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Title: Remarks on the practice and policy of lending Bodleian printed books and manuscripts
Author: Chandler, Henry W.
Language: English
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    ON THE







    50 AND 51, BROAD STREET.


The present 'Remarks' are a reprint, with many omissions and additions,
of two privately printed papers which were communicated to the Curators
last year. From November, 1884, for about twelve months, I did very
little more than watch attentively the way in which Bodleian business is
transacted, to me at once a novelty and a surprise. For some purposes
writing is preferable to talking, and accordingly in November, 1885, I
printed a memorandum containing many gentle hints--+phônanta
sunetoisin+--which I faintly hoped might eventually prove beneficial to
the Library. Next came a Memorandum 'on the Classed Catalogue,' a thing
which some Curators look on as a most valuable work, and others as an
interminable and wasteful absurdity. This was followed by a paper 'on
the Bodleian Coins and Medals', with some observations on the proposal
to transfer the collection to the Ashmolean Museum. As far as could be
seen, all this expenditure of ink and money did no harm, and no good. In
May, 1886, a committee was appointed to draw up regulations for loans of
books; and in June the Curators received a paper 'on the lending of
Bodleian Books and Manuscripts,' as also Bishop Barlow's Argument
against lending them, then for the first time printed as a whole; and
in both the illegality of the borrowers' list was pointed out, and very
broad hints given, not only that the present loan statute is defective,
but why, and in what manner it is so. If these hints, facts, and
arguments had been addressed to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, they
could not have produced less visible effect; and it was wonderfully
amusing to find, that more than half my brethren could not for the life
of them see what to everybody else was plain as a pikestaff; so on we
went in the well-beaten path, steady as old Time himself, looking
neither to the right hand nor to the left, and, what is more remarkable,
never for one moment looking ahead. Finally, at the beginning of
October, came a paper on 'Book-lending as practised at the Bodleian';
and this proved to be the last straw; for on October 30th, partly by
words and partly by that silence which gives consent, it was plainly
intimated that these papers were unwelcome. One friend, and only one,
had a good word to say for them; so far as they contained collection of
facts he approved of them, but no further. As my little experiment
failed so lamentably, I am hardly likely to repeat it, or to put so
severe a strain on the good nature and patience of my colleagues as ever
again to trouble them with a scrap of printed paper. This puts me into a
sort of quandary. I abhor pen and ink, and should like to hold my tongue
and spare my pocket; but that is impossible as things are. I cannot
stand by and see men who know no better trying (with the best possible
intentions) to get the Bodleian on to an inclined plane, down which it
must rapidly slide to perdition, without loudly protesting against their
acts. What then is to be done? Private feelings must be respected, yet
not so as to impede the performance of a duty to the Library and to the
University. The atmosphere of a meeting is not conducive to calm and
rational discussion; I cannot make speeches; the board does not relish
either facts or arguments in print. Only one course remains then;
whenever there is anything to be said about the Bodleian or its
management (and there is much that ought to be, and must be said sooner
or later), it shall no longer be privately printed and given away to
unwilling recipients, but published and sold. In this way all parties
will be satisfied: those who are interested in the Library can buy;
those who are not, can protect themselves against annoyance. So much by
way of explanation.

When at length the board determined to apply for a new statute, and did
in November what anybody but ourselves would have done in June, the hope
was expressed that the statute would be introduced at once, and then
pushed through Congregation and Convocation as rapidly as possible in
the present term; whereupon somebody observed, that it would be just as
well not to hurry the business; and this seems to have been the view
adopted by Council.

If Convocation could only seize the full significance and incalculable
value to present and future generations of a library of reference, a
library, that is, where, at all lawful times, every book deposited in it
should always be forthcoming in a moment, it would at once see that from
such a library no lending whatever ought to be permitted, simply because
lending and deposit are practical contradictories; and if Convocation
could plainly see this, it would make very short work of any statute
which legalized loans. There is no denying, however, that in the present
day the public mind, as it is playfully called, and the University mind
as well, is in a wonderfully flabby condition. Nobody seems to be
thoroughly convinced of the unquestionable truth, that every possible
plan in this world is open to objections more or less serious, and so
they go hunting about for a scheme that shall embrace all good and
exclude all evil; such people are emphatically limp and unpractical. All
that is offered to our choice here below is a lesser evil, and
experience has proved over and over again, that it is a lesser evil
never to lend a book out of such a library as the Bodleian, than it is
to lend one. But if the University in its inscrutable wisdom should
choose to do the wrong thing, there are more ways than one of doing

+esthloi men gar haplôs, pantodapôs de kakoi.+

It might, for instance, confine the actual granting of a loan to
Convocation. If an application for a book were made, the University
might impose on the Curators the duty of stating in writing their
reasons for advocating the loan, and Convocation might determine to
lend, if it judged those reasons to be sound. This would be an
approximation to what was the law (though not by any means the practice)
prior to 1873; nor could it be described as a retrograde step, unless
the reformation of a bad habit is necessarily a step backwards.

If, however, the University resolves to copy the practice of foreign
libraries, it might be wise, first, to appoint a small committee to
discover and report what that practice really is. If, like a mob of
monkeys, we are determined to imitate, it is just as well that our
imitation should be a good one, and not a caricature.

In either, or indeed in any, case some effectual provision should be
made for enforcing the statute; it ought no longer to be possible for
the Curators to act with impunity as they have been in the habit of
acting for almost a quarter of a century.

A good many of my friends are strong party men of a more or less rabid
type, and I hope that they are well informed when they tell me that this
purely literary question about the Bodleian is not going to be turned
into one of those faction fights, which occasionally disturb and
disgrace this place; but that each man will judge for himself, and vote
accordingly, without divesting himself of what little reason he may
happen to possess, and blindly following a leader, who may know and care
less about the matter than he does himself. I hope that it will be so,
yet I have my doubts; for this vile spirit of faction clings like the
robe of Nessus to all who have ever been weak enough, or wicked enough,
to yield to its temptations; and one side is just as bad as the other.
Whether Convocation can be got to see the real question in these
unlearned and vulgar times may be questionable; at any rate, I should
have felt myself a traitor to Bodley, to Oxford, and to learning itself,
if I had not done what little I could to prevent an act, which, if
perpetrated, must end, sooner or later, in the irreparable damage, or
the complete destruction of a library intended by its founder to be a
perpetual help to all true scholars, an inexhaustible treasure-house of
learning to last as long as England itself.

                                                              H. W. C.

    Jan. 15th, 1887._

_Remarks on the Practice and Policy of lending Bodleian Printed Books
and Manuscripts._

Before offering any remarks on the policy of lending books out of the
Bodleian Library it may be well to give a brief account of the practice
of lending, so far as it has been sanctioned there. From the foundation
of the Library down to 1873, though practised, it cannot be said to have
been sanctioned at all, except as regards certain books given on the
condition that they should be lent.

On the 20th of June, 1610, a complete Bodleian Statute was promulgated
and confirmed in Convocation (Appendix Statutorum, p. 5 sqq. ed. 1763).
This statute was drawn up by Sir Thomas Bodley himself, and the eighth
section of it--'de Libris extra Bibliothecam non ferendis, aut ullo modo
commodandis'--fully expresses his firm and rooted detestation of
book-lending. Bodley's own words, of which the Latin statute is a
literal translation, run thus:--

"And sith the sundry Examples of former Ages, as well in this
University, as in other Places of the Realm, have taught us over-often,
that the frequent Loan of Books, hath bin a principal occasion of the
Ruin and Destruction of many famous Libraries; It is therefore ordered
and decreed to be observed as a Statute of irrevocable Force, that for
no Regard, Pretence, or Cause, there shall at any time, any Volume,
either of these that are chained, or of others unchained, be given or
lent, to any Person or Persons, of whatsoever State or Calling, upon any
kind of Caution, or offer of Security, for his faithful Restitution; and
that no such Book or Volume shall at any time, by any whatsoever, be
carried forth of the Library, for any longer space, or other uses, and
Purposes, than if need so require, to be sold away for altogether, as
being superfluous or unprofitable; or changed for some other of a better
Edition; or being over-worn to be new bound again, and immediately
returned, from whence it was removed. For the Execution whereof in every
Particular, there shall no Man intermeddle, but the Keeper himself
alone, who is also to proceed with the Knowledge, Liking, and Direction
of those Publick Overseers, whose Authority we will notify in other
Statutes ensuing[1]."

[1] Reliquiæ Bodleianæ, p. 27.

This statute has the great merit of being so plain and clear, that no
one could mistake its meaning. It was further fenced about by the
statute 'de materia indispensabili,' Tit. X.§11.5, as explained in
'Barlow's Argument,' p. 6. It was not totally and absolutely impossible
to borrow a book from the Bodleian, but it was only Convocation, moved
to the act in a solemn and specified way, that could by any legal means
lend it. From 1610 to 1856, then, such was the law which everybody in
the University was bound to obey, and, as far as I can discover,
everybody did obey it, with the few exceptions that will presently be

In 1624 William, Bishop of Lincoln, wished to borrow a book, but was
denied[2]. In 1628 Sir Thomas Roe gave twenty-nine manuscripts, and
"proposed that his books should be permitted to be lent out for purposes
of printing, on proper security being given; a proposition which was
accepted by Convocation[3]." In 1629 the Earl of Pembroke presented the
Barocci Collection, and "he was willing that the MSS. should, if
necessary, be allowed to be borrowed." Borrowed accordingly they were,
and one at least suffered irreparable injury in very early days[4]. In
1634 we were presented with Sir Kenelm Digby's splendid manuscripts:
"the donor stipulated that they should not be strictly confined to use
within the walls of the Library;" but afterwards left the University to
treat them as it pleased[5]; so that they fell under the general
Bodleian Statute.

[2] Barlow's Argument, p. 9.

[3] Macray, Annals, p. 51.

[4] Barlow, p. 10; Macray, Annals, p. 55.

[5] Macray, Annals, p. 59.

Between 1635 and 1640 came Laud's magnificent donations. He "directs in
his letter of gift, that none of the books shall on any account be taken
out of the Library 'nisi solum ut typis mandentur, et sic publici et
juris et utilitatis fiant,' upon sufficient security, to be approved by
the Vice-Chancellor and Proctors; the MS. in such cases being
immediately after printing restored to its place in the Library[6]."
This stipulation of Laud should be carefully borne in mind, because it
will be found that of late years the Curators have not observed the
terms of the gift. Doubtless they did not know what Laud's directions
were; yet men who undertake the office of trustees are bound to know
their duties. In 1636 the University refused leave to Laud himself, who
wished to borrow Rob. Hare's MS. _Liber Privilegiorum Universitatis_[7].
In 1645 Charles I, in ignorance of our statutes, applied for a book and
was refused; in 1654 Cromwell wanted a book for the Portuguese
Ambassador, and was likewise refused[8]; and it is much to the credit of
both, that they not only acquiesced, but expressed their approval of the
Bodleian rule.

[6] Macray, Annals, p. 61.

[7] Macray, Annals, p. 82.

[8] Barlow's Argument, p. 9.

On August 29, 1654, a grace was passed in Convocation, which permitted
Selden to borrow MSS. from the collections of Barocci, Roe, and Digby,
provided he did not have more than three at a time, and that he gave
bond in £100 (not £1000 as Hearne states[9]) for the return of each of
them within a year[10]. Barlow[11] declares that this was illegal and
null; and it may be observed in passing that the whole history of the
Selden bequest needs fresh investigation. This same year that grand
scholar's books began to arrive in Oxford, and his executors stipulated,
as a condition of the gift, that no book from his collection should
hereafter be lent to any person upon any condition whatsoever. This also
must by no means be forgotten, because we shall by and by see the
Curators again and again strangely oblivious of the conditions on which
the University received these invaluable books.

[9] Barlow's Argument, p. 3.

[10] Macray, Annals, p. 79.

[11] Argument, p. 8.

At the Visitation on Nov. 8, 1686, it was ordered that notice be given
that 'nullus in posterum quemlibet librum aut volumen extra Bibliothecam
asportet,' and that monition be sent to every College and Hall for the
return of any books taken out within three days[12].

[12] Macray, Annals, p. 109.

In 1789 a lazy and incompetent Librarian, John Price, is said to have
lent the Rector of Lincoln a copy of Cook's Voyages, presented to the
Library by George III, telling him that the longer he kept it the
better, 'for if it was known to be in the Library, he (Price) should be
perpetually plagued with enquiries after it[13].' What the Curators were
about to permit such irregularities it is difficult to imagine; at any
rate here you had eight picked men--Dr. Joseph Chapman, President of
Trinity, Vice-Chancellor; the two Proctors; Dr. Randolph, Professor of
Divinity, and afterwards successively Bishop of Oxford and of Bangor;
Dr. Vansittart, Professor of Civil Law; Dr. Vivian, Professor of
Medicine; Dr. Blayney, Professor of Hebrew; William Jackson, Professor
of Greek and afterwards Bishop of Oxford:--they are men, citizens,
members of a learned corporation, trustees; they have solemnly sworn by
everything which they profess to hold sacred, that they will faithfully
observe the statutes; and what was required of them? As much sense of
duty as you expect and commonly find in a watcher or a gamekeeper; yet,
till they were roused by the public protest of Dr. Beddowes, they seem
to have shewed no trace or feeling of responsibility at all.

[13] Macray, Annals, p. 198.

Down to the year 1856 the Bodleian Curators were eight in number,
namely, the Vice-Chancellor, the two Proctors, and the Regius
Professors of Divinity, Hebrew, Greek, Medicine, and Civil Law. Eight is
rather a large number, and the larger any board is the weaker becomes
the sense of personal responsibility. No man feels that he is answerable
for anything, because he is sunk and extinguished in a majority or a
minority; and yet, without a keen sense of personal responsibility, all
business is laxly and badly done, even when it is done at all. The
artificial privacy of our proceedings is also an evil. In theory all our
meetings are public, so far at least as Convocation is concerned; in
fact, they are private; yet, if the University always knew not only what
is done, but who it is that does it; if our acts were duly published, as
they ought to be, in the University Gazette, probably both board and
University would be the better for it, and it is certain that the
affairs of the Library would be none the worse.

