Bond, Edward Augustus (DNB01)

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BOND, Sir EDWARD AUGUSTUS (1815–1898), principal librarian of the British Museum, son of John and Sophia Bond, was born on 31 Dec. 1815 at Hanwell, where his father, a clergyman, conducted a large private school. He was admitted at Merchant Taylors' school in Dec. 1830, and in 1833 entered the record office as an assistant. Placed under the immediate direction of Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy and the Rev. Joseph Hunter, he had the best opportunities of making himself acquainted with mediaeval handwriting in so far as this is exemplified in the national records, and was a thorough expert in this department at the time of his transfer in 1838 to the British Museum, where he speedily became an accomplished palæographer. His services were warmly acknowledged by his chief. Sir Frederic Madden [q. v.], before the Museum commission of 1849, and in 1850 he was made Egerton librarian. On the sudden death in 1854 of John Holmes [q.v.] he succeeded him as assistant keeper, and held this post until his promotion to the keepership upon the retirement of Sir Frederic Madden in 1866. His position as assistant keeper had been more prominent than usual, the estrangement between Sir F. Madden and the principal librarian. Sir Anthony Panizzi, causing much official work to be performed through him. His deportment in these delicate circumstances was equally satisfactory to both his superiors.

Upon assuming charge of the manuscript department Bond proved himself a vigorous reformer. From various causes the work of the department was very greatly behind-hand. Bond grappled vigorously with the arrears, and before he quitted office all were made up, and the high standard of regularity and efficiency established which has been maintained ever since. He published catalogues of acquisitions up to date, caused Anglo-Saxon and illuminated manuscripts to be more satisfactorily described, and superintended the compilation of a classified index of the highest value. While thus steadily pursuing a career of unostentatious service, he and the public were surprised by his sudden elevation to the principal librarianship in August 1878, upon the resignation of John Winter Jones [q. v.], the post having been most unexpectedly declined by Sir Charles Thomas Newton [q. v.], to whom it had been offered almost as a matter of course. Bond's name had hardly been mentioned in connection with it, but no other officer of the museum had equal claims, and he accepted it on the strong urgency of Sir A. Panizzi.

As principal librarian Bond showed the same vigour and reforming spirit that had characterised his administration of the manuscript department. He had not long held office ere he instituted experiments for the introduction of the electric light, which after some disappointments were crowned with success, and have greatly extended the use of the museum by the public, besides contributing to its security. By able negotiations with the treasury he carried out a reform, which he had long advocated, by obtaining power to convert the huge and unwieldy manuscript catalogue of the printed book department into a handy printed catalogue, and keep it up in print for the future. Nothing was more remarkable in him than his openness of mind, and a receptiveness of new ideas most unusual in a veteran official. A signal instance was his introduction of the sliding press, which by providing space for the enormous accumulation of new books without additional building, has saved a vast sum of money to the nation. An ordinary official would have hesitated for years; Bond took the idea up in five minutes. The separation of the natural history museum from the other departments was effected during his term of office, and under him were erected the new buildings of the White Wing, with accommodation for manuscripts, newspapers, prints, and drawings. Perhaps the most important acquisition made during his principal librarianship (1878-1888) was that of the Stowe MSS., of the highest importance for English history. The remainder of the Earl of Ashburnham's collection would have been acquired if the liberality of government had risen to the occasion.

Apart from his work in the museum Bond's most distinguished service was his foundation in 1873, in conjunction with his successor. Sir E. Maunde Thompson, of the Palæographical Society, whose publications of facsimiles have contributed much to raise palæography to the rank of an exact science. He also took a leading part in the controversy respecting the date of the 'Utrecht Psalter,' and edited the 'Speeches in the Trial of Warren Hastings' (4 vols. 1859-61) for government, the 'Chronica Abbatiæ de Melsa' (1858) for the Rolls Series, and Giles Fletcher's 'Russe Commonwealth' and Sir Jerome Horsey's 'Travels in Russia' for the Hakluyt Society (printed in one volume as 'Russia at the close of the Sixteenth Century,' 1856). He edited the valuable folio 'Facsimiles of Ancient Charters in the British Museum' in 1873, and in 1886 he gave to the Chaucer Society 'Chaucer as Page in the Household of the Countess of Ulster' (printed in 'Life Records of Chaucer,' vol. iii.) After his retirement in 1888 he resided in Princes Square, Bayswater, where he died on 2 Jan. 1898. The honour of K.C.B. was conferred upon him only a few days before his death. Gladstone caused him to be made a C.B. in 1885; he was an honorary LL.D. of Cambridge, and received the order of the crown of Italy. He married, in 1847, Caroline Frances, eldest daughter of the Rev. Richard Harris Barham, author of the 'Ingoldsby Legends,' and left five daughters, all married.

[Times, 4 Jan. 1898; Robinson's Merchant Taylors' School Register, ii. 244; Men of the Time, 14th edit.; Garnett's Essays in Bibliography; personal knowledge.]

R. G.