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Original Foundation Of The Bodleian Library

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

As the very interesting question respecting the presentation of nooks to the public libraries is likely soon to become the subject of Parliamentary discussion, permit me to refer your readers to a satisfactory account of the origin of the Bodleian Library, which (in vol. lxxx., part ii., p. 150) you have extracted from Mr. Chalmers's excellent history of that university, to which, perhaps, you may have no objection to add a short quotation from Wood's "Annals" (ed. Gutch, vol. ii., p. 920) :

" Duke Humphrey's Library remaining desolate from the reign of Edward VI. till towards the end of Queen Elizabeth, it pleased the thrice worthy Thomas Bodley, Esq., sometime Fellow of Merton College, to restore it. At Easter, 1598, he came to Oxford, to view the place on which he bestowed his bounty. By this time [160z] there were in this place (where for many years was neither book nor student to be seen) 2,000 and above of excellent choice volumes set up and reduced into a catalogue. King James, in his Charter of Mortmain for the endowment of it, in the second year of his reign, did worthily stile and declare Sir Thomas Bodley (lately knighted by him) the Founder thereof. . . . So great was his zeal for obtaining more books, and for the furnishing of it in after ages, that he did not only search all places in the nation for antiquated copies, and persuade the Society of Stationers in London, to give a copy of every book that was printed (since confirmed by the Charters of Kings) ; but also searched for authors, whether public or private (so that they were of good note), in the remotest places beyond the sea."

The subject, Mr. Urban, will be somewhat further illustrated, by an extract from the Records of the Stationers' Company.

" 14 Nov., 161 0. Receaved from Oxon, by the delivery of Mr. Doctor Kinge, Dean of Christ Church, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxon, the Certificate, under the University's Seal, of an indenture (before sealed at Mr. Leak's house in Paul's Churchyard under the Common Seal, 15 Novemb. ult.) for one book of every new copy to be given to the Public Library at Oxon—that they appoint Sir Thomas Bodley to receive the same."

This, on the face of it, appears to have been a private transaction between Sir Thomas Bodley and the Company of Stationers, who, in return for some favour done to them by his interest at the court, complimented the munificent knight with a voluntary gift, towards the furnishing of his new library at Oxford.

From this foundation, however, arose the following oppressive clause in a decree of the Star-chamber, July 11, 1637;

" Whereas there is an agreement betwixt Sir Thomas Bodley knight, Founder of the University Library at Oxford, and the Master, Wardens, and Assistants of the Company of Stationers; (viz.) That one book of every sort that is new printed, or reprinted with additions, be sent to the Universitie of Oxford, for the use of the Publique Librarie there : The Court doth hereby order and declare, That every Printer shall reserve one Book new printed, or reprinted by him with additions ; and shall, before any publique venting of the said Book, bring it to the Common Hall of the Companie of Stationers, and deliver it to the Officer thereof, to be sent to the Librarie at Oxford accordingly, upon paine of imprisonment, and such further order and direction therein, as to this Court, or the High Commission Court respectively, as the severall causes shall require, shall be thought fit."

Though this delivery of a single copy to the Bodleian Library, originating out of a private transaction, was now become a serious matter of obligation, it seems to have been not very punctually complied with ; as the following entry will evince:

"Feb. 1, 1662-3. A Letter from the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford was presented to the Court ; whereby the Vice-Chancellor reminded the Company of their Engagement and Obligation that laid upon them, to send a copy of every Book they print to their Public Library ; complaining of the little care that bath been thereof taken for several years. That, as they desire not to take any violent course for the performance of that Obligation ; so they hope the Company will pre-vent it, by sending such Books as are in arrear."

The tax (for such it now became) was in the meantime tripled, by an Act of 13 and 14 Car. II., which, amongst several other obnoxious clauses, directed that in future :

" Every printer should send three copies of every book new printed, or reprinted with additions, to the Stationers' Company, to be sent to the King's Library, and the Vice-Chancellors of the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, for the use of their Public Libraries."

The first entry which appears on the Stationers' Records, after the passing of this Act, is thus worded :

" Dec. 1, 1663, several Books were delivered into the Court of the Company, to be disposed of in several Libraries, according to the Act." In 1668, the Company of Stationers gave directions :

" That the Beadle do give notice to every Printer, to reserve in his custody three of every Book by him printed, of the best and largest paper, according to the Act of Parliament at Oxford in 1665."

In 1693 an order was issued. "for prosecuting all Booksellers, Printers, and others, who neglect to send in their Books for the Three Libraries."

In the following year, these oppressive statutes were wholly re-pealed ; and it was not till the golden age of literature, in the reign of Queen Anne, that, by an Act expressly passed " for the encouragement of learning," a grievous penalty was laid on authors, printers, and booksellers, by the delivery of nine copies of every book that should by entered at Stationers' Hall. Still, however, there was a choice left, at least by common usage and acceptation, to those who did not care about the protection of their copyright. Those who sent the copies, were protected by the law. Those who withheld them, submitted to the chance of having their books reprinted. And it is not a little remarkable that scarcely a single book was ever entered at Stationers' Hall by any resident member of either of the universities.

After the lapse of a century, it was reserved for the present age to add two more to the copies already required, and to expound the law to be obligatory on those who cared not about their copyright, as well as on those who did. And unless the legislature shall condescend to afford relief, the tax of eleven copies remains the expounded law of the land, and must be obeyed.

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