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—No. 37. 





JULY, 1852. 


18 52. 



In Board of Mayor and Aldermen, June 30, 1852. 

Ordered, That the Trustees of the Citj Library be requested 
to report to the Citj Council upon the objects to be attained by 
the estabUshment of a Public Library, and the best mode of ef- 
fecting them ; and that they be authorized to report in print. 

Passed. Sent down for concurrence. 



In Common Council, July 1, 1852. 
HENRY J. GARDNER, President. 

A true copy. Attest : 

S. F. McCLEARY, Jr., City Clerk. 


The Trustees of the public library, in compliance with 
the order of the two branches of the City Council, submit 
the following report on the objects to be attained by the 
establishment of a public library and the best mode of 
effecting them : — 

Of all human arts that of writing, as it was one of the 
earliest invented, is also one of the most important. 
Perhaps it would be safe to pronounce it, without excep- 
tion the most useful and important. It is the great me- 
dium of communication between mind and mind, as re- 
spects different individuals, countries, and periods of time. 
We know from history that only those portions of the 
human family have made any considerable and perma- 
nent progress in civilization, which have possessed and 
used this great instrument of improvement. 

It is principally in the form of books that the art of 
writing, though useful in many other ways, has exerted 
its influence on human progress. It is almost exclu- 
sively by books that a permanent record has been made of 
word and deed, of thought and feeling ; that history, 
philosophy and poetry, that literature and science in 
their full comprehension, have been called into being, by 
the co-operation of intellects acting in concert with each 


other, though living in different countries and at differ- 
ent periods, and often using difterent languages. 

Till the middle of the fifteenth century of our era, it 
was literally the art of tvriting by which these effects 
were produced. No means of multiplying books was 
known but the tedious process of transcription. This of 
course rendered them comparatively scarce and dear, and 
thus greatly limited their usefulness. It was a chief 
cause also of the loss of some of the most valuable liter- 
ary productions. However much this loss may be re- 
gretted, we cannot but reflect with \vonder and gratitude 
on the number of invaluable works which have been 
handed down to us from antiquity, notwithstanding the 
cost and labor attending their multiplication. 

The same cause would necessarily operate to some ex- 
tent against the formation of public and private libraries. 
Still however, valuable collections of books were made 
in all the cultivated states of antiquity, both by govern- 
ments and individuals. The library formed by the 
Ptolemies at Alexandria in Egypt was probably the 
direct means by which the most valuable works of ancient 
literature have been preserved to us. At a later period, 
the collections of books in the religious houses contribu- 
ted efficaciously toward the same end. 

The invention of printing in the fifteenth century in- 
creased the efficiency of the art of writing, as the chief 
instrument of improvement, beyond all former example 
or conception. It became more than ever the great me- 
dium of communication and transmission. It immedi- 
ately began to operate, in a thousand ways and with a 
power which it would be impossible to overstate, in pro- 
ducing the great intellectual revival of the modern world. 
One of the most obvious effects of the newly invented 
art was of course greatly to facilitate the formation of 

1852.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 37. 5 

An astonishing degree of excellence in the art of 
printing was reached at once. The typography of the 
first edition of the whole Bible is nearly equal to that of 
any subsequent edition. But the farther improvements 
which have taken place in four hundred years in cutting 
and casting types and solid pages, in the construction of 
presses and their movement by water, steam, and other 
power, in the manufacture of paper, and in the materials 
and mode of binding, have perhaps done as much to 
make books cheap and consequently abundant, as the 
art of printing as originally invented. 

It is scarcely necessary to add that these causes have 
led to a great multiplication of libraries in Europe and 
America. In nearly all the capitals of Europe large col- 
lections of books have been made and supported at the 
public expense. They form a part of the apparatus of 
all the higher institutions for education, and latterly of 
many schools; they are found in most scientific and 
literary societies ; and they are possessed by innumera- 
ble individuals in all countries. 

