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Title: On the Supply of Printed Books from the Library to the Reading Room of the British Museum
Author: Panizzi, Anthony, 1797-1879
Language: English
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  "The requisition to insert the Titles and Press-marks on the
  tickets is not merely reasonable but it is indispensible, if
  the Library is to be conducted with satisfaction to the Public
  and to the Librarians. If people will not take the trouble to
  comply with Rules, which, so far from being vexatious, are
  absolutely necessary for their own comfort, they have no right
  to complain. The fault is _theirs_, if mistakes and delay arise;
  and it is as absurd as unjust to impute the effect of their own
  ignorance or carelessness to the Officers of the Museum."

                                      SIR NICHOLAS HARRIS NICOLAS.


The publication of the annexed correspondence has been determined upon
not for the pleasure of exposing the mistakes and inconsistencies of Sir
Nicholas Harris Nicolas, but for the purpose of drawing the attention of
those who take an interest in the collection of Printed Books in the
British Museum to a most important part of its management, _viz._ the
supply of books to readers. In order to make the correspondence
intelligible, it will be necessary to explain not only the circumstances
which gave rise to it, but also the system of arrangement adopted to
secure a regular attendance upon the readers from the Library, as well
as the reasons why this system has been suggested; and it is hoped that,
when the whole system is carefully examined, it will not be found
undeserving of that support, without which it is impossible that any
scheme can be carried out.

At the risk of entering into minute and very uninteresting particulars,
well known to those who are conversant with the arrangements of a large
Library, it is requisite to state that the books in that of the British
Museum are found by certain references, Press-marks, or symbols, by
which each work is identified with the corresponding entry of its Title
in the Catalogue. The Title of a work marked in the Catalogue with, for
instance, 500 _a_, means that the work itself is in the press which is
numbered 500, and on the shelf of that press which is distinguished by
letter _a_; if the mark be 500 _a_ 2, the meaning is that the work
occupies the second place on that shelf; and if marked 500 a/6 2, that
it is the sixth article in the 2nd vol. on shelf _a_ of press 500. A
book being wanted, the shortest way by far is generally found to be
(and in the greatest number of cases it is the only one) to search the
Catalogue, find the Press-mark, and look for the book accordingly. In
1836, at my suggestion, an alteration in the then prevailing system was
adopted, which the Committee of the House of Commons on the British
Museum, then sitting, considered an improvement, and so it was
universally pronounced to be. The question put to me on the subject by
Lord Stanley, as well as my answer, are here inserted.

  "Will you state what improvement has been recently adopted in the
  New Transcript [of the Catalogue] with regard to reference?"

  "In the Catalogue of the British Museum, the one which we keep for
  the use of the Library, there are certain references given, or
  symbols, to know exactly where to find a book. In the Reading Room
  Catalogue those symbols were not put; I thought, and Mr. Baber
  thought also, that it would be an evident improvement to have in the
  Catalogue for the Reading Room, the same references as in the
  Catalogue of the Library, because the reader would have only to copy
  the title of the book as well as the reference, and instead of his
  ticket going to one of our men, who is obliged to look over the
  Catalogue inside to put the reference, the attendant would go direct
  with that ticket to the place where the book is, and carry it to the
  Reading Room immediately. It would be an economy of time for the
  readers, consequently an economy of time for our men, and
  consequently a saving of expense in the number of men. But there are
  other advantages attending this system. Often the readers come to
  ask for a book which was never printed, or which, if printed, is not
  in the Library or they write down the title as they have seen it
  elsewhere, not correctly quoted, and give it to one of the
  attendants. The attendant begins to look over all the Catalogues,
  and cannot find the book; he is afraid of being in the wrong; he
  loses a great deal of time, and the consequence is, that all the
  readers who have written correct tickets are kept waiting, by the
  fault of him who has written an incorrect one. By the new system, a
  person will be obliged to look in the Catalogue in order to put down
  the reference; he will therefore ascertain whether we have the book
  or not, and not give us useless trouble, and to the injury of other
  readers. Having given that reference, if it be wrong, it may be
  wrong because it is incorrectly put, and then we must answer for it;
  but if it be the fault of the reader, although I could find the
  book, I would, on principle, return the ticket, because all the
  other readers are inconvenienced by the carelessness of this one,
  and the returning the ticket would be the best mode of ensuring
  attention. By this means we shall save much time, and remove much of
  the inconvenience now complained of by the readers."

It was found, however, that some readers, who neglected to comply with
these rules, hindered the ready supply of books to those who did comply
with them; and when, in 1837, I succeeded Mr. Baber as Keeper of the
Printed Books Department, I thought of suggesting printed tickets or
formulæ, according to which books were to be asked for by merely filling
them up. The following is an exact specimen of these tickets:

  Press Mark.|     Title of the Work wanted.     |Size.| Place. | Date.
             |                                   |     |        |
             |                                   |     |        |
             |                                   |     |        |
             |                                   |     |        |
             |                                   |     |        |
             |                                   |     |        |
             |                                   |     |        |
             |                                   |     |        |

  (Date)                       ___________________________ (Signature).

  Please to restore each volume of the Catalogue to its place, as soon
                               as done with.

