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Full text of "Memoir of William John Potts"

929.2 

P8594S 

1815089 



REYNOLD<l HISTORICAL 
GENEALOGY COLLECTION 



G« 



I 3 1833 01420 3738 



MENIOIR 



Will iam Joh.n Potts. 



BY 

Frederick d. stone. 



Philadelphi 
1897- 



1815089 




/htUa'ni^ Icrh^i. Jcrflj 






PHILADELrHIA : 

MacCalla S: Company Inc., Printeks, 
237-9 Dock Street. 



MEMOIR 



William John potts. 

By FREDERICK D. STONE. 
(£ead before the American I'Mlotop/iical Sociely, Deremb-r i, 1S96.) 

Over forty years aw, wliile attending a school kept by the 
late Thomas D. James, at the corner of Eleventh and Market 
streets, I remember noticing among the new scholars admitted 
at the opening of a September term, a briglu little boy 
whose name I afterwards learned was William John Potts. He 
■was my junior by some eighteen months — not a noticeable 
difference in the age of men, but an all-important one when 
it forms the barrier that separates a little liov !r,.)m a big one. 

I do not think that we remained schoolteilows very long. 
I know he left ilr. James' school to attend another, before he 
had completed his education, but the acquaintance then 
formed was sufficiently strong to insure a kindly greeting 
whenever we met, and to ripen into a warm iriendship in after 
years, when we found we Avere interested in the same pur- 
suits. If, therefore, I should speak of Mr. Potts more as I 
knew lam than as a member of the American Philosophical 
Society, you must remember that I am moved by a friend- 
ship exceeding in years more than half the limit of the 
allotted life of man. 

Winiam John Potts was bom in Philadelphia on October 
1-i, 18-12. When he was eight years of age. his parents 
moved to Camden, X. J., where he resided imtil his death, 
which took place November 18, 1805. He was the son of 
Robert Barnhill Potts and Sarah Page Potts, daughter of 
John Grew, of Boston. On his father's side he was the sixth 
in descent from David Potts and Alice Croasdale. David 
Potts, a native of North Wales, was born about 1070, in or 



near the ancient town of Langumc;'. He was a Quaker either 
by birth or con\'iction, and in this foith his descendants 
remained for generations. Al)out ItJyO he came to Pennsyl- 
vania, Avhere he died in 1730. AHce Cruasdale was one of 
the six children of Thomas and Asxnes Croasdale, who were 
passengers on the Welcome vfith William Pennwhen he came 
to Pennsylvania iu 1662. Alice was at that time nine years 
of age. John, the second son of David and Alice Potts, died 
in Pennsylvania in 176L). Thomas, the second son of John, 
was an iron manufacturer. He removed to 2sew Jersey, and 
was several times a member of the Assembly of that Colon v. 
He died in 1777. His son William J>iikeus Potts, the father 
of Eobert Bamhill Potts, was also in the iron business. He 
died in Philadelphia in ISoi. Robert Barnhill Potts died 
near Boston, June •22, 1805. 

Mr. Potts was also the seventh in descent from John 
Hughes, who came iiere about 1G^>1. He was the ancestor of 
John Hughes, the friend of Franklin, who brought down a 
storm of indignation on his own head and that of Hughes, 
when he had him appointed .Stamp-officer for Pennsylvania. 
Another ancestor of ilr. Potts was Peter Larson Cock, one 
of our earliest Swedish settlers, who was born in Sweden in 
1611 and died in Pennsylvania. He had held oiiice under 
the Dutch, and was a member of Penn's Coimcil. From him 
William Penn bought a portion of the site of Philadelphia. 
Another ancestor was Matts Ilolsteiu, who was born in New 
Sweden in IGii. 

Some of Mr. Potts' ancestors, probably the Croasdales, 
lived in a cave before dwellings were erected in Philadelphia, 
as I find iu one of his letters to the late Henry Armitt Brown 
on this subject the following: "I have the honor to have 
descended from a cave-dweller myself." The maternal grand- 
father of Mr. Potts, John Grew, of Boston, was a native of 
Birmingham, England, where his ancestors were people of 
influence, and he, hke them, was a man of intelligence. 
4 



It will seen from tins, that on his father's side William 
John Potts was n. true Pomisylvanian. Uis prL>genitors were 
among her earliest settlers. They held to the faith that brought 
Penn to this side of the Atlantic, and for several genera- 
tions were dealing in one of the State's great natural sources 
of wealth, the development of which has made the name of a 
Pennsylvanian iron-master known throughout the world. 

Mr. Potts' education was begun in Camden and continued 
in Philadelphia. After leaving the school of Mr. James 
already mentioned, he attended that of Mr. William Fewsmith, 
and, subsequentlv, the lectures on C4icmistry at the University 
of Pennsylvania and at tlic Polytechnic College of Pennsylva- 
nia. On leaving this last-named in.stitution, he presented, as 
a candidate for the degree of Bachelor of Chemistry, an essay 
on lead. After completing his education, he filled the posi- 
tion of An.alytical Chemist, being connected with extensive 
chemical works which liis father had established in Camden. 
Mr. Potts, however, did mit continue for many years in the 
calling for which he had titted himself. He was one of those, 
fortunately or unfortunately situated, as tlie case may seem, 
■who did not have to work. Fortunately, as it enabled him 
to follow more congenial pursuits ; unfc-^rtunately, as it is 
hardly possible that, with the industry and application that 
so strongly marked his character, he would not have been 
successful in the more practical walk of life he at tirst pro- 
posed to follow. 

