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Catalogue of Printed Books.


circumspectlie: and shal recognize the same manie tymes wyth al dylygence. Item, he shal make them presentlie; so that no • man be hyndered to haue the same, ne doe tarye therfor.' This is not only a compendious, but also a full and accurate account of the undertaking which the trustees attempted in the first instance. In 1838, it was resolved that the full catalogue, on which much labour had been already expended, should be printed forthwith; that is to say, that as soon as a part of letter A. could be got ready, the printing of it should proceed while the rest of that very letter was in preparation, and so on. This unfortunate determination, the fruit of a praiseworthy desire to give all possible satisfaction to the literary world, was taken in opposition to the earnest advice of Mr. Panizzi, to whom its execution was entrusted, and who had in 1837 been promoted, after six years' experience in a subordinate post, to the office of Keeper of the Printed Books: and the first volume, containing letter A. was actually published in 1841. The printing was afterwards suspended, a proceeding approved of by the trustees early in 1846, from the mere impossibility of the mode of proceeding above described; and the dissatisfaction of a portion of the literary public at this step, augmented by various misconceptions, bad a large share in producing the Royal Commission.

Having brought Mr. Panizzi upon the ground, we must needs describe the very remarkable position in which he stands. For many years he has been held up to the English public as a kind of Italian ogre, placed in the library of the Museum to maintain foreign refinements against · English common sense. His opponents, than whom no men were ever more certain of complete victory, now feel, as we may almost collect from their own admissions, that they have been met by a power of knowledge on which they did not calculate. Year after year has a portion of the press made him the object of personal attack, attributing to him alone all of which they thought there was ground to complain, and imputing to him all the craft and subtlety which the English common nonsense awards to his countrymen in the mass. At one time he is the favourite of the trustees, at another his excessive cleverness and astuteness make them his dupes: the very witnesses who give their evidence in favour of his views, are primed and let off by him; he is everywhere and everything. No sooner does the Commission report in his favour, than its members become either his friends or his pupils, and their report a job of his own; even Mr. Hume cannot resist him. IIe is not only a magician himself, but he makes magicians of the Commissioners, whose court resembles that of the Lord High Steward, because (we are repeating a mixture of


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allusions actually employed) the noble Prospero in the chair, breaks his staff at the close of the proceedings. In short, Signor Panizzi is described as an Italian Napoleon of librarians, the worker of feats so numerous and wonderful that Archbishop Whateley might easily prove he never existed. While we were doubting whether such a phrase did not exaggerate the feeling of our contemporaries, we actually found it in one of them. He has his marshals too, giant bibliographers like himself, moulded and disciplined to his own notions, formidable in everything but that they possess homely vernacular names, unfit to raise terror in English ears. The plain truth is that Mr. Panizzi is simply a very efficient public officer, who, besides his qualifications as a man of letters, has learned by experience, and special study of the subject, how to preserve, augment, and catalogue a library. He has been hardly dealt with by those who have used the letters that spell his name as significative of all they oppose, without the least attention to the fact that such a paranomasia is not fair to' the man whose signature is thus appropriated. But the day of redress is come: and the English public, which will not readily believe that twelve such names * as are appended to the Report of the Commission are united against evidence in the defence of a train of unworthy proceedings, will read the following sentencest of the Report with confidence in the opinion arrived at.

This desire [that of avoiding delay), creditable in itself to the Trustees, it was, which, in our opinion, led them to attempt the accomplishment of two purposes practically and utterly irreconcilable with each other — the construction of a catalogue alphabetical, ample, and accurate, and its publication in successive parts during the progress of its preparation in MSS. In the pursuit of the first of these objects . . . . they adopted a plan which appears to have been originally suggested, when the Catalogue of 1819 was under discussion, on the high authority of the late Mr. Heber. This plan received, through a long series of meetings and discussions, the

* Lords Ellesmere, Seymour, Canning, and Wrottesley, Sir P. Egerton, Sir C. Lemon, Sir R. Murchison, the Lord Advocate, J. Hume, S. Rogers, R. M. Milnes, J. G. S. Lefevre.

