« ZurückWeiter »
this want appears almost like a mockery. It is like putting a fine coat on the back of a starving man, instead of giving him a dinner.
Yale College has a library about one third smaller than that of Harvard, and is now constructing an edifice for it, at the estimated cost of only $ 30,000, which will contain all the books at present belonging to it, and leave space for a large increase in future years. The library of Brown University is comparatively small; but a wise discrimination has been shown in the use of the means provided for its enlargement. In 1831, measures were taken to raise by subscription the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, to be applied to “ the purchase of books for the library, and apparatus for the philosophical and chemical departments.” The whole amount was to be invested as a permanent fund, and the interest was to be devoted exclusively to the objects above mentioned. More than $ 19,000 were obtained by this effort, of which Mr. Nicholas Brown, of Providence, the constant and munificent friend of the college, subscribed $ 10,000. The sum thus obtained was placed at interest till it had increased to twenty-five thousand dollars, and was then invested as a permanent fund. The first dividend from it, applicable to the purchase of books and apparatus, became due in 1839, since which time the proceeds have been regularly appropriated according to the provisions of the subscription. The room formerly devoted to the use of the library being too small, as well as unsightly and inconvenient, Mr. Brown erected a building, at his own expense, the second story of which is used as the college chapel, while the ground floor is appropriated for the books, and will contain thirty thousand volumes. The cost of this edifice was a little less than $ 30,000, and if the whole building were devoted to the use of the library, it would contain at least eighty thousand volumes.
A catalogue of the books in this library, by Mr. Charles C. Jewett, the librarian, is now before us, and deserves notice, as one of the most skilfully prepared and beautifully executed works of its class. The arrangement is such, that one can easily find a particular work of which he is in search, and can ascertain at a glance what books are contained in the collection relating to a given subject, or belonging to the particular department of science or letters, in regard to which
he is looking for information and assistance. The volume consists of two parts, the first being a descriptive catalogue, in which the titles are given at length, and arranged alphabetically, according to the names of the authors, or, when these are unknown, according to the principal word in the title ; the second is an alphabetical index of subjects, the works being grouped together according to the natural relations of the matters of which they treat. The plan is, in most respects, like that of the Signet Library Catalogue, of Edinburgh, which was copied, with some improvements, by Mr. 0. A. Taylor, when he prepared a catalogue of the library of the Theological Seminary at Andover. It has all the advantages of the more elaborate and apparently more scientific scheme of a systematic index, and it avoids some of the many difficulties, by which a full and regular execution of this scheme, consistent in all its parts, must always be impeded. To say nothing of the fact, that it requires a complete solution of that most comprehensive and difficult problem, on which the genius of Bacon and D'Alembert labored in vain, a scientific classification of all the branches of human knowledge, — there are minor impediments to the successful performance of the work, and many little inconveniences in the use of it, when completed, which become serious in the aggregate, especially when the catalogue is of great extent. Many works of a miscellaneous character, like awkward soldiers on drill, cannot find their proper place in the ranks. It is even doubtful, at times, whether they belong to the infantry, the dragoons, or the artillery, for they seem to wear a portion of the accoutrements of all three. A due regard to method, also, sometimes requires the classification to be carried so far, that a person consulting the work is often rather perplexed than aided by the number of divisions and subdivisions, of orders, genera, and species, under which the books are arranged. Every good distribution into classes depends on some one leading idea, guided by their relation to which the different subjects follow in appropriate groups. But the leading idea in the mind of the inquirer may not be the one in regard to which the catalogue is arranged. The system in the index depends on a general scheme of human knowledge, and, therefore, strictly speaking, is directly adapted to the wants only of the general student, who is equally interested in all branches of inquiry.
But a theologian would prefer an arrangement based on the particular relations of man to the Deity. The student of natural history would adopt one depending on the scientific relations of all external objects to each other. And both theology and natural history having a connexion, more or less remote, with every other department of knowledge, it is obvious, that the student of each may have occasion to consult works in every department of the catalogue, and will experience some difficulty in doing this, if the leading idea in his science is not made the basis of the index.