Freed from the exacting demands of business, he threw 
himself heart and soul into intellectual pursuits, and his 
various tastes soon led him to take an interest in nearlv every 
branch of science, of art and of literature. I do not mean 
that he to any extent mastered these subjects, but there were 
few in which he did not take an intelligent interest. History, 
and its kindred branches of archeology, numismatics, and 
genealogy, were at first his more favored studies, and his 
correspondence before me shows how continually they 
5 



engaged liis miud. lu one letter he describes the opening of 
some Indian graves, every particular of which he carefully 
noted. In another, he gives the history of the " Bar Cent," 
and, in another, discusses with force a vexed genealogical 
question. To the New York Genealogical and Biographical 
Rtcord he contributed a list of books to assist Pennsylvania 
genealogists, which has been frequently referred to. Later 
in life, however, his love for genealogy was superseded by an 
interest in philology and folk-lore. 

Happy in his domestic surroundings, his house became the 
gathering-place of friends of kindred tastes, and he was 
made president of a local art-club or class that met there. 
He was also president of the " Fortnightly Club," which 
met at the residences of the members every two weeks, its 
object being " to promote a liberal spirit in lectures on gen- 
eral subjects." He was subsequently made president of the 
University Extension movement in Camden, and no one 
labored more zealously than he did to give his fellow-citizens 
the most interesting and instructive course of lectures jjossi- 
ble. 

He was of a shrinking disposition, and even the introduc- 
tion of speakers at the Fortnightly Club was a trial to him. 
He wrote, however, that he hojicd in time to gain sulhcient 
confidence to keep his feet before an audience with less 
embarrassment, and looked forward to addressing the Histor- 
ical Society and the Philosophical Society. 

To sum up Mr. Potts' character in a few words, he can be 
best described as an educated gentleman of broad and liberal 
tastes, in whose company every one could find pleasure. 
Although not a college graduate, his education was excel- 
lent, and it was supplemented by the advantages of extensive 
travel, at a tinic when his mind was ojien to its broadening 
influences. Early in 1866, he sailed for Europe, and re- 
mained abroad for more than two years. In ISSO he again 
visited Europe, and did not return until 1S~?2. On his first 



trip he visited some of the principal European capitals. His 
second trip was extended to Norway, Sweden, Russia, Italy, 
Spain and as far up the Nile as the first cataract. 

Mr. Potts was elected a member of the American Philo- 
sophical Society in 1885, and of the Historical Society of 
Pennsylvania on February 28, 1871. At the time of his 
death he was also a member of the New England Historic 
Genealogical Society and the New Jersey Historical Society ; 
corresponding member of the "Wisconsin Historical Society; 
member of the English Folk-Lore Society, the American Folk- 
Lore Society, and the Pennsylvania Sons of the Revolution ; 
charter member of the New Jersey Sons of the Revolution ; 
member of the Society of Colonial Wars for the State of 
Pennsylvania, and foundation member of the Society of Colo- 
nial "Wars for the State of New Jersey. During his lifetime 
he had also been a member of the Academy of Natural 
Sciences and of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Societies of 
Philadelphia. 

Mr. Potts was a frequent contributor to the London Notes 
and Queries, to the New Enyland Historic Oenealogical Regis- 
ter, to the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, 
to the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 
to Tlie Critic, and to the papers of the day. For the Philo- 
sophical Society he prepared, as you know, an excellent 
memoir of his personal friend, our late member, the Hon. 
Thomas H. Dudley. 

It is unfortunate for Mr. Potts' reputation that he did not 
confine his interest to one or two subjects, as from his profes- 
sional training he had acquired a facility for detecting the 
minutest evidence bearing upon the subject under considera- 
tion, and his power of application is shown in the hours he 
spent over manuscripts and other sources of original informa- 
tion. He had, as one of your members expressed it. " the 
instincts and methods of a true scholar," but the diversity of 
his tastes prevented him from becoming so absorbed in one 



subject as to present all the facts connected with it in the 
order required to give them their true value. To a certain 
extent he lacked the ]iower of concentration. To a friend 
who met him in the Boston Athemeum, where he was con- 
sulting works on a great variety of subjects, and who asked 
him why he attempted to cover so wide a field, he replied 
that there were so many interesting things to be examined 
that if he confined himself to a few, he might lose facts he 
would never find again. It Avas the accumulation of knowl- 
edge, rather than its use, that moved hira. And yet he did 
use it in the most generous way, namely, in helping others, 
in which service his life was spent. Nothing gave him more 
pleasure than the examination of original manuscripts likely 
to prove of historical value, and as he possessed the faculty 
of appreciating curious information and was competent to 
judge of what was important, he seldom failed, when he met 
with such, to take Captain Cuttle's advice and make a note 
of it. His note-books thus became storehouses of references, 
and the generosity with wliich he drew upon them for the 
benefit of others is attested by the frequency As-ith which we 
finds thanks for assistance extended to him in works pub- 
lished within the last twenty years. 

It may well be asked if Mr. Potts gave no one of his 
numerous tastes a prominence over another, and while the 
answer must be in the negative, so far as his studies were 
concerned, there was certainly one class of composition in 
which he excelled, and to which I think he gave a particular 
attention — I mean the well-nigh lost art of letter'-^-riting. 

