« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
the Siebold collection of Japanese books; the Andrade and Vischer, of Mexican; the Nagy, of Hungarian; and the Grabowski, of Polish.
The result of these measures, steadily and systematically pursued, has been an advance towards completeness in the collection of the Museum which is infinitely more valuable than any mere numerical increase; not only in the current literature of our own time, whether of America and the leading European States, or of Scandinavia, of the various Slavonic nations of Hungary, of modern Greece, of Australia, of Anglo-India, and even of Spanish America and the Brazils; but also in books of ancient classical learning, and in Hebrew, Oriental, Chinese and Japanese literature.*
In the current literature the periodicals hold a very prominent place. The number of periodicals (exclusive of newspapers) is about 12,000; and the volumes of periodicals, if placed in continuous line, would occupy no less than 9,441 linear feet, or nearly a mile and three-quarters. The news papers would occupy 5,252 feet, about a mile more, and the publications of learned societies, 1,971 feet, or above a third of a mile. In the older department, the Hebrew collection, which when the Museum was opened consisted of but a single volume, now contains considerably more than 10,000 volumes, and is not only the largest in the world, but the richest in rare and choice editions. The Oriental collection, particularly as regards Sanscrit, Arabic, Persian and Turkish, is equally pre-eminent, comprising, exclusive of Bibles, Liturgies, &c., about 7,850 works, of which about 1,270 are Sanscrit, 1,730 Arabic, 630 Persian, 500 Turkish ; the remainder consisting of Hindustani, Bengali, Marathi, and other Indian languages, besides Javanese, Burmese, and Malay. The Chinese collection, consisting of about 6,000 separate works, in some 24,000 Chinese pun or columns, is believed to be the largest in Europe, and is more than one-half as large as the famous collection of the Emperor Kien-lung (1735–1795). The Japanese collection consists of about 4,840 volumes. It is derived in the main from a collection formed by Dr. von
* It may be interesting to note (of course approximately) the proportions of this varied expenditure: Germi, 1,4001.; French, 1,2001.; North American, 5001.; Italian, 4001. ; Dutch, 1501.; Belgian, 125l.; Scandinavian (Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic), 1501.; Russian, 1001. ; Polish, 751.; Slavonic (Bohemian, Servian, Illyrian), 501.; Spanish and Portuguese, 75l.; Hungarian, 501.; Roman, 251.; Anglo-Indian, 501.; Australian, 1501.; Spanish American and Brazilian, 501. ; Hebrew, 1001. ; Oriental, 2501.; Chinese, 1001.
Siebold during his residence in Japan, and is much superior to a former collection made by him—the well-known collection at Leyden, long reputed the finest Japanese library outside of Japan and China. The collection acquired by the British Museum comprises more than double the number of works that is found at Leyden, and extends to every class of the literature, including a large number of most curious illustrated works. Even the department of Music, which in 1845 was miserably poor, has now been carried to a high degree of completeness, containing above 11,500 volumes of the works of all the eminent classical composers, Italian, French, German, and English; together with a large assemblage of modern music, as well foreign as English. If to these augmentations in the various special departments, which in the main are due to the energy of the new organisation, the reader will add the treasures of earlier date in the King's Library, both Old and New, in the Grenville, the Cracherode, the Banks, and other less notable collections, he must acknowledge the justice of the estimate of the excellence of this great library, expressed, so far back as 1860, by one than whom no living man was more intimately acquainted with its contents, or more capable of estimating their bibliographical and literary value—the late Mr. Thomas Watts—that it combined in the highest degree the best merits of all classes of existing libraries, whether the extent, the rarity, and beauty of editions, and the general good condition which characterise the great libraries of France, Italy, and the South, or the scientific completeness of particular departments, and excellence of cataloguing and arrangements which distinguish those of Germany, Scandinavia, and the North in general.*
The sum expended on binding in the Library of the British Museum has for many years stood at 7,0001.; a sum which, large as it appears, is found to be inadequate, and which it is hoped may in future years be increased.
But the greatest marvel of the Museum Library is its unrivalled Catalogue. The subject of the General Catalogue has been so fully discussed in this Journal, and the details of its progress up to the date at which we last referred to it, January 1859, have been so exactly recorded, that it is only necessary to carry on the history to the present time. The Museum Library may now boast what, it is confidently believed, no other library in the world can claim; not only that the whole of the million one hundred thousand books on its shelves are cata
• English Cyclopædia, Art. British Museum, p. 384.
logued, that their titles are transcribed, and that both books and catalogues are freely accessible to its readers, but that provision is made that the title of each new book as received shall, within a reasonable time, find its proper place in a catalogue which is capable of indefinite expansion, and of receiving, without disturbance to its strict alphabetical order, all subsequent additions to the Library.
