

, he refused

£ 4,000

for the collection, supposing that sum not sufficient to reimburse him. His heirs offered it to Charles II. for purchase, and he appears to have directed the royal stationer, Mearne, to buy it on his account, it is not known for what sum, and afterwards to have granted as a favour permission to re-sell it, which the heirs of the Mearne family did not succeed in doing till they disposed of it in

1762

to George III., for

£ 300

. The collection, when presented to the Museum, was known there by the name of the

King's Pamphlets,

the name and merits of the collector who had displayed such sagacity, energy, and perseverance, having sunk into total oblivion.

That portion of the library which passed to the national repository from George III. was originally collected in Buckingham House. There, as we have shown in a previous chapter, Dr. Johnson frequently consulted its books.

It is curious,

writes Mr. John Timbs, in his

Autobiography,

that the royal collector (George III.) and his venerable librarian (Mr. Barnard) should have survived almost

sixty

years after commencing the formation of this, the most complete private library in Europe, steadily appropriating

£ 2,000

per annum towards this object, and adhering with scrupulous attention to the instructions of Dr. Johnson, contained in the admirable letter (see

Quarterly Review

,

June, 1826

), printed by order of the

House of Commons

.

As to the formation of the King's Library, Sir Henry Ellis informs us in his

evidence

on the subject of the Museum collections, that it was commenced in the year , by the purchase of the library of an

eminent character

at Venice, and subsequently enriched by the spoils of the libraries of the Jesuits, consequent on the suppression of that Order on the Continent, when many fine and rare books were to be bought at low prices. It is worthy of remark that the King's Books are kept separate from the rest, and that there is also, as we have already stated, a separate catalogue. In the centre of the King's Library are several upright glazed show-cases, in which are displayed for a time such prints and engravings as may be bequeathed to the Museum, before their final

p.513

consignment to the room set apart to the Department of Prints, &c.

Of smaller collections which have found their way, either by bequest or by purchase, on to the shelves of the Museum, may be mentioned a large and choice collection of Bibles belonging to Dr. Charles Combe, bought in as a nucleus; a large group of books on the topography of Italy, presented by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, in , and distinct batches of tracts on the French Revolution, acquired by purchase, and amounting to about articles, which form a sort of pendant to the Thomason collection spoken of above. In a most valuable addition was made to the library by a bequest of the Right Hon. Thomas Grenville. Mr. Grenville, who had signed the treaty of American Independence in , died in the full possession of his faculties in the last named year, upwards of years of age. In a codicil to his will, dated in , he thus expresses himself:--

A great part of my library has been purchased from the profits of a sinecure office given me by the public, and I feel it to be a debt and a duty that I should acknowledge this obligation by giving that library, so acquired, to the

British Museum

, for the use of the public.

It is devoutly to be wished that other holders of sinecures had been equally conscientious. The collection comprised upwards of volumes, and is said to have cost more than . This library is kept in a, room entirely set apart for it, on the east side of the entrance-hall. In both the Royal Library and the Grenville Library are a number of tables with show-cases, in which some of the choicest literary treasures are displayed. In the case devoted to the earliest production of the printing-press of Germany, there is a copy of the Latin Bible, known as the

Mazarine Bible,

because the copy which attracted notice in modern times was discovered in the library of Cardinal Mazarine. It is supposed to have been issued from the press of Guttenburg about the year . This book, according to general belief the earliest that was ever printed, is here in company with the Latin Psalter of , printed by Faust and Scheffer; this is said to be the earliest book bearing a date, and it is renowned for the splendour of its initial letter, printed in colours.

Of the specimens of the earliest productions of the printing-press in England, which are here preserved, are, of course, several from the press set up by Caxton in , towards the close of the century. These include

The Game and Playe of the Chesse

--the book printed in England-, and the English version of Aesop's Fables. Then there are some real treasures in the various old copies of the Scriptures that have found a safe keeping; and among them are the Elector of Saxony's copy of Martin Luther's translation of the Bible; Myles Coverdale's Bible, bearing the date of , the printed in England; and Martin Luther's own copy of the German Bible, which is dated . The collection of autographs is very large and valuable, and full of interest, being limited not to those of persons who belong to modern history, but to

all time.