On the reverse it is as follows:


  1. Not to ask for more than _one work_ on the same ticket.

  2. To transcribe _literally_ from the Catalogues the title of the
  Work wanted.

  3. To write in a plain clear hand, in order to avoid delay and

  4. Before leaving the Room, to return the books to an attendant, and
  to obtain the corresponding ticket, the READER BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR

  N.B. Readers are, under no circumstances, to take any Book or MS.
  out of the Reading Rooms.

Can any one say that to request readers to fill up such a form
_correctly_, and to comply with these rules, is giving unnecessary
trouble? My suggestion was approved of by Sir H. Ellis,--under whose
especial control the management of the Reading Room is placed,--and who,
moreover, proposed that the same system should be adopted for MSS.;
which was done accordingly with the concurrence of Sir F. Madden, and
the sanction of the Trustees. It has continued in operation ever since
for both departments; but no attack has been made upon any one but
myself for this scheme. The improvement was all but unanimously
acknowledged to be very great; and no one rendered more justice to its
merits, to the motives which led to its adoption, and to its beneficial
results than Sir N. Harris Nicolas, who, having heard that a reader had
expressed some dissatisfaction, addressed to me the following letter:

                            "Torrington Square, 20th October, 1837.

  "Having heard to-day, with great surprise, that a Reader of the
  Library of the British Museum had expressed dissatisfaction at the
  new regulations which you have introduced for obtaining Books, I
  take the liberty of offering you the opinion of a person who has
  constantly used the Library for sixteen years, and who, perhaps, is
  not very likely to be suspected of bestowing indiscriminate or venal

  "The great object of a Public Library is _dispatch_ in procuring
  books. This can only be secured by _perspicuity_ in describing them.

  "In my humble judgment, no better mode could possibly be devised for
  immediately obtaining any particular work, than the printed tickets
  you have suggested. By specifying the Titles from the Catalogue, and
  copying from it the _Press-marks_, the applicant can at once
  identify the particular edition, or copy of an edition, which he
  requires. The importance of this to a critical student is obvious;
  and I cannot shew the utility of the _new_ system more forcibly,
  than by saying that I have often, formerly, been assured that a book
  was not in the Museum, though I had myself referred to it only a few
  days before. The requisition to insert the Titles and Press-marks on
  the tickets is not merely reasonable, but it is indispensible, if
  the Library is to be conducted with satisfaction to the Public and
  to the Librarians. If people will not take the trouble to comply
  with rules, which, so far from being vexatious, are absolutely
  necessary for their own comfort, they can have no right to complain.
  The fault is _theirs_ if mistakes or delay ensue; and it is as
  absurd, as unjust, to impute the effect of their own ignorance or
  carelessness to the Officers of the Museum.

  "The only thing I can suggest about the new tickets is, that the
  _Press-marks_ should be made more _simple_; but this is so manifest,
  and is so entirely dependant upon the re-arrangement of the Library,
  that it would be ridiculous to say another word on the subject.

  "As to _dispatch_ in procuring books. Not only does my own
  experience convince me of the great improvements which have taken
  place since your last appointment, but such is the opinion of every
  one whom I have heard speak of the Museum; and I have long had daily
  opportunities of witnessing your courtesy and earnest desire to
  render your Department as beneficial as possible to the Public. To
  point out a defect, or to suggest an improvement, is to secure your
  attention; and, as a matter of common justice, I anxiously bear
  testimony to the change which has taken place since your promotion.
  You have done wonders in a few weeks; and I pray you not to allow
  the caprice or folly of individuals to affect your exertions.

  "Believe me, with great esteem, my dear Sir, very sincerely yours,

This letter stated almost all that could be said in favour of the plan:
it seemed to express opinions maturely considered; I was therefore
unprepared to hear condemned, as unnecessary and vexatious, (_See_ No.
X.) what had been pronounced by the same writer, as not only not
vexatious, but absolutely necessary. The plea, that "he usually writes
and speaks from the impression of the moment," may as easily be alleged
in defence of his present as of his former judgment, and lead people to
trust neither. But although that letter sets forth what can be said in
favour of the plan which it praises, it touches but slightly on those
hindrances, which carelessness or malice can alike produce to defeat its
success. Any person, who, from either cause, gives wrong references, who
writes illegibly, who misdescribes a book, who misspells the name of an
author, who asks for a large number of books at the same moment, who
will not take the trouble to deliver his tickets to the proper person,
but leaves them about to be lost or mislaid, who has recourse to the
pettiest devices to create a grievance for the purpose of complaining of
it, such a person will certainly be kept occasionally waiting; and how
can it be otherwise? Yet these are the very persons who complain most,
avoiding, however, investigation, when they would be proved wrong, and
writing anonymously to newspapers, stating truly, it may be, the fact of
having been kept waiting, but taking good care to render it impossible
to prove that it was by their fault. This is not all: the endeavours
made to correct their mistakes and to decipher their handwriting, take
much time; and the delay is not unfrequently turned against the officers
and servants of the Museum, who are actually found fault with for doing
more than they are bound to do. Meanwhile, readers who have done all
that is required of them are probably kept waiting; and though they may
submit in silence to the inconvenience, they cannot help feeling
dissatisfied with what seem to be defects in the management of the

The _justice_ of the complaint which gave rise to the following
correspondence, will have been rendered more intelligible by this
preliminary information. The facts are as follows:--