If Bodley argued that men who teach a subject are necessarily acquainted
with its literature, and are consequently the fittest guardians and
directors of a library, he argued very badly, and in ignorance of facts.
Ability to teach a subject is one thing; knowledge of the literature of
that subject--such knowledge as is required in the superintendents of a
library--is a totally different thing. The two may be indeed united, but
very rarely are so. A man, for instance, may be a finished Latin scholar
without ever having heard of Coster's Donatus, and without being able to
offer an opinion on that or on any of the other editions in which Dutch
libraries glory. Probably not one man in fifty who reads the sentence
which I have just written will have the very remotest idea of its true
meaning; and if he has not, it will not follow that he is a dunce, or
that he is a poor Latinist; all that follows is that he has much to
learn before he is fit to take any part in the management of a large
library. What is wanted, what in fact is necessary, is that sort of
knowledge which the Italian government proposes to give to all employed
in the libraries under its control. In Rome and in Florence a course of
bibliographical instruction and examination has lately been instituted.
The syllabus of the course, which is a very good one, lies before me,
and in it the subject is divided into six parts: 1. Paleografia, 2.
Bibliologia, 3. Bibliografia, 4. Biblioteconomia, 5. Amministrazione, 6.
Lingue. The knowledge required is neither recondite nor profound, yet I
shudder to think what the result would be were we Curators to submit
ourselves to the tender mercies of this Italian board. To speak for
myself, I should have faced such an examination without the least
trepidation some twenty years ago; but now, though I have been trying to
brush up faded knowledge, I would not stake a single sixpence on a
favorable issue; and to judge from all I have seen and heard during the
last two years, I suspect that, though a few might perhaps scramble
through, the great majority of us would emerge from the ordeal more
completely plucked than was the unhappy bird, which Diogenes introduced
to the astonished disciples with the words 'Here is Plato's man!'

In 1856 the University, probably suspecting that the board as originally
constituted was not the best that could be devised, yet timidly
shrinking from a radical and salutary reform, endeavoured to improve
matters by a measure which, if it remedied one defect, unquestionably
increased another. It made a board already too large, still larger by
the addition of five members elected by Congregation. In the course of
thirty years fourteen different men have been so elected. That all were
properly qualified to discharge the duties of their office no one will
assert who knows what those qualifications are. Why they were chosen the
University best knows. If Congregation would but remember what a unique
and priceless treasure it possesses in this noble library, if it only
knew how easy it is for rashness and ignorance to damage and to ruin it,
how difficult it is even for knowledge to preserve it, ability and
willingness to serve it would be the indispensable and the only
qualifications demanded, and neither age nor rank, dignity, nor above
all party, would be for one moment taken into account. It may be
remarked that all the thirteen Curators very rarely attend a meeting: in
the course of the last two years such a thing has happened once only;
but a board, the members of which attend intermittently, is apt to show
signs of discontinuity in its proceedings; and a firm, consistent policy
is as necessary in the management of a library as it is in any other
affair of life. What is wanted in Curators is common sense, business
capacity, and a special knowledge of books. No one would dream of
appointing any man an inspector of locomotives on a railway, unless he
were thoroughly acquainted with the structure and working of a
locomotive, and capable, at a push, of driving it himself: a large
library is as complex as a locomotive, and quite as difficult to manage
effectively. Experts, who are not so numerous as might be supposed, will
back me in this assertion; but Convocation must not be astonished if it
is hotly and contemptuously denied.

The minutes of the Curators' Meetings begin on March 20, 1793, and, with
a break of some four years when there are none (from Nov. 26, 1849, to
May 27, 1854), they continue to the present time.

On Dec. 7, 1803, four printed books were allowed to go out of the
Library 'for the use of the Clarendon Press, to be returned when done
with,' contrary to statute so far as appears; and there was a somewhat
similar transaction on June 2, 1815.

On Nov. 27, 1841, the sum of £500 was paid for the Sanscrit MSS. of
Prof. H. H. Wilson, who 'stipulated that the Boden Professor of Sanscrit
for the time being should be allowed the privilege of borrowing MSS.
(not more than two volumes at one time), giving for them a receipt, and
engagement for their safe return.'

In 1850 came the Government Commission. The Commissioners have a good
deal to say about the Bodleian, which will be found in their Report made
in 1852, p. 115 sqq. I do not quote their remarks for a reason which
appears to me valid. There were seven Commissioners all told, and
although they were very eminent persons, there was not one amongst them,
so far as I can discover, who had any special knowledge of libraries, or
of the best way of managing them. Moreover, I myself heard one of those
seven Commissioners say, more than once in the course of conversation,
that he should think it no particular misfortune if the Bodleian and its
contents were totally destroyed. Nor do I feel called upon to incur the
expense of reproducing _in extenso_ the evidence on which the
Commissioners based their recommendations. It may be sufficient to say
that the following witnesses were in favour of the lending system, some
with restrictions and some with hardly any:--the Rev. R. W. Browne; the
Rev. R. Walker; the Rev. B. Jowett; the Rev. W. H. Cox; E. A. Freeman,
Esq.; the Rev. H. Wall; the Rev. R. Congreve; Sir E. Head; N. S.
Maskelyne, Esq.; and the Rev. J. Griffiths. It is not very easy to say
whether Prof. H. H. Wilson and Dr. Greenhill did or did not belong to
the lending party; but if they did, they proposed such restrictions as
would materially lessen the evil. Prof. H. H. Vaughan (a most wordy
person) wished to confine the right of borrowing to the Professors.
Against lending were H. E. Strickland, Esq.; Prof. W. F. Donkin; the
Rev. R. Scott; Travers Twiss, Esq.; Dr. Macbride; the Rev. E. S.
Ffoulkes; and Dr. Phillimore: and I hope nobody will be offended if I
say that knowledge of books and the way to use them is, as might be
expected, very much more conspicuous in those who oppose lending than in
those who advocate it. The Rev. R. W. Browne observes, that 'probably
manuscripts and such books as are unable to be replaced should not be
lent, because it would be quite worth the while of those who wished to
consult them to visit the Library for that purpose.' It is not often
that one meets with so cogent a piece of reasoning, and Mr. Browne's
'because' proves that he had studied Logic with considerable benefit; he
also thinks that the system in the Public Library at Cambridge 'works
well.' Another witness tells us that 'the experience of the Cambridge
University Library, and of many foreign libraries, shews that this
[i.e. lending under certain restrictions] can be done without danger, and
with small loss compared to the immense benefit obtained by it.' Sir
Edmund Head also admires the Göttingen and Cambridge plan, and avers
that experience has proved that the risk of loss and damage is
groundless. How different are these airy speculations from the hard
facts of Mr. Bradshaw the Cambridge Librarian, of the Librarian of the
Advocates' Library at Edinburgh, and of Mr. Panizzi (see below, p. 50
sqq.); but then these gentlemen had the immense and perhaps unfair
advantage of knowing what they were talking about.

In 1853 a Report and Evidence upon the recommendations of H. M.'s
Commissioners was presented to the Heads of Houses. "The Committee think
that the opportunity at present allowed for lending books in _special
cases_, by permission of Convocation, is sufficient to meet extreme
cases; and that it is unnecessary to give power to the Curators to lend
books from the Library."

Dr. Pusey's evidence (p. 172) is that of a man who knows something of
books, and he points out how very fallacious is Sir E. Head's reference
to the Göttingen Library, which is altogether of a different character
from the Bodleian. "In 1825 it consisted almost entirely of modern
books, and whatever accessions it may since have had, it cannot, like
the Bodleian, have any large proportion of books, which, if lost, could
not be replaced." Dr. Pusey is strongly against lending Bodleian books;
but how little of principle there was in his objection will be seen
further on, where we shall find him more than once advocating loans. The
Rev. C. Marriott is also, on very sensible grounds, against lending; yet
it should in common fairness be known that he borrowed a most valuable
manuscript out of Oriel College Library, and died with it in his
possession. It was nearly sent to Africa by his executors, and was at
last, together with other books, actually _given_ (in all innocence of
course) to Bradfield College, from which establishment Oriel at last
retrieved it; so that in his case, as in that of Dr. Pusey, excellent
principles were joined to very loose practice.

Dr. Bandinel, Bodley's Librarian, gives evidence which is short and
sweet. "However weighty some reasons may appear, the evidence materially
preponderates against lending books out of the Library. I need only
quote one great authority, that of Niebuhr," which he does; the passage
is given below, p. 49. Dr. Bandinel also adds, "I have had a long
conversation with the Librarian of the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh,
who stated, that upon comparing the books in that Library with their
different Catalogues previous to the formation of a new Catalogue, it
was found that owing to the practice of lending books from the Library
they had lost upwards of 6000, indeed very near 7000 works." Evidence,
p. 325; an instructive comment on the lending system.

About this time, however, 'University Reform,' the true meaning of which
most of us here know, was in the air, and on May 22, 1856, the old
Library Statutes were abolished and an entirely new one enacted.
Bodley's own statute against letting books go out of the Library was of
course abrogated. That Convocation still retained the right to lend is
beyond question; but did anybody else, Curators or Librarian, acquire
the right to do so? That the University did not intend to convey any
such right seems perfectly clear; for the 11th clause of the new statute
(which is identical with the present statute, Tit. XX. iii. § 11,
paragraphs 1 to 6) is headed "De libris extra Bibliothecam ad tempus
detinendis, _aut etiam_ efferendis." Now whoever says '_or even_ to have
them taken out,' and then proceeds to order whither they shall be taken,
namely to the Camera, forbids by implication their removal from the
Library on any other terms, or to any other place than those expressly
mentioned. That the University, whatever its intentions may have been,
did not as a matter of fact convey the right to any one is obvious from
the statute itself; and as the Curators never at any time possessed the
right of lending books, it is equally plain that they could not acquire
it without an express commission from the University. That the Curators
themselves were of this opinion is clear from a resolution of theirs
arrived at on Oct. 29, 1859, more than three years after the statute was
passed. I should say that in the interval no loan was sanctioned by
Convocation, or, so far as appears, even applied for. On Oct. 29, 1859,
nine Curators being present, 'The Vice-Chancellor mentioned the desire
of the Rev. Mr. ---- to be allowed to have books out of the Bodleian
Library for the purposes of study by Grace of Convocation. The Curators
resolved:--That it was not expedient that such a proposition should be
made to Convocation.' The Curators, or a majority of them, did not dream
of arrogating to themselves the power of lending, and they, as well as
the applicant, assume as self-evident that books could not be borrowed.
Books could be sent to the Camera; they could not go elsewhere without
the sanction of Convocation. The new statute then did not make lending
(except by Convocation) lawful, nor was there any intention to make it

That same year, on Nov. 8, a Curator gave notice that he would
move:--'That Books and MSS. be taken out of the Bodleian Library under
special conditions with consent of the Curators;' that is, according to
my view of the case, he gave notice of a motion to take by force and
illegally a power which the University had not given; but it does not
appear by the minutes that any such motion was actually made.

On Oct. 25, 1860, 'leave was granted by Convocation for the lending two
Laud Manuscripts, 561 and 563, being copies of the _Historia
Hierosoylmitana_, by Albert of Aix, to the French Government[14].' Of
this loan there is, I believe, no trace in the minutes, but it is one
more proof that the Curators, or a majority of them, did not believe
either in their right or in their power to lend books. Whether
Convocation lent these two Laudian manuscripts under bond duly approved,
and for the purposes of publication, Mr. Macray does not state; but it
looks very much as if the University was just as ignorant of its
obligations as the Curators of a later date were of theirs.

[14] Macray, Annals, p. 295.

On Feb. 4, 1862, a man applied for a printed book, which he wanted for a
law case in which he was engaged; the result was this:--"Resolved--That,
there being nothing in the present statutes to forbid the exercise of
the discretion of the Curators in such a case, the book in question be
lent, under such securities and with such precautions as the Librarian
may deem necessary." Let any man read the eleventh and twelfth sections
of the present Bodleian Statute (identical, so far as the present
question is concerned, with that of 1856), and he will see that no
discretion is left to the Curators at all; there is no hint, however
faint, of "such a case." In 1862, Feb. 4, the Curators assume that they
have a power to lend books; on Nov. 7 of the same year they go a step
further, for they leave it 'to the discretion of the Librarian to lend,
if he shall deem fit, a certain MS. to the Belgian Government.' Having
themselves no power to lend, they authorise the Librarian to lend if he

In 1863, Feb. 17, notice was given of the following motion:--'That on
application from the Professors teaching at the Museum the Bodley
Librarian be empowered to lend, for a limited time, any books bearing on
the subjects there taught that are wanted by the Students at the Museum;
the books to be returned at the end of each term:' and on March 17 of
the same year this motion was carried with certain alterations, 'and it
was resolved that it should be referred to the Council with a view on
their approval of obtaining the sanction of Convocation'; in other
words, the Curators acknowledged that Convocation could lend, and that
they themselves could not lawfully do so.

In 1859 the Curators, or a majority of them, are clear that they have no
power to lend: in 1862 they assume that they have the power, moreover
they exercise it, and they authorise the Librarian to lend a MS. to the
Belgian Government; yet on Feb. 16, 1864, they appear to disclaim this
power, for they resolve, 'That it be proposed to Convocation to lend
three Icelandic MSS.--to the Icelandic Society in Copenhagen at the
request of the Danish Minister.' They either had the power to lend, or
they had not: if they had, this application to Convocation was
unnecessary; if they had not, they had been occupied for some time in
the not very dignified employment of ignoring a statute which it was
their peculiar duty to observe.

On April 20, 1864, Dr. Pusey most inconsistently moves that a Syriac MS.
be lent; and on May 11 lent it was.

In 1865, March 11, a foreigner has leave 'to borrow Arabian MSS.,
provided the application for the use thereof be made through the Saxon
Minister, and a bond for £50 entered into for the safe return.'

On June 3, 'the use of Manuscripts 169--187 was granted on the
application of Lord John Russell to the French Government for the use of
the Imprimerie of Paris [_sic_] for two months.'