Among them are the [extra_illustrations.4.513.1]  (), on a copy of Montaigne's

Essays

translated by Florio, printed in ; of Milton, on a copy of Aratus, printed at Paris; of Ben Jonson, on the presentation copy of his

Volpone

to John Florio; of Lord Bacon, on a copy of the works of Fulgentius; of Bentley, and of Martin Luther, , in the, copy of the Bible mentioned above. The same copy was afterwards in the possession of Melancthon, who, in , wrote a long note, still preserved, on the fly-leaf of the volume. Handwritings and letters of Edward IV., V., and VI.; Richard III. (application to the Duke of Gloucester for the loan of a ); Richard II. (document concerning the surrender of Brest), Henry VII., Queen Anne Boleyn, Knox, Calvin, Erasmus, Ridley, Cranmer, Latimer, Queen Mary, Bonner, Sir Thomas More, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Isaac Newton, Cardinal Wolsey, Galileo, Hampden, Sidney, Burghley, Tasso, Drake, Hawkins, Oliver Cromwell, Queen Elizabeth, Lady Jane Grey, Addison, Leibnitz, Dryden, Franklin, Charles I. and II., James II., Voltaire, George I., II., and III., William III., Queen Anne, Pope, Sully, Marlborough, Gustavus Adolphus, Emperor Charles V., Henry IV. of France, Francis I. of France, Peter the Great, Emperor of Russia, Frederick the Great of Prussia, Napoleon Bonaparte, Catherine de Medici, Mary Queen of Scots (part of her will in her own handwriting in French), Louis XIV. of France, pen-and-ink sketch of Battle of Aboukir by Nelson, Conde, Turenne, Washington, Wellington, Sir Walter Scott, T. B. Macaulay, and Charles Dickens. Some of the autograph stores in the Museum are exhibited under glass cases in the Manuscript Department; many of those which are not so exhibited are published in Sir Henry Ellis's

Original and Royal Letters.

documents, which form part and parcel of the history of England, will be found among the historical treasures of the Museum. of these is superscribed-

Bull of Pope Innocent III., whereby he receives in fee the Kingdom of

England, given to the Roman Church by virtue of a Charter confirmed by the Golden Seal of King John, and takes it into his apostolical protection. Given at

St. Peter's

,

11

Kalends of May, A.D.

1214

, and of the Pontificate of Pope Innocent the

17th

year.

The rupture between King John and the Pope, as all readers of history know, had lasted for several years. How that in the end the Pope declared that John had forfeited his crown, released his subjects from their allegiance, proclaimed a crusade against England, and commissioned the French king to execute it; and how that John eventually surrendered to the Pontiff, acknowledged his appointment to the primacy of the English Church, consented to do homage to the Pope, and finally drew up the charter cited in the Bull now before us, in which he formally

resigned England and Ireland to God, to St. Peter and St. Paul, and to Pope Innocent and his successors in the apostolical chair, agreeing to hold his dominions as feudatory of the Roman Church, by paying a

thousand marks

yearly

--all these things are matters of history; and fortunately the actual voucher for the transaction is here to convince the most sceptical.

The other historical deed is a time-worn and highly-valued piece of parchment, bearing the signatures (or copy of the signature) of King John and several of the Barons--the famous Magna Charta. This is enclosed within a glass frame, and has a fragment of the [extra_illustrations.4.514.1]  totally defaced, depending from it. After the injury sustained by this unfortunate document, when the library in which it was formerly kept (the Cottonian) was nearly all destroyed by an accidental fire, at Ashburnham House, in , it was carefully extended upon coarse canvas; but through the effects of time and other circumstances, the ink has become very pale, and the writing is now nearly illegible. Many years ago, however, an admirable fac-simile of the deed, in its original state, was made by permission of the trustees; this is surrounded by the arms of the barons who witnessed the [extra_illustrations.4.514.2] , and is placed side by side with the original.

