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Book in, Von Siebold during his residence in, and visits to, Japan.
^pKa' The first of these collections, which is now at Ley den, and
Tom*"0 °f which a catalogue was published in 1845, was long
Recent considered as beyond comparison the finest of its kind out
Days. » r
of Japan and China; but the second, now in the Museum, is much superior. That at Leyden comprises five hundred and twenty-five works, that in London one thousand and eighty-eight works, in three thousand four hundred and forty-one volumes. It contains specimens of every class of literature: cyclopaedias, histories, law-books, political pamphlets, novels, plays, poetry, works on science, on antiquities, on female costume, on cookery, on carpentry, and on dancing. It abounds in works illustrative of the topography of Japan, as, for instance, one, in twenty volumes, on the secular capital Yeddo, and two, in eleven volumes, on the religious capital Miaco; collections of views of Yeddo and of the volcano Fusiyama, &c. &c. There are also several dictionaries of European languages, testifying to the eagerness with which the Japanese now pursue that study. The Museum was already in possession of a second edition of an English dictionary published at Yeddo in 1866, in which the lexicographer, Horn Tatsnoskay, observes in the preface, "As the study of the English language is now becoming general in our country, we have had for some time the desire to publish a pocket dictionary of the English and Japanese languages, as an assistance to our scholars," and adds that the first edition is "entirely sold out." These dictionaries may now assist Europeans to study the language of Japan, and it is believed that the Japanese Library now in the Museum will afford unequalled opportunities for the study of its literature.'
This was the last sentence in the last official report which Mr. Watts lived to write, for the purpose of being laid before Parliament. He died on the ninth of Sep- Book in, tember, 1869, at the age of fifty-nine. His post was not Othm' filled up until the end of December, when he was succeeded TOMTMic by Mr. William Brenchley Rye, who was then Senior £*^HT Assistant-Keeper in the Department of Printed Books. Mr. Rye is well known in literature. He has edited, with great ability, several works of early travel for the useful 'Hakluyt Society,'—an employment which he has often shared with his friends and Museum colleagues Messrs. Winter Jones and Richard Henry Major, and with like honourable distinction in its performance. More recently, he has increased his reputation by a book which has been largely read, and which well deserves its popularity— England as seen by Foreigners. This work was published in 1865.
Book III, Chap. VII. ReconStructors And ProJectors.
'What do we, as a nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether on our Libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses? If a man spends lavishly on his Library, you call him mad,—a Bibliomaniac. But you uever call any one a Horse-maniac, though men ruin themselves every day by their losses, and you do not hear of people ruining themselves by their books. Or, to go lower still, how much do you think the contents of the bookshelves of the United Kingdom, public and private, would fetch, as compared with the contents of its wine-cellars.'—
Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, pp. 75-77.
The various Projects and Plans proposed, at different times, for the Severance, the Partial Dispersion, and the Rearrangement, of the several integral Collections which at present form ' The British Museum.'
The first reconstructor, in imagination, of the British Museum on the plan of severing the literature from the scientific collections, was a speculative and clever Frenchman, Peter John Grosley, who visited it within less than six years of its being first opened to public inspection. Grosley expressed great admiration for much that he saw, and he also criticised some of the arrangements that seemed to him defective, with freedom but with courtesy. Some of my readers will probably think that he hit a real blot, at that time, when he said: 'The Printed Books are the weakest part of this immense collection. The building cannot contain such a Library as England can form and ought to form for the ornament of its capital. It has a building quite ready in the "Banquetting-House" . [at Whitehall], and that building could be enlarged from time to time as occasion might require.'
Other writers, at various periods, have advocated Book In,
l • Chap. VII.
the severance of collections which seemed to them Reco»too multifarious to admit of full, natural, and equable TMD^S!" development, in common. There is perhaps no apparent "CT0V>reason, on the surface, why a great Nation should not be able to enlarge the most varied public collections as effectively, and as impartially, within one building, as within half a dozen buildings. Nor does there seem to be any necessary connection between the wise and liberal government of public collections, and their severance or division into many buildings, rather than their combination within a single structure. Nevertheless it is certain that many thinkers have, by some process or other, reached the conclusion that severance would favour improvement.
Seventy years after Grosley wrote, Thomas Watts re- Mr.watt»vived the proposition of dividing the contents of the British "°PT°H8"'0" Museum, but he revived it in a new form. His idea was to
remove the Antiquities and to retain at Montagu House Museum both the Libraries and the Natural History Collections, Tioiss, 1837. 'The pictures have been removed,' wrote Mr. Watts in 1837,' why should not the statues follow? The collections at the Museum would then remain of an entirely homogeneous character. It would be exclusively devoted to conveying literary information; while the collection at the National Gallery would have for its object to refine and cultivate the taste.'
It was not by any oversight that Mr. Watts spoke of the 'homogeneity' of Manuscripts, Printed Books, and Natural-History Collections. He (at the time) meant what he said. But I doubt if the naturalists would feel flattered by the reason which he gives in illustration of his J"'^;^. opinion. 'The various curiosities accumulated at the
1 vol. xxvi,
Museum might be considered,' he continues, 'as a vast pp. 295, acqq. Book in, assemblage of book-plates, serving to illustrate and elucidate
Chap. VII. ° ,
R«cok- the literature of the Library.
""dptm" Be that as it may, the idea of removing either the «ctoe8. Antiquities or the Printed Books has Jong ceased to be mooted. All who now advocate severance advise, I think, that the Natural History Collections should be removed, and none other than those. But hitherto the idea of severance, in any shape, has been uniformly repudiated both by Royal Commissions of Inquiry, and by Parliamentary Committees. The question, however, is sure to be revived, and that speedily. Ere long it must needs receive a final parliamentary solution—aye or no.
In this chapter I shall endeavour to state,—and as I hope with impartiality,—the main reasons which have been severally adduced, both by those who advocate a severance, and by those who recommend the continuance of the existing union of all the varied and vast Collections now at Bloomsbury. There can be no better introduction of the subject than that which will be afforded by putting before the reader, on the one hand, a detailed and well-considered plan which contemplated the maintenance of the Museum as it is; and, on the other, the elaborate report in favour of transferring the scientific collections to a new site,—in order to gain ample space at Bloomsbury for a great Museum of Literature and Archaeology, such as should be in every point of view worthy of the British Empire,—which was approved of by a Treasury Minute more than eight years ago.
Of the several schemes and projects of extension which rest on the twofold basis of (1) the retention at Bloomsbury of nearly all the existing collections, with ample space for their prospective increase, and (2) such an effective internal