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proportionately suffered. The extent to which this national privation may have tended to impoverish our literary treasures, to propagate error and ignorance from age to age, to cripple British intellect and limit its achievements, it is impossible to ascertain. We find Gibbon complaining that, in his time, the greatest city in the world was destitute of that useful institution, a public library ;' and that the writer who had undertaken to treat any large historical subject, was reduced to the necessity of purchasing for his private use a numerous and private collection of books which must form the basis of his work. Even in a large town like Liverpool, there was no public depository of books from which Roscoe could procure the ordinary Italian works requisite for composing his Historical Biographies’; so that he, like Gibbon, was under the costly necessity of purchasing his own materials of literary workmanship. Only within the last quarter of a century, Graham, the learned historian of North America, left this land, and established himself at Göttingen, for the sole purpose of availing himself of the rich and freelyaccessible collection of books in its university. George Dawson, in his evidence, complained that, in consequence of the absence of such auxiliaries to literary labour, authors and editors at the present day suffered great inconveniences and losses, especially in country towns. The literary man is obliged to make a list of the topics he wishes to elucidate, and, if poor, reserve them till he visits London; or should he happen to be in easy circumstances, he comes up on purpose to solve those questions. He (Mr. Dawson) knew a person who came up expressly on such an errand from Leicester ; but, from not having made proper inquiry, when he arrived in London he found the British Museum closed. That necessarily created great delay. There are many books which it is very necessary to refer to, and which ought to be attainable in all large towns, but which are not to be obtained in the country at all—works, too, without which a man could not carry on a newspaper for six months. Supposing, for instance, he wanted to write an article on the Hungarian struggle, the chances are that he could not get any thoroughly good work on Hungarian history, or public documents connected with that country, in Birmingham. Therefore, public libraries are not only desirable for the working classes, but also, and almost equally, for the instructors of those classes, the men who contribute to the periodical literature and the newspapers of the country. With these few specimen facts before us, it may be safely inferred that the standard of British literature, as compared with that of foreign nations where opportunities of ample research have been enjoyed, has suffered
deterioration from the want of suitable depôts of books, easy of access. Nor can it be denied, that the same privation must have acted detrimentally on the great body of the people.
With a view of establishing the fact of the immense superiority of foreign libraries over our own--in respect to their numbers, the vastness of the literary wealth they enshrine, their entire accessibility to applicants from among every class of the community, and the extent to which they are allowed to circulate beyond the walls of the institution—we will, in the most compendious form possible, present some comparative statements of the principal Continental and British libraries. From the evidence laid before the committee, which is said to embody the nearest approximation to truth that can be attained, it appears that France contains 186 public libraries, 109 of which comprehend 10,000 volumes or upwards each ; Belgium, 14; the Prussian States, 53, or 44 possessing above 10,000 volumes Austria, with Lombardy and Venice, 49; Saxony, 9; Bavaria, 18; Denmark, 5; Tuscany, 10; Hanover, 5; Naples and Sicily, 8; Papal States, 16; Portugal, 7; Spain, 27, or 17 comprising 10,000 volumes; Switzerland, 13; Russian Empire, 12; whilst Great Britain and Ireland possess only 34 such depositories of learning, the large majority of which, moreover, are accessible only to privileged individuals or corporations, and ought not properly to be included under such a category.
Upon further inspection of the tabular statements it is discoverable that out of a total of 458 libraries in the European States, there are 53 that are distinguished as LENDING libraries; but of this goodly number, thus standing out in bold and honorable relief, not one is to be found in our so much belauded country. in these 53 libraries alone, in the year 1848, there were more than seven millions of volumes, independent of manuscripts, which are thus rendered eminently serviceable to the inhabitants of the several towns, cities, and neighbourhoods in which they are deposited. In a statistical list, exhibiting 330 towns or cities throughout Europe, that are enriched by the possession of town, university, cathedral, communal, gymnasium, or public libraries, the keenest scrutiny can detect no more than eleven places lying within the boundaries of these favoured isles of ours, whilst the chief of the literary stores belonging even to these are placed under the most exclusive regulations.
If from countries we descend to particular towns and cities, we find the contrast between our own and foreign lands no less discouraging and humiliating. In the following table are represented the number of libraries in some of the principal capitals and other distinguished places in Europe—the aggregate
volumes in each town or city—the population of the same and the proportion of volumes to every 100 of its inhabitants :
Population No. of Vols.