For this he appears to have had a natural-bom taste. Nor 
am I alone in this opinion : one of his correspondents wrote, 
" Your letters have a peculiar flavor and special interest ;" 
and such was the verdict of a number who read letters 
received from him at the Historical Society while he was in 
Europe. From the earliest letter written by him, that has 
been preserved, in which, at the age of eight years, he tells 



his grandmother of the neighbors children who threaten to 
tear up his banner, to the last, written at intervals when he 
could sutUciently rouse himself for the effort, only a few- 
weeks before his death, all are interesting and bright, with a 
rich vein of hunior running through them that was perfectly 
characteristic. Nothing can give you a better idea of the 
man or show better the development of his tastes than his 
letters. 

In one he tells his mother of his collection of jasper and 
white flint arrow-head.s, and hopes she has brought him 
some stalactites and bUnd lish from the Mammoth Cave ; 
and then he informs her that he has run short of summer 
clothes, and has been obliged to wear his great-grandfather's 
pantaloons, which, being of antique make, and large, flapped 
about and kept his legs cool. 

In another, to the same devoted parent, he asks her not 
to forget to bring him some minerals, and to thank Aunt 
Rebecca for the curiosities. A visit to a church is then 
described, evidently not of the denomination the fomily 
usually attended. In it his uncle held a pew. " I saw an 
expression of pleasure on imcle's countenance,'" he wrote, 
" as he escorted fatlier, a vestryman in an Episcopal church, 
to a place in his sanctuary ; and I thought the words of the 
hymn might be passing through his mind, which read, 
' Enter, sinner, ere it be too late,' or possibly the words we 
read over bridges, ' Keep to the right as the law directs.' " 

And then, in another, " Dear mother, don't forget to bring 
me more specimens." 

At about the age of twenty-one he suffered from the 
poetic fever, and wrote a parody in the measure of " Hia- 
watha." He is to be pardoned. He could not help it ; we 
all did it. It was in the air, and we took it as we did the 
measles. 

His European letters are all excellent. Those from Eng- 
land in 1866, written shortly after the close of the war, show 
9 



the interest that was beino- awakened there in American 
affairs, when the people of Eno'Land realized the strength of 
our government. There is nothing of the guide-book in 
these letters. For descriptions you are frequently referred to 
printed authorities : it is the people -w-ith whom he came in 
contact that he writes about, and you cannot but feel that 
the views he expres.ses are those of a close observer. 

In spealdng of the imperfect knowledge the English had 
of America, he wrote : " The English people, old and young, 
need to begin at the beginning. There are some newspapers 
which do understand the vital principles of our government, 
hut they are so few that they all are not more than four or 
five in the whole kingdom as far as I know. The Morning 
Star is one which does not hesitate to speak plainly, for only 
lately I saw some remarkably clear statements in its edito- 
rials. In one it said : ' "What is an American but an 
Englishman with a vote in his hand '!' al.-o, ' TVhat was the 
cause of the rebelUon of the American Colonies ? Taxation 
without representation!' Turning from the comparison of 
our people to tlieirs, crushed with ignorance and pauperism, 
they ask, ' TThat is Continental Europe doing ? Swiftly 
advancing towards universal suftrage. Are Englishman to 
be treated as inferior to the Continental nations they have so 
long sneered at ?' They, the editors of the Morning Star, 
ask, ' Does it injure the people ? "What made the Americans 
able to crush the greatest Rebellion that ever existed, but 
the feeling that each American had, that he himself was a 
part of the Government and personally responsible for its life 
and safety?' " His friends, he says, asked a good many 
questions about our Government, the freedmen, etc., which 
he explainetl as well as he could. " I longed," he said, " to 
have had ability to speak more plainly. I tried to do the 
best I was able, feeling the above truth very strongly : 
• Every American is a part of his Government, and upon 
himself the life and safety of the nation depend.' Some of 
10 



our American friends who have been in England for many 
years say that since the Rebellion the English have learned 
much more about America." 

" In London, when I first came I noticed a large crowd 
gazing at something in front of a shop-window, and, as I 
always had a countryman's taste for a shoii-window, I deter- 
mined to see too. When I got a look, after some cro-\vding 
and squeezing, what do you think it was ? Nothing but a 
picture of one of our American locomotives. However, I 
felt a sort of national sympathy for it which repaid me. It 
was no wonder the English looked upon it as a very chimeri- 
cal-looking animal, alongside of the funny Phiglish engines, 
which have pipes not much bigger than we use for stoves, 
and when they whistle it sounds like the shrieks of a woman 
in hysterics." 

The rudeness of the English whom he met on the Continent, 
who appeared to be perfectly ol)livious of otliers, refusing, 
or neglecting, to recognize their presence by the slightest 
inclination of the head, when coming to or leaving the tabic, 
excited his intense ire. " Bob and I," he said, " kept up 
our good American custom of being polite in spite of these 
people. There was no intention, in their abrupt manner of 
leaving you, of being rude, but we found that they really 
did not know any better, any of them." 

On his second visit he writes of the Swedes : "I still 
have the same opinion of the Swedish people. They are 
much superior to many other European nations ; take the 
average, they are more retined-looking, manly, independent, 
and neater in their personal appearance than many Europeans. 
It is a matter of congratulation that our western population 
will be largely descended from these northern races, who, in 
this country in particular, have long enjoyed certain political 
privileges which are denied the people elsewhere, and which 
make them appreciate fully the duties of republican liberty." 