In proportion as books have become more abundant, 
they have become the principal instrument of instruction 
in places of education. It may be doubted whether their 
employment for this purpose is not, particularly in this 
country, carried too far. The organization of modern 
schools, in which very large numbers of pupils are taught 
by a small number of instructors, tends to make the use 
of books, rather than the living voice of the teacher, the 
main dependence. Still however, this is but an abuse of 
that which in itself is not only useful but indispensable ; 
and no one can doubt that books will ever continue to 
be, as they now are, the great vehicle of imparting 
and acquiring knowledge and carrying on the work of 
education. As far as instruction is concerned, it will no 
doubt ever continue to be, as it now is, the work of the 


teacher to direct, encourage, and aid the learner in the 
use of his books. 

In this respect the system of public education in Bos- 
ton may probably sustain a comparison with any in the 
world. Without asserting that the schools are perfect, 
it may truly be said that the general principle and plan 
on which they are founded, are as nearly so as the nature 
of the case admits. They compose a great system of 
instruction, administered in schools rising in gradation 
from the most elementary to those of a highly advanced 
character, open to the whole population, and supported 
by a most liberal public expenditure. The schools them- 
selves may admit improvement, and the utmost care 
should be taken, that they keep pace with the progress of 
improvement in other things ; but the system itself, in 
the great features just indicated, seems perfect -, that is, 
in a word, to give a first rate school education, at the 
public expense, to the entire rising generation. 

But when this object is attained, and it is certainly 
one of the highest importance, our system of public in- 
struction stops. Although the school and even the col- 
lege and the university are, as all thoughtful persons are 
well aware, but the first stages in education, the public 
makes no provision for carrying on the great work. It 
imparts, with a noble equality of privilege, a knowledge 
of the elements of learning to all its children, but it 
affords them no aid in going beyond the elements. It 
awakens a taste for reading, but it furnishes to the pub- 
lic nothing to be read. It conducts our young men and 
women to that point, where they are qualified to acquire 
from books the various knowledge in the arts and sci- 
ences which books contain ; but it does nothing to put 
those books within their reach. As matters now stand, 
and speaking with general reference to the mass of the 
community, the public makes no provision whatever, by 

1852.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 37. 7 

which the hundreds of young persons annually educated, 
as far as the elements of learning are concerned, at the 
public expense, can carry on their education and bring 
it to practical results by private study. 

We do not wish to exaggerate in either part of this 
statement, although we wish to call attention to the point 
as one of great importance and not yet, as we think, 
enough considered. We are far from intimating that 
school education is not important because it is elemen- 
tary ; it is, on the contrary, of the utmost value. Neither 
do we say, on the other hand, because there are no libra- 
ries which in the strict sense of the word are public, that 
therefore there is absolutely no way by which persons of 
limited means can get access to books. There are 
several libraries of the kind usually called public, be- 
longing however to private corporations ; and there are 
numerous private libraries from which books are liberally 
loaned to those wishing to borrow them. 

It will however be readily conceded that this falls fiir 
short of the aid and encouragement which would be 
afforded to the reading community, (in which we include 
all persons desirous of obtaining knowledge or an agree- 
able employment of their time from the perusal of books), 
by a well supplied public library. If we had no free 
schools, we should not be a community without educa- 
tion. Large numbers of children would be educated at 
private schools at the expense of parents able to afford 
it, and considerable numbers in narrow circumstances 
would, by the aid of the affluent and liberal, obtain the 
same advantages. We all feel however that such a state 
of things would be a poor substitute for our system of 
public schools, of which it is the best feature that it is 
a public provision for all ; affording equal advantages to 
poor and rich ; furnishing at the public expense an edu- 


cation so good, as to make it an object with all classes to 
send their children to tlie public schools. 

It needs no argument to prove that, in a republican 
government, these are features of the system, quite as val- 
uable as the direct benefit of the instruction which it im- 
parts. But it is plain that the same principles apply to 
the farther progress of education, in which each one must 
be mainly his own teacher. Why should not this prosper- 
ous and liberal city extend some reasonable amount of 
aid to the foundation and support of a noble public libra- 
ry, to which the young people of both sexes, when they 
leave the schools, can resort for those works which per- 
tain to general culture, or which are needful for research 
into any branch of useful knowledge ? At present, if 
the young machinist, engineer, architect, chemist, en- 
graver, painter, instrument-maker, musician (or student 
of any branch of science or literature,) wishes to consult 
a valuable and especially a rare and costly work, he 
must buy it, often import it at an expense he can ill afford, 
or he must be indebted for its use to the liberality of 
private corporations or individuals. The trustees submit, 
that all the reasons which exist for furnishing the means 
of elementary education, at the public expense, apply in 
an equal degree to a reasonable provision to aid and 
encourage the acquisition of the knowledge required to 
complete a preparation for active life or to perform its 

