John Joseph Ogle.

The free library; its history and present condition online

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I. THE FREE LIBRARY : Its History and

Present Condition. By J. J. Ogle, of the

Bootle Free Library. 352 pages, cloth, 6s.

GOYNE, of the Tate Central Library. With
over 100 Illustrations. Nearly Ready.

In Preparation.


Macfarlane, of the British Museum.


Wheatley, of the Society of Arts.





[A^ rights reserved]




Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson dr' Co.
At the Ballantyne Press


The present age has received divers epithets, mostly
uncomplimentary. If ever defined as the Age of
Gold, this has by no means been intended in the
ancient sense of an age of primitive innocence and
simplicity. It has been styled the Age of Steam, the
Age of Veneer, and the Age of Talk. As these dis-
paraging epithets have all been affixed by itself, it
may occur to some that the Age of Modesty, or at
least of Penitence, might not be an inappropriate
designation ; and after all, we do not apprehend
that future ages will consider it so very inferior to
most of its predecessors, and are sure that it will
be universally preferred to the Ages of Darkness.
With these, at least, it has nothing in common.
To call it the Age of Light were presumptuous,
but an Age of Light it assuredly is, and, did we
seek for a name, we should be inclined to entitle
it the Age of Books. Not merely that there never
before were so many books in the world, or that
there never was a time when books and news-
papers were so widely read or so influential ;
but that there never before was so much interest
and curiosity respecting the makers of books,
authors — the emitters of books, publishers — or the



custodians of books, librarians. This curiosity,
frequently frivolous and annoying, bears testimony,
at all events, to the place which literature has taken,
not merely in fact, but in general apprehension,
among the agencies which mould the world. She
always has had this place in effect ever since
hieroglyphical writing passed into alphabetical, but
the man of the world has been singularly uncon-
scious of the agency by which its course was in
large measure determined. Alexander has been
conspicuous, Aristotle has been overlooked. Now
the attention paid to authorship in all its forms
shows that mankind has become aware that its
destinies may be much affected by what some
tmknown young man is at the present moment
scribbling in a garret.

Those who have especially interested themselves
in education, among whom librarians are to be
reckoned, may justly regard this general percep-
tion as a proof that their efforts have not been in
vain. Before men can be interested in trifling
details about authors, they must have conceived
an interest in books which certainly did not exist
in the eighteenth century. The more trivial the
gossip — and it is often most provokingly so — the
greater the evidence of a demand. And this testi-
mony is corroborated when curiosity is found to
pass beyond the persons of authors, and to com-
prise inquisitiveness respecting books themselves ;
whether evinced by curiosity respecting particular
copies or editions, or by such particulars as the
circulation of successful books, the rarity of such


as have been for a time neglected, the peculiarities
of particular copies, or extraordinary prices realised
at sales. That this curiosity exists, the columns of
the press afford daily evidence. It is clear that the
schoolmaster has been abroad to some purpose,
and that one of the results of his mission has
been the awakening of an intelligent interest, not
merely in the producers and distributors of books,
but in the history, the commercial value, the ex-
ternal semblance, and the fitting treatment of the
volumes themselves.

The individual book has been ably dealt with
of late in monographs referring to the subject of
Bibliography. The object of the little series now
introduced to the public is to deal with the
Book, not so much individually, but collectively,
in the aggregated form which is called the Library.
Bibliography is neither excluded from the volumes
already arranged, nor proscribed as the theme of
volumes which may succeed. But it is believed
that the most profitable and generally acceptable
information which can be given to the public in
the first instance is that which relates to the books
of the public, the collections which are the property
of the entire community, and in whose general
administration every citizen should feel interested.
Provision has accordingly been made for free
libraries in particular. The scheme includes a
complete account of the history of the establish-
ment of free libraries in the United Kingdom,
including the National Library, with particular de-
tails of the progress of the more important, and a