Mr. John Timbs, in his

Curiosities of London,

says that this copy of Magna Charta is

traditionally stated to have been bought for fourpence, by Sir Robert Cotton, of a tailor, who was about to cut up the parchment into measures! But this anecdote, if true, may refer to another copy of the charter, also preserved at the

British Museum

in a portfolio of royal and ecclesiastical instruments, marked

Augustus II., art. 106;

for the original charter is believed to have been presented to Sir Robert Cotton by Sir Edward Dering, Lieutenant-Governor of Dover Castle; and to be that referred to in a letter dated as far back as

May 10, 1630

, still extant in the Museum Library, in a volume of correspondence. But it would appear that the original Magna Charta is still a matter of dispute.

Mr. Richard Thomson, the author of

An Historical Essay on the Magna Charta of King John,

published in , observes that

The Commissioners on the Public Records regarded the original of Magna Charta, preserved at Lincoln, to be of superior authority to either of those in the

British Museum

, on account of several words and sentences being inserted in the body of that charta, which in the latter are added at the foot, with reference-marks to the

four

places where they were to be added. These notes, however, possibly may prove that

one

of the Museum charters was really the

first

written, to which those important additions were made immediately previous to the sealing on Runnymede, and therefore the actual original whence the more perfect transcripts were taken.

We have space to notice only or other ancient charters in this part of the collection. of these is the Bull of Pope Leo X., conferring on Henry VIII. the title of

Defender of the Faith.

This document was also injured by the fire which partly destroyed the Cottonian Collection. of the oldest English charters is the title to Battle Abbey, in Sussex, granted by William the Conqueror. This once famous ecclesiastical foundation owed its origin to the battle of Hastings, which decided the Norman conquest, in . The abbey was commenced by the Conqueror the year after.

Another of the treasures of the Cottonian Collection is what antiquaries supposed to be the oldest royal letter in existence--a short note from King Henry V. to the Bishop of Durham, dated .

The history of the Manuscript Department, of which the Harleian, Sloanean, and Cottonian manuscripts formed the nucleus, is in its general outline similar to that of the Printed Book Department, but its development has, of course, not been so immense. It was formed at the outset by the union of great collections, the above mentioned, to which shortly afterwards were added the manuscripts of the ancient royal library of England. Old scholastic divinity abounds in this department; but

the great ornament of the collection,

says Sir Henry Ellis,

is the

Codex Alexandrinus

an ancient Greek copy of the Scriptures, supposed to have been executed by

Thecla, a lady of Alexandria, in the

fourth

or

sixth

century, and presented by Cyril Lucar, the Patriarch of Constantinople, to King Charles I. It is generally acknowledged by critics to be

one

of the

two

most ancient copies of the Scriptures in existence, and an elaborate edition of the New Testament portion of it was executed by Dr. Woide, and of the Old Testament portion, at the public expense, by the Rev. H. H. Baber, from

1822

to

1837

keeper of the printed books.

The department contains also many volumes enriched by the finest illuminators of different countries, in a succession of periods to the century; a numerous assemblage of the domestic music-books of Henry VIII.; and the

Basilicon Doron

of King James I., in his own handwriting. This latter work is a treatise on the art of government, addressed by the king to his promising son, Prince Henry, who died young, and

showing how much easier it is to speculate plausibly than to rule well.

Among the other literary treasures of the Museum is a copy of the earliest newspaper, so-called the , which, by authority, was imprinted at London by her Highness's printer, in ; in fact, there are several such papers, printed while the Spanish fleet was hovering about in the English Channel in that year.