On the 18th of May, Sir N. H. Nicolas asked for five works at once. Four
out of five of these works were brought to him within half an hour, as
he himself states; and on the supposition, that he, in his first letter,
had complained of delay, I, in answer, (No. II.) expressed my regret at
the occurrence. In letter No. III. Sir Nicholas says, "I did not make
any complaint respecting the _four_ books, because I am so accustomed to
such a delay, that I consider it a matter of course, though certainly
not one of necessity." I quote this passage as it affords the most
conclusive proof of the _despatch_ in obtaining books in the Reading
Rooms of the British Museum, and of the unreasonableness of such readers
as Sir N. H. Nicolas. I assert without fear of contradiction, that, in
none of the great public Libraries in the world, equal in extent to that
of the British Museum, is one single reader supplied with four out of
five works, which he asks for at once, at the rate of seven minutes and
a half each work, nor even in double that time. The very fact that Sir
N. Harris Nicolas considers such a delay a matter, "not of necessity,"
proves to what he is reduced for want of solid ground of complaint. I
expressed a regret, for which there was no occasion, for peace sake, and
because the moment I got Sir N. H. Nicolas's first letter, I suspected,
that, an article against the Museum Library in the _Spectator_ of the
day before being his, his letter was only a peg for a _querelle
d'Allemand_, which I should have been most glad to avoid. With these
feelings I wrote letter No. II.

There are in the old printed and "useful" catalogue, from which Sir N.
H. Nicolas took what he wrote on his ticket, three distinct works by the
same author, the entries of which are as follows:--

  BURCHETT (JOSIAH) Memoirs of Transactions at Sea
                      during the War with France; beginning
                      in 1688, and ending 1697.
                      8^{o} _Lond._ 1703.

  (806 _b_)/2-------Mr. Burchett's Justification on his
                      Naval-Memoirs, in answer to Reflections
                      made by Col. Lillingston,
                      or that part which relates to Cape
                      François and Port de Paix. 8^{o}
                      _Lond._ 1704.

  581 _i_-----------A Complete History of the most
                      remarkable Transactions at Sea,
                      from the earliest Accounts of Time,
                      to the conclusion of the War with
                      France, fol. _Lond._ 1720.

It appears from Sir N. H. Nicolas's first letter, that the work he
wanted was the last; and had he given a ticket somewhat as follows,
there is no doubt he would have got the book in five minutes:--

  Press Mark.|       Title of the Work wanted.     |Size. |Place. |Date.
             |                                     |      |       |
             |_Burchett (Josiah) A complete history|      |       |
    581 _i_  | of the most remarkable transactions |_fol._|_Lond._|1720.
             |            at Sea, &c._             |      |       |
             |                                     |      |       |

  (Date) _May 18th, 1846._     _N. Harris Nicolas._ (Signature)

  Please to restore each volume of the Catalogue to its place, as soon as
                               done with.

Instead of this, he gave a ticket, of which the following is a


Now the attention of those who take an interest in this matter is
particularly requested to the following details, every one of them
trifling indeed, and yet all springing from the ticket which was given,
and more than enough to show the consequences which followed from the
carelessness of its writer:--

After having sent into the Reading Room _four_ out of the five books
asked for by Sir N. H. Nicolas--which, as he states, took half an
hour--and therefore, as nearly as possible, at half-past three, the same
attendant went in search of the fifth, marked 581 _i_. He found that 581
_i_ contained only _folios_, and he did not, therefore, and very
properly, lose more of his time in looking for an octavo, which was
written for; he had lost enough by being sent to a place where what was
wanted could not be. In justice to the other readers, as well as to the
department, the ticket ought to have been at once returned to Sir N. H.
Nicolas, marked "wrong," in order that he might have corrected his own
mistakes. If a reader's mistakes are to be corrected by the attendants,
all the evils arising from the old system, as described in my evidence
before the House of Commons, are increased; for in addition to the loss
of time in finding what a reader wants, there is the previous and
additional loss caused by the error of the applicant, in directing an
attendant to look for a work where it could not be. This loss of time
proves injurious chiefly to the other readers; and it is "for their own
comfort" that readers are requested to comply with the rules, without
causing an attendant to waste the public time to discover what an
individual applicant may want, which no one can know so well as the
applicant himself.

The attendant, however, being newly appointed, and being anxious to
serve Sir N. H. Nicolas, set about trying to find what was wanted. The
first difficulty which presented itself was to make out the ticket, so
badly written as almost to defy the eye of a man unaccustomed to the
hand. A consultation was held with another attendant (and thus the loss
of time of another man added to the former) and the name _Burchett_
being made out, the Catalogue was referred to, and the three entries
found as already transcribed. The ticket, let it be remembered,
contained only the words "Burchett's History of Transactions at Sea,
8^{o}. fvr 1704," without saying for what period. The first of the three
entries began with the words "Memoirs of Transactions at Sea," and
related to an 8vo. printed at London in 1703; _Memoirs_ and _History_
are not the same words; yet, as a mistake had occurred, might this not
be the book, the date, 1703, being so near to 1704? The second entry was
to be sure, of an 8vo. printed at London, in 1704; but then it was not a
History of Transactions at Sea; the third entry, besides being a History
not of Transactions at Sea, like the _Memoirs_, but only of the most
remarkable ones, was a folio, not an 8vo. and printed in 1720, not 1704:
It stood, however, in 581 _i_. In doubt which was the book wanted, the
attendant not unnaturally supposed it might be the first; but then the
entry had no Press-mark which could enable him to ascertain the fact by
looking at the book itself: this led him to make a third attendant
likewise lose some time to examine into the circumstances; who, knowing
more of the Library, (having been longer in it) perceived that this
entry was unmarked, because the volume to which it referred had been
sold as duplicate of one in the Royal Library, where the preserved copy
would be found. The first attendant then transferred the ticket to a
fourth well acquainted with the Royal Collection; and this fourth
attendant, after all proper enquiries, came to the correct conclusion,
that the "Memoirs" were not wanted; but, as he could not say which work
was, he returned the ticket to the attendant from whom he had received
it. Now there was yet a chance of making out the meaning of the writer
of that ticket, and that was to examine the identical copy of the volume
of the Catalogue kept in the Reading Room, from which the ticket ought
to have been copied, and to see whether all this trouble was caused by
an error in it, which might have misled Sir N. H. Nicolas. To ascertain
this the attendant went to examine that volume, but with no better
result, and he was still unable to discover where the error lay.

