Page images
PDF
EPUB

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,

“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

surgery have been well adapted to form part of the treasure of the Royal College of Surgeons.

It must be remembered that, in the time of Mr. Ashley, astrology and alchymy were looked upon as veritable sciences, and respected accordingly even by true philosophers. The library evinces this by many a curious tome upon these subjects, since abandoned for the pursuit of other follies; and, although metaphysics and logic cannot be classed with follies, can it be truly said that they are, often and altogether, studies of much greater real utility ? Several dusty treatises are to be found here relating to the mysterious brotherhood of the Rosy Cross.

“ As Rosicrucian virtuosos

Could see with ears, and hear with noses," they could probably have transferred the sense of smelling to the eyes, a faculty which would have proved especially enviable in the early part of last summer, when the simple closure of those precious organs might thus have shut out the unutterably offensive breezes from Father Thames, which then rendered a visit to the Middle Temple Library scarcely endurable for any length of time, and of which there is much reason to dread the recurrence.

In works on the Fine Arts the nation has made enormous strides since the seventeenth century; still these were not forgotten in the original formation of the library, and they would yet be interesting, if not instructive, whether to the architect, the sculptor, the painter, or the musician ; by far the greater part of them are in foreign languages. Neither was the physical education of templars yet unborn neglected by Mr. Ashley, and other benefactors of 1641. Judiciously was it remembered, for it is a subject of great importance; and, acc

ccordingly, the treatises on horsemanship, swordmanship, and other exercises, are not amongst the least curious treasures of the library, although several which should be there have been long since carried off. One upon the last-named art, “ Libro de las Grandezas de la Espada," is in manuscript, and very probably in the founder's hand, as he is known to have visited Spain, but the original appears to have existed in print.

The Middle Temple is more than indifferently well-provided with Dictionaries and Glossaries, and among these are many explanatory of the language current in divers English counties; an exceedingly valuable addition to a legal library, as we have known words, supposed to be technical, after a long and vain search through many a law lexicon, discovered to be merely provincialisms.

Until lately there were few good editions of Greek and Latin Classics, but, en revanche, a considerable number of miscellaneous works, in various languages, comprising a Chinese novel, and, among others, a numerous assemblage of Spanish romances, forming, in all probability, part of Mr. Ashley's collection, together with many an eccentric treatise or dialogue, Alphabet de l'Imperfection des Femmes, Dispute d’un Asne contre Frère Anselme Turmeda, &c., &c.

English poetry till recently was almost a nonentity here. We believe no edition of Shakespeare or Milton was to be discovered in the library forty years ago. Neither were the classic English prose writers in very great strength, and even now many additions, as regards these, might be advantageously made to the stock of the society. It should rather appear that Mr. Ashley preferred modern (1641) and foreign, to English or ancient literature. Of late years, law lists and other annual books of reference have been suffered to lie on the table in tolerable abundance, prior to which period these convenient instructors were not to be obtained here.

A treatise De Gestis Majorum Trium Regum, printed in 1477, is supposed to be the oldest work in the Middle Temple library; but several others approach it in antiquity. It is curious to observe how nearly the hopes and fears of former generations are represented by those of our own, and could we recover the stolen tract of 1599,—“Richard Crampton's Mansion of Magnanimity; or, the Strength of England to Withstand a Foreign Invasion;" or, "A Baker of Bjulogne's Letter sent to the Pope” (1607), we should perhaps find as close a resemblance to the views of some of our modern speculators on national defences and the see of Rome,

VOL. VII. NO. XIII.

G

as some difference of circumstances, affecting both subjects, would permit.

We have, thus far, seldom departed from our expressed intention of confining our article to a statement of what is, and has been, in the library of the Middle Temple, and of avoiding the utterance of suggestions of what should be the course of the honourable Society hereafter. In one particular, however, we venture again to depart (if we have already departed) from this our resolution, and to make an exception in favour of all books ordered to be read by the council of legal education, which should perhaps include all those selected for special reference by the readers on law respectively. These, we cannot but think, should be considered as an essential portion of the library; and ordered, as a matter of course, on every decree of the council, whilst the present system of professional education continues.

In other respects, although our opinions, as to what the composition and regulations of the library should be, have been long and reflectively formed, we forbear to express them, and close for the present our labours, wishing prosperity to the ancient collection of the honourable Society, in the new abode so rapidly preparing for it; and which, if we enter, we shall carry with us divers conflicting recollections—some sunny, some cloudy, some pleasant, others the reverse-of the older building, which, like the castle of Macbeth, "hath a pleasant seat,” and which, we hope, will be so tenanted, as not to be degraded from its present position of importance among the edifices of the Inn.

« PreviousContinue »