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Chapter 15: Boston Public Library. its History and Mr. Ticknors connection with it. his great purpose to make it a free Library. his perseverance on this Point. his labors. popular division first provided. Mr. Ticknor's visit to Europe for the interests of the Library, subsequent attention and personal liberality to the higher departments of the collection. For some time after the publication of his History of Spanish Literature, Mr. Ticknor did not take up any new or absorbing occupation, but, at the end of a little more than two years, he was asked—unexpectedly to him—to take part in a work which connected itself with plans and desires that had long been among his favorite speculations, and he soon became profoundly interested, and zealously active in promoting the organization of the Boston Public Library. In the early period of his life, when he returned from Europe in 1819, after enjoying great advantages from the public libraries of the large cities an
ry, I could overlook the claims of the poor young men, and others who are not able to buy valuable, costly, and even rare books, in foreign languages, which they need in studies important to them and the public. I never did neglect their claims in relation to my own inconsiderable library, and why should I do it in relation to a large public library? Nor do I see how anybody who may have a collection of rare and valuable books in a foreign language,—Sanscrit, if you please, like the late Mr. Wales's, or little collections in Spanish or Portuguese, like mine, —can find a proper place for them in any such almost wholly English library, with whose general plan such collections would be quite out of keeping, as well as with the common course of its purchase and administration. I have never apprehended that we were making such a library, nor do I suppose so now; but I see from your letter that there are persons who would prefer it,—I mean persons who would prefer to keep our Public Libr<
rder that your absence may be less severely felt. While this question remained unsettled, no time was lost with regard to Mr. Bates's new donations. Mr. Ticknor immediately began personally to collect, from men distinguished in special departments, lists of works on their several subjects, which ought to be on the shelves of a great library, thus getting contributions of much consequence from such men as Professors Agassiz, Bond, Cooke, Felton, Hayward, Holmes, Lovering, Pierce, and Dr. John Ware; from Professor W. B. Rogers and Judge Curtis; from Colonel Thayer of the Army and Captain Goldsborough of the Navy; from engineers and architects, clergymen and men of letters. With these, and with all the bibliographical resources they could command, Mr. Ticknor and Mr. Jewett worked, in Mr. Ticknor's library, for more than two months, Mr. Jewett remaining there eight hours a day, preparing the lists that were to be sent to Mr. Bates. These lists, embracing above forty thousand volum
Columbia Washington (search for this): chapter 15
usion, he went home feeling as if he had nothing more to do so far as this, in his view the most important, part of the institution was concerned. Troubles there were still, but of other kinds; and, although he was a trifle disappointed by the result of an experiment he tried in 1860, to test the popular disposition for reading useful books, He gave the Library fifty copies of Miss Nightingale's Notes on Nursing; twenty copies of Smiles's Self Help; twenty copies of Everett's Life of Washington; ten copies of the Life of Amos Lawrence, a merchant of Boston; twelve copies of the Teacher's Assistant, and some others. For a time many of these kept well in circulation, especially Miss Nightingale's excellent little book; but at the end of six months the demand for them had substantially ceased. he did not lose faith in his theory that, the taste for reading once formed, the standard of that taste would rise. He would have rejoiced in the absolute proof produced, since 1873, of the
hat were to be sent to Mr. Bates. These lists, embracing above forty thousand volumes, were successively forwarded, and were approved by Mr. Bates, who had in these matters the invaluable advice of his distinguished son-in-law, M. Silvain Van De Weyer, Belgian Minister in England, a scholar eminent for his practical knowledge of bibliography and letters. All this, however, did not silence the conviction that some one should go abroad, for the interests of the Library; and although at one ti the agents in communication with Mr. Bates for subsequent directions and resources . . . . I began in London, buying, perhaps, four hundred volumes, which you will easily recognize. . . . . To this city-Brussels—I took a letter from M. Van De Weyer for Mons. Alvin, Conservateur of the Royal Library, who at once placed entirely at my disposition Mons. Charles Ruelens, a scholar full of bibliographical and literary knowledge, who is on the staff of the Library to purchase its books all over E
y. Now, nothing but full and free conversation with some person who does fully understand the matter, and who possesses his confidence, will raise his views to the proper elevation. I must say, candidly, that I know nobody but you or myself competent to this; I mean, of course, who could be thought of for the errand. I would go if I could. I thought over that point before I wrote my other letter. But I really cannot. You have stated some of the obstacles,—my wife's health, my own, and Will's education (now my chief thought and duty); but there are others . . . . . But if I could go, it is no affected diffidence which makes me say that you would accomplish the object much better. I have no particular aptitude for the kind of executive operations which this errand requires, —I mean purchasing books with discrimination in large masses. Perhaps I am rather deficient in it. You possess it in an uncommon degree. I think you would buy as many books for thirty thousand dollars as I
Justin Winsor (search for this): chapter 15
t little book; but at the end of six months the demand for them had substantially ceased. he did not lose faith in his theory that, the taste for reading once formed, the standard of that taste would rise. He would have rejoiced in the absolute proof produced, since 1873, of the steady gain in the proportion of useful books taken from the Library, after increased facilities had been afforded for their selection, by the admirable annotated Catalogue of works of the higher class prepared by Mr. Winsor. The percentage of increased demand for works of travel, biography, etc., over the increase of general circulation, has continued to be quite remarkable for more than two years, since the publication of this valuable Catalogue. Being now at ease about that which he considered as not only the first, but, in our social condition, the most valuable part of the Library, Mr. Ticknor began to give proof that his instincts as a scholar were only held in abeyance by his judgment as a citize
R. C. Winthrop (search for this): chapter 15
h he said he had always entertained on these points, and said that he did not think that he should have yielded his assent, but for your determination not to put your hand to the work unless these features of the plan were adopted in all their prominence. But the library did not yet exist. In an attic of the City Hall—in the old building, of which no part was spacious, or well appointed-four or five thousand volumes were stored, consisting of documents given by the city of Paris, by Mr. Winthrop, Mr. Everett, and others,—books entirely unsuited to stimulate either the popular taste for reading, or the disposition of the Common Council to make appropriations. In the city treasury was the sum of one thousand dollars, given about two years before by the then mayor, Mr. J. P. Bigelow, in aid of the establishment of a Free Public Library, from the income of which some of the books had been bought. Clearly the library was yet to be founded. The newly formed Board of Trustees appoi
Ferdinand Wolf (search for this): chapter 15
place he had efficient aid from old friends. He writes: The trade is low in Austria; and the collections of the booksellers are either of the commonest books, or of those that are old, but of little value. I went round with Dr. Senoner, librarian of the principal scientific library in the city, and I had help from Count Thun, Count Leo von Thun-Hohenstein. See Vol. I. p. 505. Minister of State, who has charge of the public libraries throughout the Empire, and Baron Bellinghausen and Dr. F. Wolf, the principal persons in the Imperial Library: all these are old friends and correspondents; but they all told me that I should do little, and it so turned out. At Venice, he says in the same letter, I found a first-rate bookseller, H. F. Minster, a German. He was anxious to purchase for us, and Dr. Namias, Secretary of the Institute there, urged me to employ him. But Venice is so out of the way of trade that I did not like to venture. We shall, however, I hope, profit by the good —
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