We are aware that it may be said and trul}^, that 
knowledge acquired under hardships is often more thor- 
ough, than that to which the learner is invited without 
effort on his part; that the studious young man who 
makes sacrifices and resorts to expedients to get books, 
values them the more and reads them to greater profit. 
This however is equally true of scliool education and of 
every other privilege in life. But the city of Boston 

1852.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 37. 9 

has never deemed this n reason for withholding the most 
munificent appropriations for the public education. It 
has not forborne to support an expensive system of free 
schools, because without such a system a few individuals 
would have acquired an education for themselves, under 
every possible discouragement and disadvantage, and be- 
cause knowledge so acquired is usually thorough, well- 
digested and available, beyond what is got in an easier 
way. The question is not what will be brought about 
by a few individuals of indomitable will and an ardent 
thirst for improvement, but what is most for the advan- 
tage of the mass of the community. In this point of 
view we consider that a large public library is of the 
utmost importance as the means of completing our sys- 
tem of public education. 

There is another point of view in which the subject ^ 
may be regarded, — a point of view, we mean, in which a ^ 
free public library is not only seen to be demanded by ^ ^ 
the wants of the city at this time, but also seen to be F • ^. ^ 
the next natural step to be taken for the intellectual ad- ^ b^ 1 
vancement of this whole community and for which this ^ - P ^ 
whole community is peculiarly fitted and prepared. ^^ 

Libraries were orifrinally intended for only a very rV oU 
small portion of the community in which they were -^"4- ^ 
established, because few persons could read, and fewer ^ ^^ ^- 
still desired to make inquiries that involved the consul-? 


.t day, a large pro- y, "|^ t^ 
L'id forbid anything,^^^ ^. } 

tation of many books. Even for a long time after the p 

invention of printing, they were anxiously shut up from \jf - 

general use ; and, down to the present 

portion of the best libraries in the worj 

like a free circulation of their books ; — many of them ^ 

forbidding any circulation at all. i' C 

For all this, there were at first, good reasons, and for ^ 
some of it good reasons exist still. When only manu- ^^ ^ 
scripts were known, those in public libraries were, no 



^ >. f' rt- 



doubt, generally too precious to be trusted from their 
usual places of deposit ; and the most remarkable, if not 
the most valuable, of all such collections now in exist- 
ence — the Laurentian in Florence — still retains, and per- 
haps ^Yisely, its eight or nine thousand manuscripts 
chained to the desks on which they lie. So too, when 
printed books first began to take the place of manu- 
scripts, the editions of them were small and their circu- 
lation limited. When, therefore, copies of such books 
now occur, they are often regarded rightfully as hardly 
less curious and valuable than manuscripts, and as de- 
manding hardly less care in their preservation. And 
finally, even of books more recently published, some, — 
like Dictionaries and Cyclopaedias, — are not intended for 
circulation by means of public libraries, and others are 
too large, too costlj'', or otherwise too important to be 
trusted abroad, except in rare cases. 

But while there are some classes of books that should 
be kept within the precincts of a public library, there 
are others to which as wide a circulation as possible 
should be given; books which, in fact, are especially 
intended for it, and the end of whose existence is defeat- 
ed, just in proportion as they are shut up and restrained 
from general use. It was, however, long after this class 
Avas known, before it became a large one, and still longer 
before means were found fitted to give to the community 
a'tolerably free use of it. At first it consisted almost 
exclusively of practical, religious books. Gradually the 
more popular forms of history, books of travel, and books 
chiefly or entirely intended for entertainment followed. 
At last, these books became so numerous, and were in 
such demand, that the larger public libraries, — most of 
which had grown more or less out of the religious estab- 
lishments of the middle ages, and had always regarded 
with little interest this more popular literature, — could 

1852.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 37. 11 

not, it was plain, continue to be looked upon as the only 
or as the chief resource for those who v/ere unable to 
buy for themselves the reading they wanted. Other re- 
sources and other modes of supply have, therefore, been 
at different times devised. 

