Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the Society, and a most worthy man, whom we well knew. Several of his pupils attained high professional honours.

There is also a very large collection of manuseripts by the late Mr. Fearne, numbering no less than fifty volumes, of various dimensions. It is probable that, amongst such copious relics of so distinguished a lawyer, a skilful eye and hand might detect and select valuable professional gems; but, at present, they are altogether without arrangement, and therefore, it is to be presumed, of little practical use.

Of printed books upon English law, the reports are probably as complete as in any other collection ; but, until lately, the library was somewhat weak in modern text-books and treatises, although it has been gradually much augmented in this department. Till within the last twenty years, there was what we must consider an illiberal standing-order against the purchase by the Society of any legal periodicals. They are now, however, duly supplied. It

may, however, be observed, that much difference of opinion will always exist amongst readers as to what a library ought to contain, upon this as well as other subjects; but as this article is designed to be descriptive, and not suggestive or didactic, we refrain from expressing the thoughts which we, in common with others, may entertain upon the question.

The collection of Scotch and Irish Reports is, we believe, complete; and there is a fair collection of text-books relating to professional matters in these sister kingdoms. Of American reports, and other legal works, there is also a tolerably strong force, principally due to the care and liberality of a barrister of the Society, to whom we have already alluded.

In civil, canon, and international law, the library is very strong. Nevertheless, there are many works of continental celebrity upon these subjects which, as yet, it does not include.

The class of books of divinity and ecclesiastical history is very large, occupying no less than 190 pages in a catalogue containing 656. It should, however, be remembered, that the title of a very brief tract (and of such this portion of the library in a great measure consists) may occupy as much space as that of an elaborate work comprising an indefinite number of folios.

[ocr errors]

By far the greater part of this valuable collection (much of which might be coveted by Sion College) dates from the foundation of the library, few additions having been made to it of late years; the exceptions being works of some of our old standard divines, few of which appeared previously, amidst a crowd of theological writings comparatively unknown, yet many of which might have been useful weapons in the recent ecclesiastico-legal disputes, when Tractarians and anti-Tractarians contended as fiercely as did the Jesuits and anti-Jesuits in earlier days, of which the monuments exist plentifully here in many a closelyprinted tome, and still more abundantly in briefer tracts and pamphlets, with “conceited” titles. For in this, as in other sections of the library, works there are not a few, anonymous, or by illustrious authors little known, but often interesting to those who, like ourselves, are sometimes inclined for "such reading as was never read.” “The Doleful Knell of Thomas Bell” (a Protestant); “A Currycomb for a Coxcomb,” and Hercynianus' “Rhabarbarum Domandæ bili Camerarii”-are specimens of the delight of some of our ancestors in this description of wit.

The oldest English Bible in the collection, is the Cambridge edition of 1660 ; but the Holy Scriptures are to be found entirely, or in part, in about fifty different languages, some of them rarely studied in this country.

There is no complete collection of the Fathers of the church, but ecclesiastical writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries abound. The missionary letters of the Jesuits are to be found in considerable numbers.

Amongst the few English writers on Divinity of a recent date, added to the library before 1826, may be mentioned Professor John Hey, of whose work a mutilated copy (one volume out of four being missing), whether by purchase or presentation is unknown, is to be found on the shelves. This writer, much less celebrated than he deserves to be, is invaluable to students of the articles of the Church of England. His work, which has received, amongst those of other able persons, the warm praise of Dr. Arnold and the late Bishop of Lincoln (Kaye)- very different

more

» « Grievous

men—is clear, forcible, and attractive ; and is not to be met with in many important libraries.

The Middle Temple Library contains several choice and curious works on Witchcraft and Demonology, tending to show that our ancestors were nearly as foolish and credulous as (not more so than) ourselves. The chief of these in the vernacular are Scott's “ Discovery of Witchcraft,” Cotta's "Trial of Witchcraft," and Deacon and Walker's “Discourse of Spirits and Devils.” Several others have been abstracted.