His sturdy Americanism, as shown in those letters, is 
11 



delightful. lie was ever ready to take up the cudgels for his 
o-ftTi couutry in an argument, but was never offensive, nor 
was he blind to the unfavorable impressions made by some 
Americans on the Continent. lie was too polite to reply, 
except in courteous terms, to the ex-Lord !Mayor of London, 
■whose acquaintance he made on thc'^^Iediterranean, when the 
said gentleman asked him if Congress and its members were 
not very corrupt, and then added that his ov.-n election to 
Parliament had cost him five thousand pounds. But he could 
not shut his eyes to the vulgarity of one of his own country- 
men whom he met at Naples, who displayed on a broad 
shirt-front three large gold studs ; offered to " chalk out " for 
a lady a route by which she could go up Vesuvius without 
paying a guide ; and described how the lava on Mount 
Vesuvius kept " accoomalatin ' and aecoomalatin ' and 
a-formin' and a-formin'."' 

From this specimen of humanity he turned to a more con- 
genial acquaintance, whom he spoke of as the Irish Quaker 
lady, although he had no proof that she was a Quaker 
beyond a certain plainness of dress. She was from Cork, 
the niece of a ]\[r. Richard Sainthill, an antiquary, who had 
instilled into her his tastes from a child, especially in Greek 
coins. She took a great interest in numismatics and in the 
early Irish and Huguenot emigrations to America, and they 
thus had much in common. 

In a letter from Rome, he speaks of a little American 
girl, who, he said, had ideas of her own and a proper Amer- 
ican spirit. An Englishman whom she met described 
meeting a most agreeable American and his wife, both 
educated and apparently refined, and the latter very good- 
looking. " And woidd you believe it?" said the English- 
man, " he gave me his card when we left, as we had been 
traveling some time together, and he was a portmanteau- 
maker. Fancy ! Traveling with your portmanteau-maker. 
I thought he was a man of some note from Xcw York !" 
13 



" My bright-spirited little companion," says Mr. Potts, 
" was equal to the occasion : she rcplicil, ' Mr. So-and-so, did 
it never occur to you that a portmanteau-maker in America 
and a portmanteau-maker in England might be two ditferent 
kinds of men?' The honest Englishman answered, ' I never 
thought of that before; I believe you are right.'" Mr. 
Potts adds : " I could have kissed her on the spot for this 
well-timed cut— not a very disagreeable thing, for she was 
not bad-looking." 

It mav be here said, that it was Mr. Potts' pride in 
America that led him to take such an active part in the 
Society of the Sons of the Picvolution, as he saw in it the 
means of preserving a proper American spirit and inculcating 
in the minds of its members an intelligent interest in the 
history of their country. 

In one of his letters the ruins of Pompeii are graphically 
described ; in another, a l)ull-light at Madrid. In his descrip- 
tions of cathedrals you can detect his taste for archseology 
as well as, to some extent, in his Nile journal. I do not 
know, however, that his archaeological studies included 
Egyptology, and hardly think such was the case. Certainly 
his Nile journal treats more of the persons he traveled 
with — inappropriately dressed Englishwomen •u'ith their 
velvet-trimmed dresses and lace-bedecked parasols, which 
they carried while riding on donkeys — and of his own experi- 
ence of riding on a camel, with its hiccoughing effect when 
the animal began to trot, than of Egyptian antiquities. At 
Luxor, he was entertained by the British Consul, an Arab 
who spoke English and several other languages. He had 
present, for the entertainment of his guests, a party of 
dancing-girls, who gave several of their famous native dances 
to strange, %rild music. " One does not desire," wrote Mr. 
Potts, " to see such an exhibition a second time. While 
clothed to their throats, their movements of the body were 
of a character that made our ballet modest in comparison. 
13 



A gentleman who had been in India said that the movements 
were the same as those of the Xautch girls.'' Except from 
an antiquarian point of view, which connects these dauces 
-with an ancient worship. Mr. Potts could see nothing in them 
of interest, and declined an invitation to another entertain- 
ment rather than witness a repetition of the performance: 

Nothing was more characteristic of him than his love for 
books, and while in Europe he more than once expressed 
himself as feeling lost, away from his study-table, surrounded 
by his favorite volumes. When a boy at school he met 
with Channing's well-kno-\^-n passage, which says: " Xo 
matter how poor I am, no matter though the prosperous of 
my own time ^Ndll not enter my obscure dwelling, if the 
sacred writers will enter, take up their abode under my roof ; 
if Milton A\'ill cross my threshold to sing to me of Paradise, 
and Shakespeare to open to me the worlds of imagination 
and the workings of the human heart, and Franklin to enrich 
me with his practical -wisdom, I shall not pine for want of 
intellectual companionship."' Channing was the friend of 
his mother's family in Boston ; and this fact, together with 
the beauty of the thought, so impressed the passage on 
his mind, that I find it quoted in full in a letter written 
in the latter part of his life. The love of books had 
entered his soul, and it is not therefore sunirising that in 
two of his letters we find descriptions of the Library of 
-the British Museum and of the great National Library in 
Paris. 