The first, as might naturally have been anticipated, 
was suggested by the personal interest of a sagacious 
individual. Allan Ramsay, who, after being bred a wig- 
maker, had become a poet of the people, and set up a 
small bookseller's shop, was led to eke out an income, 
too inconsiderable for the wants of his flimily, by lend- 
ing his books on hire to those who were not able or not 
willing to buy them of him. This is the oldest of all 
the numberless '' Circulating Libraries ; " and it sprang 
up naturally in Edinburg, where in proportion to the 
population, it is believed there were then more readers 
than there were in any other city in the world. This 
was in 1725 ; and, twenty years ago, the same establish- 
ment was not only in existence — as it probably is still — 
but it was the largest and best of its class in all Scot- 
land. The example was speedily followed. Such libra- 
ries were set up everywhere, or almost everywhere in 
Christendom, but especially in Germany and in Great 
Britain, where they are thus far more numerous than they 
are in any other countries ; the most important being 
now in London, where (for at least one of them) from 
fifty to two hundred copies of every good new work, are 
purchased in order to satisfy the demands of its multitu- 
dinous subscribers and patrons. 

All " Circulating Libraries," technically so called, are 
however, to be regarded as adventures and speculations 
for private profit. On this account, they were early felt 
to be somewhat unsatisfactory in their very nature, and 
other libraries were contrived that were founded on the 
more generous principle of a mutual and common inter- 


est in those who wished to use the books they contained. 
This principle had, in fact, been recognized somewhat 
earlier than the time of Allan Ramsay, but for very 
limited purposes and not at all for the circulation of books. 
Thns the lawyers of Edinburg, London, and Paris, respec- 
tively had already been associated together for the pur- 
pose of collecting comuliing Law Libraries for their own 
use, aiid so it is believed, had some other bodies, which 
had collected consulting libraries for their own exclusive 
especial purposes. But the lirst Social Lihrary of com- 
mon or popular books for popular use, in the sense we 
now give the appellation, was probably that of the " Li- 
brary Company," as it was called, in Philadelphia, found- 
ed at the suggestion of Dr. Franklin in 1731, by the 
young mechanics of that city, where he was then a 
young printer. The idea was no doubt a fortunate one j 
particularly characteristic of Franklin's shrewd good 
sense, and adapted to the practical wants of our own 
country. The library of these young men, therefore, 
succeeded and was imitated in other places. Even be- 
fore the Revolutionary war, such libraries were estab- 
lished elsewhere in the colonies, and, after its conclusion, 
many sprang up on all sides. New England, in this 
way, has come to possess a great number of them, and 
especially Massachusetts ; two-thirds of whose towns are 
said at this time, to possess "Social Libraries," each 
owned by a moderate number of proprietors. 

That these popular " Social Libraries " have done great 
good, and that many of them are still doing great good, 
cannot be reasonably doubted. But many of them, — 
perhaps the majority in this Commonwealth, — are now 
languishing. For this, there are two reasons. In the 
first place, such libraries are accessible only to their pro- 
prietons, who are not always the persons most anxious 
to use them, or, in some cases, but not many, they are 

1852.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 37. 13 

accessible to other persons on payment of a small sum 
for each book borrowed. And, in the second place, they 
rarely contain more than one copy of a book, so that if it 
be a new book, or one in much demand, many are 
obliged to wait too long for their turn to read it; so long 
that their desire for the book is lost, and their interest in 
the library diminished. Efforts, therefore, have been for 
some time making, to remedy these deficiencies, and to 
render books of different kinds more accessible to all, 
whether they can pay for them or hire them, or not. 

Thus, within thirty years, Sunday School Libraries 
have been everywhere established ; but their influence — 
great and valuable as it is — does not extend much be- 
yond the youngest portions of society and their particu- 
lar religious teachers. And, within a shorter period than 
thirty years, District or Public School Libraries have 
been scattered all over the great State of New York, 
and all over New England, in such abundance, that five 
years ago, (1847) the aggregate number of their books 
in the State of New York was above a million three hun- 
dred thousand volumes, and fast increasing ; but neither 
do these school libraries generally contain more than one 
copy of any one book, nor is their character often such 
as to reach and satisfy the mass of adult readers. 

