Page images
PDF
EPUB

[B]

SUPERINTENDENT'S REPORT.

TO THE TRUSTEES OF THE PUBLIC LIBRARY OF THE CITY OF

BOSTON.

GENTLEMEN: In obedience to the third article of the second chapter of the “ By-Laws relative to the Trustees and Officers of the Public Library," I beg leave to present to you the following

REPORT

upon the condition of the Library, and its increase during the year ending the first of November, 1861.

I am happy to be able to say, in general terms, that the year has been one of remarkable prosperity to the Library, in the augmentation of its resources by donations and bequests ; in the perfecting of its organization; in the publication of the Index to the Upper Hall; and in the enlargement of its practical usefulness, as evinced by the grateful testimony of its frequenters and the increased and constantly increasing number of persons resorting to it for purposes of study and research, as well as for the borrowing of books for home reading.

During the year, 16,948 books, 6,674 pamphlets, and 151 maps and charts have been added to the Library. Of these, 4,649 books, 18 pamphlets, and 151 maps and charts have been purchased from the proceeds of the invested funds, and from appropriations by the city government. The remainder consisting of 12,299 books, with 6,656 pamphlets, and including the library of Mr. Parker, have been presented.

Hitherto, the statement of the number of books belonging to the library has been procured for the annual report by adding the accessions of each year to the number reported the previous year. In my report for 1859, I stated, that when the books should all be arranged in their proper places upon the shelves and counted, considerable discrepancy might be expected between the aggregate obtained, as heretofore, from the accessions catalogue and that obtained by an actual count of the books. The principal sources of the variation are the binding of works in a different number of volumes from that in which they were purchased or presented, and in the loss and wearing out of books once upon the shelves and not replaced.

I am this year able to give the number of volumes in the whole Library, from an actual counting of the books, namely:

In the Upper Hall
In the Lower Hall
Duplicates and odd volumes
The Parker Library

64,156
19,161

3,008
11,061

97,386

From the above enumeration, it will be understood that all books lost or worn out and not replaced have been excluded.

About 500 volumes of bound pamphlets are however included. They contain not less than 7,000 separate works, each of which is recorded distinctly under its author's name, in the catalogue, and in the printed index. Besides the last named pamphlets, which are fully incorporated into the Library, there are, belonging to the institution, 27,381 unbound pamphlets, nearly all of which have been assorted into classes and catalogued upon slips. It is proposed, from time to time as opportunity and funds may allow, to select from these such as may appropriately be bound together or such as are of sufficient value to be bound separately, and thus place them upon the shelves as books. Meantime, it is important to observe, they are so arranged and indexed as to be readily accessible, but in their present form, it is obvious, they cannot safely be exposed to much use.

By far the largest and most valuable of all the donations of books, excepting that of Mr. Bates, which the Public Library has yet received, is the collection bequeathed by the Rev. Theodore Parker. Mention was made of this bequest in the last report. The executors of Mr. Parker had communicated to the city government Mrs. Parker's generous waiver of the right, given to her under her husband's will, to retain the Library or change its destination, and they had formally transferred the property. But the books could not be removed immediately. They were not brought to the Library till the month of June last. But, in the mean time, the whole collection was carefully examined and a list of the books made upon slips by one of the assistants in the Library, Mr. Auerbach, who has since that period been occupied in making out the full catalogue upon cards.

The books are now placed upon the shelves temporarily. Mr. Parker's will does not indeed require, but it indicates a decided preference, that the Library should be kept together, and, even were this not the case, it would not probably be thought desirable to scatter to different parts of the building, a Library of such a character, received in such a manner. The work of making the full catalogue with the cross-references, cannot probably be finished for several months, and the permanent location of the books upon the shelves must be delayed till after the finishing of the catalogue.

This Library contains 11,061 volumes, and 3,088 pamphlets. It is altogether a remarkable collection, one which it is difficult fairly to characterize in a few sentences, or to represent by specimens. It exhibits a wide field of scholarship, and shows a wonderful and minute familiarity with various departments. Those of theology and metaphysics, ethics, history, and modern literature might be expected to be full, but those of the Greek and Latin classics and of the civil law are equally so; while many other departments of knowledge are well represented, and in every direction are to be found monuments of curious and recondite learning Of course many of the common books which every person of wide culture must have around him are to be found

in this collection, and also the literary waifs which come to every public man, but it is certainly remarkable how small a number of duplicates this large accession brings to our Library.

In books of reference, such as lexicons, vocabularies, and grammars, bibliographical dictionaries, gazetteers and atlases, the Library is very rich. There are more than fifty lexicons of various languages. For bulky and voluminous collections it is hardly to be expected that a private house can furnish room, and it is for these that scholars look principally to public institutions, but Mr. Parker's Library contained such works as Migne's Patrologia, the Bibliotheca maxima veterum patrum, Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopædia, and not a few other similar works.

It is in truth a most valuable, important, and interesting addition to the treasures of the Public Library, rendered more so by the fact now known to us, that Mr. Parker while year by year he was gathering it, kept its final destination steadily in view.

During the year, 242 persons and public bodies have testified their good will to the Library by presenting books and pamphlets, many of which are of much value and interest.

A list of the donors is appended to this report, marked AA. Among them we are happy to call attention to the name of the present Emperor of the French, who has twice remembered the institution by presenting to it first a copy of the noble edition of the works of Napoleon I. from the imperial press, and afterwards a superb copy of his own works.

Our continued acknowledgements are due also to the English Commissioners of Patents, for the presentation during the year of 68 additional volumes of their magnificent publications 33 of which are of plates in folio.

The increase of the permanent funds of the Library by the bequest of $20,000 from the Hon. Jonathan Phillips in addition to the $10,000 given during his lifetime, and of $4,000 from Messrs. William Minot and William Minot, Jr., as executors of the will of Miss Mary P. Townsend, in this particular fully justify the remark which I made at the beginning of this report, that the year had been one of remarkable prosperity to the Library.

The Library has been open during the year 274 days, ana 160,877 applications for books to be taken from the Lower Hall have been answered, making a daily average of 587.1. Last year the Library was open 297 days, and the aggregate circulation was 151,020, making a daily average of 508.5. The previous year was the first in the new building, and the Library was open only 254 days, with an aggregate circulation of 149,468, and a daily average of 588.4. The greatest number of books taken out any day this year was 1,303, on the 23d February — last year 1,052, on the 4th February - the year previous 1335, on the 5th March.

This surely will be regarded as a very satisfactory statement. The number of books lent out is considerably larger than for any previous year, and the daily average circulation is only one less than in any former report, and, if the issues from the Upper Hall during the few weeks it has been open for lending the books be taken into the account, the daily average will also be larger than ever before. The decrease of the circulation, last year, was, it is now evident, only temporary, and arose from other causes than any diminished interest or confidence in the library, or any failure in its arrangements for the accommodation of the public.

The above statistics relate only to the Lower Hall. The aggregate circulation will doubtless be increased hereafter by the issues from the Upper Hall, now containing over 74,000 volumes, most of which can be borrowed for home use. Books were lent out from this part of the Library as soon as the arrangements for so doing could be completed and the number of borrowers has day by day increased; but the earliest time when it was possible to lend out the books was so near to the period of the annual examination required by law, that it was thought best not to give special notice of opening, and to date the activity of this branch as a circulating library from the reopening of the building. It should be remarked, however, in this connection, that no such circulation can be expected as in the Lower Hall, because all the books, which it was supposed would be most fre

« PreviousContinue »