brief exposition of the legislation by which they
are governed ; for a practical discussion on library
architecture, illustrated with numerous illustrations
of libraries and library appurtenances ; and a
manual of the leading points in library administra-
tion. These little treatises, it is hoped, will be found
practically useful by all interested in libraries, and
more especially in free libraries, whether practically
concerned in their management as Hbrarians or
committee men, or merely frequenters and well-
wishers. Another volume, dealing mainly with the
prices of books, besides its practical utility to
purchasers, illustrates a very interesting nook of
literary history. Other volumes may not improb-
ably follow. Undertaken, as has been explained,
in deference to what appeared the growing popu-
lar interest in books and everything pertaining
to them, the series, it is hoped, may contribute
something to raising the general estimate of
the importance of the librarian's office, and the
status to which the faithful discharge of its duties
entitles him. We have got long past the days
when the librarian was defined as '^a harmless
drudge," and the few posts in his profession worth
having were employed to satisfy embarrassing
claims on the dispensers of patronage. Much yet
remains to be accomplished before the position
which the librarian might, and ought to, occupy is
sufficiently recognised either by the community in
general or the profession itself. Any approxima-
tion towards it is doubly welcome, as an index
both to an improved appreciation of the supreme


importance of knowledge on the part of the public,
and to an elevation of the ideals of librarians
themselves. The more generous recognition of
their services which it is their ambition to obtain
can only be insured by a steady increase in the
value of these services, and the librarian will be
honoured not as the mere distributor of an inferior
class of literature, but in proportion as he approves
himself a dispenser of information and enlighten-
ment, and a guide qualified to direct the popular
taste for reading.



The aim of this work is sufficiently indicated by
the title-page and table of contents. The Library
per se is its subject, hence only incidental notice
has been taken of library buildings and library
administration ; moreover, these subjects are dealt
with in other books of the same series. The infor-
mation as far as possible has been gathered at first
hand ; but for the early history Hansard's Parlia-
mentary Debates, the various Returns concerning
Public Libraries presented to Parliament, old news-
papers and reports have been diligently searched.
The publications of the Library Association, and
in particular The Library, edited by Mr. J. Y. W.
MacAlister, have been of the greatest use for the
facts they have furnished. Other sources of infor-
mation are indicated in the work itself. The most
conflicting statements are in print, especially re-
garding the dates of local adoptions of the Public
Libraries Acts. Great care has been taken to
ascertain the true dates, and these have been given
as precisely as could be ascertained in the limits
of time set for the preparation of this work.

My thanks for special assistance in my researches
are due, and are hereby tendered, to Mr. Peter


Cowell, librarian of the Liverpool Free Public
Libraries, and to Mr. Thomas Formby, the sub-
librarian ; also to Mr. C. W. Sutton, the city lib-
rarian of Manchester, and to Mr. W. R. Credland,
deputy chief librarian of the same city. To Mr.
Charles Madeley of the Warrington Museum I am
indebted for access to various monumental docu-
ments of the early days of the movement, and for
the loan of certain blue-books. Mr. F. T. Barrett,
librarian of the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, and Mr.
W. E. Doubleday, librarian of the Hampstead
Public Libraries, have assisted me with informa-
tion for Chapter XIII.; and I have also to thank
Mr. T. W. Lyster, librarian of the National Library
of Ireland, for valuable assistance and suggestions
during the reading of the proofs. Finally, my
hearty thanks are tendered to the librarians and
secretaries of libraries who answered my long list
of questions, and whose names are recorded in the
statistical tables of the Appendix. Without their
valued aid this work could not have been written.

In such a work as this, errors of fact are very apt
to creep in ; with a view to their amendment in a
second edition, the author will be glad to receive
any duly authenticated corrections.


BOOTLE, June 1897.