The Catalogue now forms a continuous alphabetical series of 1,522 volumes, with twenty-one volumes of indexes. These volumes, conveniently placed in the centre of the readingroom, occupy 312 feet of shelves, being 12 feet in excess of the space occupied by the entire Grenville Library. Some idea of its extent, and of the vastness of the Library, may be formed from the statement that the heading of Bible alone occupies 27 volumes, and contains 18,974 entries; that of Shakspere occupies 2 volumes, and contains 1,914 entries ; Milton, 2 volumes, with 685 entries; Aristotle and Cicero, 2 volumes each; Luther, 6 volumes, with 1,949 entries; Liturgies, 14 volumes; England, 16 volumes; and Great Britain, 23 volumes. We may add, as one of curiosities of the Catalogue, that the well-known name of Smith engrosses no fewer than 2,687 entries, while the equally well-known firm of Brown, Jones, and Robinson appropriate to themselves as many as 4,254 ; and it speaks for the extent and variety of the foreign collections of the Museum Library that the equally familiar foreign names, Schmidt and Müller, appear in the Catalogue in no fewer than 2,600 entries. From the fact that there are 47 distinct John Smiths, and no fewer than 66 John Joneses, as well as from these astounding numbers generally, some notion may be formed of the enormous difficulty of keeping distinct so many individual writers bearing precisely the same name; a difficulty, we may add, which arises, although in a minor degree, in regard to almost every name in a great alphabetical catalogue. The Music Catalogue is in 126 volumes, consisting of two divisions ; composers and editors in 101 volumes, and authors of words set to music in 25. There is a separate printed catalogue of the Grenville Library and also of the King's Library.
And yet, vast as are the ideas as to the extent and completeness of the collection which these enormous figures suggest, the visitor of the British Museum Library is occasionally doomed to disappointment in his search for books. As an example how far the very richest collections are from representing the whole number even of extant books, we may mention that on one occasion, while waiting in the reading-room for the delivery of some books for which we had put in a request, we had the curiosity to test the Museum Catalogue by comparison with the entries in a page of the class, catalogue of Medical Sciences of the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris. The page of the latter (which we took at random) contained 20 titles, of which 7 were French, 5 English, 4 Italian, 3 Latin, and 1 Dutch. Out of these twenty titles only three, and possibly a fourth, could be recognised in the Museum Catalogue; while of the remaining sixteen, four-fifths of the entire number, there was not a trace in the Museum collection. And yet (not one of the twenty works seemed to be of any remarkable rarity.
But on the other hand, while it is impossible to doubt that the British Museum collection at present approaches nearer than any other extant collection to completeness, if not in number of books at least in kind, it is the still prouder boast of our national library that nowhere is the reader's freedom of use in all its priceless treasures more entirely unrestricted. As many as two hundred volumes have been at one time in a reader's hands in the British Museum; there being, in truth, no limit to the number of books which may be asked for and supplied. Nor can any loyal lover of letters who enters its noble hall, repress a thrill of grateful admiration for the large-minded liberality, the enlightened energy, and the unwearied perseverance of the distinguished scholars and administrators by whom these great things have been conceived and carried into execution. And when, fresh perhaps from the delays and embarrassments encountered in other repositories of books, he comes to the reading-room of the Museum with his note-book crowded with memoranda for reference; when he hands in his bookdockets almost by the sheaf and in the most opposite departments of study; when he finds his scores of requisitions answered by the delivery of pile after pile of volumes, till he is ashamed of taxing to such a degree the ready service and cheerful courtesy which he experiences;-he must acknowledge that here indeed is realised at once the magnificent ideal of Mr. Watts of bringing under one roof all the current * literature of the world that has any intrinsic value, regard« less of the language in which it may be couched, and the large-hearted resolve of Gabriel Naudé in the Mazarin Library, From its door shall resound that cry which has never yet been heard in the Republic of Letters: “ Come in all you " " who desire to read, come in freely !" !
ART. II.--Memoir and Letters of Sara Coleridge. Edited
by her Daughter. Two volumes. London: 1873. THE publication of biographical memorials usually rests its 1 apology on one or the other of two grounds. Either the subject of the biography is sufficiently conspicuous in the calendar of fame to niake the record of his or her words and doings worth attention for the individual's sake; or the records themselves possess such intrinsic spirit and originality as to interest the public irrespective of the celebrity of their subject. It might indeed appear, on a cursory view, that the first condition would involve the second : but this is by no means necessarily the case. A remarkable writer may have given us all of him that is worth preserving in his published works: he may have breathed out his best in the literary efforts to which he has consecrated his faculties; and may have had little time or energy left for the fascinating confidences of letters and note-books. Or, on the other hand, the thinker who has published little, but in whom the intellectual taste is keen, may have failed indeed to hit the right vein for general popularity, but may have vented, in private channels of communication, passing thoughts and fancies which are more suggestive, more sparkling, more attractive than his finished compositions. In female biography two instances happened to occur a few years back, illustrative of our position. The Letters of Jane Austen and of Miss Mitford were given simultaneously to the world. The authoress of · Mansfield Park' and Pride and • Prejudice' had won herself a prominent place among the classical novelists of England: all the cultivated world was pleased to know something of her in her private relations. But not only was her life placid and uneventful, her letters were undeniably commonplace and meagre. The annalist of • Our Village' would not have deserved to be recalled to remembrance either for that, her most successful work, or for the dramatic pieces by which she gallantly persisted in seeking to earn a maintenance for herself and a reckless father, had not her lively correspondence, kept up with many literary notabilities and touching on contemporary persons and matters of interest, been itself a source of entertainment far more stimulating than her efforts in the paths of literature.
The filial editor of the Memoir now before us seems to rest its justification more on the first of the above-mentioned grounds of apology than on the second, though she thinks that