As Librarian of the Ilistorical Society of Pennsylvania, I 
had given him a letter of introduction to the officials of the 
British Museum. I had no personal acquaintance with them, 
but knowing how courteously they receive students bearing 
credentials from institutions of learning, I felt that an official 
letter might be of service to him. The reception he met 
with was not ditFerent from that which anv well-accredited 
person would have received, but is best told in his own words. 
14 



" The printed rules of the Library," he wrote, " state that 
to be a reader oue ' must have the letters of two house- 
holders or a person of note :' these are the wcjrds. I con- 
clude the Librarian of the Ilistorical Society of Penjisylvania 
must be a great personage. Twenty minutes after I gave 
your letter (Mr. Stevens not being asked for, though I said I 
could get one from him), I was sitting at one of the desks in 
that profound library, a ' Reader for life ' (only think of it ! ) ; 
the great dome above, twenty thousand reference volumes 
surrounding me, two assistants crowding round me, smiling 
most graciously ami asking, ' IIow many would I like to 
have?' — one million three hundreil thoiisand printed books 
waiting to be called for, with many thousands of manu. 
scripts." 

He was disappointed, however, in the pleasure he antici- 
pated in reading in this library. The weather was cold and 
disagreeable, the reading-room poorly lighted and ventilated, 
and his general health so atfected that he was unable to work 
for more than three-quarters of an hour a day. In writing 
on this subject he humorously 'said : "When ventilated at 
all, a cold draught cuts across one's back from an occasional 
door being opened in the gallery. I have bought myself a 
black velvet skull cap, such as the priests wear to cover their 
tonsures in the cold European cathedrals. It is a very useful 
article, and has a most foreign look, and if you have anv 
draughts in the Society's rooms I shall honor you. when I get 
back, and should anybody ask what distinguished prelate 
that is, you can say, 'a bishop from Jersey.'"' He found 
time, however, to examine the manuscripts of Peter Collin- 
son, in which he discovered a letter fi-om Franklin, a number 
from Bartram. and one very interesting oue from Breintnall, 
thanking CoUiuson for a gift of books to the Philadelphia 
Library, and ending, as ')sh. Potts says, Hke Oliver Twist, 
" asking for more." The National Library in Paris he found 
better lighted and ventilated, but the attendance was not as 
IS 



satisfactory. " Ouce admitted into tlie British Museum," he 
writes, "it is a true Republic of Letters, but liere one is 
■watched continually by almost every oflicial in the building. 
A special ofiicer in a cocked hat, -vvath a medal hung by a 
yellow ribbon on his left breast, walks up and down the room 
looking over the backs of the readers in a most vigilant 
manner. If he suspects any action on the part of the student 
to be the least infraction of the rules, he interrupts him in a 
way that has very little of traditional French sua\'ity." Both 
of these letters treat so fully of the administration of these 
two great libraries, that they deserve to be printed in full, 
but I must bring this already too extended memoir to a close. 
The last letter I received from Mr. Potts was dated three 
months before his death. lie was then very ill. too ill to 
write himself, but his thoughts were -nath his friends here 
and at the Historical Society, and he could not rest until he 
had called my attention to a valuable collection of manu- 
scripts he desired me to secure for the Historical Society, and 
had asked me to give my vote and use all the influence I 
had toward securing the election of a gentleman as Librarian 
of your Society, whose lineage, ability and long connection 
with it, made such a selection eminently proper. From the 
time of his own election as a member in 1S85, Mr. Potts val- 
ued that membership highly, and I know you will be glad 
to learn that his interest in the American Philosophical 
Society ended ouly with his life. 



LETTERS OF WILLIAM JOHN POTTS 

TO 

FREDERICK D. STONE AND JOHN JORDAN, Jr. 



Reading in the British Museum and in the 
National Library, Paris. 

Fictitious Antiquities. How to Make a 
Mummied Cat, a Scarabsus, etc. 



Paris, Fraxck, January, 1882. 
My Deak Mr. Stoxe : 

On my arrival in Paris some time since, I found an interest- 
ing letter from Mr. JurJan, an answer to one I wrote from 
Ventnor. Please to thank biia for me. I siiall answer it in 
a short time. First I think I owe 'you one. At least, being 
one of my valued friends, I ought to write to vou. 

My researches in the British Museum were ai'ter all not 
very satisfactory, — though r[uite laborious. — owing to the 
dark fogs of Kovembcr. The atmosphere in the Reading 
Room does not at llrst appear to be so bad, but constant 
attendance convinced mc that the necessary oxygen to keep 
up the brilliancy of one's intellect is not to be found in an 
English November, and especially in the badly ventilated 
Reading Room of this wonderful library. TThen ventilated 
at all, a cold draught cuts across one's back from an occa- 
sional door being opened in the gallery. I have bought 
myself a black velvet skull-cap, such as the priests wear to 
cover their tonsures in the cold European cathedrals. It is 
a very useful article, and has a most foreign look ; and if you 
have any draughts in the Society's Rooms I shall honor you 
■when I get back, and should anybody ask what distin- 
guished prelate that is, you can sav, " A bishop from Jer- 
sey !" Though I limited my studies in the British Museum 
to three hours in the morning, when the atmosphere is less 
tainted, it soon told on me wTth a wretched feeling in the 
head and a still more terrible depression. You know the 
trite saying about November being the month when " Eng- 
lishmen hang and dro-wm themselves ;'' one does not need the 
aid of study to hasten these events. In describing the same 
time of year in America, an Englishman, using language 
more forcible than ele'jant, remarks on tlie exhilarating eil'ect 
19 



of its climate; and -^ays one "feels a disposition to snort 
like a war-horse." Had 1 been able to have a little of this 
" war-horse feeling." what a deal of knowledge might have 
been laid up for the future pages of the Pennsylvania Maga- 
zine. 

