The Times/1913/News/The London Library

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The London Library: First Volume of the New Catalogue  (1913) 
Source: The Times, Wednesday, Sep 03, 1913; pg. 4; Issue 40307. — The London Library.

The London Library.

First Volume of the New Catalogue.

In a preliminary note published in our Literary Supplement on February 27 last, concerning the new edition of the London Library Catalogue, it was suggested that the work "should be ready early next year" if the "present rate of progress can be kept up." Clearly that rate, a matter of 66 double-column pages a week, to be set, reviewed, and passed for press, has been more than fully maintained for the first volume, comprising the letters A to K, and extending to over 1,400 pages, has just been issued, and the concluding portion will probably be ready before Christmas. The volume is a triumph for all concerned, particularly for the printers Messrs. Neill and Co., of Edinburgh, to whom a graceful tribute is paid in the Preface, and none the less so for Dr. Hagberg Wright and Mr. Purnell and their small staff of assistants.

The new edition embodies not only all the books in the 1903 Catalogue, but also those in the eight Supplements which have appeared in the interval, and all the accessions up to the time of going to press. These Supplements contained not merely the additions to the Library, but much valuable material the importance of which had not been recognized when the 1903 Catalogue was being compiled. For instance, the contents of the Harleian Miscellany in ten quarto volumes, 1803-1813, are now extended from a bald entry of half a dozen lines to 11 pages, every tract being set out in full; but the great historical value of this famous collection is greatly enhanced by the "General and Copious Index," extending to 131 pages, which appears in the 12th volume of the octavo edition of 1811. The alphabetical index to the authors in the 21 volumes of Chalmers's "English Poets," the setting out of the various genealogies in Litta's "Famiglie Celebri Italiane," a full synopsis of the contents of the "Archivio Storieo Italiano," a vast storehouse of human knowledge, and many other analytical or synoptical indices of a similar nature, server to render the new London Library Catalogue a volume of the highest reference value to students and inquirers, whether members of the Library or not, abroad as well as in England. In most cases this Catalogue is the only place in which these invaluable time and temper saving indices appear.

System of Arrangement

Generally speaking the Catalogue has been based on the system in vogue at the British Museum, and with certain reservation, no better system could be followed, There are one or two ways in which Dr, Wright might with advantage have broken away from the Museum tradition. Under Francis Boucher, for example, there are three cross-references to authors, who have written books on this artist—MacFall, Mantz and Michel. Thus the reader who wants a book on Boucher has to turn over the pages of the Catalogue, four times, although the books are all together on the shelves of the Library under Boucher. The system of arranging the books on the shelves does not harmonize with the Catalogue. The same objections holds good in hundreds of other cases, and it is especially noticeable in the case of Dante, where there are eight columns of cross-references.

The general accuracy of the Catalogue is beyond question, and it may be put to the severest test by any specialist; whilst in the matter of conciseness it is difficult to see how it can be improved upon The attempts to secure the names of the authors of anonymous books, and to identify the real names of many who wrote under a nom-de-guerre have proved extremely successful. These attempts formed the subject of hundreds of letters sent out during the preparation of the 1903 Catalogue, and have evidently been continued ever since. many of the mysteries must remain unsolved for all time, but the harvest has been abundant, and, from a literary point of view, a profitable one. So much labour has been spent on this phase in the compilation of the Catalogue that it might be assumed there is nothing else to be discovered, We may, however, be allowed to make a few additions to Dr. Wright's discoveries. For instance, the real name of Graham Everitt, author of "English Caricaturists" and other books was William Rodgers Richardson, a solicitor, who died at Norbiton on February 20, 1907. "William M. Cooper" (p.563), the author of "The History of the Rod," was a pen-name of James Glass Bertram, as may be seen in his "Memories of Books, Authors, and Events" (p.xiii), published by Messrs. Constable in 1893. There should have been a cross-reference under Henry Fielding to Adlerfeld's "Military History of Charles XII.," 1740; Fielding's autograph receipt for £45 for making this translation from John Nouse on March 10, 1739, came to light for or fiver years ago. This translation appears to have been his first independent literary production apart from the plays, and to be quite unknown to his biographers.

Some Criticisms.

It is probable that the two entries on page 688 of Charles Donos, author of "verlaine intime," and Charles de Martrin-Donos are of one and the same person, who died in February 1904. We have a note from a bookseller's catalogue to the effect that the compiler of the "Catalogue of Five Hundred Celebrated Authors of Great Britain," 1788 was "Marshall of Epsom," whoever he may have been; and there can be little doubt that the "Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors," 1816 was largely the joint work of William Upcott, of the London Institution, and Frederic Shoberl. It is hardly correct to describe Ellis ((p. 450) as a "music seller" because the firm issued a "Catalogue of Books of and relating to Music." Nor should we have expected to find a cross-reference under "Angelika" (p. 73) to Angelica Kauffman although during her stay in England she was known as "Miss Angelica," just as Reynolds was known as "Sir Joshua." There can be no secret about the editor of "Book-Prices Current" (p. 310), for Mr. J. H. Slater has contributed a signed preface to nearly every volume since he started in in 1887. These are perhaps for the most part small points which leave unaffected the general accuracy of this extraordinary catalogue of books of all periods and ccountries.