In 1866 the Curators lent manuscripts to the University Library of
Göttingen; and in 1868, Jan. 31, 'it was resolved to lend MS. Selden B.
31 to the Prussian Government.' Ye Gods and Goddesses! We only got
Selden's books at all by consenting to the condition that they never
should be lent under any circumstances whatever; and here we have five
Curators, 'all honorable men,' quietly sending off one of Selden's
manuscripts to Germany. On March 21st of the same year, three Curators
send off another of Selden's MSS. to London. In 1868 an application for
the loan of four Hebrew manuscripts was granted, and apparently they
went to a private house. On Feb. 9, 1869, two Curators, one being Dr.
Pusey, 'were requested to act in the matter of the loan of Hebrew MSS.
to Mr. ---- of ---- College, Cambridge.' On April 17 of the same year a
Laudian MS. was lent to Mr. ----; there is not a syllable in the minutes
about a bond, though that was absolutely necessary, nor any statement
that the book was required for the purpose of publication; Laud's
stipulations are quietly, and no doubt ignorantly broken under the
presidency of the Vice-Chancellor. From this time loans are perpetually
being made; and at least six manuscripts other than those mentioned
above were lent this year. At one meeting (May 22) the whole business
was the granting of loans. In 1870 fifteen MSS. at least were lent,
including one of Douce's--poor fellow! he little dreamt of the fate in
store for his lovely books. One MS. out of the archives was sent to
Philadelphia! In 1871 some thirty manuscripts were lent; many to private
hands; others to Berlin, Cambridge, and Philadelphia. Not content with
these exploits, the Curators positively sent the 39th volume of the
Camden Society's publications to Rouen! In 1872 nearly thirty
manuscripts were lent: one 'subject to the approval of the Librarian,'
thus granting to him concurrent authority with themselves. These books
went some to private persons; others to Cambridge, London, Leyden,
Berlin, Munster, Leipzic, Kiel, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. The
manuscript sent to Munster was an old English book of Laud's; there was
no bond, nor is there any hint that it was lent for publication. Besides
manuscripts they lent printed books, amongst the rest Tyndale's New
Testament of 1534! This portentous act was perpetrated on May 25th,
1872; and the same day there appears this entry on the minutes: 'In
reference to applications for loans during the Long Vacation, it was
agreed, on the suggestion of the Librarian, that he be empowered in
urgent cases, with the assent of two Curators, to grant loans during the
Long Vacation'; an utterly illegal resolution not rescinded till 1886.

For ten years, ever since 1862, the Curators had been lending, on their
own authority, and without a shadow of statutable right, manuscripts and
printed books to persons in Oxford and other parts of England, as well
as to foreign countries: will it be believed that on Feb. 8, 1873, the
Librarian was asked to state his opinion as to 'the lending of books out
of the Library under proper restrictions;' and that on Feb. 28 of the
same year, 'it was agreed that the Curators should proceed by statute to
take power to order the lending out of books under certain
restrictions'? Why this was the very thing they had been doing for years
past; and now by agreeing 'to proceed by statute' they plainly declare
their opinion that for all those years they had been doing something for
which they had no statutable warrant. However, they drew up a draft
statute which was laid before Council, and Council promptly 'struck out
the proposal to lend books out of the Library;' whereupon on March 8th,
1873, one of the Curators moved 'that Council be requested to insert a
provision that books be lent out from evening to morning. This was
agreed to'. On which resolution I shall make no remark, for fear my pen
might run away with me; but most people will be able to supply that
comment which I refrain from making.

This very year 1873 they lent the York Missal, unless in the judgment of
the Librarian 'too valuable to be lent out of the Library': there is a
touch of modesty in this which disarms me, otherwise I could say
something very true, but very unpleasant. The same year an application
was made for one of the Douce MSS., but 'by reason of regulations as to
Douce MSS. this was refused.' What regulations these were it would be
interesting to know, for I cannot discover that there are at present any
regulations, at all events in writing.

At length the Curators obtained their desire. On March 25, 1873, a form
of statute was proposed by one Head of a House and seconded by another,
and on May 2, 1873, it was carried without a division in the following
shape: (Tit. XX. iii. § 11. 10.) Liceat Curatoribus, sicut mos fuit,
libros impressos et manuscriptos, scientiæ causa, viris doctis sive
Academicis sive externis mutuari: that is to say, _Let it be lawful for
the Curators, as the custom has been, to borrow books printed and
manuscript in the interest of knowledge for learned men, whether Members
of the University or not_. A board of grave and learned men--_viri
variis doctrinis et literis imbuti_, as the statute says--wish to do
openly, what they had been in the habit of doing, as it would appear,
unknown to Council, and against its wishes (for it 'struck out the
proposal to lend books out of the Library'): there is something droll in
that, but it is nothing to what came of it. They petition for leave to
_lend_, walk off perfectly contented with a permission to _borrow_, and
nobody sees the joke! 'Reform' seems not only to have impaired our
knowledge of Latin, but to have diminished our sense of the
ridiculous--a most dolorous result. That Convocation intended by this
strangely worded statute to convey to the Curators the power to _lend_
books is beyond question; it is equally beyond question that it conveyed
the power to _borrow_ them, for in good Latin and in our statute Latin
alike, _mutuari_ means not to lend, but to borrow, as every Latin
Dictionary from the Hortus Vocabulorum down to Lewis and Short
testifies; and as to our statute Latin we find: quantum magister ...
potest de cista de Guildeforde mutuari (Anstey, p. 99); quod magister
regens mutuari possit quadraginta solidos (_ibid._ p. 132); de eadem
mutuari poterit ad usum suum proprium.... quinque marcas (_ibid._ p.
338). As _mutuari_ is correctly used in the barbarous language of our
old statutes, so is it in the more polished Latinity of the Laudian
code, in which the word occurs once, and I think only once, and as the
devil of mischief will have it, in the Bodleian Statute itself, where 'e
cista D. Thomæ Bodley mutuari' means 'to borrow from Sir Thomas Bodley's
chest'. The meaning of the word then is clear beyond dispute, and what
it means in one part of the statutes it must mean in another. There is
plenty of barbarous Latin in our statute book, but in every case it is
justified or excused by long usage, or by the fact that other learned
bodies have constantly used the same or similar language; but the
statute of 1873 is probably the only one either in ancient or modern
times, where without necessity, without precedent, and without warning,
a word which means and always has meant one thing is used under the
erroneous impression that it means another, and that not by schoolboys,
but by their elders. A statute, however, means what it plainly says:
with the intentions of a legislative body we have no concern except in
so far as they are clearly expressed, and every prudent judge knows what
grave evils spring from neglect of this principle of interpretation.
(See Dwarris On Statutes, p. 580 sqq.)

Whether this statute really gives the power to lend may be disputed. On
the one hand it may be said, that those who borrow a book _for_ learned
men may do what they like with it, and may therefore lend it. At first
sight this seems probable and reasonable, but the more it is thought of
the less probable does it appear. On the other hand it may be said, that
since the statute does not plainly and expressly give the Curators the
power to lend, they have no power to do so at all. Be that as it may, no
such scruples troubled the minds of the Curators; every one seems to
have been completely mesmerised, and this singular statute was
straightway put in practice after a fashion; for on June 23, 1873, 'an
application from Professor ---- was considered, asking for loan of such
books or MSS. as he might require, at the discretion of the Librarian,
under the provisions of §11, ch. 10 of the Bodleian amended statute,
during the present vacation. Mr. ---- and Mr. ---- made similar
applications. It was agreed to accede to the request in the case of the
three applicants respectively'; that is to say, within a few days of the
passing of the statute it is broken. The Curators do not agree to borrow
books for the applicants, the only thing the statute allowed them to do;
the statute says not one word about the discretion of the Librarian,
nor does it allow the Curators in this case to leave anything to it: in
the buying of books (Stat. XX. iii. § 4, 4) they may leave much to his
discretion, but nowhere else is any such permission given: so the
Curators took it. They did not do what the statute says they may do, and
they did do what no statute permits them to do; and as they began that
day, so have they continued to this moment. No change is made in the
minutes. Before as well as after the passing of this statute the form
always is 'applications for loans,' or some equivalent phrase. In 1873 a
dozen MSS. or more, besides printed books, including the Hereford
Missal! were lent exactly as before, some to private persons, some to
libraries, and they went to Leeds, Cambridge, Utrecht, Kiel, Berlin, &c.

In 1874 more than twenty MSS. were lent to Jena, Cambridge, Marburg,
Vienna (two of the Junius collection were sent there), and to private
hands. In 1875 MSS. were sent to St. Petersburg, Bonn, Vienna, Paris,
Cambridge, Edinburgh, Konigsberg, Heidelberg, and some to private
houses; three printed books also were lent, without a shadow of reason
so far as can be seen, to a gentleman residing in the Temple.

On Oct. 30 two of the sub-librarians applied 'for the privilege of
taking books out of the Library. Their application was agreed to upon
the terms stated in the minutes of June 23, 1873, in the case of a
similar application from others.'

And here it should be noticed that all the loans do not by any means
necessarily appear in the minutes. Owing to the illegal resolution of
the Curators of May 25, 1872, (see above, p. 16,) no loans during the
Long Vacation are there entered. Moreover, at some time unknown to me
the Librarian was quietly permitted to let certain persons borrow books
at his discretion, and there at last grew up, it is to be presumed, with
the knowledge of the Curators, what the Library officials call the
Borrowers' List, and what after a time appears in the minutes as 'the
privileged list.' As every one can see, there is nothing whatever in
the statute to justify all this.

I do not for one moment mean to charge the Curators with doing anything
which they thought to be improper or beyond their discretion; but I do
most distinctly charge them with having in fact exceeded their
statutable powers, and with taking the law into their own hands, all, I
doubt not, with the best and most innocent intentions. Unfortunately
some of the most mischievous acts in the world have been done with the
best and purest intentions. Like all other members of the University the
Curators have promised to observe the statutes, and the Vice-Chancellor
and Proctors have not only done that, but have solemnly pledged
themselves to see that the statutes are observed, and are moreover armed
with power to enforce them. If statutes are absurd, it is clearly the
duty of those who control legislation in this place to get them
abolished or amended without delay; if they are not absurd, all are
bound to obey them. As regards the Bodleian there is a special order
(XX. iii. § 12. 3) directing the Curators what to do with an imperfect
statute, and how to do it; but it is one thing to make a statute; it is
a very different thing to get people to obey it. No one who sees the
ease with which statutes are made and unmade, can doubt, that if those
of the Bodleian are defective in any respect, it needs but a word from
one or two members of Council to have all defects remedied. If the
Curators want fresh powers, or more discretion, and greater latitude of
action than they are at present allowed, they have but to ask and
obtain; but I protest most vehemently against the usurpation of powers
not granted by the University as a thing _pessimi exempli_. If the
Bodleian Curators are to do exactly as they like, the University might
just as well spare itself the trouble of legislation. If the University
deliberately chooses to have its statutes nullified, there is, I
suppose, no help for it; yet I cannot but suspect that the University
has no knowledge--at all events no clear and distinct knowledge--of the
way in which we have dealt with the statutes which were intended to mark
out our duties. The secret growth of 'the borrowers' list' is as
singular a thing as is to be found in the history of the Bodleian. The
Curators and the Curators alone have, by a statute of their own
devising, a right to borrow; yet the late Librarian assumed to himself
the right of naming persons who are to have the privilege of borrowing,
and the Curators quietly allowed it, without, as I believe, the faintest
suspicion that they were doing what was wrong.

In 1876 eleven MSS. went some to private persons, others to Augsburg,
Paris, Göttingen, Heidelberg, Cambridge: the book sent to Augsburg
without bond, and without guarantee for publication, was one of Laud's
Greek MSS. On June 24 an application 'from Mr. ---- for use of books at
home during Vacation' was 'assented to.' In 1877 some fourteen or
fifteen MSS. were sent to Heidelberg, Paris, Cambridge, London, Rome,
Copenhagen, Munich, Marburg, besides printed books: the book sent to
Munich was one of Laud's, again in total defiance of all his

In 1878 a dozen MSS., or more, went to different people, to Bonn, to
Pesth, Leyden, and Rostock, besides printed books: one book with
illuminations was refused, 'as being one of a class not lent out.' I
have before observed that I know of no written rules at all. On Oct. 26
of this year the Curators surpassed themselves, for there was an
application 'from the Rev. ----, Fellow of ---- College, for permission
to borrow works from the Library to be taken to his rooms. In this
matter it was agreed that power to act on the clause 10, § 11 of the
Bodleian Statute _be delegated_ by the Curators to the Librarian.' There
were ten Curators present on this memorable occasion. The Curators are
themselves delegates, and if they had the right to delegate to the
Librarian the power which the University delegated to them, then what is
sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: if the Curators _mero
motu_ may delegate their powers, the Librarian may with equal right and
equal reason delegate his, and so on _in infinitum_, to the utter ruin
of all sense of responsibility.

It would be tedious to enumerate all the loans; suffice it to say that
they have gone on year after year; and from this point I shall only
mention a few notable cases.

On May 31, 1879, 'the request of Professor ---- to borrow printed books
from the Library was granted.' Considering that only seven months
before, the Curators had resolved 'to delegate' their lending powers to
the Librarian, it is strange that they did not refer the applicant
straight to that official.

In 1880, June 11, a Selden MS. was ordered to Paris; ten Curators were
present, and it is to be presumed that not one of them knew, what he was
bound to know, namely, the special stipulation made with respect to all
Selden's books.

On Oct. 29, 1880, the Junior Proctor gave notice of the following
motion:--'That in the case of MSS. sent out on loan to persons resident
within the United Kingdom, a pecuniary bond shall be executed by the
person to whom such MS. is lent, of such value as shall be determined
from time to time by the Curators, unless the MS. is sent for use only
within the precincts of the British Museum, or some other approved
Public Library.' On Nov. 27 this motion was made and lost.