Strong intimations, therefore, are already given, that 
ampler means and means better adapted to our peculiar 
condition and wants, are demanded, in order to diffuse 
through our society that knowledge without which we 
have no right to hope, that the condition of those who 
are to come after us will be as happy and prosperous as 
our own. The old roads, so to speak, are admitted to be 
no longer sufficient. Even the more modern turnpikes 
do not satisfy our wants. We ask for rail-cars and steam- 
boats, in which many more persons — even multitudes — 
may advance together to the great end of life, and go 


faster, fixrther and better, by the means thus furnished 
to them, than they have ever been able to do before. 

Nowhere are the intimations of this demand more de- 
cisive than in our own city, nor, it is believed, is there any 
city of equal size in the world, where added means for gen- 
eral popular instruction and self-culture, — if wisely adapt- 
ed to their great ends, — will be so promptly seized upon 
or so effectually used, as they will be here. One plain 
proof of this is, the large number of good libraries we 
already possess, which are constantly resorted to by those 
who have the right, and which yet — it is well known, — 
fail to supply the demand for popular reading. For we 
have respectable libraries of almost every class, begin- 
ning with those of the Athenreum, of the American 
Academy, of the Historical Society, and of the General 
Court, — the Social Library of 1792, the Mercantile Li- 
brary, the Mechanics Apprentices' Library, the Libraries 
of the Natural History Society, of the Bar, of the 
Statistical Association, of the Genealogical Society, of 
the Medical Society, and of other collective and corpo- 
rate bodies ; and coming down to the "Circulating Libra- 
ries " strictly so called ; the Sunday School Libraries, and 
the collections of children's books found occasionally in 
our Primary Schools. Now all these are important and 
excellent means for the diffusion of knowledge. They 
are felt to be such, and they are used as such, and the 
trustees would be especially careful not to diminish the 
resources or the influence of any one of them. They 
are sure that no public library can do it. But it is ad- 
mitted, — or else another and more general library would 
not now be urged, — that these valuable libraries do not, 
either individually or in the aggregate, reach the great 
want of this city, considered as a body politic bound to 
train up its members in the knowledge which will best 
fit them for the positions in life to which they may have 

1852.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 37. 15 

been born, or any others to which they may justly aspire 
through increased intelligence and personal worthiness. 
For multitudes among us have no right of access to any 
one of the more considerable and important of these libra- 
ries ; and, except in rare instances, no library among us 
seeks to keep more than a single copy of any book on 
its shelves, so that no one of them, nor indeed, all of 
them taken together, can do even a tolerable amount of 
what ought to be done towards satisfying the demands 
for healthy, nourishing reading made by the great masses 
of our people, who cannot be expected to purchase such 
reading for themselves. 

And yet there can be no doubt that such reading 
ought to be furnished to all, as a matter of public policy 
and duty, on the same principle that we furnish free ed- 
ucation, and in fact, as a part, and a most important part, 
of the education of all. For it has been rightly judged 
that, — under political, social and religious institutions 
like ours, — it is of paramount importance that the means 
of general information should be so diffused that the largest 
possible number of persons should be induced to read 
and understand questions going down to the very foun- 
dations of social order, which are constantly presenting 
themselves, and which we, as a people, are constantly re- 
quired to decide, and do decide, either ignorantly or wise- 
ly. That this can be done, — that is, that such libraries 
can be collected, and that they will be used to a much 
wider extent than libraries have ever been used before, 
and with much more important results, there can be no 
doubt ; and if it can be done amju'liere, it can be done 
here in Boston ; for no population of one hundred and 
fifty thousand souls, lying so compactly together as to 
be able, with tolerable convenience, to resort to one 
library, was ever before so well fitted to become a read- 
ing, self-cultivating population, as the population of our 
own city is at this moment. 


