« PreviousContinue »
ART. X.-THE LIBRARIES OF THE INNS OF COURT.
1. Memoirs of Libraries; including a Hand-book of Library
Economy. By EDWARD EDWARDS. London: Trübner & Co., 1859. 2 vols.
2. Catalogue of the Printed Books in the Library of the Hon.
Society of Lincoln's Inn. By WILLIAM H. SPILSBURY, Librarian. Printed for the Society, 1859.
E lately offered our readers some account of the Library of
the Middle Temple. We now propose to make a few remarks upon the Libraries of the remaining Inns of Court. We are told that a hero renowned in fiction,” when assailed by more than one adversary, “applied to the weakest first.” Acting on the same judicious principle, we shall commence our inquiries with the Library of Gray's Inn. It is no discredit to a society numerically so much weaker than the three great legal colleges of London, to possess a smaller collection of books in a less showy receptacle. It is merely what is naturally to be expected, and reflects no blame upon the guardians of Gray's Inn. Nor indeed are we sure that the apartments in which their books are lodged, would suffer by a comparison with those which at present contain the much larger array of volumes appertaining to the Middle Temple, and which the unfortunate effects of the “Strike" threaten to retain in their present location for a much longer period than we a few months since anticipated.
The books constituting the library of Gray's Inn are chiefly upon law, or subjects immediately therewith connected; but there are also some valuable works on divinity, including a collection of “The Fathers of the Church," and some manuscript missals, &c. There is no modern printed catalogue of this
· See L. M. and R., vol. vii. p. 67, No. 13, May 1859.
library, but increased attention has of late years been paid to its condition.
The Library of Lincoln's Inn is widely different in bulk, corresponding in magnitude with the wealth of the very important body to which it belongs. Its foundation is said to be of an earlier date than that of any other library now existing in London. As far back as 1497, the rudiments of the collection were formed by bequest of John Nethersale, a member of the society, thus anticipating the work of Mr. Ashley, at the Middle Temple, by 144 years. In both instances, the good intentions of the original founders do not seem, until a period approaching our own, to have been regularly and systematically followed up by the higher powers of each Inn. The much-admired building which contains the books of Lincoln's Inn was erected only fourteen years ago.
Amongst the benefactors to the Lincoln's Inn collection, may be found the celebrated names of Dr. Donne and Archbishop Usher, also of that singular, dogged, witch-visaged, indefatigable personage, William Prynne (so hardly dealt with by Samuel Butler and the executioner's shears), who was a bencher of the society. A copy, believed to be unique, of the Introduction to Prynne's Records, was purchased by the society of Lincoln's Inn, at the sale of the Stowe library in 1849, for the very considerable sum of £335.
But Sir Matthew Hale. so conspicuous for his gifts of hand, head, and heart-was one of the most liberal, as well as perhaps the worthiest, of the deceased benefactors to this voluminous collection. His manuscripts are not only important in bulk hut in quality, comprising, amongst other interesting matter, many papers in the handwriting of Selden, and a large folio with the formidable title, “The Black Book of the New Law," by Sir Matthew Hale himself.
Of living donors to this extensive library, Mr. Purton Cooper, one of the members of the Bench of the Inn, undoubtedly holds the most conspicuous place. This gentleman, whose own writings are well known, presented to the Society in 1853, nearly two
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
The Libraries of the Inns of Court. thousand volumes in civil and foreign law, many of them of great rarity.
Very great augmentations by purchase have also been made to this splendid collection, bringing up its numerical force in volumes to upwards of thirty thousand, or not very much short of double that of the library of the Middle Temple. But it is probable that the system, formerly so frequently adopted at the latter library, of binding a number of small works together, has not obtained equally at Lincoln's Inn. The purchased manuscripts comprise (amongst many others) those of Serjeants Hill and Maynard.
It appears that the late William Selwyn (a name honoured in the profession to which he belonged) was almost as indefatigable in his attention to the interests of the library of which we speak, as bis brave and pious descendant still is in his perilous, no less than arduous, exertions in the cause of Christianity in New Zealand. It might be invidious to particularize the efforts to the same end of later members of the society who are now flourishing. A catalogue of the printed books was printed in 1835, and, in 1837, one by the Rev. Joseph Hunter (so well known for his antiquarian lore), of the manuscripts. The great increase, however, of the library during the last twenty years, called for the compilation of new catalogues; and this arduous task, entrusted to Mr. Spilsbury, the librarian of the society, has been most ably accomplished. The new catalogue, comprising all the printed works (pamphlets excepted') in a very clear convenient form, leaves little or nothing to be desired.