In 1881, June 4, 'an application from ---- for the use of books dealing
with the subject of Biblical Chronology at his own house appeared to the
Curators to fall under the provisions of the Statute XX. iii. § 11, 10;
the Librarian exercising discretion as to the number of volumes issued.'
On Oct. 26, 1878, not three years before, the Curators formally
'delegated' their powers to the Librarian; on May 31, 1879, they assume
that they possess what they have 'delegated'; and here they do the same
thing, and all this without any formal and solemn resumption by them of
their 'delegated' powers. On Oct. 29, 1881, it was reported that
Professor ---- of Cambridge had not returned a manuscript borrowed _four
years_ before, and the Vice-Chancellor was requested to communicate with
the Professor in the matter. The manuscript never has been, and in all
probability never will be restored, and our only consolation must be the
fact that it was a transcript of another manuscript in the Bodleian, not
on that account necessarily of little value, for a transcript may, and
sometimes does, become of inestimable value; why it does so, all
acquainted with books know.

In 1882, Feb. 11, a Laudian MS. was ordered to Heidelberg, and a Selden
MS. to St. Petersburg. On Dec. 2, 1882, 'it was agreed that Mr.----,
Fellow of ---- be one of the persons privileged to take out books. It was
agreed that the Librarians be allowed to take out books and MSS. for
their own use.'

In 1883, Jan. 27, the Librarian suggested 'that all Fellows and
ex-Fellows of Colleges should be entitled to have books out of the
Library'; the suggestion was not adopted. On the same day, 'Mr. ----
(---- College) and Dr. ---- were placed on the list of persons specially
entitled.' On March 3 of the same year, 'Dr. Frankfurter's application
to be placed on the privileged list of borrowers was assented to.' There
we have it at last, in black and white--_the privileged list of
borrowers_, as unstatutable and as illegal a thing as could well be
permitted. The words '_let it be lawful for the Curators to borrow books
for learned men_,' (always supposing the Latin not to be downright
nonsense,) cannot convey to the Curators the power to let other people
borrow books; for if they could, then any words may have any meaning,
which comes to the same thing as saying that they have no meaning at
all. Yet it is on these words, and on these words alone, that the
'borrowers' list' has been made to depend; though how educated men can
have extracted from this statute any meaning whatever which would
justify, or even seem, in the most distant way, to justify the act of
conveying to others the power to borrow books from the library is one
of the most astonishing things that I ever met with in the whole course
of my life. But it will be said that the Bodleian Curators for thirteen
years understood _mutuari_ to mean 'lend', and therefore they might
institute a 'borrowers' list'. It is an astonishing, not to say
staggering, fact that they did so understand it, yet the borrowers' list
is none the less illegal. Nay, I have heard a Curator in his place
maintain, that as there could be no doubt what the University intended
when it passed this statute, _mutuari_ in this place must mean 'lend'.
Much as I admired the boldness of the assertion, I was unable to commend
either the law or the logic of it; the consequences which would at once
follow from the position, that if the intentions of a legislative body
are clear it matters not how it expresses them, are too palpably absurd
to find acceptance with ordinary minds. However, let it be supposed,
that instead of _mutuari_ the word actually used were _commodare_. You
are still no better off. The University on this hypothesis gives to the
Curators as a board the power of lending a specific book to a specific
person, and that is all. It does not give the Curators the power to
invest any person or persons with the right or privilege of borrowing
books, still less does it convey the power of creating a class of
persons who have such a right or privilege. This is not only clear to
plain common sense, but, as I am advised, is plain as a matter of law;
and I am further assured that, if any book is damaged or lost in
consequence of the Curators persisting in such a course, they become
themselves personally liable to the University.

This illegal borrowers' list comprises at this moment (subtracting one
dead man and double entries) one hundred and eleven persons, besides the
Clarendon Press. Among these persons are two ladies, who can have no
conceivable right to be where they are, for even those whose tolerant
Latinity suffers them to take _mutuari_ for _commodare_ will hardly
maintain that '_viris doctis_' covers learned women. It includes too
non-residents and foreigners; and I am informed that manuscripts have
been sent for the use of one of these persons more than a hundred miles
as the crow flies. Books are sent by post, and Bodleian money is spent
to pay for carriage. The finances of the Library, however, deserve a
paper all to themselves, and some day they shall have one.

On May 26, 1883, 'an application from Dr. Leumann to be placed on the
privileged list was agreed to.' On Oct. 20, of the same year, two
persons were 'placed on the privileged list of readers;' and on Nov. 24,
another 'was placed on the privileged list;' and from that moment to the
present no other formula is employed in the minutes.

In 1885, Oct. 31, the Librarian applied 'for authority to decline
requests for loans of Selden MSS. and books, and of Laud's MSS. (except
for purposes of publication), without referring the application to the
Curators, as being contrary to the terms of the respective donations.
This was agreed to.' It was, and to my great astonishment it passed
without any remark whatever.

In 1886, March 13, 'Liceat Curatoribus' was ruled to mean 'the consent
of a majority of Curators;' that is to say, the illegal resolution of
May 25, 1872, was silently rescinded. On May 15 of the same year a
committee of four was appointed to consider the practice of loans. At a
meeting on June 19, another name was added to the borrowers' list. Every
Curator knew that the legality of their practice with respect to loans,
and especially with respect to the borrowers' list, had been openly
challenged; notwithstanding this, and in spite of protest then and there
made, the chairman put the name to the vote, and a majority actually
voted for it. This proceeding was, in my opinion (and not in mine only),
irregular and improper to say the least of it, but it was highly
characteristic. After waiting to see whether the Vice-Chancellor or any
other Curator would call attention to the charge brought against the
board, and finding, as I was sure would be the case, that no one shewed
any disposition to do so, I gave notice of a motion for the next
statutable meeting:--_That the borrowers' list be abolished as illegal;
that all books in the hands of borrowers be at once recalled as having
been illegally lent; and that for the future the Statute XX. iii. § 11.
10 be faithfully observed._

On June 28 it was agreed (I being silent for an obvious reason) that
during the Vacation all the Curators in Oxford should meet every
fortnight in the Library at 2 p.m. solely to consider applications for
loans. During the Vacation six such meetings were summoned. On July 10,
three Curators met and refused an application; on Aug. 21, and on Sept.
11, only two were present, and of course declined to act; on Sept. 25,
and Oct. 9, I, who attended all the meetings, found myself alone; on
Oct. 23, there were six of us, and business was adjourned on the ground
that the whole question of loans would be debated on Oct. 30.
Accordingly, on Oct. 30, _all_ the Curators made their appearance, a
thing I never saw before, though they were not all present during the
whole of the proceedings. The motion to abolish the borrowers' list was
duly made and seconded; then, after some confused talk, which could not
be dignified by the name of a debate, an amendment was moved, 'That the
consideration of the regulations under which books _be lent_ be referred
to a committee'; and this was carried, all the Curators being present.
An instruction to the committee was also moved, 'To consider what
alteration is required in the statute with regard to the borrowing of
books'; which was also carried. Next we considered the report of the
committee on loans, and returned it in a somewhat mangled condition to
the reconsideration of those who drew it up. After that, applications
for loans numbered 1 to 16 were discussed, and _all_ were refused. This
exhausted the agenda paper, and should, I apprehend, have finished the
business of the day. However, an application for the loan of manuscripts
_not_ on the agenda paper was considered, and the board, which up to
that moment had refused all applications, including one from Sir
Richard Burton, granted the loan of _seventeen_ manuscripts to _one_
man. In self-defence, let me say that I always vote against all loans
when there is a division.

On Nov. 8 the loan committee recommended that Council be asked to
propose amendments in Stat. Tit. XX. sect. iii. § 11, and thought that
'the farther consideration of the rules framed by them and amended at
the Curators' meeting on Oct. 30 should for the present be postponed.'
On Nov. 25, ten Curators being present, this recommendation was
considered. One of the Curators thought that while there was 'no harm'
in applying for a new statute, yet that it was 'a waste of time' and 'a
little ridiculous': another wished to move an amendment and have the new
statute in _English_, but some of us saw (though no one said so) that
such an amendment would be a highly comic confession on the part of the
_viri variis doctrinis et literis imbuti_; and accordingly it was not
pressed. Then the same Curator proposed that _commodare_ should be
substituted for _mutuari_, and that _sicut mos fuit_ should be struck
out. Four voted for this amendment, which was lost. Even had it been
carried, it would still have been unlawful to lend books to women, for,
as was pointed out at the time, _vir_ means _a man_; but the minority
was in no mood to be affected by philological facts. The original
recommendation was then passed.

The board having thus expressed its opinion that a new statute was
necessary to enable it to lend books had, it might be thought, asserted
that the existing statute does not enable it to do so; accordingly we at
once turned our attention to applications for loans. The first article
applied for was not a book at all, but an inscribed bronze vessel; and
it was observed that we have no statutable right, in other words no
power whatever, to lend such a thing; whereupon some one remarked that
it might be done, _because it is not forbidden_, an argument, which (if
valid) would lead to some startling conclusions.

However, that a decree of Convocation to authorise the loan of this
vessel should be asked for was duly moved and seconded; then the
Curator, who wished to patch the Bodleian Latin statute with a bit of
English, moved as an amendment 'that the Curators lend it', quite
ignoring the fact that they had no statutable power to do so. For this
amendment three Curators voted, one abstained, and the rest voted
against it: finally the original motion was carried. After that, two
loans of books were refused and three were granted.

In applying for a decree to enable them to lend this vessel the Curators
turned over a new leaf. The whole Bodleian statute consists of ten
octavo pages, eleven lines and four words: it can be read out aloud in
thirty minutes, and by eye alone in half that time: there is, therefore,
no excuse whatever for not knowing its contents, and still less for not
obeying it. It is not my purpose at the present moment to point out how
often, and in how many ways, we drive a coach and four through statutes
intended to control our actions; but to complete the subject of loans,
and dismissing the practice of book-lending from further consideration,
it may be noted that the Stat. XX. iii. § 11. 9 allows the Curators
under specified conditions to place certain prints and drawings either
in the Radcliffe or in the Taylor Building; but with this exception, if
exception it be, no power is anywhere given to them to lend any picture,
coin, antiquity, or other object belonging to the library. Nevertheless
I find the following entries in the minutes:--

On April 26, 1865, 'it was agreed to lend "Miniatures" to the Lords of
the Committee of Council on Education to be exhibited in the South
Kensington Museum.'

On Oct. 28, 1865, 'the Curators sanction the loan of such Pictures as
may be desired for the National Exhibition of Portraits at Kensington in

On Dec. 12, 1865, 'that the loan of the Pictures according to the list
sent, save that of Sir Thomas Bodley, be granted to South Kensington
Museum Exhibition of National Portraits.'

On March 8, 1867, 'a letter from the Secretary of the Earl of Derby was
read asking for the loan of eighteen Pictures for exhibition at
Kensington. This was acceded to.'

On Jan. 31, 1868, 'it was resolved ... to lend to the Leeds Exhibition
the Portraits they wish of Yorkshire Worthies.'

On Feb. 5, 1870, 'an application from Mr. Cosmo Innis, of the General
Register house, Edinburgh, for the loan of the old map of Britain of the
14th century, which hangs on the wall of the Library, to be traced in
facsimile, under the care of Sir Henry James, for the 2nd volume of the
National MSS. of Scotland, was granted.'

On Feb. 14, 1874, 'an application from the South Kensington Museum was
read, asking for the loan of remarkable specimens of Book-binding for
next year's International Exhibition. In this matter it was agreed that
the Museum should be invited to send a person to Oxford to inspect, and
that it should be left to the discretion of the Librarian to decide upon
lending any specimen required.'

On April 28, 1877, 'an application from Mr. Blades [_sic_] on behalf of
Caxton memorial committee for the loan of certain early printed books to
a Public Exhibition at South Kensington was considered and granted.'

On May 26, 1877, application 'for Bibles to be sent to the Caxton
Exhibition. This was granted, and the Librarian was directed to take
such measures as might be necessary to ensure secure transmission.'

On May 11, 1878, permission was given to lend the Selden Portrait to the
Nottingham Art Exhibition; and an application from the Bath and West of
England Agricultural Society for works of art, &c. for their approaching
meeting at Oxford, was considered. This was left to the Librarian's

On Nov. 13, 1880, Wyngarde's Plan of London 'to be granted under a bond'
to Mr. Wheatley.

On April 29, 1882, the Portrait of Sam. Butler was lent to the
Worcestershire Exhibition of Fine Arts.

On Feb. 2, 1884, Drake's Chair was lent to the Mayor of Plymouth.

On May 2, 1885, 'the Librarian presented applications from the
Exhibition of Inventions now being held for the loan of certain MSS.;
certain early printed books; certain works on music. It was agreed that
the Librarian be empowered to lend out of the above as required, as he
may think well, to the Exhibition.'

At this last meeting I was present, and the following is a verbatim copy
of my note written the same day:--

'An Exhibition of Inventions (I have not got the name correctly) applied
for the loan of certain MSS. and books from Bodleian: 5 MSS. Liturgies:
3 Bodley MSS. 515, 775, 842: Gough, Missal 336: an Ashmole book, and 2
English.--I objected, but the loan was carried, except as to 775
Bodley.' I have lately been informed that one of the books sent up to be
stared at by the mob of sightseers was a Selden book: this I neither
knew nor could have known at the time, or it should have been stopped,
if protesting could have stopped it.

In every one of these cases the Curators, with the most perfect
innocence, took upon themselves to do what they had not a shadow of
right to do. If the University is content to have its property so dealt
with that in case of damage or loss its only remedy would be to mulct
the Curators, there is nothing more to be said; but it is just as well
that the University should know what has been done in the past, and what
would have been done in the future, had not a protest been made against
the practice; and even now, though the board as a board has seemingly
condemned its former doings, it still contains a stubborn and impenitent
minority. If the University wishes its statutes to be obeyed, it should
ordain substantial pecuniary fines for breaches of them; if it does not
care whether they are obeyed or not, it is a pity that it wastes its
time in enacting them.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now as to the policy of lending the printed books and manuscripts of
the Bodleian. The question is not whether it is a good or a bad thing to
lend books, nor whether it is a good thing for this or that library to
do so; it is simply whether it is right to lend Bodleian books. It may
be argued that it is right to do so--

1. Because books are made to be used, and they will be very much more
used if they are lent than if they are not; moreover it is generally
more convenient to read in one's own room than it is in a public place.
Some men cannot read, certainly cannot read and think in a library, or
in the midst of company; I cannot myself, and all that I have ever been
able to do in such places is to make extracts, verify references and the
like; but to read a book as I should in my own room is to me, and
probably to many people, impossible. If you go to a public institution
you must go when it is open; you must sit still; you must not whistle or
make a noise; you must not smoke; you cannot lie down and read on your
back; you cannot throw the book aside, go for a walk, and resume your
perusal; you cannot read quietly over the fire of an evening; you cannot
read in the small hours of the night, and so on _ad infinitum_. Yet all
this you can do if you are allowed to borrow the books. You can then
treat them exactly as if they were your own. It is clear that this
argument may be expanded in a multitude of ways, and no one is so
destitute of imagination as not to be able to fill up the details to
suit his own particular case and fancy.

