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library does not appear to have been materially increased until after the close of the civil wars. When it ceased to be entirely supported by voluntary contributions we know not; but the next benefactor upon a large scale was the Irish Lord Chief-Justice Pepys; and, in the succeeding two hundred years, the names (amongst others more or less well known) of Elias Ashmole, Bartholomew Shower, and William Petyt, may be found amongst its most liberal supporters. Yet, as we shall see presently, it has undergone several periods of strange, and, to us, unaccountable neglect, the efi"ects of which were, till lately, very discernible in its weakness upon particular important subjects, and are not even yet entirely eradicated. For example—a complete series tf the old reports was not to be obtained in it till late in the present century. That defect, however, is now supplied.
Sir Cresswell Levinz is stated,‘ upon the authority of a MS. in the Harleian Collection, to have printed a very few copies of a catalogue of this library. We have been unable to discover any trace of it. The earliest extant that we know of, and which, we believe, to be also very scarce (only one copy existing in the library), was made by, or under the direction of, Sir Bartholomew Shower, then treasurer of the society, in 1700. It is classed with considerable minuteness, according to language, subject, and size ; but in some other respects the arrangement is faulty, and the type is small.
We have already stated that at several periods the library has experienced much neglect, not easily to be accounted for, until some new impetus was given to its augmentation by publicspirited friends, or members of the Inn. But never has this neglect been so visible as during the long space of time from 1711 to 1826, during which few works appear to have been added to the collection, either by presentation or purchase. What were the guardians of the library about all that time?
“ We know not, and it ne’er was known.”
Nevertheless, a new quarto catalogue, in good type, with large
* Gentleme-n’s Magazine, September» 1816
margin, was printed in 1734, in the treasurership and under the superintendence of Mr. Charles Worsley, a gentleman who appears to have bestowed much pains and attention upon all matters connected with the society. This catalogue has the merit of containing a full account of the very numerous collection of tracts and pamphlets then. belonging to the library, and references were for the first time rnacle to the place of books upon the shelves; nevertheless, it must have been a matter of time and difficulty to find a great number of works from Master VVors1ey’s catalogue. For instance--premising that in this library six, eight, or sometimes even ten works, upon divers subjects, are often bound up together—observe this specimen from the catalogue of 17341:
Stcphani (Hen) Juris Givilis Fontes et Rivi. Svo, 1580. Hier. Eleni Diatriba ad J us Oivile, Svo. Ant., 1576. J ac. Lectii Oratio de Vita et Scriptis }Em. Popiliani, Svo. Gen., 1594. De Studiis Liberis, publica ob mala non deserendis, 8vo. Gen., 1594. Commonefactio de J ure-consulti fine, ct in Dissidiis (logmatum Ecclesiae Oflicio, 8v0. Ne0., 1590. Cl. B-aduelli de Ratione Vitae Studiosze ac Literatae in Matrinionio collocandae et degendze, Svo. Lips., 1581.
All the above works being comprised in one volume, and no separate reference existing in the catalogue to Elenus, Lectius, or Baduellus, their lucubrations, as well as some others of more value, similarly circumstanced, might be almost considered as lost in the library. 4
This catalogue abounds in clerical or typographical errors-—in most cases probably the former; for there is curious internal evidence of the employment of a Cockney amanuensis. In all works emanating from Lugdunum, abridged Lu_qd., the penman has reversed the letters, and written Ludg. He could not get Ludgate out of his head !
The next and last catalogue was printed in 1845, and, unlike Master Worsley’s, is a good finding catalogue—the most important point in such compilations. It consists of classes, and an index; but the. former, although approved by earlier masters of
the library, have been found of little practical utility, the ll1(l.:X having been almost always referred to in preference by readers. Indeed, classes, whether minutely subdivided or not, are seldom found to answer in a large library; and we hope that, as the collection has been already greatly augmented since 1845, the bench will shortly sanction the printing of a. new catalogue, alphabetical, but with copious references to subjects, and upon an approved and well-considered plan.
In 1738 the library numbered 3982 volumes.‘ At present there are between 15,000 and 16,000, and this increase has chiefly been made within the last twenty-two years. The late Lord Stowell’s munificent benefaction about that time was, we believe, entirely applied to the purchase of books upon civil, canon, and international law, chiefly selected by a gentleman well known for his works upon those and kindred subjects, and who has since been one of the readers on legal science. Hence the library suddenly acquired a strength upon these points somewhat disproportioned to its weakness upon others, and efforts have been gradually making of late years to supply th~se deficiencies.