The library is altogether tolerably strong in English history, with its adjuncts and concomitants in the shape of pamphlets and treatises. But this branch of knowledge—after law proper, probably the most important in an English legal library-formed no exception to the general rule of neglect, affecting the Middle Temple collection, during so long a period. Amongst the many quaint old tracts with quainter titles which this class includes, such as “Worthies and Unworthies of the Age described," Groans for the Poor," &c., one entitled, “Some Wiser than Some," a most undeniable proposition, recurs to us as applicable to the judgment and public spirit which especially influenced the late Lord Colchester and Mr. Robert Casberd (who were chiefly instrumental in the resuscitation of the library), as contrasted with the strange apathy upon this subject, which appears to have characterized many of their predecessors of the bench.

Amongst memoirs connected with English History, we have here some which are scarce as well as curious. “ Robert Monro's Expedition with the Scotch regiment called Mackay’s” (fol. 1637), is known to have furnished large draughts of inspiration to Sir Walter Scott, before introducing to the world his “Dugald Dalgetty.” Thomas Carve's “Itinerarium in Legione Colonelli Devereux” (8vo, Mog. 1639), a somewhat similar work, is also not every where to be met with.

The Society possesses, though not a complete, yet a very voluminous, collection of chronicles of English (and other) history, from that of Geoffrey of Monmouth, to a very unique and interesting “ Chapter from Froissart,” recording events of a somewhat

a

later period. The important series now in course of publication, under the direction of the Master of the Rolls, promises ere long to form a library of moderate dimensions in itself.

Intimately connected with this subject are the debates, journals, and other publications relating to the two Houses of Parliament. The two first sections of these are complete, and memoirs and treatises are also to be found in considerable number. Many hundred volumes of Reports of Commissions (the formidable blue books, always called for, little read), were about twenty-two years since presented to the Society. It is fortunate at present that the gift was not repeated; for, assuredly, the present receptacle for its books would not contain such another cargo of these folios. A judicious selection, when space shall have been provided for them, might not be found unserviceable.

It was not to be expected that the collection of historical works relating to other lands should have rivalled in number those which treat of this our England ; nevertheless, in the earlier stages of the library, they (taking the word collectively) did, in fact, outnumber them. It is true that a disposition to narrate events appears to have always existed on the continent of Europe in a greater degree than in our island. At the present day the historical and memoir writers of France are more numerous than our own. This department of the library has not been greatly increased of late.

It includes, amongst other curiosities, a brief, and we believe scarce work, by Robert Ashley, evidently the founder of the library—“Almansor, the learned and victorious king that conquered Spain : his Life and Death”-bearing the date 1627, and dedicated to Charles I. Although not the only publication of Mr. Ashley, this is the sole one which the library which he originated now contains, for an account by him of Cochin-China has long been missing. He was a gentleman of Wiltshire, born in 1565, and therefore above seventy-six years old at his death. Mr. Ashley appears, by his dedication, to have had a far higher opinion of King James I. than we have; but had his son and successor well weighed the contents of the third chapter of this little work,

a

" of the manner observed by the King Jacob Almansor in administering justice,” the writer might have had the credit of saving his sovereign's head, as well as of enlightening those of succeeding generations of Templars.

The “History of the Western Empire, from Charlemagne to Charles V.,” by the late Sir Robert Buckley Comyn, formerly master of the library, is valuable as a judicious epitome of events during that long period.

With respect to Geography and Topography, including Voyages and Travels, the old library was strong, but its strength has been little increased of late years. There is, however, an exception to both these rules. In English county and local history a remarkable deficiency existed until very recently, when very great improvements were made ; and we have reason to believe that it is in contemplation to place the library in a still more powerful position as regards this very important branch of knowledge.

Whilst upon this subject, some mention of the two very curious and ancient Globes placed in the reading-room should not be omitted. They were published by William Sandersen, a merchant of London, and made by Emery Mollineux, “a man well qualified, of a good judgment, and very expert in many excellent practices, under the direction of John Davis, the celebrated navigator, who has given name to Davis' Straits, and whose discoveries were marked upon the terrestrial globe under his own immediate inspection. The date of the celestial globe still continues 1592, but that of the other has been visibly altered to 1603 with a pen.

In Biography there is much that is old and curious, and many recent additions have been made; still, however, leaving much room for judicious augmentation.

Few scientific works of any description have been added to the many originally provided by the founders of the library, nor is the demand for these, in general, very great. Of encyclopedias there are several, and these supply tolerably well modern deficiencies. But, as the theological books belonging to the Middle Temple might have suited Sion College, so might those on medicine and

« PreviousContinue »