The answer to it is very simple. You cannot by any device or contrivance
combine the advantages of private and of public property. He who wishes
to use the books of a public library must submit to many personal
inconveniences; and the man who is unwilling to deny himself for the
general good is the very last person in the community to whom any favour
ought to be shown, and of all people he least deserves the favour of
borrowing. He who has ever been foolish enough to lend his own books
freely, learns by almost unvaried experience that hardly one man in
twenty can be trusted: your book comes back (when it comes back at all)
more damaged by a month's outing than the owner would occasion in fifty
years. The book of a public library is even less regarded, as a rule,
than that belonging to a friend; for the friend may have a sharp tongue,
and a knack of using it, whereas a librarian is an official; even if he
ever has time to look through the books when they are returned, his
censure is disregarded, and after all accidents will happen, and the
book might possibly have been equally damaged had it never left the
library walls. It is really astonishing how few men there are in the
present day who know how to use a book without doing it real and often
serious damage. Over and over again have I seen men who would be very
angry to be called boors deliberately break the back of a book. Over and
over again, both in libraries and in private rooms, have I seen the
headband broken, simply because people did not know how to take a book
off a shelf. Again and again I have seen men of education (but grossly
ignorant for all that of the ways of books) play such pranks with my own
volumes as made me shudder. The horrid trick of turning a leaf by
wetting a finger I have seen practised in this seat of learning over and
over again by Graduates, by Professors, by Heads of Houses; and years
ago I saw that same nasty trick played _pro pudor!_ in the sacred
precincts of the Bodleian itself _on a manuscript_, which will bear to
its last moment the impression of the dirty thumb (and it _was_ dirty)
that perpetrated the uncleanly act. Often and often you see a man
sitting close over the fire with a well-bound volume; a few such
experiments will ruin the binding of any book; if it is his own, well
and good, though even so the act is that of a barbarian: but suppose it
a Bodleian book, what then? Why in that case the binding bills will be
higher than ever, to say nothing about the ruin of the book itself. A
man who knows how to handle a book will use a volume habitually for
years and leave no trace of wear and tear behind him; but the average
man, even though he may be a Master of Arts, is, not unfrequently,
totally unfit to have the use of any books in good condition, even in a
library, much less out of one.

The scholars and readers of former days seem to have been far more
careful in their habits than men are now. Look at the books of the great
collectors--Grolier, the Maioli, Selden, De Thou, the Colberts, and the
like. These men read their books; and Grolier and Thomas Maioli
certainly lent them: yet even after all these years, though time and
neglect may have ruined the magnificent bindings--bindings such as few,
if any, modern collectors ever indulge in--the books themselves are
internally spotless. I have myself scores of volumes, many of them three
or four hundred years old, clean and pure as the day they were issued
from the press; they have most certainly been used and read, but used by
men of clean hands and decent habits. In the present day books are so
common and so cheap, and modern readers too frequently so unrefined,
that they get into a vile habit of misusing them, and to such
persons--that is, to the great majority--the books of a public library
cannot be safely trusted except under the very strictest supervision.
The slovenly practice of placing one open book on another, a practice
sternly forbidden in many foreign libraries, may be seen in full swing
both at the Camera and in the Bodleian; and no one seems to be aware how
ruinous it is, or to have the least suspicion that he who knows how to
handle books never treats them so. Treated in a cleanly and decent
manner, there is not the least reason why a book printed on good paper
should not last for twenty centuries or more; treated as they are too
often treated here in Oxford, they will hardly last as many months.

By lending the books as we illegally do, we are perceptibly hastening
the destruction of a library intended by its founder and benefactors to
be a blessing for generations of scholars yet unborn.

2. Books are to be lent, and what is more ought to be sent out of
Oxford, because it is an immense convenience to students at a distance
to have Bodleian treasures close at hand. Not a doubt about it; vastly
convenient. Suppose I am studying Greek sculpture, it would be very
convenient to get all the master-pieces sent from the various galleries
of Europe to London or Oxford. It would not only be a convenience, but a
joy and a delight, to have over the Venus of Melos. Instead of sitting
for hours together, as I used to do, in the Louvre, it would be much
more convenient to go down to the New Schools and gaze on that glorious
and divine being. Does any one suddenly scent an absurdity in the
supposition? Why so do I, but the absurdity is in the whole argument,
not in the particular application of it. Some people who have not a gift
for seeing the point of things will ride off by saying that the Venus is
a majestic beauty, and that the expense of her carriage and insurance
would be enormous. Such an objection is pointless, because it evades the
question of convenience; but let us take a case where weight will not
oppress us. Say you study Greek gems; would it not be very convenient to
have some of the best from Naples, from Paris, from Rome, and from
Vienna, sent here to the Bodleian, where you could study them at your
leisure? They are more portable than books, far less liable to damage,
and hardly more valuable. Do you think that any guardian of such
treasures would be so foolish as to listen to your request? Would any
nation, city, or even University, permit it?

The cases, it will be said, are not parallel. Gems, coins, medals,
statuettes, are too valuable to be lent; the books and manuscripts which
the Bodleian Curators lend are comparatively valueless. I am by no means
sure of that fact. I have before now tapped at a friend's door, and
receiving no answer entered his room to leave a message or what not, and
have more than once seen lying on his table an eleventh-century Bodleian
manuscript of a certain classic author, a book of inestimable value, the
_codex archetypus_ of every other copy now in existence. Any stranger
could have entered that room, and any enterprising literary thief--a not
uncommon and particularly detestable animal--might have slipped this
priceless book into his pocket. I am by no means sure that very valuable
manuscripts have not been, in spite of remonstrance, lent out within the
last two years; but it is beyond all dispute that not so very long ago
the thing was done, and any man or any body of men who will allow one
such thing to be done are quite capable of allowing a dozen to be done.

Let it, however, be granted, for the purposes of the present argument,
that we now, having a clearer perception of our responsibilities, only
allow comparatively worthless manuscripts to be sent to France, to
Germany, Russia, or India; for our manuscripts, be it observed, travel
as far afield as Bombay. Now what makes a book or manuscript
comparatively worthless? It is so, either because it is one of many
copies, or because it is a poor and faulty copy. If it is one of many,
why in the name of all that is absurd should we be asked to send our
goods away (at our expense and risk let it be remembered) when _ex
hypothesi_ there are many other copies in existence? why cannot the
foreign student go to some one of those copies? why should we be called
on to gratify his laziness or consult his convenience? If the copy be a
poor one, he who asks for the loan of it must be a noodle, for who cares
for the readings of a confessedly inferior book? Is it not clear as day
that the man who at Rome, or Heidelberg, or Bombay, asks for the loan of
a manuscript, believes it to be a good and valuable copy? moreover, if
he believes so, is it not in the highest degree probable that his
judgment is correct, seeing that his attention is in a special manner
concentrated on the matter? And if it be a good and valuable copy, what
becomes of the plea that we only lend comparatively worthless books?
Have we any common sense amongst us? I really confess that there are
times when I come to the conclusion that we have none; for if we had,
how could we be deceived by pretexts so flimsy and fallacious? All the
manuscripts which we now lend are most certainly valuable, and their
loss or damage would be irreparable; all talk of comparative worth or
worthlessness is futile, and is merely used as so much dust thrown in
the eyes of those who (I am sorry to say it, but it must be said) ought
to have a higher conception of their duties.

3. Some maintain that MSS. and books should be lent out because 'more
work' will be done by that device. It is difficult to see why. It is
inferred, in fact, that 'more work' will be done, because it is more
convenient to work at home than it is in a library. A partial answer to
this fallacious plea has been already given, but I cannot pass over the
particular form of it without a protest. The cant that is talked
now-a-days about 'work' is enough to make one sick. As far as my
experience extends, the very notion of work, as opposed to fidgetty
pottering, is not possessed by fifty men in the place; the very
conception of thoroughness and comprehension is gone; and as to
learning, why the thing has almost vanished; of 'science' we have enough
and to spare, but what in the world has become of all our knowledge?
Briefly, at the present moment and in this place, all this wretched
pretence of 'work' is arrant imposture. A few, and only a few, know what
it means, and they would never dream of talking about it.

But I have heard this argument about 'more work' put in another form,
and it obviously is a theme on which endless variations may be composed.
Suppose, it is said, a very poor scholar, anxious to give the world a
critical edition of some book, and further suppose that there is a
valuable manuscript at St. Petersburg, another at Stockholm, another in
Paris, another in Oxford, and so on; let the poor scholar live where you
like, say in Giessen, and suppose him to be totally unable to defray the
expense of a journey to these several places, and to have no means of
paying for collations made by others, and no confidence in their
correctness, even if he could pay for them; would it not be an advantage
to literature that all these manuscripts should be sent to Giessen for
the use of the poor scholar aforesaid; and would it not be a dead loss
to the world of letters, if, by refusing so to lend them, you prevented
the poor scholar from constructing a critical and admirable text of the
author in whom he is interested? This purely hypothetical case I have
heard put in all seriousness, and used as a knock-me-down sort of
argument; yet it must occur to any one with a grain of common sense that
it is only too easy to 'suppose' anything; that it would not require the
imaginative powers of a baby to go one step further, and suppose the
poor, the ardent and the ripe scholar to have just money enough or pluck
enough to carry him to the places which he wishes to visit, (I note
parenthetically that a real student, a man to read of whose exploits
warms one's heart, Cosma de Körös, started on his extraordinary
expedition to the East with 100 florins and a walking-stick, for being
what he was, he dispensed with luggage,) or you might suppose brains
enough in his neighbourhood to perceive that so deserving a creature of
the pure imagination might fairly enough be helped or--but it is
needless and foolish to dream with one's eyes open, and practical men
generally object to discuss purely hypothetical cases. Yes, my excellent
but fanciful friend will say, this is all very well, but _if_ there were
such a case, what would you do? Well, to speak for myself, I should
prefer to wait till the poor scholar's exchequer was in a more
flourishing condition, or why should I not take a turn at 'supposing'
myself? and perform the very easy trick of imagining a more ripe
scholar, a more enthusiastic student, endowed not only with brains, but
blessed with means to gratify his whims, and then, without the least
violence, I might suppose the result to be a much more correct, a much
more critical edition than my friend's phantom scholar could ever by any
possibility concoct. But to return to the region of reality; I answer
that not even in the case supposed, or in any case would I lend out
manuscripts, and this for more reasons than I have patience to write
down. One remark may, however, be made. We are constantly requested to
send manuscripts abroad 'for collation,' and we not unfrequently send
them. Will any one be good enough to mention to me a single collation of
a Greek or Latin classic made by any scholar by profession of any
manuscript of fair length--say, if you like, 300 pages of octavo
print--which is faithful, or which can be depended on? Even if it were a
defensible practice to send manuscripts abroad for collation, it can
never be a defensible practice to expose them to all the risks they
necessarily run, and after all reap as a net result collations not worth
the paper they are written on.

I hope that these considerations may satisfy my imaginative friend that
there is not that force in his argument which he supposes; but if he is
still unconvinced, let us agree to consider the case of the poor scholar
when it actually occurs on its merits, and let it be conceded as a thing
not impossible, that should all the supposed conditions exist, we might
for once in a way move Convocation to lend a manuscript for the use of
so singular and so deserving a character; how does that justify us in
sending manuscripts abroad when no such conditions exist? The most I
have ever yet heard pleaded on behalf of these foreign students was, not
that they could not afford to come to Oxford, but merely that it was
much more convenient to have a book sent out to Hungary or Russia, than
it was for the Hungarian or Russian to visit us. I dare say it was more
convenient to him, but it has already been observed that he who wishes
to use public property must and ought to submit to not a few personal
inconveniences. It would, too, be interesting to know whether, supposing
any of us possessed a very valuable book of our own, we should be ready
and willing to lend it as freely as we lend these books which are not
ours. I will answer for myself that I certainly should not, and that it
would be grossly inconsistent in me to lend University property when I
decline under precisely similar circumstances to lend my own.

4. Again, it is argued that since foreign libraries are willing to lend
to us we ought to reciprocate their liberality: we ought, it is said, to
be as liberal as France or Germany are. To the end of time men will be
the dupes of phrases and the slaves of words, yet it is a little strange
that we, who fancy ourselves in some respects raised above the mob,
should see any force in this singular perversion of language. Who does
not detect the hollow and worthless nature of that 'liberality' which
lends, not what is its own, but what is another's? In what possible
sense, except an illusory and fallacious one, can the Bodleian Curators
credit themselves with the virtue of 'liberality' when they hand over,
not their own property, not anything which they collectively set great
store on, not anything which it would grieve them deeply to lose, but
something not their own? Such liberality seems to me to be as cheap as
it is worthless; as easy as it is unreal. But, it will be objected, that
the University empowers them so to lend, and that it would be
'illiberal' in them to accept loans from others and refuse themselves to
lend. As to the powers given by the University, I have already said
something; the rest of the plea may be sufficiently answered by a single
line from Hamlet--

    "Neither a borrower nor a lender be."

