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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 hooks, in preference to
modem 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-
'When you have given a hundred thousand pounds,—in trn or twelve years,—you will begin to have a library worthy of the British Nation.'—
Antonio pANizzr—Evidence before Select Committee
on British Museum, 7th June, 1836. (Q. 4785—*795.)
Notices of some early Donors of Books.—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 Earlof Bridgewater.
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 p°ITMAn
National Museum of which all English-speaking men might
Book Ii, be proud, and mere fragments of which enlightened Foreign
Chap. III. _ .
Book- bovereigns were under sore temptation to covet. He has Ptbl"*1"1 seen> a^so> that the praise of so striking a change was due, 1 in the main, to the public spirit and the liberal endeavours
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, Harlet, 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 Bookii, two, much less than one half of their value was returned to Boopkthe representatives of the founders. And that, it has been r"' v"
shown, was provided, not by a parliamentary grant, but out bm 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 BluestO» of the original Trustees. It comprised a valuable series of B"J'TMAi manuscripts, rich in collections on the history, and espe- J"TM""7, 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 Sloan E, 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?'
Soon after the receipt of the Birch Collection, a choice B«qukstok assemblage of English plays was bequeathed to the Museum Ga11°ck, by David Garrick. Its formation had been one of the iTM""y' favourite relaxations of the great actor. And the study of