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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 his 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 Media cine (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. Perbaps 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 have been students only be
aken 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
librarian), the collection of the Inner Temple surpasses that of the Middle Temple, which Mr. Edwards over-estimates as containing 20,000 volumes, but it falls far short of that of its gigantic rival at Lincoln's Inn.
As a general rule, the books of the Inner Temple library are later in publication, and more showy in appearance, than those of its neighbour ; nor does it appear to have suffered the same losses, and experienced the same neglect, during the last century. The writer whom we have just mentioned, considers it “not so well furnished with printed books;" but we question the general accuracy of this statement. With regard to special branches of literature, we find accordingly that in Divinity, in which it is strong, there are a greater number of solid standard works, and a lesser of old and curious tracts. In like manner, the supply of modern
. Law treatises is considerably more copious, including, however, some that are probably of little value, at least beyond a brief
In civil, canon, ecclesiastical, and “ foreign law,” it might be difficult properly to adjust the balance between the two honourable societies. Each, however, possesses many important works upon these subjects, which are wanting in the other.
In English history, the Inner Temple has, we think, the advantage ; but its rooms are perhaps somewhat overloaded with bluebooks, and other bulky documents, proceeding from the two Houses of Parliament. Many of them, we know, notwithstanding the neglect with which, after their first appearance, they seem to be almost invariably treated by those august assemblies, are really valuable and important; but this is by no means the case with all of them; and, in libraries of limited extent, a moderate selection appears to be sufficient, since, upon emergencies, the complete collections at the British Museum and the Parliamentary libraries
may be consulted.
In Foreign history, the Inner Temple is superior; and of French chronicles and memoirs, in particular, a very large assemblage has recently been added to its strength. In Geographical works, and especially in modern voyages and travels, no comparison can be instituted between the riches of these twin societies. Upon these branches of human knowledge, the greater written wisdom, as far as the Temple is concerned, is most decidedly in the East. Again, in the class of Biography, there is a marked inferiority in the collection of the Middle Temple, although it perhaps possesses the scarcer and more curious specimens in this way. In Heraldic works it must also decidedly yield the palm.
To Scientific books, and treatises on art of all descriptions, the remark made upon the subject of divinity will apply. But in curious pseudo-scientific lore in divers tongues, and in tales of witches, and uncanny, unchancy beings of various denominations, the Middle Temple makes the greater display, by reason principally, we opine, of its earlier foundation ; for records of the credulity of modern times find no place upon its shelves.
There is not, as it appears to us, much to choose, as regards the remaining branches of literature, between the two societies' collections, which, if combined, would undoubtedly form a very strong library, the deficiencies of the one being often supplied by the wealth of the other.
We will now pause for a moment, to consider a question which we have often heard mooted—viz., of what description of books should the libraries of our great law societies consist; and under what regulations should they be consulted ?
There are some who would render them circulating libraries of law-books of all denominations and descriptions. There are others who would purchase no books but those upon law, and sell all upon other branches of like nature which may be already upon the shelves. Some, again, would form a very strong collection of professional works, and admit only a few others, nearly connected therewith. And others would consider them magazines of general literature, buying every able work that appears, or is obtainable
The objection to the last-mentioned view of the subject is, that law societies, although rich, have not funds which are inexhaustible. Even the nation cannot maintain the vast National library, except, in a great measure, by compulsory means. Unless the same privilege be extended to the Inns of Court, which is