Sound, wholesome advice to all, whether taken as Polonius intended it,
or as I now use it. It would be mean and shabby to borrow if you refuse
to lend, for it would be conniving at a vice which you decline to
commit. Would it not be more rational to argue that all lending out of
Bodleian books being bad, we therefore decline to benefit (if benefit it
be) by a practice which we disapprove of in principle? To argue simply,
as I have heard some do, that because foreign libraries are willing to
lend us books, _therefore_ we ought to be willing to lend them books,
is, as an argument, about as valid as it would be to say, 'My friend X
has signified his willingness to lend me his banjo, and therefore I am
bound to lend him my Erard's piano, if he asks for it': not every one
would see the force of such reasoning. If the lending of books from such
a library as the Bodleian be, as I maintain it is, bad in principle, it
can never become right because other libraries are willing to be loose
in their practice.

But suppose we look a little more closely into this alleged 'liberality'
of foreign countries, where lending in some form or other is the rule
rather than the exception. And here let it be observed that 'library'
though one word covers things as different as chalk is from cheese.
Libraries differ not merely in quantity, in the number of volumes which
they contain: they also differ enormously in quality and value. The
University Library of Göttingen some forty years ago was estimated to
contain 350,000 volumes. The Grenville Library (now part of the British
Museum) consists in round numbers of 20,000 volumes, each of which cost
on an average _two pounds, fourteen shillings_; and this small but most
choice collection would in the present day probably sell for a sum
almost sufficient to purchase the whole of the Göttingen 350,000
volumes. The Bodleian is equalled and even far surpassed in point of
numbers by other libraries, but for quality and real value there are not
in all the world a dozen that could, or by any competent person would,
be compared with it, and this fact makes all the difference when lending
is in question. You might lend and lose half the books at Göttingen, and
still be able without very much trouble or expense to replace them to
the satisfaction of that University. By losing a single half-dozen of
some of our Bodleian books, you might seriously maim and cripple a large
department; and as to replacing the half-dozen, you might just as well
try to replace the coal in our coal pits. I have seen it stated that all
the great libraries of Europe lend, except the Vatican and the British
Museum: even Mr. Panizzi, forgetting for the moment what he well knew,
says, 'In all libraries on the Continent they lend books, but here
[i.e. at the British Museum] I hope they will never lend them: it is
quite right not to lend them' (Report on British Museum, 1850, p. 230).
And even if all do lend (and all do not), it would no more follow that
they ought to do so, than it follows that no man should do right,
because all men are sinners. Why are we to follow a foreign fashion? Why
are we to follow a multitude to do evil? We are quite strong enough to
act properly, if we only had the infinitesimal amount of courage
needful. Even if it were true that every great library in Europe does a
foolish thing, why should we, with the true spirit of slavish imitation,
be equally foolish?

Amongst the libraries, which may be with more or less justice compared
with the Bodleian, are the National Library of Paris; the British
Museum; the Vatican; the Royal Library of Munich; the Imperial Library
of St. Petersburg; the Imperial Library at Vienna; the Ambrosian at
Milan. Thirty odd years ago only _two_ of these ever lent a book, and
then hardly in the sense in which any one in Oxford would understand
that phrase. At this very moment, the British Museum, the second or
third largest and finest library in the world, does not lend; the
Vatican does not lend; the Ambrosian library, great in printed books,
greater in manuscripts, does not lend; the Escurial, famed for its
Arabic manuscripts, never lends, not even within the limits of Spain;
the Municipal Library of Ravenna, a name well known to all students of
Aristophanes for its famous codex, never lends; nor does the Angelica at
Rome: and there are more libraries of which this is true. Few, however,
would believe till they have tried the experiment, how difficult it is
for a private person to get really trustworthy information as to the
practices of foreign libraries.

Again, all foreign libraries that practise lending lend under
restrictions unknown to us in Oxford. At the Bodleian there are no
written rules at all, and, as far as I know, there never have been any.
The present Librarian rightly felt that such a state of things ought
not to be allowed; he accordingly drew up a draft set of regulations; it
was at his request that the committee mentioned above, p. 26, was
appointed, and but for his sense of duty the board would possibly never
have perceived that rules were requisite. The Italian government
controls some 33 libraries, and the rules for loans fill 83 paragraphs
and 18 pages quarto. Without the special leave of the Minister of
Instruction, no government librarian in Italy can lend manuscripts,
printed books of the 15th century, very rare editions, books with
autographs of celebrated men or with important notes, books printed on
vellum, books with plates of much value, or the chief value of which
consists in the engravings, expensive works, works in many volumes,
coast surveys, maps, atlases, books finely bound or otherwise valuable,
old music. In other words, _no librarian can lend any manuscript
whatever, or any valuable printed book, without special leave_. The
restrictions on loans to foreign countries are also numerous.

The National Library of Paris, the largest in the whole world, also
lends, but never in the wild fashion sanctioned in this place. Here are
the very words of the 'Règlement,' Art. 115: 'Peuvent seuls être prêtés
dans le département des imprimés, les doubles qui ne font pas partie de
la réserve, pourvu, en outre, qu'il ne s'agisse ni de livres
particulièrement précieux, ni de dictionnaires, ni de journaux, ni de
morceaux ou partitions de musique, ni de volumes appartenant à de
grandes collections ou contenant des figures hors texte.

'Ne peuvent pas non plus être prêtés les romans, ni les pièces du
théâtre moderne, ni les ouvrages de littérature frivole. Le conservateur
apprécie en premier ressort les circonstances qui permettent ou non de
prêter un livre.'

Art. 116: 'Peuvent seuls être prêtés dans le département des manuscrits,
les volumes qui ne sont pas particulièrement précieux par leur rareté,
leur antiquité, les autographes ou les miniatures qu'ils contiennent, ou
par toute autre circonstance dont le conservateur est juge en premier

This library then _never lends anything but duplicates_, and only such
duplicates as are _not_ part of the reserve, i.e. part of the more
valuable section of the library, and not even such duplicates if they
are specially valuable.

The libraries of Germany and Switzerland have rules substantially the
same as those adopted in France and Italy; and it is the same with
Belgium when they lend at all. In the Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique,
Art. 41 of the 'Règlement' runs thus: 'Dans la section des imprimés, les
ouvrages d'un usage journalier, les livres rares, de luxe ou à figures,
les éditions du XV^e siècle, les livres sur vélin ou sur grand papier,
ceux dont les reliures sont précieuses ou remarquables, les collections
ou parties de collection considérable _ne sont jamais prêtés au

As to the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg, the Director writes under
date Dec. 11, 1886: 'la Bibliothèque Impèriale n'a pas le droit, d'après
la loi, de prêter ses manuscrits aux personnes particulières, que sur la
demande des autorités compètents, et pour les personnes hors des limites
de la Russie, que par l'entremise du ministère des affaires étrangères
avec l'autorisation de Sa Majesté. En même temps je crois devoir
ajouter, que les manuscrits les plus précieux ne sortent jamais de la
Bibliothèque, dans aucun cas, de même que les codes dont s'occupent les
savants du pays.'

It would be impossible to do in any of these foreign countries what is
done in Oxford. Expensive illustrated works are, as I have heard, had
out of the library, and are then used to illustrate lectures--a short
and easy method of bringing books to ruin.

To trust to discretion alone, whether it be the discretion of a
librarian or of a board, is to lean on a broken reed; and in most
foreign libraries that discovery has long since been made: it is high
time that we made it too, if we are foolish enough to sanction the
practice of lending.

When it is said then that _all_ great foreign libraries lend, let it
always be remembered, in the first place, that strictly speaking all do
not lend; and, in the second place, that those which lend restrict the
practice in a way never dreamt of here.

Such then are the arguments for lending: they may be stated in other
terms, and they may be indefinitely varied in shape, but when reduced to
their ultimate forms they simply come to this--that by lending books out
the utility of the library is increased, the convenience of readers is
consulted, the progress of learning is facilitated, and international
courtesy is promoted--all very good things in themselves and much to be
desired, but, as always in this world, we have to balance good with
evil, and to take that course which involves the least inconvenience on
the whole.

I confess that it rather depresses me to have to argue the question at
all, and if the _genius loci_ affected all minds as it affects mine, the
very faintest suspicion of degrading and vulgarising such an institution
as the Bodleian would be enough, and more than enough, to settle the
matter; and surely it is a degradation of that noble library to look on
it, as some seem to do, as a sort of enlarged and diversified Mudie's.
Our books may be all over Oxford, nay, all over Europe; they may be in
Germany, in France, in India, in Russia, in London, at Cambridge, and
heaven only knows where. What is all this but the first step towards
turning the Bodleian into a vast and vulgar circulating library? I must
say again, as I have said elsewhere, that the Bodleian Library is
absolutely unlike any other library in the world; it is in its way
peerless and unique; it was founded and augmented by learned men for
learned men; it was never meant for the motley crew which in the present
day crams the Camera and the Library itself. It is sad to one who can
remember what the Bodleian was even thirty years ago to see such rapid
decline, such manifest tokens of disregard for all that once rendered
the place a sacred spot. But this is to wander from my immediate
business, and what I conceive to be the abuse, I might even say the
gross abuse of the Bodleian, for which the Curators are directly
responsible, must be matter for some other paper.

It seems to be the notion of some people in this University that the
Bodleian Library is a fit place for readers of any and of every kind.
They have not knowledge enough of books or of libraries to see that a
library suitable only to scholars of a high class is not a library
adapted to learners and schoolboys.

Any one beginning microscopic work will find all, and more than all, his
wants satisfied for a long time to come by a five guinea instrument, and
he is not unlikely to damage even that. Suppose that, instead of such an
instrument, you gave him at once a two hundred pound microscope by Smith
and Beck, or Ross, what would happen? He would be utterly bewildered by
the complexity of it, utterly unable to use it as it should be used, and
he would most certainly before long so damage it as to render it useless
to all who could make a proper use of it. Between a first-rate
microscope by Ross and a three or five guinea instrument the difference
is much less than is the difference between the Bodleian and a library
fit for undergraduates, or generally for the unlearned. By introducing
undergraduates, schoolboys, and girls into such a library as the
Bodleian, you in fact degrade the library to base uses, and render it
_pro tanto_ inconvenient, to use a very mild term, to all who are fit to
benefit by it, and who were intended by the founder to have the
advantage of it.

'What my experience has taught me,' says a most learned bibliographer
(1. R. 121)[15], 'is, that it ought never to be attempted to use, as a
popular library, the large libraries intended in the first instance for
a superior class of readers;' and he adds further, that 'on every
occasion, when it has been tried, the greatest part of the riches
accumulated in the old library have been rendered useless.'

[15] Report from the Select Committee on Public Libraries, ordered by
the House of Commons to be printed 23 July, 1849, quoted by pages as 1.
R. A second volume ordered to be printed 1 August, 1850, is quoted also
by pages as 2. R. These Blue books contain an immense amount of
information on all the libraries of Europe, and although the information
is some forty years old, it is still indispensable to all who wish to
acquaint themselves with the subject. The evidence also given is of the
most varied kind, and very instructive.

If it is in any sense useful to lend books out of the library, it is far
more useful, all things considered, not to lend them.

Every man of the least intelligence can see the difference between a
library of reference and one from which books are lent. A library of
reference, or a library of deposit, is one where books are to be
perpetually preserved as carefully as may be for the convenience of
scholars and students, and for the promotion of sound and solid
learning; and lending any book from such a library is obviously
inconsistent with the very purpose for which it is founded. 'I think,'
says the Solicitor-General for Scotland, speaking of the Advocates'
Library, 'that (lending books out) is quite inconsistent with the proper
preservation of a great library' (1. R. 95).[16] And another very able
witness, Mr. Colles, one of the library committee of the Royal Dublin
Society, gives it as the result of his experience that no lending should
be allowed in such a library. 'I speak,' he says, 'against the interest
of my own family when I say this: but I think that the public use of the
library would be increased by not lending.' And again, 'The two (i. e.
libraries of reference and of circulation) ought to be separated, just
as banks of issue should be separated from banks of deposit. I wish to
be understood on this point: an individual painter or sculptor might be
greatly benefited by borrowing out a capital picture from the National
Gallery, or the Torso, Venus, or Portland Vase from the British Museum;
but such a loan would by no means benefit artists in general, or advance
the ultimate interests of painting or sculpture. This holds good equally
with regard to valuable books.' (1. R. 185.)

[16] See note [15].

This question as to the expediency of lending books out of such
libraries as the British Museum or the Bodleian has been hotly debated
both at home and abroad for the last eighty years or more, and I wish I
had space to detail the arguments that have been used, not by men
ignorant of books and eager only to consult their own convenience, or to
obtain credit for a spurious liberality; but by those who really and
truly knew all the ins and outs of the matter they were talking about,
and who were quite as anxious to promote learning as we are ourselves.
Take, for instance, the late Mr. Thomas Watts, keeper of printed books
in the British Museum, one of the very rarest of men, a librarian who
thoroughly knew his business, at all events so far as printed books were
concerned, and quite unequalled as regards all questions of organisation
and administration. He carries impartiality almost to excess, for he
says, speaking of lending, 'It would, perhaps, be expedient to examine
the subject more closely before a final determination was come to on
either side; for while the Bodleian Library is strictly non-circulating,
the books are freely lent out to the members of the University from the
University Library of Cambridge, and yet any material difference in the
condition of the two libraries to the disadvantage of that of Cambridge,
is certainly not a matter of public notoriety.' This statement appeared
in 1867, and Mr. Watts evidently did not know that lending had been
practised by the Bodleian Curators ever since 1862 (see above, p. 14);
nor was he seemingly aware of the facts detailed by Mr. Bradshaw, or of
such gross abuses as that which Mr. Bradshaw told a friend of my own. He
said that on a certain occasion a graduate had a dinner party, and that
he borrowed from the University Library certain expensive illustrated
works to be laid on the table to amuse his guests; Bradshaw was
powerless, though indignant at an act so disgraceful. Carefully however
as Mr. Watts holds the balance, it seems unquestionable that he himself
condemned the practice of lending from such libraries as the British
Museum or the Bodleian; for after writing a column or more, in which he
shows every disposition to lend books where it is possible to do so
without causing more harm than good, he considers Mr. Spedding's
proposal to lend a book wanted by a reader in London to the British
Museum library--the very thing in fact which we now are in the habit of
doing, he then says; "By this ingenious arrangement some of the
advantages proposed by the lending system would certainly be afforded,
under safeguards not now obtainable; but there would still remain the
strong objection that a reader wishing to examine a particular book
known to be in a particular library might be subjected to a
disappointment which he is now in no hazard of. This objection is
tersely stated in a passage from a letter by Niebuhr, which was quoted
by the Commissioners for examining into the University of Oxford. 'It is
lamentable,' writes Niebuhr from the University of Bonn, 'that I am here
much worse off for books than I was at Rome, where I was sure to find
whatever was in the library, because no books were lent out; here I find
that just the book which I most want is always lent out.' There are few
libraries from which books are lent of which stories are not current
respecting the abuse of the privilege, of volumes kept for years by
persons too high or too venerable to be questioned. The rules of such
institutions are often laxly observed by those from whom we should least
expect such disregard. In Walter Scott's correspondence with Southey
there is a passage in which he recommends him not to show publicly a
book which he had sent him, because it belongs to the Advocate's
Library, and it is forbidden for those books to be sent out of

The opinion then of one of the most accomplished librarians that ever
lived is, on the whole, adverse to the system of lending. I believe it
to be quite impossible for a man of his enormous knowledge of the
subject to come to any other conclusion than that at which he arrived:
the less a man knows about books and libraries, the more inclined he is
to the pernicious system of lending; the more he knows about them, the
less inclined he is to countenance anything of the kind; such at least
has been my experience.