To accomplisli this object, liowever, — which has never 
yet been attempted, — we must use means which have 
never before been used ; otherwise the library we pro- 
pose to establish, will not be adjusted to its especial pur- 
poses. Above all, while the rightful claims of no class, — 
however highly educated already, — should be overlooked, 
the first regard should be shown, as in the case of our 
Free Schools, to the wants of those, who can, in no other 
•way supply themselves with the interesting and healthy 
reading necessary for their farther education. What pre- 
cise plan should be adopted for such a library, it is not, 
perhaps, possible to settle beforehand. It is a new thing, 
a new step forward in general education; and we must 
feel our way as we advance. Still, certain points seem 
to rise up with so much prominence, that without decid- 
ing on any formal arrangement, until experience shall 
show what is practically useful — we may perhaps foresee 
that such a library as is contemplated would naturally 
fall into four classes, viz : 

I. Books that cannot he taken out of the Lihranj, such as 
Cyclopaedias, Dictionaries, important public documents, 
and books, which, from their rarity or costliness, cannot 
be easily replaced. Perhaps others should be specifi- 
cally added to this list, but after all, the Trustees w^ould 
be sorry to exclude any book whatever so absolutely 
from circulation that, by permission of the highest au- 
thority having control of the library, it could not, in 
special cases, and with sufficient pledges for its safe and 
proper return, be taken out. For a book, it should be 
remembered, is never so much in the way of its duty as 
it is when it is in hand to be read or consulted. 

II. Books that few j)ersons vMl wish to read, and of 
which, therefore, only one copy will be kept, but which 
should be permitted to circulate freely, and if this copy 
should, contrary to expectation, be so often asked for, as 

1852.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 37. 17 

to be rarely on the shelves, another copy should then be 
bought, — or if needful, more than one other copy, — so as 
to keep one generally at home, especially if it be such a 
book as is often wanted for use there. 

III. Boohs that will he often ashed for, (we mean, the 
more respectable of the popular books of the time,) 
of which copies should be provided in such numbers, 
that many persons, if they desire it, can be reading 
the same work at the same moment, and so render 
the pleasant and healthy literature of the day acces- 
sible to the whole people at the only time they care for 
it, — that is, when it is living, fresh and new. Additional 
copies, therefore, of any book of this class should continue 
to be bought almost as long as they are urgently de- 
manded, and thus, by following the popular taste, — unless 
it should ask for something unhealthy, — we may hope 
to create a real desire for general reading ; and, by per- 
mitting the freest circulation of the books that is consist- 
ent with their safety, cultivate this desire among the 
young, and in the families and at the firesides of the 
greatest possible number of persons in the city. 

An appetite like this, when formed, will, we fully be- 
lieve, provide wisely and well for its own wants. The 
popular, current literature of the day can occupy but a 
small portion of the leisure even of the more laborious 
parts of our population, provided there should exist 
among them a love for reading as great, for instance, as 
the love for public lecturing, or for the public schools ; 
and when such a taste for books has once been formed 
by these lighter publications, then the older and more 
settled works in Biography, in History, and in the graver 
departments of knowledge will be demanded. That such 
a taste can be excited by such means, is proved from 
the course taken in obedience to the dictates of their own 
interests, by the publishers of the popular literature of 


the time during the last twenty or thirty years. The 
Harpers and others began chiefl}^ with new novels and 
other books of little value. What they printed, however, 
was eagerly bought and read, because it was cheap and 
agreeable, if nothing else. A habit of reading was thus 
formed. Better books were soon demanded, and gradu- 
ally the general taste has risen in its requisitions, until 
now the country abounds with respectable works of all 
sorts, — such as compose the three hundred volumes of 
the Harpers' School Library and the two hundred of their 
Family Library — which are read by great numbers of 
our people everywhere, especially in New England and 
in the Middle States. This taste, therefore, once excited 
will, we are persuaded, go on of itself from year to year, 
demanding better and better books, and, can as we be- 
lieve, by a little judicious help in the selections for a Free 
City Library, rather than by any direct control, restraint, 
or solicitation, be carried much higher than has been 
commonly deemed possible ; preventing at the same time, 
a great deal of the mischievous, poor reading now indulged 
in, which is bought and paid for, by offering good read- 
ing, without j)ay, which will be attractive. 