Yet, if few books were added to the library in the dark period between 1711 and 1826, very many were unfortunately lost, and especially some of the most scarce and valuable tracts of which the collection could boast. During this period flourished, amongst many other eminent men, students of the society, Yorke} Blackstone, and the brothers Scott. We know not whether the keen eyes of the commentator, or the beetle brows of Eldon, were ever actually bent over any of the volumes now forming the Society’s collection; but if, as is most probable, they did actually use the library, we think they must have anathematized the carelessness which then seems to have pervaded every department connected therewith. At the fate of the missing volumes, or the degree of those who profited by their prolonged, and unfortunately perpetual absence, from the shelves, it is in vain to guess. The
‘ Gentleman’s Magazine, October, 1798.
majority of the lost books being of moderate dimensions, their abstraction would (where care was not) be a matter of comparative ease; but how are we to account for the disappearance of thirtyfolio volumes of Votes of Parliament?
The Middle Temple has been rich in its list of distinguished men—in men exalted not merely in station, but in intellect. This will scarcely be disputed when we remember that amongst lesser, though still brilliant luminaries, and a host of judges and other sages “learned in the law,” Raleigh and Burke have both been borne upon its books. So have Clarendon and Somers ; so has Sir Thomas Smith ; so have those successful candidates for other than legal glories—Rowe, Gongreve, Southern, Sheridan, and Moore; and so, more recently, has Havelock, the general, the historian, and the missionary. And the Inn still numbers many persons eminent in literature or in the political world, as well as in legal acquirements.
But of the great men passed away, several were only nominally students; and of the rest (of those at least who flourished during the greater part of the last century) it may be doubted whether they derived much benefit or inspiration, legal or otherwise, from the library. Certain at least it is, that they have left no undeniable trace of their studious life behind them. No manuscript, emanating from any of the distinguished persons we have named, graces the shelves or lockers of the Middle Temple. The searcher for autographs will seek them there in vain ; for although many of the older volumes contain copious marginal notes, they appear to have existed previously to the presentation or purchase of the volumes for the use of the Society. At present, and for a long time past, readers have very properly been forbidden “ to write in any book” whatever ; and truly, the few instances in which this prohibition has been disregarded, tend but to show the necessity for the rule. But, whatever may be the case with the books, that the present building has never been frequented by the giants of past times is, of course, absolutely certain. The former question, relating to what may have been, is however an interesting subject of speculation ; and we may refer to what must have been-— the pacing of the court and thronging of the hall, at least, of this ancient Inn, by the worthies of bygone ages. What a variety of costume and manner must its prebincts have witnessed, even since its becoming a place of legal education l Possibly the memorable cloak, which became a foot-cloth for the “ Virgin Qneen”—more probably its prototype-may have figured within its boundaries; and after an endless variety of fashion in wigs, and cut of coat and beard, the costume of many of its members seems at present to approximate, the hose excepted, to that of Elizabethan times.
Altogether, the library of the Middle Temple may be safely pronounced a fine, though, for the reasons already given, a somewhat anomalous collection; containing undoubtedly some rubbish amongst its heaps of literary gold. VVe have sometimes heard it complained of as not being a perfect library ; but this is unreasonable, for—
\Vho hopes a perfect library to see,
Such a “faultless monster” is certainly not that of the British Museum; for, although that vast storehouse of literature is maintained by coercive measures, as well as by purchase and voluntary contributions, we have frequently inquired in it for works, not always of foreign publication, or of a very recondite character, or very scarce in number, and have not discovered them. We say this not as reflecting in the remotest degree upon the librarian or trustees of the museum, but simply to show that imperfection in libraries is a part of their very nature. Indeed, unless all new publications were suppressed, or confined to one country, this could not be otherwise. Moreover, the funds of the honourable society, though great, are not, we presume, inexhaustible. And their library, in its first foundation, appears to have approached perfection for the time. With a very few exceptions, to be mentioned presently, no branch of knowledge seems to have been altogether overlooked. There are very few showy books in the Middle Temple Library. What the 1-are Mr-Leckhart calls “ the toy-shop of literature,” has no place here. Sumptuous