The late Mr. Henry Bradshaw of Cambridge was a most learned librarian
and an accomplished bibliographer. He has not, so far as I am aware,
expressed in print his plain opinion of the lending system; but no one
can read his paper on the Cambridge University Library, (The University
Library, ... by Henry Bradshaw, Librarian of the University, Camb. 1881.
8vo.,) without seeing that he bitterly regretted the practice which
prevails and has long prevailed in that place. The Bodleian has a
history, a noble and honourable history: the Cambridge University
Library has none, at all events none that is not disgraceful. 'One
reason,' he says (p. 6), 'for the dearth of materials in the Library for
its own history is to be found in the circumstance that the Library is
really scattered over the whole country.' And again, 'We have often
heard of the principal benefactors to the Bodleian Library having been
induced to bequeath their own libraries to the University of Oxford from
seeing the careful way in which the bequests of their predecessors have
been housed and kept together. The coincidence at Cambridge is too
striking to be accidental, where we find that only two such bequests are
on record': this statement he subsequently corrects into 'three' instead
of two: and again, 'It is probable that by drawing attention to the fact
that none of the great collectors of the last two hundred years have
thought fit to leave their books to our University Library, we may be
pointing to a lesson which our successors may profit by, even though we
are too indifferent to pay any attention to it ourselves.'

The inference plainly to be drawn from these and other passages is that
the writer strongly disapproved of the practice which he was obliged
officially to countenance. From 1600 down to the last ten or fifteen
years the history of the Bodleian Library has been on the whole a
history of which every true scholar, and every genuine lover of books
may be proud; the history of the Cambridge Library for the
corresponding period has been an almost unbroken record of disgraceful
carelessness, and the root of all the evil has been the practice of
lending, as will be clear to any one who will take the trouble to read
Mr. Bradshaw's paper. There has been, as there always must be, where
such a practice is allowed, wholesale robbery. In 1772 the library was
inspected and 'a large number of rare books were reported to be
missing.' (p. 28.) The latest previous inspection had been in 1748, when
902 volumes were reported as missing from the old library alone ... the
loss was the result of that wholesale pillage spoken of before. It is
very singular that the very same year that the inspection shewed such
serious losses to have happened from unrestricted access, the University
should have made fresh orders (the basis of those now in use),
permitting more fully this same freedom of access. The _Cicero de
Officiis_ printed in 1465 on vellum, a Salisbury Breviary printed in
1483 on vellum (the only known copy of the first edition), the Salisbury
_Directorium Sacerdotum_ printed by Caxton (the only known copy), are
three instances out of many scores of such books which might be
mentioned as purloined during the latter half of the eighteenth century,
simply from this total disregard of all care for the preservation of the
books. Even manuscripts were lent out on ordinary tickets; and it was
seemingly only owing to the strong remonstrances of Mr. Kerrich, the
principal Librarian of the day, that a grace was passed in 1809,
requiring that no manuscript whatever should be borrowed, except with
the permission of the Senate, and on a bond given for the same to the
Librarian. "We have the ticket, but we cannot get the book back," Mr.
Kerrich says: "and to this day the book in question has never been
returned." (p. 28.) Such are the disgraceful acts of men bred at an
English University, compared with whom the common pickpocket appears
positively respectable.

Mr. Panizzi, principal Librarian of the British Museum, a man whose
knowledge of libraries and of books has rarely been equalled, was
asked, 'Are you of opinion that there should be in all countries
libraries of two sorts, namely, libraries of deposit, and libraries
devoted to general reading and the circulation of books?' answered,
'That is another question. I think the question of lending books is a
very difficult question to answer. I have enquired in all countries,
and, as far as experience goes, I find that, in spite of all the
precautions taken, of the regulations, and of everything which is done,
books disappear; they are stolen or spoiled.' (2. R. 62.) And again: 'I
do not think that lending can well be adopted without great risk of
losing books; the question is whether there might not be remedies; I
think from all experience I never found that librarians had succeeded in
preventing stealing.' He also tells a very instructive story of some
rare books stolen from the library at Wolfenbüttel, and be it noted that
Panizzi and Watts knew more of their profession than a whole army of
ordinary librarians. Let no one fancy for one moment that a congress of
librarians is necessarily a congress of men really acquainted with
either bibliography or with books; it may, perhaps, on some occasions
include one or more who answer to that description, but in general it
does not do so. 'La bibliographie,' says Richou, 'est une science exacte
qui demande une préparation assez longue et que la pratique développe.
Les bibliothécaires improvisés en ignorent jusqu'à l'existence et se
préoccupent peu de l'acquérir. Il ne faut pas chercher ailleurs la cause
de la mauvaise administration d'un grand nombre de bibliothèques
publiques, car le mal est commun.' (_Traité de l'Administration des
Bibliothèques publiques_, p. 82.)

The opinion expressed by Mr. Watts and Mr. Panizzi, and implied by Mr.
Bradshaw, is, I am convinced, the opinion of all men who are acquainted
with this question in its length, breadth, and depth.

How comes it then, some one may ask, that foreign librarians do not
speak out against the practice? Because it is not in general the habit
of foreign officials to have opinions of their own, and still less to
express them, if they have them, when such opinions are not fashionable,
or not likely to advance those who utter them: and this goes a long way
towards explaining the answers given to questions put by the English
Government nearly forty years ago to the custodians of libraries where
(though under many restrictions) lending was, and is practised. The
general tenor of the answers is that books do not suffer more than might
be expected, that losses are comparatively rare, that when loss is
suffered the books can generally be replaced, and that when they cannot
their value can almost always be recovered from the borrower. Such, I
say, is the general tenor of the answers, but few who know anything
about circulating libraries will accept such answers as satisfactory.
Before the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War the Germans printed
splendid books, and not unfrequently bound them grandly; but for the
last two hundred years few German librarians, unless trained in France
or England, have known what a really fine book is, or whether it is in
what a Frenchman would call good condition. In other words, when they
say that books lent are not much damaged, it must be always remembered
that notions of damage are relative, and most German librarians are in
all probability like an old friend of my own, who holds that no book is
in really ill condition, provided the readable part of it is still
legible: the title may be torn or gone; 'I don't want to read the
title,' says he: the covers may be broken or destroyed; 'Cannot you read
an unbound book?' he asks; and so on. There is this difference, however;
my friend does know when a book really is in good condition. Moreover,
there are, or at least there were, some foreign librarians who have
dared to tell the truth. Thus (see 2. R. 161-171), from the returns made
by eighteen libraries in Belgium, we learn that the library of Antwerp
(19,148 vols.) never lent; that no manuscripts were ever lent from that
of Bruges; that manuscripts and rare books were never lent from the
library of Malines; that valuable books were never lent from the
library of Louvain; that no manuscripts or valuable books were ever lent
from the library of Mons; and that such books and manuscripts were never
lent from any of the University libraries. Nevertheless, some lending
there was from some libraries; and it was asserted that little damage
was done the books. Very different is the answer of the Librarian of
Tournay (2. R. 163): 'Cette coutume a des inconvénients assez graves:
impossibilité pour certains lecteurs de consulter les ouvrages dont ils
ont besoin: rentré tardive des livres prêtés; perte ou détérioration des
volumes.' The Librarian of Nassau (2. R. 299), very unlike most of his
brethren, says, 'das Verleihen der Bücher asserhalb der Anstalt hat
allerdings die nachtheilige Folge dass dieselben in kurzer Zeit, im
Aussern wie im Innern stark mitgenommen werden. Die Einbände werden
verstossen und schäbig und der Druck durch Schnupfer und Raucher oft
aufs Unangenehmste beschmutzt,' with more to the same effect. Even at
the Royal Library of Berlin it is admitted that 'die Bücher und Einbände
werden dadurch mehr beschädight und verdorben' (2. R. 304); and at the
University Library, 'die Abnutzung durch die Studirenden ist sehr stark'
(2. R. 305). The answer from the University Library at Bonn is,
'Nachtheilige Folge beim Verleihen der Bücher waren troz der
sorgfältigsten Ueberwachung nicht immer zu vermeiden. Manche Bände kamen
beschmutzt auch verstümmelt zurück.' There are very similar answers from
a few other libraries both of Germany and Italy. Common sense and a
little experience will tell any one to which class of testimony credence
should be given.

As to replacing a lost or damaged book, the thing is by no means so easy
as it looks. What is common to-day may be rare a year hence, and quite
unprocurable on any terms in two years time. 'Then,' says Ignoramus, 'it
will be reprinted, and you may buy that'; but the man who talks so
wildly cannot be argued with, because he does not know the elements of
the subject of which he is speaking. Suppose you lose the 19th edition
of the _Christian Year_, you do not replace the book by purchasing the
100th edition, as all experts know. 'Buy another copy of the 19th then',
says Ignoramus; but it may be that you have to pay a very high price for
it, and it sometimes happens that you cannot get it at all. 'If you do
not get the book, you can recover its value.' Even supposing that you
can--and here in Oxford we have no machinery by which we can recover a
farthing--how is a man who wants to see a particular book benefited by
being told that he cannot see the book because it has been lent and
lost, but that the Library has received compensation? Well might Panizzi
say that the question of lending is a very difficult question; it is so
difficult that a volume would hardly contain an enumeration of all its

Consider the case of books, printed and manuscript, lent out to those on
the borrowers' list, a list, be it observed, which, according to the
lawyers, has not the least statutable warrant. In the first place, you
have not the least assurance or guarantee that any one of them knows how
to use a book without damaging it, and, as I have already said, it is an
almost uniform and invariable experience, that borrowers of books do
damage them. All book-lovers know this so well, that they make very sure
of their man before they intrust a valuable or well-bound book to him,
but we at the Bodleian do not. Pixerécourt, a great collector, was so
convinced of this fact that he inscribed over his library door these
sadly true lines--

    Tel est le triste sort de tout livre prêté
    Souvent il est perdu, toujours il est gâté.

How unfit some at least on the borrowers' list are to be intrusted with
books, how little notion they have of taking care of them, is clear from
many facts which might be mentioned. In the library itself you may see
almost any day abundant proof of the unfitness of those admitted to
enjoy the privileges which are allowed them. On May 19th, 1885, a
Curator came into my room and said, 'I was walking through the Bodleian
looking for ---- when I saw a sight which made me sick.' 'You may see
many such sights there,' said I; 'what was it?' 'I saw a bevy of women
with an illuminated MS., and they were turning over the leaves, all
looking at it.' On Friday, August 21st, 1885, I myself counted at one
desk at the Selden end _sixty-four_ volumes, all had out by one reader;
on the table was a MS. open, and on it two or three books; another was
open on the floor, and so on. On April 22nd, 1886, I saw on a desk also
at the Selden end three (I believe four) Sanscrit MSS. They were open
and kept so by books placed on them, sundry printed books also open one
on the other, and in my note written the same day I find the observation
that it was 'a miserable spectacle of untidiness and reckless disregard
for precious volumes.' It would be easy to add more, for from the first
I have kept notes of all that I see in the library, and of much that I
hear about it--this, however, is enough to show what may be expected
when people carry off books home. There no prying eye will see them, no
one is likely to come suddenly round a corner and observe their
proceedings. Things are really bad enough _in_ the library as it is; and
they are as bad or worse in the Camera, where books are most shamefully
ill-used. I have notes of some things which I have observed there, and
of a conversation which I had with a person of sharp eyes and wits. One
Curator alone can do very little; if all would, even it were only
occasionally, do what I do habitually (Tit. XX. iii. § 12, 2), it would
be far easier than it now is to put a stop to some rather serious
abuses. Let it be distinctly understood that in saying all this I do not
blame any person or persons whatever, except the readers. In the British
Museum Reading-room a man placed where the officials sit could, with a
machine-gun, comfortably pick off every reader in less than a minute,
because he could rake every desk; the Bodleian is so picturesque and so
peculiar in its construction, that Argus himself would be completely
non-plussed, if ordered to keep his eyes on the readers, for even this
highly-endowed being had not the dragon-fly power of seeing round
corners; and from the Librarian's seat you might discharge a Gatling gun
straight up 'Duke Humphrey,' with no other result than the downfall of a
little dust, and the smashing of the west window; as to hitting a
reader, you might as well try to shoot the Invisible Girl. At the Camera
there is just the same difficulty, which will hardly be overcome till
the laws of nature are reformed, and light condescends to travel in
convenient curves. The regular officials have quite enough to do, if
they attend only to their necessary work, which pins them down to one
spot, and totally precludes them from exercising (even if they possessed
it) the saintly privilege of bilocation. To come back to the point:
books are badly used in the library itself. Now I ask any man of common
sense, whether it is possible that books treated so vilely in the
library itself will be better treated in a private house?

I am not going to tell any tales, but this I may say, that before I
became a Curator I have seen Bodleian books (once a very rare book) in
strange places, and under circumstances by no means conducive to their
preservation. The thing must be so: it is as much as the most vigilant
officer can do to prevent damage being done under his very eyes, and it
stands to reason that no mercy will be shown a book as soon as it is
fairly out of the building.

