Page:Essays in librarianship and bibliography.djvu/56

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ESSAYS IN LIBRARIANSHIP

most competent royal commissions that ever sat, whose report offers at this day a mass of most amusing and instructive reading. We may note in its minutes of evidence, as subsequently in the yet more remarkable instance of President Lincoln, how little able Mr. Carlyle is to recognise his hero when he has got him, and may obtain a new insight into the extraordinary powers of the late Professor De Morgan. In 1857 Sir A. Panizzi's exertions received their visible consummation in the erection of the new Reading Room and its appendages, capable of accommodating a million volumes; and about the same time his political and social influence raised the Museum grant to an amount capable of filling this space within thirty years. Such an example could not fail to elevate the standard of librarianship all over the country, and it was now to be supplemented by the movement with which the name of Mr. Ewart is chiefly associated. The comparative failure of the Mechanics' Institutes, from which so much had been expected, had led the friends of popular education to take up the subject of free libraries. Mr. Ewart's Act (1850) forms another era in library history, and its operation, while slowly but surely covering the country with libraries supported out of the rates, has tended more than anything else to elevate the profession by making it a branch of the public service, and offering some real, though as yet hardly adequate, inducement to men of ability and culture to follow it. The recent library conferences have shown what an admirable body of public