No. of Agregate No. of of each City or to every 100
persons. TO) Om to Milan
2 250,000 171,268 146 Padua
3 177,000 45,000 393
200,000 13,430 1,500 Munich 2 800,000
106,537 751 Nuremberg
46,000 40,000 115 Brussels
134,000 107 Copenhagen
3 557,000 119,292 467 Montpellier
3 100,000 33,864 295
-6 200,367 128,000 156 Naples
4 290,000 350,000 82 Bologna
2 233,000 69,000 337 Rome
6 465,000 152,000 306 Berlin. 2 460,000
4 370,000 88,869 416 Petersburgh
3 505,900 469,720 107 Genoa
4 120,000 97,620 122 Dresden
340,500 69,500 490 Leipsic
2 192,000 47,514 404 Madrid
2 260,000 170,000 153 Stockholm
82,000 83,885 97 Upsal. 1 150,000
4,500 3,333 Florence .
6 299,000 97,548 306 agar es BRITISH, &c. FAberdeen
46,000 64,778 || Cambridge Fri 5 261,724
25,000 1,046 Dublin
(91411 143,654 238,531 60 Edinburgh
T13 288,854 138,182 209 Glasgow
80,096 300,000 26 Londonda
490,500 2,200,000 22 Manchester
8 373,300 24,000 1,547 2900 bas WOSTKIMONIST 01 br eThese figures but too faithfully represent the meagre supply of tbooks for the free use of the people of this country compared with Continental States. Even Oxford and Cambridge, which at
* For an account of the character of these Metropolitan libraries, see p. 14 et seq.
first sight may strike us as being redeeming exceptions to the rule, yield up their solitary glory on the slightest examination. The valuable libraries for which they are distinguished are in no sense entitled to the designation of 'public'--so that the above representation is fallaciously favourable to those ancient towns; the books bear no sort of profitable relation to the inhabitants at all, except it be the relation which the ensepulchred dead bear to the living men who continually wander about the precincts of their tombs. The books are solely appropriated to the use of the literati, and students connected with the universities. They repose, from year to year, upon their stately shelves, in solemn and unruffled quietude, unquestioned by the eager lips and eyes of the outside multitude. Speaking of the Cambridge libraries, the Rev. J. J. Smith, librarian at Caius College, remarked that they were confined to the respective bodies in the University. There have recently been some enlargements and improvements introduced into the regulations, whereby the restrictions hitherto existing have been relaxed, involving a more extended admission of readers. “The University for the most part consists of three degrees---masters of arts, bachelors of arts, and under-graduates. For a long time, the masters of arts only had access to the books. After a certain time, those non-resident in the University, and those resident too, had the privilege of taking out of the building ten volumes each. Some years afterwards, the bachelors of arts, the second degree, had the same privilege allowed to them within other limits-five books, for instance, was the number allowed to be taken out; and just within this month (May 1849), they have conceded to the under-graduates the privilege of having books out at the recommendation of the college tutors. The same witness, referring to the Bodleian Library, Oxford, stated that their system is much more restricted. For example, no master of arts even, belonging to the University, either resident or nonresident, can take any book out. He must use them in the building, from which they are never suffered to be removed. No under-graduate is even suffered to read the books in the Bodleian collection. Thus, in these famous seats of learning, to whose stores of erudition every British author is compelled gratuitously to supply a copy of all the works he publishes, the members of the republic of letters are excluded from all participation in the advantages they have created and sustained.
The following list exhibits the principal libraries of the several European capitals, arranged in the order of their respective magnitudes. Those before which an asterisk appears, are lending libraries :
Paris. *National Library
Arsenal Library Milan.
*Brera Library Paris
*St. Geneviève Library
*Mazarine Library Rome. Vatican Library Parra
Vols. 824,000 600,000 446,000 435,000 412,000 410,000 313,000 300,000 200,000 200,000 187,000 180,000 170,000 150,000 150,000 150,000 150,000 133,500 120,000 100,000 100,000 100,000 100,000
It may be interesting to our readers, whilst treating upon these magnificent institutions, to put them in possession of a few curious particulars relative to their privileges, their antiquity, the causes that have contributed to their progressive increase, and the munificent funds that have been appropriated to their sustentation and enlargement.
The majority of the libraries specified above are entitled, by law, to a copy of every book published within the States to which they respectively belong. This privilege is enjoyed by the national libraries of Paris and Madrid ; the royal libraries of Munich, Berlin, Copenhagen, Vienna, Naples, Brussels, and the Hague; the Brera Library at Milan; the Magliabecchian at Florence ; the Ducal Library at Parma; together with the library of the British Museum. Exclusive of England, the practice prevails nowhere to so great an extent as in Lombardy and Venice, and in Parma--two of the worst governed countries in Europe. In Belgium and France, three copies are exacted; in Austria, Denmark, Naples, and Geneva, two copies ; in Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria, Holland, Tuscany, Sardinia, Portugal, Hungary, Bohemia, and the United States, only one copy. In several of the Swiss cantons, copies were formerly exacted, but when the censorship of the press was abolished, that exaction ceased.
In France, according to Monsieur Guizot, the bookseller is