These, however,

observes D'Israeli, in his

Curiosities of Literature,

were but extraordinary gazettes, and not published regularly. In this obscure origin they were skilfully directed by the policy of that great statesman, Burleigh, who, to inflame the national feeling, gives an extract from a letter from Madrid, which speaks of putting the queen to death, and of the instruments of torture on board of the Spanish fleet

The newspaper in the collection is printed in Roman type, not in black letter, and contains the usual articles of news like the of the present day. Under the date of in that year, for instance, there is a notice of the Scots' Ambassador being introduced to Sir F. Walsingham, and having an audience of her Majesty, to whom he gave a letter from the King, his master, assuring her of his firm adhesion to her interests, and those of the Protestant faith.

The came into the possession of the Museum in , through a bequest of Dr. Birch; and from , when George Chalmers called attention to it, it had been looked on not merely as the English newspaper, but the in the world--

an honour,

says Sir Henry Ellis,

which it was destined to lose in

1839

, when Mr. Thomas Watts, in his letter to Antonio Panizzi, on the reputed earliest newspaper, proved beyond dispute that it was a fabrication, which was subsequently shown to have originated, probably in a frolic, with

one

of the sons of Lord Hardwicke, the Chancellor, and with Dr. Birch, who was the friend of the family.

Many of the genuine early newspapers were acquired by the Museum in the purchase of the library and collections of Dr. Burney; of the oldest is dated in , and it is mainly occupied with

News out of Holland.

Till long after this period occasional pamphlets and tracts served the purpose of the newspaper, which did not assume anything like its present character till after the Revolution of . Macaulay, in his

History of England,

describes the earlier efforts of our countrymen at newspaper literature. He mentions that in nothing like the London daily paper of our time existed, or could exist, for want of capital, skill, and freedom. The political conflicts which preceded the Civil War gave rise to a number of publications, which are thus described:

None exceeded in size a single small leaf. The quantity of matter which

one

of them contained in a year was not more than is often found in

two

numbers of the

Times

.

With reference to the writes Macaulay,

the contents generally were a royal proclamation,

two

or

three

Tory addresses, notices of

two

or

three

promotions, an account of a skirmish between the Imperial troops and the Janissaries on the Danube, a description of a highwayman, an announcement of a grand cock-fight between

two

persons of honour, and an advertisement offering a reward for a stray dog. The whole made up

two

pages of moderate size. Whatever was communicated respecting matters of the highest moment, was communicated in the most meagre and formal style. The most important parliamentary debates, the most important state trials recorded in our history, were passed over in profound silence. In the capital the coffee-houses supplied in some measure the place of a journal: Thither the Londoners flocked, as the Athenians of old flocked to the market-place, to hear whether there was any news. There men might learn how brutally a Whig had been treated the day before in

Westminster

Hall, or what horrible accounts the letters from Edinburgh gave of the torturing of Covenanters.

In there were London newspapers published weekly. In Queen Anne's reign, in , they had increased to eighteen, including daily paper. In the reign of George I. there were daily, weekly, and times a week. The collection of newspapers in the Museum was commenced by Sir Hans Sloane. The Burney Collection was added to these in , at the cost of .

p.516

 

From the Stamp Office was directed to supply to the Museum its copies of London newspapers after the lapse of years, a lapse which had previously converted them into a

perquisite,

and consigned them to destruction as waste paper to be sent to the mill. The English country newspapers were not regularly added to the library till about ; the Scotch in , and the Irish not until even some years later. Numerous files of Continental and American newspapers have been added at different times. On the ground floor of the library, surrounding the reading-room, large shelves of newspapers occupy the sides of a circular passage about feet in length. The newspapers here are not confined to particular languages or dialects, countries, provinces, or cities; they are in every language, and come from places situated in all parts of the world. But while there are numerous foreign and colonial series of papers complete or nearly so, those of Great Britain generally, and those of London especially, are the most extensive, and probably the most perfect.

For the augmentation of the collection of English books, reliance had been placed, in the earlier stages of the Museum, on its legal rights.