Before lea\nng America I had studied the pages of the 
Catalogue of Additional Manuscripts^ that volimie printed in 
1877. Another, more detailed, has been issued since, in 
1880. I should earnestly advise any one desiring to make 
researches in the British Museum to stud\' these volumes 
before going abroad. They are readily attainable in the 
Philadelphia and Mercantile Libraries. I had a note-book 
fall of the titles of books and MS3., which I wished to con- 
sult, with the " Press Marks," which saved inlinite time and 
trouble. There is an admirable work issued by one of the 
assistants in the British Museum, John Anderson's Handbook 
of British Topography, which is a bibliography of such 
books in that library. Tiie author devoted his spare time for 
eighteen years to this work. The Museum copy contains on 
the margin in M.S. the " Press Marks " of the books, which 
is a great sa\'ing of time to the student. These useful MS. 
aids were only in process of completion in Xovember, ISSl. 
The catalogues of the printed books are in so many volumin- 
ous volumes that this is of great service. 

I paid more attention before going abroad to the late 
printed catalogue of Additional MSS., but the others are 
equally valuable, pro'.aded the subject has not been a popu- 
lar one which has often been investigated. The tirst printed 
Index of MSS., that of Ayscough (printed in 178[2]). I 
went over very carefully. It contains the corresuondcnce 
of Sir Hans Sloane. I noticed, among other letters, one of 
William Allen, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania. This I did not 
examine. I think it might repay an investigator, and there 
are perhaps others recorded under the names alone. I be- 
lieve I looked for some other Pennsylvania names in which I 
20 



was interested, but did 7iot find thcin. The index to the 
writers of these particular letters is very brief. An examina- 
tion of Peter Collinsou's MSS., recently acquired, was disap- 
pointing : though I derived some Americana from them, it 
was much less than I expected from the Avide American 
acquaintance of that worthy Quaker botanist. This investi- 
gation confirmed my former experience : the really valuable 
narrative and descriptive letters are by some misfortune 
rarely preserved. I am under the imiiression that Darling- 
ton's printed volume of Bartram's Correspondence contains a 
number of Collinsou's letters. AUibone's references to this 
English botanist I have not had an opportunity to consult. 
Bartram's letters to him, Collinson,'' in these British Museum 
volumes are three in number, dated May 21), 1768 ; Novem- 
ber 11, 1772 : December 17, 177(7 or 1). The last is prob- 
ably 1777, as it is to Michael Collinson. They are of no 
value as far as the subject-matter is concerned, and are bad 
examples of spelling and most ungrammatical English. If 
my memory serves me, they were written toward the close of 
the writer's life, and are perhaps excusable, as he was then 
in. old age, when one's failing memory causes errors, even 
sometimes among the best educated. 

There is only one of Cadwalader Colden's, and to mj-- 
surprise only one of Benjamin Franklin's, which latter was 
short and of no interest. I copied it entire, however, because 
it was wi-itten at a period in which comparatively few of liis 
letters exist. This is very singular indeed, that none but 
t}ds onf, of Franklin's, who was the most scientifically curious 
of Americans of the last century, and one of the most inti- 
mate friends 'jf Collinson's, should have been preserved 
among the very many which he must have received. The 
CollectKm savors somewhat of the sjarit of that nation " who 

•Peter Collinson died August 11, lTi;s. .lolm Bertram diod September 22 

1777. The letter which Mr. Potts tliiuUs was written l.y him in Dee-emher, 

1777, must tlierel'ore receive the alternative date, 1771; while only one of the 

three can have been to Pvter Collinson. — [En.] 

31 



dearly love a lord ;" for the greater part of tiiem, nine-tenths 
perhaps, are from several of the chief English nobility to 
plain Peter Collinson, mercer in Grace Church street. The 
most are from Lord Petre, ^vith Avhose i'amily he appears 
on an intimate social footing. A numlier are from the Duke 
of Richmond ; many, very chatty and confidential, from IT. 
Fox, one of which, relating to American aiiairs in 17.">4;, I 
have copied ; and some familiar letters from the Earl of 
Jersey, etc. Franlrlin not being at this period, 17G7, quite 
so prominent before Europe as he was a few years later, may 
account for the fact of so few from his pen having survived in 
this collection. By the way, I learned from the London Times 
that at the sale of Ilcnry Stevens' books and ilSS. in the fall of 
1881, the letters of Benjamin Franklin were bought in, it is un- 
derstood, for seven thousand }iounds, by the United States Gov- 
ernment. I should like very m\ich to know t!ie period these 
letters cover, and a few particulars when you are at leisure. 

One of the first letters to Collinson was from " Carolina, 
Jan. 5, 172-1-5," which, though unsigned, I have unques- 
tionably identified as that of the Rev. Mark Catesby. There 
is often a necessity to know the location of an autograph of 
an author for purposes of identification, and I am sure Cates; 
by's are rare. 

These two volumes above described cover the period from 
1725 to 17ilO, the latter part of them to Michael Collinson, 
the son. The enclosed copy of Jose],)h Breintnall's letter of 
thanks to Peter Collinson for a present of books to the Phila- 
delphia Library Company is the gem of the collection. I 
had some thought of sending it to you for publication in the 
Pennsylvania Marjazine, but being so particularly in tlie 
department of Mr. Lloyd P. Smith, from whom I have 
always had much courtesv, I vds\\ you would give it to him 
yourself with my compliments. If he does not keep up the 
little brochure which he used to publish, and has no other 
purpose for it, he may be pleased to have it printed in your 



magazine. If so, you can credit me for it. I ^\-ish you vrould 
read it first to Mr. Jordan. You can supplement its publica- 
tion, perhaps, with some items from Bradford's Gazette of 
the day, or the MS. book of the Philadelphia Library Com- 
pany. I can hardly suppose it has been published. It ^s-ill 
be especially flattering to the vanity of our Xew England 
friends to learn that in 1732 there was " no good book-shop 
nearer than Boston.' ' Possibly I have too keen a sense of 
the ludicrous for an historical man, for I grinned audiblv over 
the elegant period with which Breintnall, rouut-ling off his 
letter, " asks for more " I ! 

