Libraries In Private Hands
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
The Right Reverend the Bishop of Norwich* hath a large and most incomparable library. There are vast quantities both of printed books and MSS. in all faculties. There is a great variety of MSS., admirable both for antiquity and fair writing. A Capgrave, the finest in England : there is but one more, and that is in Bene't College Library, in Cambridge ; with many others of great value, too long to insert. He hath many of the old printed books at the first beginning of printing. That at Mentz, 1460, and others printed at Rome, and several other cities in Italy, Germany, France and Holland, in 1500. Those printed in England by the first printers, at Oxford, 1469, St. Alban's, Westminster, by Caxton, Wynken de Worde, Pynson, etc., the greatest collection of any in England. Other books, printed on vellum, and curiously illuminated, so as to pass for MSS. ; a fine Pliny and Livy, in 2 vols., both printed on vellum ; and many such like. Abundance of examplars of books printed by the famous printers : the Aldi, Junti. Gryphius, Vascosanus, Stephens, Elzevirs, etc. It were heartily to be wished that his lordship's catalogue were printed, for I believe it would be the best that ever appeared—I mean in England.
Dr. Hans Sloane hath a very curious collection of books in all faculties, as physick, mathematicks, the classicks, etc., in all languages ; old printed books ; a great number of MSS. on divers subjects, both antient and modern. He hath a most admirable collection of natural and artificial rarities, shells, insects, fossils, medals, both antient and modern, Roman and Greek antiquities, ores of several sorts, as gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, and a vast many other antique rarities that had been Mr. Charleton's ; so that, with what he had before, and since bath collected, he hath the greatest in England. He has books of plants of several countries. A large collection of voyages, discoveries, travels in foreign parts, in most of the European languages, not only printed, but most of them in MS. in Latin, Italian, French, Flemish, Dutch, and English ; nothing having escaped him that he knew of, either here or abroad, that could be purchased. He is copiously furnished with books on all curious subjects. Perhaps there is not such another collection in its kind in all Europe.
The Earl of Carbery hath made a noble collection; and, amongst other things, all that relate to mystical divinity.
The Earl of Kent bath spared for no cost to complete his collection of English historians, visitations, and pedigrees.
The Earl of Pembroke is very choice in books of medals, lives, the effigies of all great and learned men, kings, princes, dukes, and great generals ; with abundance of others of pomp and state.
The Lord Somers bath an admirable collection of books relating to the laws of this land and other countries, in Latin, French, Itallian, and Spanish. Also our English historians, both printed and MS. A rare library in this kind.
The Earl of Sunderland bath a great collection of scarce and valuable authors in polite learning ; especially the best editions of the classicks. He bought Mr. Hadrian Beverland's entire, a collection very choice in its kind. This, in my opinion, is the best and most expeditious way to procure a good library; and the method taken by the old Earl of Anglesea, who bought several entire, as Oldenburgh's, etc.
The Lord Halifax's collection is noble and choice, with admirable judgment, well digested, and in good order.
There is a large and curious collection made by the late Mr. Secretary Pepys, now in the possession of Mr. Jackson, his heir, at Clapham, in Surrey. It consists of various subjects, as English history, maritime affairs, the power and constitution of the Admiralty and Sea Laws. He made a vast collection from our antient records in the Tower, and English historians, both antient and modern, relating to our naval affairs and those of other countries. Here are the finest models of ships of all rates and sorts. Ships painted by the best masters, as Velde, Backhuysen, etc., the drawing of the Royal Navy of Henry VIII. Books of musick, mathematicks, and several other subjects, all excellent in their kinds. But what he bath collected with respect to the City of London is beyond all compare, as for books, ground-plots, views, palaces, churches. great houses, coronations, funerals, public shows, heads of famous men, and all that could be collected relating to London. He bath been at the charge of drawing such things as never were in print, for the illustration of that famous city, he being a native thereof. A vast collection of heads, both domestic and foreign, beyond expression. Copy-books of all the masters of Europe, Italian, French, German, Flemish, Dutch, Spanish, and English; all digested according to their time and country, pasted on large paper, and bound up. A large book of title-pages, frontispieces, not only of the best English masters, but Italian, French, etc., which are very much improved by Mr. Jackson, his nephew, in his travels. This is not to be paralleled. There are many other excellent books and rarities. He contrived his catalogue for the easy finding any author and the various subjects, so that a single sheet may be found as soon as the largest folio. Of all the catalogues I ever saw, nothing came near it but my Lord Maitland's, taken by his own directions, having the name of the author, the place where printed, the printer's name, and date when printed. A catalogue thus taken, with an index of the author's name, must needs be of excellent use.*
The inclinations of persons are vastly different in their collecting, as particularly Lord Clarendon, mainly about the affairs of Ireland, and its government.—Mr. Wilde, formerly living in Bloomsbury; his consisted of architecture and agriculture, admirable in. its kind.—A gentleman that lived in the Inner Temple had a collection consisting of books of necromancy and magic, etc., mostly MSS.--Mr. Thomas Britton, the small-coalman in Clerkenwell : his books were of chemistry, as may be seen by the catalogue printed for their sale by auction. He hath a vast collection of musick, prickt by his own hand, and esteemed of great value.
Dr. Beaumont for some years past bath collected whatever he could, relating to mystical divinity, spirits, witchcraft, and such-like subjects.