Whilst all this was going on, Sir N. H. Nicolas complained once and only
once to Scott the attendant, who did not tell him that he had corrected
a wrong Press-mark given for the book, as stated, nor that "he had often
applied for it." To Mr. Grabham and to Scott Sir N. H. Nicolas pointed
out in the Catalogue the book he wanted. Scott went into the Library,
found the attendant, assisted by another, still endeavouring to discover
the book, and on the entry being pointed out by Scott, as it had been to
him by Sir Nicholas, the attendant went with the Catalogue in his hand
to show to this gentleman whence the delay arose, and to express _his
great sorrow_ that Sir Nicholas should have been kept waiting: He,
moreover, told Sir Nicholas that he should now have the book in five
minutes. Sir N. H. Nicolas did not, however, seem satisfied, and allowed
the attendant to have the additional trouble of finding the book in a
hurry; yet, as soon as he had heard that it would be forthcoming in five
minutes, Sir Nicholas _left the room_, without waiting the few minutes
requisite to find it, and went away; most fortunately leaving behind him
the ticket, which enables me to show the real state of the case. And he
complains of having been kept waiting an hour and a half for one book!
The fact is, he was kept waiting one hour--for during the first half
hour he had got four other books--and who can wonder at it? And who has
more right to complain, the reader of the officers, or the officers of
the reader? The only reader who had a right to complain, _but who did
not_, although he considered the delay _unusual_, was Mr. Fairholt, who
wanted to look at a work merely to correct a proof sheet which he had
brought with him, and who had asked for it very correctly, but who could
not obtain it for more than half an hour, whilst the time of six persons
was more or less wasted on Sir N. Harris Nicolas, who complains of the
attendant, after not only a good explanation but a respectful apology,
and who, moreover, ventures to assert in his Correspondence (See Letter
No. X) that I justify the attendant "in refusing the book," whereas
nothing can be clearer than that the attendants, one and all, far from
refusing any book, did all they could, and more than they were bound, to
find it, and that Sir Nicholas was fully aware of this, when he wrote
that letter.

If any one among those who act under my direction, fails in his duty, I
never shall hesitate in taking proper notice of it; but I will never
allow any of them, whatever be his station, to be unjustly accused
without defending him. When I answered Sir N. Harris Nicolas's first
letter, I very briefly stated only such facts as proved the injustice of
his accusation, without giving any opinion whatever: the reasons for my
moderation have been given. This moderation did not avail me much. Sir
N. H. Nicolas was not only dissatisfied with my letter, but, in his
reply, (No. III.) he shifted his ground, and complained of "the
difficulties and delay arising from the present regulations, and the
state of the Catalogues." If the difficulties and delay arise from the
regulations, then his complaint of neglect against the attendant was a
most ungenerous proceeding; and if he thought this complaint well
grounded, he would not complain of the system. As he talked of the
attention of the Trustees being called to this subject, I begged of him
(No. IV. and V.) to prove what he had asserted--the truth of the
habitual delay, and its cause. He declined the offer (which a man,
convinced of the veracity of his statements, would have willingly
accepted) and wrote in a much lower tone. (No. VI.) I again called on
him to specify his charges, (No. VII.) and told him that his
unfavourable opinions must be "of a _recent_ date." He denied this,
carefully avoiding entering into any particulars, but went on with
generalities, (No. VIII.) except as to "Press-marks, &c." which he
declared to be the source of delay. In answer to this _recent_
accusation, I employed the very arguments and words which he himself had
long before used in praise of this very system and arrangement. (No.
IX.) His own words and arguments made him still more dissatisfied, and
he vehemently condemned them. (No. X.) Upon which I sent him, enclosed
in No. XI. a copy of his own letter of the 20th of October, 1837; and,
as he had been taunting me with what he had printed and meant to print
against me, I called on him to print along with it this letter. This he
declined to do, (No. XII.) though, in the _Spectator_ of the 30th of
May, he continued his attacks--not without some awkwardness, however,
now that he knew the proof I had of what he had so indignantly denied,
the _recent_ date of his unfavourable opinions.