Nor would the process by which this result is to be 
reached a costly one ; certainly not costly compared with 
its benefits. Nearly all the most popular books are, 
from the circumstance of their popularity, cheap, — most 
of them very cheap, — because large editions of them are 
printed that are suited to the wants of those who cannot 
aflbrd to buy dear books. It may, indeed, sometimes be 
necessary to purchase many copies of one of these books, 
and so the first outlay, in some cases, may seem consid- 
erable. But such a passion for any given book does not 
last long, and, as it subsides, the extra copies may be 
sold for something, until only a few are left in the libra- 
ry, or perhaps, only a single one, while the money re- 

1852.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 37. 19 

ceived from the sale of the rest, — which, at a reduced 
price, would, no doubt often be bought of the Librarian 
by those who had been most interested in reading them, 
— will serve to increase the general means for purchasing- 
others of the same sort. The plan, therefore, it is be- 
lieved, is a practicable one, so far as expense is concerned, 
and will, we think, be found on trial, much cheaper and 
much easier of execution than at the first suggestion, it 
may seem to be. 

IV. The last class of books to be kept in such a 
library, consists, we suppose, of periodical publications, 
probably excluding newspapers, except such as may be 
given by their proprietors. Like the first class, they 
should not be taken out at all, or only in rare and pecu- 
liar cases, but they should be kept in a Reading Room 
accessible to everybody ; open as many hours of the day 
as possible, and always in the evening ; and in which all 
the books on the shelves of every part of the Library 
should be furnished for perusal or for consultation to all 
who may ask for them, except to such persons as may, 
from their disorderly conduct or unseemly condition, 
interfere with the occupations and comfort of others who 
may be in the room. 

In the establishment of such a library, a beginning 
should be made, we think, without any sharply defined 
or settled plan, so as to be governed by circumstances 
as they may arise. The commencement should be made, 
of preference, in a very unpretending manner ; erecting 
no new building and making no show; but spending 
such moneys as may be appropriated for the purpose, 
chiefly on books that are known to be really wanted, 
rather than on such as will make an imposing, a scientific 
or a learned collection; trusting, however, most confi- 
dently, that such a library, in the long run, will contain 
all that anybody can reasonably ask of it. For, to begin 


by making it a really useful library ; by awakening a 
general interest in it as a City Institution, important to 
the whole people, a part of their education, and an ele- 
ment of their happiness and prosperity, is the surest way 
to make it at last, a great and rich library for men of 
science, statesmen and scholars, as well as for the great 
body of the people, many of whom are always success- 
fully struggling up to honorable distinctions and all of 
whom should be encouraged and helped to do it. Cer- 
tainly this has proved to be the case with some of the 
best libraries yet formed in the United States, and espe- 
cially with the Philadelphia Library, whose means were 
at first extremely humble and trifling, compared with 
those we can command at the outset. Such libraries 
have in fact enjoyed the public favor, and become large, 
learned, and scientific collections of books, exactly in pro- 
portion as they have been found generally useful. 

As to the terms on which access should be had to a 
City Library, the Trustees can only say, that they 
would place no restrictions on its use, except such as the 
nature of individual books, or their safety may demand ; 
regarding it as a great matter to carry as many of them 
as possible into the home of the young ; into poor fami- 
lies ; into cheap boarding houses ; in short, wherever 
they will be most likely to afiect life and raise personal 
character and condition. To many classes of persons the 
doors of such a library may, we conceive, be at once 
opened wide. All officers of the City Government, 
therefore, including the police, all clergymen settled 
among us, all city missionaries, all teachers of our public 
schools, all members of normal schools, all young persons 
who may have received medals or other honorary distinc- 
tions on leaving our Grammar and higher schools, and, 
in fact, as many classes, as can safely be entrusted with 
it as classes, might enjoy, on the mere names and personal 

1852.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 37. 21 

responsibility of the individuals composing them, the 
right of taking out freely all books that are permitted to 
circulate, receiving one volume at a time. To all other 
persons, — women as well as men — living in the City, the 
same privilege might be granted on depositing the value 
of the volume or of the set to which it may belong ; 
believing that the pledge of a single dollar or even less, 
may thus insure pleasant and profitable reading to any 
family among us. 

In this way the Trustees would endeavor to make the 
Public Library of the City, as far as possible, the crown- 
ing glory of our system of City Schools ; or in other 
words, they would make it an institution, fitted to con- 
tinue and increase the best effects of that system, by 
opening to all the means of self culture through books, 
for which these schools have been specially qualifying 
them. — - 

Such are the views entertained by the Trustees, with 
reference to the objects to be attained by the foundation 
of a public library and the mode of effecting them. 