Captain Aston, for some considerable time, hath procured a large quantity of voyages, travels, etc., in most of the European languages, beside books on other subjects.
Mr. Southerby, in Hatton Garden, bath a curious collection of books, both MSS. and printed, besides his fine medals.
Several of these gentlemen have collected medals, prints, and paintings.
Mr. Serjeant-surgeon Bernard's library is very valuable for the best editions and fairest impressions of classicks, in all volumes.
Mr. Huckle, on Tower Hill, hath been admirably curious in collecting the nicest books in Latin, Spanish, Italian, and French. His prints are fine beyond comparison, consisting of those of the first printing off. He is a critical judge of prints, drawings, and paintings.
Mr. Graham and Mr. Child are curious collectors that way.
Mr. Chicheley, Mr. Bridges, Mr. Walter Clavell, and Mr. Rawlinson, of the Temple, have curious libraries.
Captain Hatton bath a rare collection of English History. Mr. Slaughter, of Gray's Inn, hath an admirable library.
Mr. Topham bath a complete collection of books in the Greek language, and relating to the Greek learning.
Dr. Goodman, Dr. Gray, Dr. Tyson, and Dr. Woodward, have been great and curious collectors ; and so have Dr. Mead and Dr. Brook.
Mr. Godwin, of Pindar, hath a very good library.
Some, of late, have been curious to collect those of the Large Paper ; and not long since Mr. Bateman bought Dr. Stanley's study of books, wherein were the most of that kind that have been seen together for some years.
Mr. Wanley hath made a great progress towards collecting books relating to the Service of the Church. The several versions and impressions of the Holy Bible in English and Latin, Psalters, Primers, and Common Prayer-Books. It will soon be the best of that kind in the kingdom ; from whence in time we may expect his critical observations of the several versions of Holy Writ into English, a work that hath been attempted by some.
He hath thousands of fragments of old writings, some near r,000 years old ; as a piece of Virgil, with figures not far beyond that in the Vatican. Other pieces, where the writing hath been scraped out, for want of vellum, to write other things on ; and I verily believe he was the first that ever made that discovery ; for some years ago, in the Bodleian Library, he showed me a MS. in Greek, that had been twice wrote on. His fragments are in divers languages, Greek, Latin Saxon, etc. I believe the like is not in Europe, and I believe no person can make better use of them ; so that if he meet with encouragement, as Mabillon had in France, we may have greater variety of specimens from him; besides which he intends towards a Saxon Bible. This collection of his deserves a very great encomium.
You have formerly seen his specimen of antient hands, and by his alphabets you may judge of his performance. He is an excellent critick of the antiquity of all sorts of letters, Greek, Roman, Gothic, Saxon, etc., what century and country they were wrote in, the several sorts of ink in each country ; the vellum, paper, parchment they were wrote on.
The Benedictine Monks at St. James had a good library; and the Capuchins at Somerset House.
Sir William Godolphin and his brother the Doctor have both excellent libraries.
I have mentioned these particulars for the satisfaction of a particular friend, who was of opinion that there were more books in Paris than London. But, though in their convents and public libraries they may exceed us, yet for books in private hands we exceed them ; and I am fully assured our booksellers are better assorted than those at Paris.
Mr. Bateman hath had more libraries go through his hands within this twenty years than all those at Paris put together. In that time his shop hath been the storehouse from which the learned have furnished themselves with what was rare and curious. From hence we have the happiness that few of our books go out of the kingdom; of late years only Vossius', which were lost by the management of some conceited, ill-natured persons ; and there were many excellent Greek MSS. very antient, some in capitals, and amongst the printed books some were as valuable as some of the MSS.—Bishop Stilling-fleet's printed books also went out of the kingdom. The MSS. remain here.
These, 7000 in number, were bought by the Right Hon. Secretary Harley, and that noble collection of Sir Simon D'Ewes, which is much rarer. There are abundance of ancient MSS. books, charters, etc., some in Saxon, others of great antiquity, which give great light into history. There are all J. Stow's collection ; several original leidger-book, coucher-books, and cartularies of Monasteries in this kingdom, at Bury St. Edmund's, St. Alban's, and other religious houses. This collection in some particulars exceeds any in England, and is the greatest treasury in its kind in the kingdom. There are, besides, many valuable MSS. and printed books.
Dr. Salmon hath the best collection of English folios that are to be found in any private hand : his library is a very stately room, and well situated as any I have seen ; there are 1700 folios, with quartos and octavos proportionable, books well chosen and neatly bound.
Lately the gentlemen of Doctors' Commons purchased the library of Dr which is put into a great room next to the Hall ; and intend to collect more books to complete it. The learned Dr. Pinfold is putting them in order ; they are mostly relating to civil and canon law.
Dr. Bushby gave a collection of books in the room called the Museum at Westminster School, for the use of the scholars.
I shall conclude with observing, that books being sold by auction, and printing catalogues, has given great light to the knowledge of books. This we are beholding to the auctioneers for, such as John Dunmore, Edward Millington, Marmaduke Forster, William Cooper, John Ballard, etc. They had vast quantities of books went through their hands ; as Smith's, the Lord Anglesea's, Dr. Jacomb's, Massow's, Earl of Aylesbury's, Lord Maitland's, etc., the great stocks of Scot, Davies of Oxford, and Littlebury's. Dispersing catalogues of these much conduced to improving the learned in the knowledge of scarce and valuable books, which before stood dusty in studies, shops, and warehouses.