In the course of the Correspondence, Sir N. H. Nicolas endeavoured to
drag me into a controversy about Catalogues, and a variety of other
points connected with the Library. I did not feel disposed to enter into
a profitless discussion with such an adversary. In the _Spectator_, too,
he has indulged in making assertions, and passing sentence on every
thing which he assumes that I have ever done, or now do. I shall not
defend myself, except before a competent judge. Whenever an inquiry,
which I have courted, (Letters No. IV. and V.) and still court, and from
which Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas has shrunk, and will shrink, shall
take place, either before the Trustees, or before any "higher authority"
whatever, I will prove, what I stated in my Letter No. XI., that no
reliance can be placed on his opinions and assertions. I shall take no
further notice, either of anything that Sir N. Harris Nicolas may say,
or of any anonymous attack whatsoever.
                                                             A. PANIZZI.
    _June 5th, 1846_.


No. I. _Sir N. H. Nicolas to Mr. Panizzi._

                                       Torrington Square, 18th May, 1846.

  I beg leave to acquaint you with what occurred to me to-day in the
  Reading Room of the British Museum, thinking it a proper subject of

  At a few minutes after three o'clock, I wrote, according to the present
  forms, for _five_ books. After half an hour four of them were brought
  me. The fifth, viz. "Burchett's complete History of Transactions at
  Sea," not having appeared, I spoke twice to Mr. Scott, who assured me
  that he had often applied for it, and that on his last application he
  was told that I had given a wrong Press-mark, which he had corrected. I
  denied that I had given a wrong Press-mark. At _half-past four_ I again
  asked for the book; and a strong observation having caused the gentleman
  who succeeded Mr. Cates to attend to the matter, he ascertained that I
  had given both the Title and the Press-mark _correctly_. A person then
  came to me from the Library. His first excuse was, that though the
  Press-mark and the Title were correctly given, I had erroneously quoted
  the date! This was true; but I submit that when a Press-mark, and a
  Title are correctly stated, the book ought to be forthcoming; or, at all
  events, that some explanation should be afforded _before an hour and a
  half_. I told him so; and his excuse then was, that _he_ had _only_ had
  my ticket _half an hour_, and that he had sent me FOUR books! How far
  this may be a justification it is for you to judge; and I leave the
  facts without comment for your consideration,

                              I remain, &c.

  I ought to add, that the person's manner was _not_ disrespectful.

No. II. _Mr. Panizzi to Sir N. H. Nicolas._

                                         British Museum, May 19th, 1846.

  I hasten to answer your letter of yesterday's date, which I have this
  moment received.

  With reference to the delay of which you complain in the delivery of
  four out of five of the works you asked, it is now impossible for me to
  find on whom the fault rests. Had you informed me of the delay at the
  moment, I might have been more successful. The attendant who sent those
  four works to the Reading Room has not been here long; and may,
  therefore, have been less prompt in finding them than a more experienced
  hand might have been, and I regret it.

  As to the fifth book, it appears from your letter that you required a
  folio printed at London in 1720. You have, however, given on the ticket
  the size as 8vo. the place as "fvr," which, may be, is meant for London,
  and the date 1704. There is in the catalogue a work of Burchett
  different from the one you wanted, and immediately preceding it, "8vo.
  Lond. 1704." You mistook this part of the entry of what you did _not_
  want, and applied it to what you did.

  Should you not deem this answer satisfactory, I will thank you by your
  informing me of it, that I may lay your complaint before the Trustees.

                              Believe me, &c.

No. III. _Sir N. H. Nicolas to Mr. Panizzi._

                                      Torrington Square, 19th May, 1846.

  In reply to your letter I beg leave to say, that your explanation is
  wholly unsatisfactory to me.

  I did not make any complaint respecting the _four_ books, because I am
  so accustomed to such a delay, that I consider it a matter of course,
  though certainly not one of necessity.

  With respect to the _fifth_ book, I am of opinion that the _title only_
  ought to be--as it would have been in the time of your
  predecessors--sufficient. I did however give, and correctly, the
  _Press-mark_, and there is no other book in the English language with
  that title. It is idle to pretend that, because a mistake was made as to
  its size and date, which, in the instance of a work of which there is
  only _one_ edition, cannot be necessary, and ought not to be required,
  there was any difficulty in finding the volume.

  If there had really been any doubt as to the work I required, why was
  not the question asked me, or _both_ books brought? whereas no notice
  whatever was taken of my application for _an hour and a half_, and then
  only because I insisted upon its being attended to.

  You seem to think that I should have informed you of the delay in
  bringing the _four_ books. I rejoice that I did not waste my time in
  such a manner; for now, when I do complain of a flagrant act of neglect,
  you think fit to justify it, by imputing it to myself, in not having
  given correctly that which ought not to be required. My next complaint
  shall be to the Trustees themselves.

  I pray of you to use your own discretion about submitting this
  correspondence to the Trustees. It is the less material to me whether
  you do or do not do so, inasmuch as I am perfectly sure that their
  attention must very shortly be called by the Public or by the Government
  to the difficulties and delay, arising from the present regulations and
  the state of the Catalogues, in obtaining printed books.

                              Believe me, &c.

No. IV. _Mr. Panizzi to Sir N. H. Nicolas._

                                                         May 20th, 1846.

  Your letter of the 19th, as well as my answer and your reply of
  yesterday, shall be laid before the Trustees.

  No one will rejoice more than myself at a thorough investigation of any
  part of my conduct, brought on by avowed and specific complaints in an
  open and straightforward manner.