It is arranged alphabetically, judiciously so as we think; for experience has led us to agree with the Edinburgh Reviewer, quoted by Mr. Spilsbury, that “ a good and useful classed catalogue of a great library is a proved impossibility.” And no less true is his own observation, that “to form a catalogue, which shall in no instance disappoint the inquirer, is a task apparently beyond the skill of the most experienced bibliographer.” The
1 The Catalogue of Pamphlets will form a separate volume, and will soon be published.
index of subjects appended to the present catalogue, offers perhaps all the most important services to readers which classification can achieve. Owing to the absence of classes, it is, however, not quite so easy, as in the case of the catalogue of the Middle Temple, to ascertain the strength and weakness of the library upon particular branches of literature, or to compare the relative merits of the collections of the two Inns respectively. But the great general superiority of number in the case of Lincoln's Inn, renders it probable that the Middle Temple cannot claim a positive preponderance of force upon any important subject—that of Medicine (with reference to works long since published) excepted. In some instances, indeed, the inferiority of the latter appears at a glance. In reports of Trials, the library of the Middle Temple is very weak, while that of Lincoln's Inn is so strong, that it has been held advisable to make TRIALS a separate heading in the catalogue, and upwards of forty-six closely printed octavo pages follow this leading word,
Neither library appears to contain many works of mere ornament, or to be rich in expensive illustrated volumes, and the like. In the unlegal department of Romance, we certainly think that the Middle Temple would come off a winner, Mr. Ashley appearing to have had a taste for such varieties. Perhaps we must also add, as a subject for exultation, its possessions in the way of Poetry—more especially of English poetry—which, for the most part, are of comparatively recent acquirement. We must not, however, forget the curious collection of English metrical romances at Lincoln's Inn, once appertaining to the Anthony Foster of Scott's “
enilworth,” But Lincoln's Inn boasts, and probably with justice, of a collection of law books, “the most complete in this country.” But we think, with reference to the illustrious dead, that the Middle Temple can produce even a stronger list of distinguished law men; at least, if those who bave been students only be taken into the account. Fortescue, Sir Thomas More, Hale, Mansfield, Mackintosh, and Curran, are doubtless names very illustrious in talent or genius; but they will not, we think, out-.
weigh those of Sheridan, Hardwicke, Blackstone, Clarendon, Somers, and Eldon. George Canning was scarcely a Walter Raleigh, and the great Daniel O'Connell, in the moral and intellectual scale, will scarce bear a moment's comparison with his illustrious countryman, Edmund Burke. Neither can the great men of the Inner Temple, although numerous, and including the names of Littleton, Coke, Selden, and Cowper, rival those of the sister Inn.
We come now to consider the Library of the Inner Temple, contained in two handsome rooms, to which we are especially partial, but in which appearance has of late years been sacrificed to utility, in the multiplication of book-cases. It owes its foundation, which occurred several years later than that of the Middle Temple, to the well-known William Petyt, keeper of the records of the Tower, whose portrait may be seen in the readingroom, and it contains a very considerable number of manuscripts, chiefly proceeding from Mr. Petyt himself, who was also a benefactor (in money) to the neighbouring library to a large amount.
Since its first establishment, the greatest additions to the Inner Temple Library by the gift of any individual, emanated, we believe, from the late Baron Maseres, in 1825. He gave some manuscripts and many printed books. Several catalogues of this library have been printed : one of these classed (completed in 1833), is upon a plan in a great measure adopted in framing that of the sister society. An alphabetical substitute appeared several years later, and still more recently a large manuscript account of it in several folio volumes, resembling the catalogue of the Cambridge University collection, has been placed in the reading-room; and although we hardly think this proceeding necessary, unless in libraries of the greatest extent, yet we will not call it an error. Like those of the other Inns of Court, this library has been greatly increased of late years, under the management, as at Lincoln's Inn, of a committee of the bench, and not under that of an individual master selected from the benchers, as at the Middle Temple, which latter arrangement Mr. Edwards appears to prefer-perhaps with reason, In number of volumes (about 18,000, as we are informed by its