We think, therefore, that Mr. Jewett has done wisely in adopting the alphabetical arrangement both for the descriptive catalogue and the index of subjects. It is true, that the order of the alphabet does not seem a very scientific one ; but in this instance, as in many others, it happens, that the system which has the least appearance of science is the most convenient for use. We do not say, that the plan would have been equally satisfactory, if the collection of books had been a very numerous one. The library of Brown University contains but little more than ten thousand volumes, and might be consulted with ease and convenience by the aid of a catalogue compiled with less care and method than are shown in the present work. The author of it certainly did not suffer from the embarrassment of riches.” When, as in the great libraries of Europe, through far-reaching halls and almost countless alcoves, the shelves bend beneath the weight of the accumulated wisdom of other ages and foreign nations, the inquirer, who is suddenly introduced into the labyrinthic treasure-house of learning, needs a skilful guide, or he will feel as perplexed and helpless as if he were travelling alone, and without a compass, through one of our interminable Western forests. But few of the public libraries in the United States, it must be confessed, present any difficulties of this sort ; the student can find his way through them as easily as through a clump of trees in a pasture.
Mr. Jewett has been able to add one feature to this catalogue, which is not usually found in books of the same class, and which, indeed, cannot be given when they relate to libraries of great extent, without swelling the work to very inconvenient dimensions. He has given short biographical notices of authors, when it became necessary to distinguish between two of the same name ; and has appended such
notices to most of the titles of the ancient classics, and of many American productions. He has also occasionally added bibliographical notes, which evince much care, research, and discretion. On the whole, he has produced a valuable book, and we only regret, that his eminent qualifications for the task were not tested by the preparation of one of much greater extent.
We learn from the Preface to this volume, that the library is the fruit, almost entirely, of the liberality of private individuals. The appropriations from the general funds of the college have necessarily been few and scanty ; and though similar institutions in the other States have usually been fed at least by a slender rill of legislative patronage, the only college library in Rhode Island has not received a drop from this source.
We cannot but hope, now that the internal troubles of that State are quieted, and her finances are in excellent condition, that she will think generously of the claims of an institution which has done so much for the advancement of education, and for the dissemination of sound principles throughout her boundaries. Liberality in such a cause is discreet and far-sighted economy.
A collection of books made up almost exclusively from private benefactions, accumulating during a long period of years, cannot be so valuable as one of even quite inferior size, obtained by the direct expenditure of a considerable sum at one time, with a due regard to the selection of the works which are most needed. Individuals give a number of volumes to a college, or bequeath their whole collection to it, and in this
obtain a few rare and valuable works. But very many of the books thus obtained, having been originally brought together by chance or private caprice, merely cumber the shelves of a public institution with useless matter. A library thus formed is very heterogeneous in its character, and unequal in the various departments of science and letters. Thus, in the catalogue now before us, we find the names of quite a number of Welsh books, and of works relating to the Welsh language and literature, while there is hardly a title belonging to the modern literature of France and Germany. The library contains a collection of Welsh poems by one Ap Robert, which are, doubtless, very beautiful, though unfortunately we never heard of them þefore ; and though Brown University has a corps of very VOL. LVIII. NO. 122.
learned professors, we are sadly afraid that not one of them is able to read a line of the “ Dau Gywydd.” On the other hand, it does not possess a single work, in the original, either of Corneille or Racine, of Goethe or Schiller. It may have a few rare books, which would be considered valuable by a bibliomaniac, or in one of the great European repositories ; but the factitious value of these only mocks the poverty of the other departments of the collection. In this respect, the library is in the same state as the horse of the spendthrift, who, having exhausted his credit with the grain merchant, but not with the pastry cook, ordered the animal to be fed on cheesecakes and custards.
Such considerations as these show the futility of the excuse commonly offered by legislators for their ill-timed parsimony towards the higher seminaries of learning. They say, that the library already contains more books than any one man can read; as if it were any consolation for an inquirer who is in great need of a particular work to be offered another, however rare or valuable, which he does not want. Let the legislature of Rhode Island think of these things, and then strive to imitate the noble liberality of her private citizens towards an institution which has already done, and is doing, so much for the honor of the State.
With a commendable feeling of gratitude for the exertions of these early friends of the college, Mr. Jewett has inserted, in the Preface to his work, such information as he could obtain respecting their lives, characters, and the amount of their gifts. The list is not a long one, and the particulars are scanty ; but it is well that they are preserved, for they illustrate the manner in which colleges have been generally formed and their libraries collected in this country. Most of the information was derived from the records of the college, and from the recollections of a few aged persons, who were the friends of the institution in its early days.
Brown University was incorporated in 1764, and bore the name of the “ Rhode Island College” till 1804, when its present appellation was given to it, in honor of its most distinguished benefactor, Mr. Nicholas Brown. This gentleman, an eminent and successful merchant in Providence, R. I., began his benefactions to the institution in 1792, by presenting to it a law library of three hundred and fifty volumes, which he had imported for the purpose. In 1804,