                              Believe me, &c.

No. V. _The same to the same._

                                                         May 22nd, 1846.

  The Trustees meet to-morrow (Saturday, May 23rd) at one o'clock, p.m.
  Our correspondence shall be submitted to them, simply with a request on
  my part that they be pleased to inquire into all the circumstances to
  which it refers. I shall consider it a favour if you will bring before
  them all the charges you have to make against me, and be ready to
  substantiate them.

                              Believe me, &c.

No. VI. _Sir N. H. Nicolas to Mr. Panizzi._

                                      Torrington Square, May 22nd, 1846.

  When my letters to you (including, if you please, the present one) are
  submitted to the Trustees, they will learn that in my opinion a great
  change is necessary in the regulations of the Reading Room, and I beg
  leave to assure you that I am perfectly ready to avow and maintain to
  the Trustees everything which I may have at any time, or in any place
  said or written on the subject, should they think proper to ask me to do

  It may assuredly be permitted to me, as one of the Public, to complain
  to the Head of any department of neglect in that department, and even to
  consider (as I most certainly do with respect to yours) that many of its
  proceedings, however well intended, are detrimental to the Public, and
  require to be altered, without being told that I am "bringing charges"
  against you, which I am invited to "substantiate," as if I were accusing
  you of misconduct.

                              Believe me, &c.

No. VII. _Mr. Panizzi to Sir N. H. Nicolas._

                                                         May 23rd, 1846.

  Notwithstanding the concluding part of your letter of yesterday, which
  shall be submitted to the Trustees with the rest of our correspondence,
  I think that to find fault with my Department implies a charge against
  myself; still more so, as in your second letter you began by
  declaring--that my first was, "wholly unsatisfactory,"--that in the time
  of my predecessors things were better managed, by their requiring only
  the Title of the books wanted by readers, and no Press-mark,--that "your
  next complaint" should be to the Trustees themselves; and concluded by
  stating that their attention "must shortly be called by the Public, or
  by Government, to the difficulties and delay arising from the present
  regulations and state of the catalogues, in obtaining printed books."

  These are certainly charges, and I naturally expected you would do me
  the favour to bring them before the Trustees, so that I might have an
  opportunity of proving them groundless.

  I am glad that you now give me credit for good intentions; but as you
  still consider that "many of my proceedings are detrimental to the
  Public, and require to be altered," I shall feel obliged by your
  informing me what are the proceedings to which you allude: I presume
  that your unfavourable opinion of them is of a _recent_ date.

                              Believe me, &c.

No. VIII. _Sir N. H. Nicolas to Mr. Panizzi._

                                        Torrington Square, 24 May, 1846.

  I am favoured with your letter of yesterday. As you have referred our
  correspondence to the Trustees, and as my letters advert to those
  arrangements in your Department, which I consider detrimental to the
  Public, it is possible that I may be requested by the Trustees to state
  my objections more fully, when you will have an opportunity of answering
  them. If, however, the Trustees do not do so, you may be assured that
  you shall have ample information on the subject.

  To enter into a personal discussion with a gentleman who is so perfectly
  satisfied of the propriety of his own measures, as to invite it, only
  that he may prove my objections to them "groundless;" and who, when
  complained to of a flagrant act of neglect in his Department, thought
  proper to justify it,--would manifestly be an utter waste of time. There
  must be an appeal to a higher authority: and which is the more necessary
  because you may not be answerable for all, though you certainly are for
  much, of what seems to be improper in your Department.

  You are mistaken in supposing that my unfavourable opinion on those
  points is of a "_recent_ date." My sentiments respecting "Press-marks,"
  &c. have long been entertained and expressed. I have also long thought
  that the delay in completing the catalogue was unjustifiable; but not
  having carefully examined its plan until a few weeks ago, or been
  acquainted with your last reports, I was not aware of its imperfections
  until lately.

  It is candid to acquaint you that the opinions which I entertain about
  "Press-marks," and the delay in obtaining printed books are shared by
  every literary man to whom I have spoken; that no one can account for
  the delay in completing the catalogue; and that none approve of its
  plan. The general feeling appears to be similar to my own,--namely, that
  the effect of the system you have introduced is to keep all the
  _working_ part of literary men out of the Library until they are
  _actually compelled to refer to it_.

  You must admit that this question is one of deep interest to literature:
  and as I do not imagine that you _desire_ or _intend_ to produce such
  results, I may, without any personal offence, presume to think that you
  have made some serious mistakes.

                              Believe me, &c.

No. IX. _Mr. Panizzi to Sir N. H. Nicolas._

                                         British Museum, May 25th, 1846.

  I have to acknowledge your letter of yesterday, and as, do what I may, I
  cannot prevail upon you to reduce to a definite and tangible shape the
  vague and serious charges which you have volunteered against me, I must
  have patience, and wait till you bring them before the "higher
  authority" of which you speak; when, as you foresee, I may show that I
  am "not answerable for all," though you, with characteristic fairness,
  have begun by supposing that I was.

  The only one of your charges, about which you venture to come to
  something like particulars,--that relating to the Press-marks, &c.--I
  cannot avoid showing to be utterly "groundless;" and I am confident that
  you will agree with me in spite of your unfavourable opinion, which I
  persist in thinking "of a recent date."