Again, when a man borrows a book from the Bodleian, you have not the
least assurance that he will not in his turn lend it. This I know has
happened with one book at least belonging to another library in Oxford.
Sir Walter Scott had, perhaps, as much conscience as it is possible for
a literary man to have, yet he lends Southey a book borrowed from the
Advocates' Library (see above, p. 49) contrary to rule; and what Scott
would do, Scott's inferior in character and morals would most certainly
not scruple to do.

When a book is lent out to any one on the borrowers' list no contract
is entered into, either verbally or in writing, that the book shall be
returned at any specified time, nor in fact that it shall ever be
returned at all. Are the Curators quite sure that they have any legal
power to compel a return under such circumstances?

Unless a book is carefully collated when it is returned, it will always
be impossible to say with truth that it has been returned intact; and if
every book is to be collated on its restoration to the library, we shall
have no small increase of work, and increase of work always means, as we
well know, increased expense.

The lending of books to private houses then involves the very probable,
and in many cases the absolutely certain, damage of the book, and its
possible total loss without the least remedy, and without the slightest
recompense or penalty. A manuscript was lent to the late Professor ----,
and it is hardly necessary to say that it has never been returned, and
this is, I fancy, at least the second instance within a very few years
of total loss, for which neither the public nor the University ever
received one atom of benefit.

Even if the Bodleian were not one of the two great reference libraries
of this country, if it were merely a large and fine library of no very
great national importance, there would still be no excuse for borrowing
from it; for there is no town of its size that contains so many books as
Oxford. In every College there is a library, which is not unfrequently
full of fine books--Christ Church, All Souls', St. John's, Worcester,
Merton, Corpus, Oriel, Magdalen and Queen's are all remarkable; and if
we count in manuscripts there is hardly a single College without its
gems and rarities. Nor is there the slightest difficulty in making a
proper use of all these treasures. Any one really fit to use a College
book is always permitted to do so, nor is there in general any objection
to lending if the borrower is known to be trustworthy: the fault, if
any, is rather the other way. 'But,' says some borrower, 'the book that
I want is in no College library, and it is in the Bodleian.' Is it not
plain to every man of sense, that the book which is in no College
library, and is in the Bodleian, is just the book which ought not to be
lent, under any conceivable circumstances? Lending even from College
libraries has been the cause of innumerable losses--in fact, nothing in
Euclid is more true than the proposition, that sooner or later A BOOK

Of the losses which the library at Cambridge has sustained, something
has been said above (p. 51). All libraries, however carefully kept, are
exposed to occasional and exceptional depredations. Paulus, the
celebrated German professor, stole one manuscript at least from the
Bodleian; the thefts in German, Russian, Italian, and French libraries
are only too notorious. Are we to give additional facilities by lending
books out? Even when lent to the greatest scholars, and presumably to
careful men, books are by no means safe. Every one knows how, not so
long ago, two or more of the most ancient manuscripts of Jornandes were
destroyed while in the hands of Mommsen. Fire invaded his rooms; the
professor escaped unharmed (of course he did), but the manuscripts were
destroyed. Literature and scholarship gained nothing by this loan,
though all future generations have lost much. Had common sense been the
ruling principle of the libraries from which Mommsen obtained these
manuscripts, they would have been safe at this moment. The convenience,
perhaps the laziness, of an individual was consulted, and the world has
lost what can never be replaced.

Mr. Watts, whom I have already quoted, says in speaking of lending, 'The
testimony of Molbech, the librarian of the Royal Library of Copenhagen,
where lending is permitted, is to the effect, not only that the risk is
greater, as must of course be the case where books are removed from
supervision and control, but that in practice great damage is found to
ensue.' If we are told, as very likely we shall be told, that no such
damage occurs here, I am somewhat at a loss to answer; perhaps it will
be enough to observe that different men unavoidably have different ideas
of what constitutes damage, and that what is not always immediately
discovered may hereafter be detected when it is too late to assign the
blame to the real offender.

Under the present system of administration, for which the Curators are
responsible, the actual, and, it may be, the unavoidable wear and tear
of books in the library itself, even in the choicer portions of it, is
great enough to deter any man in the future from acting as Douce did in
the past. The way in which very precious volumes are knocked about is
plain enough to any one who visits the interior of the library as
constantly as I do, and as all Curators are by statute empowered and
even ordered to do. Readers are impatient, sometimes unreasonable;
immense numbers of books can only be reached by means of ladders; the
whole establishment is undermanned, and though the small staff does its
best to protect the books, they are notwithstanding much bumped about.
One consequence of this rough usage is that the standard of carefulness,
as it may be called, is very naturally lowered, and as a further
consequence the estimate of what constitutes damage is lowered in

There are many readers, or there certainly have been readers in the
library, who have not hesitated to make marks in printed books and
manuscripts. The man who will do such a thing as this in the library,
will not hesitate to do it when he gets the book into his own
possession. Now all avoidable wear and tear is so much real loss to the
library, and detracts in that proportion from its utility. It may be
useful to A or B to borrow books from the Bodleian, but it cannot be
useful to the University or to future generations that the life of any
book should be carelessly or needlessly abridged.

It will be admitted that no book can be in two places at the same time;
if a volume is in the rooms of Mr. X or Mr. Y, it cannot at that moment
be produced in the Bodleian should a reader happen to want it. One of
the great advantages of such a library as the Bodleian, if it were
properly administered, is that a visitor is sure to find the book which
he comes to consult. This is perfectly well understood by such men as
Mr. Watts (see above, p. 49); it was brought home to the mind of
Niebuhr, and it has been one of the reasons why all lending has up to
the present moment been most rigidly forbidden at the British Museum. In
a library like the Bodleian, where the practice of lending prevails as
it now does, a man may put himself to great inconvenience in order to
visit it; he may even travel from Berlin, and when he arrives he may
find that all his trouble has been in vain; the very book he wants is
out: at the British Museum, where up to the present time knowledge and
common sense have prevailed, every man is sure that he can at once get
any book whatever that he finds in the catalogue. It is a thousand
pities to destroy this confidence; one of the great uses of a library
like ours disappears when things are so ill managed, and I believe that
there are in the Bodleian men who could tell of some grievous
disappointments caused by our modern laxity. I know very well that we
shall be told that such cases are few and trivial: be it so. Who does
not see that as the present practice extends, as extend it must, one of
the great advantages of a grand library will at last vanish? Nothing can
be more strictly useful to all real students than the absolute certainty
of obtaining at once any book that can be found in the catalogue.

No limit seems to be placed on the borrower's powers; he may, for
anything that appears to the contrary, have any number of books or
manuscripts out. Now when we see the practice of more than one reader
_in_ the library, we may form a pretty shrewd guess of what men will do
in the way of borrowing. I am well within the mark when I say that at
least _one hundred_ volumes have been ere now allowed out to one reader
at a time.

The present Librarian has been trying, I believe, to check this morbid
appetite for superfluous volumes; but it is not always an easy thing to
root out a bad habit.

Any one who examines the slips in the various parts of the Bodleian, as
I habitually do, will be struck by two things; the immense number of
volumes had out by the same reader or readers, and the length of time
that volumes are allowed to remain off the shelves; and this is in great
measure the fault of a system for which we are answerable. What takes
place in the library will undoubtedly sooner or later take place out of
it. A borrower is not, so far as I know, limited as to the number of
volumes he may have out; neither is he limited as to the time he may
keep them out. The present Librarian informed me that when he came into
office he found that one book had been out of the library for _nine_
years, and that others had been off the shelves for very long periods of
time. And such things must happen, if you sanction this wretched system
of lending. It is perfectly easy to do what constant experience has
shown to entail on the whole the minimum of evil; it is easy to keep
your books within the library as they do at the British Museum; but if
you once lend, there is no drawing of lines possible. Altogether there
are about one hundred and eleven persons on the borrowers' list already.
It is said that the Curators can refuse any application if they choose;
of course they can, but as a matter of fact no application ever has been
refused, and every name added will make it more and more difficult, more
and more invidious to refuse any one. Every Oxford resident is
potentially on the list, and he may be actually on it whenever he likes.
What is this but the beginning, and something more than the beginning,
of that wretched system which Mr. Bradshaw speaks of above? (p. 50.) The
dissolution of our magnificent library is already insidiously begun; and
why is all this gratuitous and irreparable mischief to be done? why is
that vast storehouse intended for the use and benefit of generation
after generation of scholars to be scattered and at last destroyed?
Simply to gratify the vulgar, selfish convenience of this or that
individual regardless of the general good. The whole is to be
sacrificed for a part, and for what a part! The present Librarian has
been trying to do something to check this disastrous and ruinous
practice, but the Curators are responsible for it, not the Librarian.

Manuscripts and printed books when lent out of Oxford are as a rule not
lent to private houses but deposited in some library. What happens
abroad I do not know, though I confess to having my suspicions. If a
manuscript were lent to some one in a Cathedral town, it would be
deposited in the Cathedral library; and we comfort ourselves with the
belief that in such a place it would be secure, and that it would not on
any account be removed from that library elsewhere. An acquaintance of
my own, a very safe man, has had a Bodleian manuscript of great value
out for some years, and it is lent not to him directly, but to a library
where alone he is to use it. It may be that this arrangement is actually
carried out, and I do not know that it is not, yet I would bet five
pounds to a penny that if I went to his house I should find the Bodleian
book kicking about in his study, where, in fact, though exposed to a
thousand risks of damage and even destruction, it is really safer than
in the library where we suppose it to be. For one Cathedral library I
can answer: a book would hardly be safer there than it would be on a
public and unwatched book-stall, and such I have no doubt whatever is
the case with more than half the places to which we send books for safe
custody. There is as little conscience about books in this stupid and
wicked world as there is about umbrellas, and one of the most important
and most useful functions of a body like the Curators of the Bodleian is
to set up a high standard in such matters. It is our duty as trustees to
take lofty ground, and to be sensitive where the world is listless and
careless; and even if we do not really feel exactly as we ought, we are
bound, like Gertrude, to 'assume a virtue though we have it not'; it is
very laudable hypocrisy if the real article cannot be had. Yet I hope
that it can, and that upon consideration we may all see that the
convenience of a few is not for a moment to be compared with the
convenience of many, and that we shall awake to the fact that we, of all
people, ought not to countenance in any way whatever any practice which
may tend in the remotest degree to damage the only institution in Oxford
of which any rational being can in the present day be justly proud.

Lending of books has many more evil consequences, proximate and remote,
than I have enumerated; but there is one which at the risk of being
tedious must be mentioned. The glorious part of the Bodleian, the part
contributed by Bodley himself, by Laud, by Selden, Pembroke, Digby, Roe,
Rawlinson, &c., consists largely of gifts. Every man who knows anything
at all about books, every one who loves them, is perfectly well aware
that very few men will bequeath their libraries to an institution which
emulates the American or the English circulating and commercial
establishment. Barlow knew this, Bradshaw knew it (see above, p. 50);
every one knows it, who has the least acquaintance with the habits and
peculiarities of collectors. The Bodleian has to my certain knowledge
already lost very rare books indeed which it might have had, but for
this penny-wise and pound-foolish policy. Neither Rawlinson nor Douce
would ever have been such fools as to leave us what they did, could they
have foreseen how little sense of our duties and of our interests we
have shown. Bodley over and over again, and in the strongest terms,
forbad the lending of his books; Selden's executors only delivered his
books to us on the express condition that they never should under any
circumstances be lent; Laud stipulated that his books should not be
lent, except for one particular purpose and in one particular way. The
Bodleian is what it is, because till quite recent times we adhered to
the rule of common sense, not to say to that of common honesty, and it
is ever to be regretted that we departed from a course which was at once
safe and honourable. There will be no more Douces, no more Rawlinsons,
until we have returned to better ways and proved the sincerity of our
repentance. I have heard it maintained that the days of great
benefactors are over, that in some way not explained men's characters
and habits have changed. I cannot admit this; men are now what they
always were, and collectors in all ages are singularly alike. Only let
us be as prudent, as worldly wise, and, I will add, as honest as our
predecessors were, and there is no reason why the munificent benefactors
of the past should not be rivalled by equally munificent benefactors in
the future. Mr. Bradshaw (above, p. 50) is decidedly of opinion that
carelessness with regard to books prevents benefactions, and that care
attracts them. Barlow is of the same mind, and indeed the thing is too
obvious to be insisted on. It is only those who know little or nothing
of the feelings which actuate the real lovers of books who doubt about
such very simple facts as these.

To conclude this part of the subject; the arguments against the lending
of books out of such a library as the Bodleian may be briefly summed up
thus: lending is bad, because books are necessarily exposed to needless
and certain risks of damage and of downright loss; because one of the
great ends served by a large library is defeated, in that no man can be
certain of obtaining a book known to be in it; because lending leads
sooner or later to the destruction of a library; because it dries up the
great sources from which large numbers of the most valuable books are
derived; because it is disapproved of by all those who have the largest
and widest experience of books and their management; because, finally,
it is in violation of the express directions of Bodley, of Selden, of
Laud and others, and almost certainly contrary to the wishes of all our
great benefactors, even though they may not have said as much. Reason
and authority are equally against it; and the cause of learning and of
literature can never be permanently served by a practice which tends to
destroy that without which learning and literature alike are impossible:
whatever advantages may seem to attend it, are more than counterbalanced
by disadvantages so great, that none but those who recklessly sacrifice
the future to the present, the interests of generations yet to come, to
the selfishness of the generation that now is, can regard it with any
favour or even with common patience. We have by the sturdy honesty of
our predecessors received a vast treasure which they carefully preserved
intact; we are its guardians and trustees, and we are bound in honour
and honesty to hand on to our successors, undiminished and unimpaired,
what we have received only as a trust, not as a something which we may
spend or destroy at our pleasure. Any wilful act of ours which tends,
however remotely, to damage the Bodleian Library is not only a
scandalous breach of duty, but a crime against learning itself, in which
I for one will have no part or share.


Transcriber's Note:

The plus character (+) is used to enclose transliterated Greek.

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