We learn from the

English Encyclopaedia

that the donation of the Royal Library to the Museum by George II., in , was accompanied by that of the royal privilege of claiming from the publishers a gratuitous copy of every work printed in the English dominions. This had been granted to the Crown by an Act of Parliament of the of Charles II., and subsequently renewed after its expiry by the famous Copyright Act of the of Queen Anne. This does not include privatelyprinted books, in which department our national collection is not so rich as it should be; neither does it extend to the printed papers of the , consequence of which is that in our great National Library there is no complete set of Parliamentary Blue-books to be found, and that there never is a specimen less than or years old. Dr. Bentley, when keeper of the Royal Library, complained of the constant evasion of the above-mentioned Act by the booksellers; and the complaints were often renewed by the librarians of the Museum, though from about the year II, when Mr. Barber, then keeper of the printed books, gave some curious evidence on the subject before the Copyright Committee, there was certainly a

p.517

great improvement. The new Copyright Act of gave a pre-eminence to the Museum among other libraries to which the privilege was conceded, and provided that, in case of non-compliance with the Act, the negligent publisher might be taken before a magistrate and fined. In , the superintendence of this part of the Museum business was transferred to Mr. Panizzi, as keeper of the Printed Book Department, and the strictness with which he enforced the Act led to a great augmentation in the number of books received. At present, all is collected that issues from the English press down to the most insignificant work on crochet, a Child's Missionary Magazine, the directory of a country town, or a circulating library novel; and everything that is collected finds its place on the shelves and in the catalogue, in the conviction that it may often be a point of importance to preserve copy of even a worthless work in a repository where it may instantly be referred to in case of need. A different system prevailed in former days, when it does not seem to have struck a single individual that it might probably be of advantage to preserve a set of the

London Directory

or the

Navy List,

and a complete collection of either is, in consequence, not
to be found in the , or apparently anywhere else.

As to whether this library or that of the Louvre in Paris has the most books, is a disputed point; probably we are below the Louvre in manuscripts, and about equal to it in the number of printed books. Owing, however, to the regulation already mentioned referring only to books published in the kingdoms, it is not every foreign work that will be found here. Books published in India and the colonies ought to be sent to the , but there seems to be some difficulty in the way of enforcing this right. Also with regard to foreign books, a few are sent in order to comply with the regulations for securing the rights of international copyright; but here, too, the rule is not carried out very strictly.

The author of the

Cities and Principal Towns in the World,

in , thus speaks of the library:

Regarded as a source of reference, it is deficient in the selection of editions and also in extent, lamentably in arrear of foreign works, and most unmethodically arranged.

As we have notified above, the statement here regarding the arrears of foreign works may perhaps hold good even at the

p.518

present time; but with reference to the general arrangement and selection of books of reference, considerable improvement has been made since the erection of the present reading-room, and the consequent increase in the space devoted to the purposes of the library. At the close of the year the entire number of volumes in the library amounted to about , besides which there was a much larger number of parts of volumes.

Although there is a very large number of prints, drawings, and photographs kept with the collection of printed books and manuscripts, and accessible to students in the reading-room and the apartment attached to the manuscript-room, the most extensive and valuable works of these descriptions are preserved in a separate division of the Museum, called the Department of Prints and Drawings, and are open to the inspection only of persons who hold cards of admission to that department. Members of the Royal Academy are admitted to this room without any recommendation or letter of introduction; they have merely to make a written application, addressed to the principal librarian of the Museum. Other persons are admitted upon applying by letter to the same individual-very much as in the case of readers-and forwarding a written recommendation from some person of standing, either as an artist or otherwise. , Drawing and sketching are very freely allowed in this department; and every facility is given for copying; but as the drawings are irreplaceable, and the whole collection intended for

all time,

it is scarcely necessary to add that the greatest care of the works entrusted to students is earnestly enjoined. The entrance to this department is in the western range of the building, at the north end of the main gallery of Egyptian antiquities.