It remains to be considered briefly what steps should 
be adopted toward the accomplishment of such a design. 

If it were probable that the City Council would deem 
it expedient at once to make a large appropriation for 
the erection of a building and the purchase of an ample 
library, and that the citizens at large would approve such 
an expenditure, the Trustees would of course feel great 
satisfaction in the prompt achievement of an object of 
such high public utility. But in the present state of the 
finances of the city, and in reference to an object on 
which the public mind is not yet enlightened by experi- 
ence, the Trustees regard any such appropriation and 
expenditure as entirely out of the question. They con- 
ceive even that there are advantages in a more gradual 
course of measures. They look, therefore, only to the 


continuance of such moderate and frugal expenditure, 
on the part of the city, as has been already authorized 
and commenced, for the purchase of books and the com- 
pensation of the librarian ; and for the assignment of a 
room or rooms in some one of the public buildings be- 
longing to the city for the reception of the books already 
on hand, or which the Trustees have the means of pro- 
curing. With aid to this extent on the part of the city, 
the Trustees believe that all else may be left to the pub- 
lic spirit and liberality of individuals. They are inclined 
to think that, from time to time, considerable collections 
of books will be presented to the library by citizens of 
Boston, who will take pleasure in requiting in this way 
the advantages which they have received from its public 
institutions, or who for any other reason are desirous of 
increasing the means of public improvement. Besides 
the collections of magnitude and value, which can hardly 
fail in the lapse of years to be received in this way, it 
may with equal confidence be expected, that constant 
accessions will be made to the public library by the do- 
nation of single volumes or of small numbers of books, 
which, however inconsiderable in the single case, become 
in the course of time, an important source of increase to 
all public libraries. A free city library, being an object 
of interest to the entire population, would in this respect 
have an advantage over institutions which belong to pri- 
vate corporations. Authors and editors belonging to 
Boston would generally deem it a privilege to place a 
copy of their works on the shelves of a public library ; 
and the liberal publishers of the city, to whose intelli- 
gence and enterprise the cause of literature and science 
has at all times owed so much, would unquestionably 
show themselves efficient friends and benefactors. 

In fact, we know of no undertaking more likel}'', when 
once brought into promising operation, to enlist in its 

1852.] CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 37. 23 

favor the whole strength of that feeling, which, in so 
eminent a degree, binds the citizens of Boston to the 
place of their birth or adoption. In particular the Trus- 
tees are disposed to think that there is not a parent in 
easy circumstances who has had a boy or a girl educated 
at a public school, nor an individual who has himself en- 
joyed that privilege, who will not regard it at once as a 
duty and a pleasure to do something, in this way, to 
render more complete the provision for public education. 

In order to put the library into operation with the 
least possible delay, the Trustees would propose to the 
city government to appropriate for this purpose the ground 
floor of the Adams school house in Mason street. They 
are led to believe that it will not be needed for the use 
of the Normal School proposed to be established in this 
building. It may be made, at a small expense, to afford 
ample accommodation for four or five thousand volumes, 
"with an adjoining room for reading and consulting books, 
and it will admit of easy enlargement to twice its pre- 
sent dimensions. Such an apartment would enable the 
Trustees at once to open the library with five thousand 
volumes, a collection of sufficient magnitude to afford a 
fair specimen of the benefits of such an establishment to 
the city. 

Should it win the public favor, as the Trustees cannot 
but anticipate, it will soon reach a size, which will re- 
quire enlarged premises. These, as we have said, can be 
easily provided by the extension of the present room on 
the ground floor ; and it will be time enough, when the 
space at command is filled up, to consider what further 
provision need be made for the accommodation of the 
library. Should the expectation of the Trustees be real- 
ized, and should it be found to supply an existing defect 


in our otherwise admirable s^^stem of public education, 
its future condition may be safely left to the judicious 
liberality of the city government and the public spirit 
of the community. 

Boston, July 6, 1852. 

Boston, July 26, 1852. 

At a meeting of the Trustees of the Pubhc Library held on 
the Gth instant, the foregoing Report was submitted by a Sub- 
Committee previously appointed for that purpose, consisting of 
Edward Everett, George Ticknor, Sampson Reed, and 
Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, and was unanimously accepted and 
ordered to be printed.