So much has been said about the rare books that can be 
occasionally picked up in the well-known book- boxes which 
line the banks of the Seine. I have prowled there until I 
ran a great risk of getting chilblains in my feet, and found 
nothing at a moderate price of any real Avorth. Only the 
other day, however, I felt rewarded by lighting on a Chinese 
book, doubtless from the collection of some Oriental scholar, 
with whom Paris abounds. Its choice vellum binding and 
carefally patched leaves, show its former possessor valued it 
highly. A fly-leaf note in French states it to be a calendar 
of thirty years of Wang-ly dey Ming,* primed in 1602. 
My brother made fun of me as I hastened away with the 
prize. " Tr^s-bon marche !" said the man. "Oft' a tea- 
box!" said my brother. Still less sympathy awaited me 
arriving at my lodgings, hugging the book to my breast, 
repeating, at least in spirit, the words of the hymn, " i're- 
cious treasure, thou art mine," when I was received with the 
chilling words : " Don't bring that book here ; it's buggy!" 
Knowledge is pursued under difficulties, and I still cling to 
the book, and shall ask my friends at the British Museum if 
it is a veritable " AVaug-le dey Ming ;" and if it is, I shall 
give it to the Philadelphia Library, for we ought to have a 
Wan(/-le in tliat Ubrary ! 
* Wan-leih, an emperor of the Ming dynasty, rei^-nedA.D. 1573-10^0.— [Ed.] 
23 



To return to tlic British Museum : I exnrained the large 
number of MS. letters of Jacob Tonson. the bookseller, but 
found no Americana in them. I enclose a few extracts, how- 
ever, from the long will and other papers of a Samuel Swift, 
which may be useful to Mr. Ilildeburn, who is interested in 
the S^vift pedigree of Pennsylvania, in which Samuel is an 
early name. Of the Letters to Secretary Wm. Blaithwayt 
from 1691 to 1705, Add. MSS. 21,552, a thin volume, none 
appear to relate to America, or to be from Americans. They 
axe chiefly in French, and I believe, if I recollect aright, 
were mostly purchased at Puttick k Siiupson's sales, and 
have their printed descriptions attached. There is another 
collection of letters to Blaithwayt which I did not examine. 
I hope to do so, if I have time, on my way back. 

The Museum Library has received (I understood very 
recently) the follo^ving work of interest to those Pennsylva- 
nians looking up "Welsh pedigrees, as it contains genealogies 
and epitaphs: — Printed Books, "Press Mark" 10,370f: 
' ' AN account of the Progress of His Grace Henry, the First 
of Beaufort, through Wales. ItiSi. and Xotitia Cambro-Bri- 
tannica. By T. Dineley. Edited from the original MS. in the 
possession of His Grace the Eighth Duke of Beaufort. By 
Charles Baker, His Grace's Steward of the Seigniories of 
Gower and Kilwav. Printed for Private Circulation, 
MDCCCLXIY. Svo, pp. 284+15." (Xo Index.) On p. 
86, Shrewsbury, there is an epitaph on Thomas Mount- 
gomerie, Gent, of Salop, who died in 1504 ; Beatrice, his "wife, 
d. 1577. Elizabeth, mfe of Richard of Salop, d. 1589 : 
other particulars not copied. 

P. 215, Glamorganshire. The coat armor of Blcdhyn 
Manarch, a chevron between three spear- heads or pikes. 

P. 219, Morgan arms of Monmouthshire, a grifliu rampant. 

The tinctures, I believe, not given. These are the same 

arms borne by Dr. John Morgan, of Philadelphia, in the last 

century. The above hasty notes, taken in making an exam- 

24 



ination for otlier tilings, may bo of service to some one. I 
may have made a mistake in the date of the printinL'' of this 
book, for I certainly understood that the present Duke ot 
Beaufort had only just piven it. I can hardly suppose any 
copies will reach Pennsylvania. 

The enclosed eloquent and interesting speech, entitled 
" "William Penn's Siieech to the King at "Windsor, May 24th, 
1687, when he delivered the Quakers" Address," and the 
king's reply, may not have been printed : the assistant at 
the Museum did not think they were, so I copied them wdth- 
out looking up Penn's life to see. If they are really unpub- 
lished, I can print them with notes in the Pennsylvania ITag- 
azine on my return. Being in another department when I 
made these copies, and far away from the printed books, and 
having called for reserved valuable MSS., I thought it 
advisable to take them down, as I might not have another 
chance. 

I have referred to the difliculty of picking up any valuable 
books at moderate prices in Paris. I found the same to be 
the case at numerous bookstalls in London, Germany, and in 
fact throughout Europe generally. 