For the most part, the Civil Service of the Crown is officered by natives of the United Kingdom; but to this rule the Museum appears to form an exception, as the names of several foreigners figure among its , and out of its chief librarians, half have been of foreign extraction. None of its earlier heads are men who have left any deep marks behind them, though Mr. Joseph Planta, of Swiss extraction, who held that post in the reign of George III. and George IV., became Secretary of the Treasury, a member of Parliament, and a Privy Councillor. His successor, Sir Henry Ellis, who died in , at the age of upwards of , was, however, a man of deep and varied learning, and is widely known as the editor of the best complete edition of Dugdale's

Monasticon.

Sir Antonio Panizzi, to whom, as already stated, is due the erection of the great central reading-room, is a native of Brescello, in Italy. He came to England as a refugee, and, obtaining the patronage of Lord Brougham, was nominated to an assistantlibrarian- ship in the Museum; and, on a vacancy occurring in the keepership of printed books, he received that appointment. Some years later he was promoted to the principal librarianship. On his retirement, in , he was succeeded by Mr. J. Winter Jones, whose knowledge of books and manuscripts is probably unrivalled in England.

Mr. Thomas Watts entered the Museum in , and very soon afterwards distinguished himself by the prominence he gave to this national collection among the libraries of the world for the thoroughness with which Sclavonic literature and the literature of Hungary were represented in it. During the interval between the years and the arrangement of the books in the library was under the management of Mr. Watts, and every volume in the library thus passed through his hands. When the new reading-room was opened in , it was placed under the direction of Mr. Watts, and he presided there until the retirement of Sir A. Panizzi, in , when he became keeper of the Department of Printed Books, an office which he held down to the time of his death, in .

of the former keepers of the Department of Prints and Drawings was Mr. John T. Smith, the author of the

Antiquities of London and

Westminster

,

Vagabondiana,

and other antiquarian works of high merit. He was the son of Mr. Nathaniel Smith, a sculptor, and afterwards a wellknown printseller of , and, as we have stated in a previous chapter, was literally born in a hackney-coach in the year , whilst his mother was proceeding to her residence in . At an early age, young Smith commenced studying drawing at the Royal Academy, and he was for many years a drawingmaster, and at time resided at Edmonton. His name, however, has been handed down to us as the author of some useful and entertaining topographical works on the metropolis, and also of the

Book for a Rainy Day,

&c. Mr. Smith died in , having held his post nearly half a century. In the album of a friend, the late Mr. W. Upcott, he wrote a playful account of himself, in which he observed:

I can boast of

seven

events, some of which

great

men would be proud of. When a boy I received a kiss from the beautiful Mrs. Robinson, was patted on the head by Dr. Johnson, have frequently held Sir Joshua Reynolds's spectacles, partook of a pot of porter with an elephant (at Exeter Change), saved Lady Hamilton from falling when the melancholy news of Lord Nelson's death

arrived,

three

times conversed with George III., and was shut up in a room with Mr. Kean's lion.

It may interest the curious reader to learn the names of some, at least, of the more celebrated literary men of the last or generations who have made the library and reading-room the frequent scene of their researches. Among them have been Sir James Mackintosh, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Lamb, Washington Irving, William Godwin, Dean Milman, Leigh Hunt, Hallam, Macaulay, Grote, Tom Campbell, Sir E. Bulwer- Lytton, Edward Jesse, Charles Dickens, Douglas Jerrold, Thackeray, Shirley Brooks, Mark Lemon, and Count Stuart d'. Lord Macaulay, it may be added, when at work upon his

History,

used to sit day after day, not in the large readingroom, but in the King's Library, where, in virtue of being a trustee, he had the right of taking down with his own hands from the shelves the numerous pamphlets which he desired to consult and search, without the attendance and aid of an assistant. We are told, in his

Life

by Mr. Trevelyan, that the place where he used to sit was a little desk near the centre of the room, and away from the wall, in order to obtain better light.