  "The great object of a Public library is despatch in procuring books.
  This can only be secured by _perspicuity_ in describing them. In my
  humble judgment no better mode could possibly be devised for obtaining
  any particular work than the printed tickets which I suggested in 1837,
  and which are now in use. By specifying the Titles from the Catalogue,
  and copying from it the _Press-marks_, the applicant can at once
  identify the particular edition or copy of an edition which he requires.
  The importance of this to a critical student is obvious; and I cannot
  show the utility of the new system more forcibly than by appealing to
  your own experience, which will bear me out in saying that readers have
  often--before the introduction of those tickets--been assured that a
  book was not in the Museum, though they had themselves referred to it
  only a few days before. The requisition to insert the Titles and
  Press-marks on the tickets is not merely reasonable, but it is
  indispensible, if the Library is to be conducted with satisfaction to
  the Public and to the Librarians. If people will not take the trouble to
  comply with rules, which, so far from being vexatious, are absolutely
  necessary for their own comfort, they can have no right to complain. The
  fault is _theirs_, if mistakes or delay ensue; and it is as absurd as it
  is unjust to impute the effect of their own ignorance or carelessness to
  the Officers of the Museum."[A]

  I thank you for your candour in acquainting me, "that the opinion which
  you entertain about Press-marks and the delay in obtaining printed books
  is shared by every literary man to whom you have spoken." To be as
  candid with you, I beg to say that the experience of every one who has
  been heard speak of the Museum has convinced him of the great
  improvements which have taken place since my last appointment. I now beg
  that you will do me the favour to give me your authority for your
  assertion; I shall be most happy to give you mine, for one so directly
  at variance with yours. I am, &c.

No. X. _Sir N. H. Nicolas to Mr. Panizzi._

                                      Torrington Square, 26th May, 1846.

  The sooner a correspondence with a gentleman who will not understand
  what would be perfectly intelligible to every body else, who perverts
  the obvious meaning of courteous expressions, who affects to disbelieve
  a distinct assurance, and who ventures to accuse another of
  "unfairness," adding that it is "characteristic," is concluded, the

  All which I have yet said of your proceedings as Keeper of the Printed
  Books, is, as I have no doubt you are aware, before the Public; and I
  only wait until my comments are finished to send you a copy of them
  "_from the Author_." You will find that in my opinion,

    1. You have introduced regulations into the Library which are
      vexatious and unnecessary, and impede research by preventing
      literary men from consulting the Books with facility and comfort.

    2. That the new Catalogue is improperly delayed; and that its plan
      is injudicious, if not impracticable, and therefore that the money
      spent on its compilation is wasted.

  With respect to "_Press-marks_" my objection is, as you cannot but know,
  not to their being inserted in the Catalogue, to be used if a Reader
  desires to identify a particular copy of a book, but _to your insisting,
  as a sine quâ non_ to the delivery of any book whatever,--no matter how
  well known it may be--that the applicant shall refer to the Catalogue,
  _and fill up five columns_ "LITERALLY," including the "Press-mark." I
  say this is vexatious and unnecessary. In one hundred out of one hundred
  and five cases, the Title itself, written from memory, ought to be, as
  (I repeat it) it was in the time of your predecessors, sufficient. If a
  particular edition is wanted, the applicant will not fail to specify it.
  If he has a doubt as to the title or edition, he will then refer to the
  Catalogue. But in my case, when I had copied both the Title and the
  Press-mark, I could not obtain the book, and you justify the neglect.

  I entirely deny that your system causes a quicker delivery of books. On
  the contrary, I declare from experience that the delay is now much
  greater than it was before you introduced your scheme. A Reader is
  still, sometimes, told that a book is not in the Library, though he may
  have used it only a few days before. Perhaps you may not have forgotten
  the Index to the Despatches of the Duke of Wellington, which you
  insisted with "characteristic" gentleness, was not in the Library,
  though I over and over again told you I had had it in my hands within a
  week.--I persisted, and the book was brought to me in ten minutes after
  your vehement assurances that it was not in the Museum! So much for the
  working of your system.[B]

  You say the fault in these cases is the applicant's, for not complying
  with all your regulations; and you coolly talk of their imputing "the
  effect of their own ignorance or carelessness to the Officers of the
  Museum." I answer, that the Officers of the Museum have no right to
  impose regulations which are vexatious and unnecessary; which give
  useless trouble, and cause great loss of time. The applicants may almost
  as reasonably be expected to copy the whole of the first and last pages
  of books, as what you require; and because an _unimportant_ mistake is
  made as to the date and size of a book, of which there is only one
  edition, and no similar Title in the English language, the salaried
  Officer of the Institution refuses, or rather justifies his subordinate
  in refusing the book, and thinks it decorous and proper to taunt him
  with "ignorance or carelessness."

  There is nothing so attractive in this controversy as to induce me to
  bring others into it; and if you do not choose to believe my assertion,
  I cannot help it. I have not presumed to doubt anything you have said,
  nor to impute improper motives to your conduct. But courtesy is a matter
  of feeling, and I have no right to expect you to imitate me.