† The trustees of the Museum referred this report to the consideration of a committee of their own body, who reported upon the

suggestions and observations' of the Royal Commissioners on May 20. 1850. This report on the report rather lightens our labour by dismissing all we are here concerned with in one sentence, as follows, 'In respect to the Catalogue, the opinion of the Commission. .ers agrees so nearly with that of the Board of Trustees, that your • Committee think it unnecessary to enter into any detailed discussion.' We confess ourselves puzzled: does this apply to the suggestions only, or does it include the observations ?


Catalogue of Printed Books: The Report.


deliberate sanction and careful revision of the Trustees. It was kept under their notice through successive stages of its development by constant reports from those employed in its execution, and especially by discussions on the rules, which, at first comparatively few in number as devised by Mr. Baber, gradually swelled in bulk, as various difficulties and doubtful cases suggested themselves, till they were digested into the existing code under ninety-one distinct heads, published in the printed volume, letter A. The Trustees, in this matter of the rules for compilation, evidently did not consider it consistent with their duty, to leave the subject in the hands of their officers. .... We must fairly confess that our inquiries, especially into the whole subject of the Catalogue, lead us to doubt whether there is not some hazard in the practice of interfering in the details of the library on the part of a Board, even so constituted as that of the Trustees. .... Be this as it may, the fact of their constant supervision and frequent authoritative interference is not unimportant as bearing on a question of justice to an individual officer of the Museum, Mr. Panizzi. We have had occasion, in the course of our inquiry, to ascertain the prevalence among many persons of an impression which attributes to that gentleman not only the adoption of a plan for a catalogue of which those parties, on various grounds presently to be noticed, disapprove, but also the delay of which they complain in the execution of the plan so adopted. It becomes our incidental duty to do him justice in these particulars. From what we have already stated it will appear that, with respect to the system and form of the catalogue, whatever be its defects, Mr. Panizzi can be charged with nothing further than the constant approval and acceptance of one leading principle, that of fulness and accuracy, suggested on high authority, adopted by an able superior and predecessor in office, indicated by the statutes of the Museum, and enforced by the deliberate sanction of the Trustees and the recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee. With respect to delay in the execution of the plan adopted, we are certainly of opinion that any delay which could have been avoided without a sacrifice of all essential features of the intended work, is mainly ascribable to the desire of the Trustees to hurry on the printing. In order to carry out their resolution to publish the catalogue in successive portions, it became obviously necessary to select from all parts of the library the volumes in alphabetical succession. If the Trustees, adhering how firmly soever to their intention of eventual printing, had been satisfied with the reasons, strongly urged by Mr. Panizzi, for postponing that operation until the MSS were completed, it would have been easy to have gone through the whole library in an uninterrupted progress shelf by shelf. The difference with respect to expedition and labour between these two modes would probably be considerable even in the case of a limited collection ; but when the extent of the Museum is considered and the spaces to be traversed, that difference is beyond our calculation. It appears that the whole length of the bookshelves of the Museum exceeds twelve miles. We see no reason to doubt the supposition that, but for the perseverance in this process, in conjunc


