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A GROUP OF BOOK-LOVERS AND PUBLIC
* If we were to take away from the Museum Collection
'Considering the British Museum to be a National Library for research, its utility increases in proportion with ,'the very rare and costly books, in preference to
modern books I think that scholars have a right
to look, for these expensive works, to the Government of
'I want a poor student to have the same means of in-
ment is bound to give him the most liberal and unlimited
'When you have given a hundred thousand pounds,—in
Antonio Yasiz7a—Evidence he fore Select Committee
on British Mmeum; 7th June, 1836. (Q. 4785—4795.)
Notices of some early Donors of Boohs.—The Life and Collections of Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode.— William Petty, first Marquess of Lansdowne, and his Library of Manuscripts,—The Literary Life and Collections of Dr. Charles Burney.—Francis Hargrave and his Manuscripts.—The Life and Testamentary Foundations of Francis Henry Egerton, Ninth Earl of Bridyewater.
The Reader has now seen that, within some twelve or Bookii,
fifteen years, a Collection of Antiquities, comparatively small Bookand insignificant, was so enriched as to gain the aspect of a National Museum of which all English-speaking men might ^SEFAC Book Ii, be proud, and mere fragments of which enlightened Foreign
Cluip, III. .
Book- sovereigns were under sore temptation to covet. He has Icb'lic AN° seen> also> that the praise of so striking a change was due, Bbnhao- jn the main, to the public spirit and the liberal endeavours
Tors. 'r r
of a small group of antiquarians and scholars. They were, most of them, men of high birth, and of generous education. They were, in fact, precisely such men as, in the jargon of our present day, it is too much the mode to speak of as the antitheses of ' the People,' although in earlier days men of that strain were thought to be part of the very core and kernel of a nation.
But if it be undeniably true that the chief and primary merit of so good a piece of public service was due to the Hamiltons, Towneleys, Elgins, and Knights of the last generation, it is also true that the Public, through their representatives, did, at length, join fairly in the work by bearing their part of the cost, though they could, share neither the enterprise, the self-denial, nor the wearing toils, which the work had exacted.
Now that the story turns to another department of the National Museum, we find that the same primary and salient characteristic—private liberality of individuals, as distinguished from public support by the Kingdom—still holds good. But we have to wait a very long time indeed, before we perceive public effort at length falling into rank with private, in the shape of parliamentary grants for the purchase of books, calculated even upon a rough approximation towards equality.
As Cotton, Sloane, Hablet, and Arthur Edwards, were the first founders of the Library, so Birch, Musgrave, Tyrwhitt, Cracherode, Banks, and Hoare, were its chief augmentors, until almost ninety years had elapsed since the Act of Organization. Of the Collections of those ten benefactors, eight came by absolute gift. For the other two, much less than one half of their value was returned to the representatives of the founders. And that, it has been shown, was provided, not by a parliamentary grant, but out of the profits of a lottery.
The first important addition to the Library, subsequent to those gifts which have been mentioned in a preceding chapter as nearly contemporaneous with the creation of the Museum, was made by the Will of Dr. Thomas Birch, One Bequest Ok of the original Trustees. It comprised a valuable series of aJ"0"48 manuscripts, rich in collections on the history, and espe- ^°TMry' cially the biographical history, of the realm, and a considerable number of printed books of a like character.
Dr. Birch was born in 1705, and died on the ninth of January, 1766. He was one of the many friends of Sir Hans Sloane, in the later years of Sir Hans' life. When the Museum was in course of organization, Birch acted not only as a zealous Trustee, but he occasionally supplied the place of Dr. Morton as Secretary. His literary productions have real and enduring value, though their value would probably have been greater had their number been less. His activity is sufficiently evidenced by the works which he printed, but can only be measured when the large manuscript collections which he bequeathed are taken into the account. Very few scholars will now be inclined to echo Horace Walpole's inquiry—made when he saw the Catalogue of the Birch MSS.—' Who cares for the correspondence of Dr. Birch P
Soon after the receipt of the Birch Collection, a choice BEQUE3T OS assemblage of English plays was bequeathed to the Museum J^imck, by David Garrick. Its formation had been one of the ?TM"ary'
■» _ 1779.
favourite relaxations of the great actor. And the study of
Book Ii, the plays gathered by Garrick had a large share in mould
Book. ing the tastes and the literary career of Charles Lamb,
Public AND Thence he drew the materials of the volume of Specimens
Bknepao- which has made the rich stores of the early drama known to
thousands of readers who but for it, and for the Collection which enabled him to compile it, could have formed no fair or adequate idea of an important epoch in our literature.
Benefac- Sir William Musgrave was another early Trustee whose W°musf.sie gifts to the Public illustrated the wisdom of Sloane's plan Obave. for ^e g0vernment of his Museum and of its parliamentary adoption. Musgrave shared the predilection of Dr. Birch for the study of British biography and archaeology, and he had larger means for amassing its materials. He was descended from a branch of the Musgraves of Edenhall, and was the second son of Sir Richard Musgrave of Hayton Castle, to whom he eventually succeeded. He made large and very curious manuscript collections for the history of portrait-painting in England (now Additional MSS. 63916393), and also on many points of the administrative and political history of the country. He was a zealous Trustee of the British Museum, and in his lifetime made several additions to its stores. On his death, in 1799, all his manuscripts were bequeathed to the Museum, together with a Library of printed British Biography—more complete than anything of its kind theretofore collected.
This last-named Collection extended (if we include a partial and previous gift made in 1790) to nearly two thousand volumes, and it probably embraced much more than twice that number of separate works. For it was rich in those biographical ephemera which are so precious to the historical inquirer, and often so difficult of obtainment, when needed. Nearly at the same period (1786) a