Page:Essays in librarianship and bibliography.djvu/69

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
49
PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND THEIR CATALOGUES

rules in 1839, these form the most important epoch in the history of cataloguing. Agreeing with the latter rules in the main, and when differing, generally, as we must think, not differing for the better, they nevertheless contain a most valuable body of acute reasoning and apt illustration, which it did not fall within the province of the Museum authorities to provide; they bring unusual experience and ability to bear upon the intricate subject of classification, and are further reinforced by most ingenious remarks on the economy and manipulation of print, making the mere variations of type instructive.

Assuming the catalogue to be completed, the question remains for decision whether it shall be printed. In most cases this question is easily determined with reference to the circumstances of the individual library; but in one instance the nation claims a voice in the matter. It is hardly necessary to say that we refer to the Catalogue of the British Museum, the theme of forty years' controversy. Every one will admit the intrinsic superiority of a catalogue in print over a catalogue in MS. The question is, whether the advantage may not be bought too dear. To form a sound opinion on this point it is necessary to have an approximate estimate of the extent of the Museum Catalogue, and of the expenditure and the time involved in the undertaking to print it. Some statistics may accordingly be useful. The printed volume of the catalogue containing letter A,