General Introduction v-ix





The Rise of Libraries, and the Origin of Free
Libraries in the United Kingdom, with their
History up to the Year 1855 . . . 3-32

MediDeval libraries — Causes of the formation of libraries — The
seventeenth-century city and parish libraries — Norwich,
Bristol, Langley Marish, Leicester, the Chetham Library,
Boston, Wotton Wawen, Wisbeach, Tong — The eighteenth-
century parish libraries — Kirkwood's proposals — Dr. Bray's
libraries — Foundation of the British Museum — British
Museum influence on free public libraries — Commencement
of subscription libraries — Bamburgh Castle Library — Mr.
Samuel Brown's itinerating libraries — Itinerating libraries in
Scotland, in Yorkshire, in Lancashire, and Cheshire — The
rise of Mechanics' Institutions — Their libraries in 1849 —
Origin of the free library— The Museums Act of 1845 —
Libraries established under the Museums Act at Warring-
ton and Salford — Edward Edwards and William Ewart —
The Select Committee on Public Libraries, and the genesis
of the Act of 1850 — The debate on Ewart's Bill — Subsequent


legislation to 1855 — Provisions of the 1855 Acts — Adop-
tions and rejections of the Acts — Local Acts of Liverpool
and Brighton — Inauguration of the Manchester Free Library
— Speeches by Lord Lytton, Charles Dickens, W. M.
Thackeray, Sir James Stephen, Lord Houghton.


The History of the Free Public Library Move-
ment FROM 1856 TO 1877 • • • • • 33-4^

The parliamentary return of 1856 — Adoptions and rejections of the
Acts up to 1867 — Local powers of Sunderland — The Amend-
ing Acts of 1866 — Lord Beaconsfield and the Earl of Shaftes-
bury on library legislation — The Scotch Amending Act of
1867 — Adoptions and rejections, 1867-70 — The parliamentary
return of 1870— Effect of Forster's Elementary Education
Act upon the progress of the movement — The new legislation
of 1 87 1 — Power to make bye-laws in Scotland — Extension to
local boards of power to adopt the Acts in England — Review
of progress made up to the end of 1870 — Adoptions and
rejections, 1871-77 — The Irish Amending Act of 1877 —
English Act of 1877 — Limitation of rate below one penny —
The Philadelphia and London International Library Confer-
ences — Formation of the Library Association of the United
Kingdom — The parliamentary return of 1876-77.


The History of the Free Public Library Move-
ment FROM 1878 TO 1887 47-61

Rejections of the Acts, 1878-82 — Opposition tactics — Adoptions
of the Acts, 1878-82 — The Library Association — The Metro-
politan Free Libraries Association and legislation — Proposal
of Education Department inspection of libraries — The re-
opening of the Birmingham Central Free Libraries in 1882 —
Speeches by John Bright and Joseph Chamberlain — Adoptions



and rejections, 1883-86— The Science and Art Department's
Bill of 1884— Effect of the Act of 1884 at Worcester— Mr.
Hopwood's Bill— The Manx Acts of 1885 and 1886— The
year 1887 — The publication of Greenwood's " Public Lib-
raries" — "Queen's jubilee celebration" libraries — Adop-
tions and rejections — The arousing of London — The 1887
Amendment Bill carried— Sir John Lubbock on the Bill
— The Scotch Consolidating Bill carried — Professor W.
Stanley Jevons on the free library — Notable generosity to
free libraries — The Winnard and Taylor bequests at Wigan,
Sir Peter Coats's gifts at Paisley, Mr. Keiller's at Dundee,
Mr. Carnegie's at Dunfermline, Sir William Gilstrap's at
Newark — The parliamentary return of 1885.


The History of the Free Public Library Move-
ment FROM 1888 TO 1896 62-95

The rejections during this period — Adoptions — The attack of the
*' Liberty and Property Defence League" — The support of
the Trades Union Congress, 1884 — Review of districts in
which adoptions had taken place at end of 1896 — Large
urban districts that have not adopted the Acts — Large
donations and bequests to free libraries — ;^7 50,000 given in
nine years — Comparison of donations,

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Online LibraryJohn Joseph OgleThe free library; its history and present condition → online text (page 1 of 23)