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English Book Collectors   By: (1830-1913)

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The English Bookman's Library

Edinburgh: T. and A. CONSTABLE, (late) Printers to Her Majesty

[Transcriber's note:

Letters that could not be properly displayed in the e text are represented as follows:

1. a letter with a macron is represented by an =, as in [=a] 2. the letter h with a line through the top is represented as [=h] 3. a letter with a tilde is represented by an ~, as in [~m]]


My principal object in compiling this work on English Book Collectors has been to bring together in a compact and convenient form the information respecting them which is to be found scattered in the works of many writers, both old and new. While giving short histories of the lives of the collectors, and some description of their libraries, I have also endeavoured to show what manner of men the owners of these collections were. In doing this I have sought, where practicable, to let the accounts be told as much as possible in the words of their biographers, as their narratives are often not only full of interest, but are also couched in delightfully quaint language. As it would not be possible in a volume of this size to furnish satisfactory notices of all the Englishmen who have formed large libraries, I have selected some of those who appear to possess special claims to notice, either on the ground of their interesting personality, or the exceptional importance of their collections. I have not given any account of the collectors who lived prior to the reign of Henry VII., for until that time libraries consisted almost entirely of manuscripts; and I have also excluded men who, like Sir Thomas Bodley, collected books for the express purpose of forming, or adding to, public libraries.

My friend, Mr. Walter Stanley Graves, has in an appendix to this volume compiled a list of the principal sales of libraries in this country from an early period to the present time, which will be found to supply useful information about many of those collectors who are not otherwise mentioned in the book.

Mr. Locker Lampson in the introduction to the catalogue of his library very pertinently remarks: 'It is a good thing to read books, and it need not be a bad thing to write them; but it is a pious thing to preserve those that have been some time written.' To collectors scholars owe a deep debt of gratitude, for innumerable are the precious manuscripts and rare printed books which they have rescued from destruction, and not a few of them have enriched by their gifts and bequests the public libraries of their country. Every lover of books must feel how greatly indebted he is to Archbishops Cranmer and Parker, the Earl of Arundel, Lord Lumley, Sir Robert Cotton, and other early collectors, for saving so many of the priceless manuscripts from the libraries of the suppressed monasteries and religious houses which, at the Reformation, intolerance, ignorance, and greed consigned to the hands of the tailor, the goldbeater, and the grocer. A large number of the treasures once to be found in these collections have been irrecoverably lost, but many a volume, now the pride of some great library, bears witness to the pious and successful exertions of these eminent men.

A love of book collecting has always prevailed in this country, and since the end of the seventeenth century it has become very widely diffused. In the early days of the eighteenth century the Duke of Devonshire, the Earls of Oxford and Sunderland, and several other collectors, employed themselves during the winter months in rambling through various quarters of the town in search of additions to their libraries, and with some of these collectors the acquisition of books became a positive passion. In 1813 Dr. Dibdin thought that the thermometer of bibliomania had reached its highest point, and it would certainly appear to have been very high indeed, judging from the prices obtained at the Roxburghe and other sales of the time... Continue reading book >>

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