Her Majesty the Queen and the Prince Consort on occasion visited the library. The only object for which Her Majesty asked in the MS. department was the paper signed at the foot by the prince who afterwards became Charles II. This was the piece of paper which, when his father's life was in the balance, he sent to Cromwell with the message,

Fill it up in any way you like, but spare my father.

Among the foreigners of note who have frequented the library and reading-room, either as visitors or as

readers,

may be mentioned the names of Guizot, Thiers, Louis Napoleon (who, after his escape from the fortress of Ham, was introduced to the library by Count D'Orsay and the Countess of Blessington, in order to glean materials for his book upon artillery practice), Louis Philippe, when he came to England as an exile, Count Cavour, and Garibaldi.

 
 
Footnotes:

[extra_illustrations.4.502.1] Museum

[extra_illustrations.4.502.2] Mr. Sydney Smirke

[extra_illustrations.4.503.1] E. A. Bond, Librarian of British Museum

[] See ante, p. 64.

[extra_illustrations.4.513.1] signatures of W. Shakspere

[extra_illustrations.4.514.1] seal

[extra_illustrations.4.514.2] king's act

View all images in this book
 Title Page
 Chapter I: Westminster: A Survey of the City: Millbank, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter II: Westminster.-Tothill Fields and Neighbourhood
 Chapter III: Westminster.-King Street, Great George Street, and the Broad Sanctuary
 Chapter IV: Modern Westminster
 Chapter V: St. James's Park
 Chapter VI: Buckingham Palace
 Chapter VII: The Mall and Spring Gardens
 Chapter VIII: Carlton House
 Chapter IX: St. James's Palace
 Chapter X: St. James's Palace (continued)
 Chapter XI: Pall Mall
 Chapter XII: Pall-Mall.-Club-Land
 Chapter XIII: St. James's Street.-Club-Land (continued)
 Chapter XIV: St. James's Street and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XV: St. James's Square and its Distinguished Residents
 Chapter XVI: The Neighbourhood of St. James's Square
 Chapter XVII: Waterloo Place and Her Majesty's Theatre
 Chapter XVIII: The Haymarket
 Chapter XIX: Pall Mall East, Suffolk Street, &c.
 Chapter XX: Golden Square and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXI: Regent Street and Piccadilly
 Chapter XXII: Piccadilly.-Burlington House
 Chapter XXIII: Noble Mansions in Piccadilly
 Chapter XXIV: Piccadilly: Northern Tributaries
 Chapter XXV: Hanover Square and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXVI: Berkeley Square, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXVII: Grosvenor Square, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XXVIII: May Fair
 Chapter XXIX: Apsley House and Park Lane
 Chapter XXX: Hyde Park
 Chapter XXXI: Hyde Park (continued)
 Chapter XXXII: Oxford Street, and its Northern Tributaries
 Chapter XXXIII: Oxford Street.-Northern Tributaries (continued)
 Chapter XXXIV: Oxford Street, and its Northern Tributaries (continued)
 Chapter XXXV: Oxford Street East.-Northern Tributaries
 Chapter XXXVI: Oxford Street: Northern Tributaries.-Tottenham Court Road
 Chapter XXXVII: Bloomsbury.-General Remarks
 Chapter XXXVIII: The British Museum
 Chapter XXXIX: The British Museum (continued)
 Chapter XL: The British Museum (continued)
 Chapter XLI: Bloomsbury Square and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XLII: Red Lion Square, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XLIII: Queen Square, Great Ormond Street, &c.
 Chapter XLIV: Russell and Bedford Squares, &c.
 Chapter XLV: Gordon and Tavistock Squares, &c.
This object is in collection:
Edwin C. Bolles papers
Subjects
London (England)--Description and Travel
London --England
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/14824
ID: tufts:UA069.005.DO.00063
To Cite: DCA Citation Guide
Usage: Detailed Rights