  I must again say, that the matters under discussion can only be settled
  by a higher authority than yours. _You_ have brought the subject before
  the Trustees,--_I_ have, as I usually do on subjects which concern the
  Public, laid the facts before the Public. You can vindicate your
  proceedings either to the Trustees or to the Public. I avow and maintain
  all I have, and all I may yet say; but I decidedly decline to continue
  this correspondence, because I am sure it can lead to no desirable
  result, and for the other reasons which I have assigned. I consider the
  subject one of a _Public Nature_, and regret to perceive that you are
  angry; for, until your last letter, I had determined to avoid making any
  _personal remark_ likely to displease you.

                              Believe me, &c.

I can have no sort of objection to your laying this and my last letter,
together with the communication which you will receive from me on Monday
next, before the Trustees, if you see fit.

No. XI. _Mr. Panizzi to Sir N. H. Nicolas._

                                                         May 27th, 1846.

  I am surprised to find that the expressions which displease you most in
  my letter of the 26th instant, are those which I transcribed _verbatim_
  from one which you volunteered to write to me in 1837,[C] and of which I
  enclose a copy. You _then_ warmly approved of those very arrangements
  which you _now_ so violently condemn.

  I call upon you to publish the enclosed along with the observations
  which you are to send me on Monday next, in order that all unprejudiced
  and sincere persons may judge what reliance is to be placed on the
  opinions and assertions of a man endowed with so flexible a judgment,
  and so treacherous a memory.

                              I am, &c.

No. XII. _Sir N. H. Nicolas to Mr. Panizzi._

                                        Torrington Square, 26 May, 1846.

  Your communication of this day induces me, most reluctantly, to add one
  more letter to our correspondence. It is proper that I should advert to
  my letter of the 20th of October, 1837, of which you have made so candid
  and gentlemanly, and, if I condescended to imitate your style, I might
  say, so "_characteristic_" a use.

  The production of that letter gives me neither surprise nor concern. I
  usually write and speak from the impression of the moment, and must
  expect occasionally, especially after an interval of nearly nine years,
  to find some inconsistencies in my opinions. In this case, however, the
  inconsistency is more apparent than real; but, be it great or small, you
  are welcome to any use you can make of it.

  The facts, as you well know, were these: In 1837 it seems that I was not
  satisfied with the management of the Reading Room, as the time in
  obtaining printed books was greater than it had formerly been. You
  succeeded to the Department, and introduced the Rules which have in
  practice proved inconvenient, but which were supposed to do much, within
  the first few weeks after your appointment, to remedy the evil. It seems
  also that you made other improvements, and that the changes elicited my
  praise. Experience has, however, proved that I was mistaken; and I have
  long since seen my mistake. So long as the apparent effect lasted, it
  appeared to justify the apparent cause. It was better to give ten
  minutes to the Catalogue, than to wait three, not to say six times as
  long (as I have often done of late) for a book. The additional trouble,
  however, remains, without the advantage which alone justified its
  imposition. It is really too much to oblige Readers to waste their time
  over the Catalogue, and to revert to worse than the old delays. So long
  as your plan worked well, I approved of it. For some years past it has
  worked ill, and I have condemned it. You wisely tried an experiment, but
  you unwisely continue the plan, though it has failed. I have no
  reluctance to avow a change in my opinions, whenever it has been
  produced by a change in the circumstances on which it was formed; but I
  have no respect for mulish obstinacy, or bigotted self sufficiency.

  You may be sure that if a convenient opportunity be afforded me for
  printing my letter to you of October, 1837, it shall, after collation
  with the original, be published. But I will not separate it from this
  correspondence. The English Public would learn with astonishment the
  manner in which, by a series of _unmarked_ quotations, a generous letter
  may be perverted to ungenerous purposes.

                              I am, &c.

  P. S. Should you possess any letter from me commending the _plan_ of the
  _Catalogue_, I should be very happy to add it to our recent

                                                                N. H. N.

  TOOKS COURT, 1846.


[A] The passages marked with inverted commas in praise of what Sir N. H.
Nicolas now condemns, are, _mutatis mutandis_, from his own letter of
the 20th of October, 1837, inserted above, p. 5. They were not so marked
in my original letter of the 25th of May. Sir Nicholas complains of this
in the following words: "The English Public would learn with
astonishment, the manner in which, by a series of _unmarked_ quotations,
a generous letter may be perverted to ungenerous purposes." The purpose
for which I used his letter, was my own defence against his
attacks,--his own former words being the most triumphant answer to his
_recent_ opinions; and I do not see why I should be found fault with,
because I have shown that Sir Nicholas unsays _now_ what he has formerly
said, though he denied having said it. Does he mean to avow at last,
that he has ventured to attack me _recently_, because he had forgotten,
_not_ his former opinions, (opinions so strongly entertained are _not_
forgotten) but his having expressed them?
                                                                   A. P.

[B] It seems--from the impression which others have of this occurrence
which I have totally forgotten,--that Sir N. H. Nicolas could not obtain
the Index, because it was not entered in the Catalogue; whence I
concluded that it was not in the Library. If all this be true, it only
proves _an error in the Catalogue_; but it has nothing to do with the
working of the system, as Sir N. H. Nicolas must know as well as I do.

                                                                   A. P.

[C] This letter has been inserted above, page 7.

       *       *       *       *       *


  Text in italics is surrounded with underscores: _italics_.

  Inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation have been retained from
    the original.

  Punctuation errors have been corrected without note.

  Superscripted characters are indicated by a carat character with the
    superscripted characters in curly braces: 8^{o}.

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