tion with other avoidable causes of delay, the catalogue would now have been finished according to its original intention, and finished in respect of cross references especially, in a form more satisfactory than any labour under the present system could produce. ... To another instance in which Mr. Panizzi's opinion' was overruled by that of the Trustees, he attributes much avoidable delay and expense; we allude to the thirty-third and seven following rules, which govern the process of cataloguing anonymous works. ... Mr. Panizzi, having to deal with an immense mass of works under this head, advocates the adoption and the rigid observance of a rule by which the main entries of all such works should find their places in the catalogue in alphabetical order under the first word of the title, not an article or a preposition. ... It is very evident that the principal entry of an anonymous work, framed on the principle recommended by Mr. Panizzi on the authority of Audiffredi, will often afford no facilities to a searcher who has not an exact transcript or other precise information of its title. If it were possible in all, or the great majority of cases, of the absence of an author's name, to give clearly and accurately under a leading word the subject matter of a work, an useful and satisfactory, and so far a classed catalogue might be made on this principle. If it were possible for the framer of the entry to do this without hesitation and deliberation, such a catalogue might possibly be prepared without greater delay or expense than Audiffredi's or any other analogous mode of proceeding would require. We are, however, satisfied that neither of these desiderata are attainable, and that the difficulty, whether as to execution or rate of progress, is only to be met by numerous cross-references.'

Our readers must carefully attend to this extract, which is much more than mere matter of back reference from our subsequent remarks. These it would be impossible to throw into any form which would make them follow the order of the evidence given; which is, moreover, so bulky, and takes in so many collateral details, that we have much to leave behind * without an allusion, even on the subject of the Catalogue.

Were we to proceed at once to the main discussion, we should probably omit what should by no means be omitted,—some allusion to the gentle flights of fancy which may recreate the reader of the voluminous mass. The gaieties of a body of evidence are

* We should like to do what we can to urge forward the appearance of the Index. The Appendix has been printed and published. We have seen it stated that part of what was intended to appear in this appendix has been omitted. This we are told is true ; but we have reason to believe that the omissions consist mostly of Mr. Panizzi's own reports on the Grenville Library, and that the occurrence is merely through forgetfulness, arising out of some peculiar circumstances attending the latter meetings of the Commissioners, to which we do not feel at liberty to do more than allude.

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some key to the value of its gravities. Mr. Carlyle, who describes himself as 'rather a thin-skinned sort of student,' is of opinon that many of the readers are 'a very thick-skinned race,' -— persons whose inquiries do not involve much delicate intellect,' who get up the stuff called useful knowledge,' and ' whom it is not 6 worth while to take much trouble to accommodate.' These persons, it seems, tolerated a reader of weak intellect, who was sent to the Museum by his friends, and 'made extracts

out of books, and puddled away his time there :' this man used sto blow his nose very loudly every half hour.' Subsequently Mr. Carlyle generalises this description, and deposes that men who come for such purposes as his should be separated from the men who come to read now in the reading room, and who blow their noses in an insane state.' He is also of opinion that none but good books ought to be bought, of which he seems to think that the librarian or the trustees ought to judge. • Where the man,' says he, was a quack, and his work de

cidedly bad, I should consider I was doing God service, and • the poor man himself service, in extinguishing such a book.' He also states that he gets a museum headache' whenever he goes there: the character of this malady is not specified. Another witness of more precision, Mr. T. Hudson Turner (who, we hope, will register his psyllometer,) gives it in evidence that

there is a flea generated in that room that is larger than any • to be found elsewhere, except in the receiving rooms of work• houses.' To these instances of strength and oddity of assertion we may add the following example—an extreme one certainly

-of the mode in which casualties are described as ordinary events. Mr. George Soane, who has used the reading-room . constantly, for many years, from nine till four, and sometimes • later,' brings forward, as his self-selected first point of examination, the way’in which manuscripts are withheld. Having mentioned one instance in which Sir F. Madden kept back for half an hour a manuscript which he himself was using, Mr. Soane is asked, “Is that a solitary instance ?' to which he answers, “I have known no other instances; but these things • cannot occur every day. When it is remembered that every witness received proof-sheets of his own evidence, with an implied invitation to prune down the exuberances of oral communication, some of these things will appear surprising. Again, we note, once for all, the manner in which the avowed reason for the wish of a witness is sometimes one which deteriorates the value of the whole evidence. And here, again, we take an extreme case. We should have read with the utmost attention, and desire of giving it its full weight, the evidence of

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