In a letter to a friend I have described some of my anti- 
quarian experiences which may interest you. The wave of 
taste for bric-a-brac and such kindred subjects is quite a 
renaissance, for it extends to Norway, Sweden, Finland, St. 
Petersburg and ^loscow, the different parts of Italy we 
have been in, and to Egypt and Spain, also of course to 
France and Germany. Stores for the sale of such things are 
common, often in small towns where one would not expect 
to see them. Fictitious antiquities are in force to supply the 
demand. These things are not without their amusing side. 
On the Nile the great number of travelers creates innumera- 
ble scarakci. At Luxor especially, one of our countr\^nen is 
said to have a manufactory. The Arabs there surround the 
steamer with perhaps from ten to twenty scarab;ei each, 



ofFering tbcm for sale to the iunorant voyager, beginning 
with a good price of several pounds, and dropping to ten or 
twenty cents. Only one in ten is said to be genuine. A 
friend saw an Englishman pay as high as sixty dollars for 
one. "When they arc genuine and tine, they sometimes 
bring even more. It is often said these things are made in 
Birmingham, which is not creditable to the ability of the 
Arabs, who make very good ones themselves without waiting 
for English or American assistance. As we were entering 
the main hall of tiie temple of Karnac, we came suddenlv 
upon an Arab carving something with his knife, upon which 
our guide asked him to show it to us. With a sheepish 
look, and then a smile, he {jroiluced a very pretty scaraba^us 
cut out of a semi-translucent green stone, tcllino: us in a few 
words of English, that the cartouche cut upon it was copied 
from a real one among the ruins. Looking at tlie man's 
coarse, brawny hands, and the miserable knife with a single 
blade, I had a disposition to purchase the searabLCus, and 
began a haggle with Yussuf, who started with ten francs and 
dropped, after a short argument, to ten cents. I said I was 
■willing to give that much, the ]irice of a day"s labor in 
Egypt. If I recollect correctly, I made the guide ask him 
how many he could make in a day, and think he said, 
" Two" — offering the man some piastres, which I honestly 
thought represented that sum. I found afterward that I 
had made a mistake, and unwittingly tendered him depreci- 
ated currency. He went otf very indignantly, evidently 
thinking I had broken my word and tried to client him ; for, 
put an Arab on his honor, lie is most trustworthv. Karnac 
is some two miles out of Lnxor, and though I sent word 
afterwards that I would give a franc, Yussuf was nowhere to 
be found, and the interesting incident of hLs skill was all I 
had to take away from the regretful memory of the lost 
scarabreus. 

Arab ingenuity is, however, best displayed in mummied 
36 



cats. I will -ive you tlio receipt. To v>al-e a rmmrnkd cat : 
no cat is required at all. Take a stick the length of a Euro- 
pean tabbv, wrap some genuine mummy cloth around it, ot 
which there is plenty " lying- round loose," and envelope the 
stick to the desired consi.stency. Take two smaller sticks, 
insert them in juxtaposition on the main stick, and 20 
through the same pn)cess -^s-ith the cloth, and you have a 
good pair of ears. Taper for the nose a little. If the color 
of the cloth is not dune to a sufficient antiquity, a little 
tobacco-juice gives a Mnish that would deceive the Great 
Eameses himself. Over all place a favr liieroglyphics with a 
paint-brush, and your cat is " done brown," and finds rcadv 
sale at two francs each. Positively given away at a franc and 
a half! An Arab might write an essay on the virtues of 
tobacco-juice. It seems to have deceived a whole continent. 
Murray says about fifty years ago some grains of wheat were 
brought to Kumpc wlucli were found in the wrappings of a 
mummy, jilantcd, and grew again to life after so many thousand 
years' burial. This wlieat was of quite recent origin, and 
had been stained with tobacco-juice and disinterred at the 
proper moment to deceive the unwary Eurojiean. It is a 
pity such a beautiful illu.-tration of immortality should be 
the invention of man. 

I cannot close this letter ^nthout a few remarks on the 
prompt recognition of your intrcxluctiou to the acting official 
at the British Museum, " The Sccretar\-." The printed 
rules state that one must have the letters of two household- 
ers, or a ^'person 0/ known position: " these are the words. I 
conclude that the Librarian of the Historical Society oi 
Permsylvania must be a great personage. Twenty minutes 
after I gave your letter (Mr. Stevens's not being even asked 
for, though I said I could get one from him"), I was sitting at 
one of the desks in that jiroibund lilirnry, a " /?f of/T /'-.r 
Zj/e " — only think of it I — the great dome above, twcntv 
thousand reference volumes siirrounding me. two assistants 



crowding round me, smiling most frraciously and asking, 
"How many would I like to Iiave ?" — one million three 
hundred thousand priutei.I books waiting to be called for, 
with many thousands of manuscripts. ^[^. B. F. Stevens 
received Mr. Jordan's letter very courteously^, and offered to 
do anything for me. I went to the Museum, not supposing 
for a moment that my application would be immediately 
granted, especially as Mr. Stevens said they were very partic- 
ular, and often refused applicants : not one in ten were 
admitted. The great charm of the library is the aid iiiven 
the reader, which is canicd <>ut by a large stalf of assistants. 
The Public Library of Boston, having plenty of funds and a 
large corps, is the nearest approach to it I know of. The 
four electric lights are hung about twenty feet from the floor. 
They give a most xteadi/ uloar light. 

I wish you would call the attention of ^h. Blcdhyn Powell 
to the Duke of Beaufort's Visitation of Wales. 

I enclose an e.Mtract from Galignani's Messewjer, which 
answei-s my questions as to Franklin's letters, which I ku(jw 
will interest you. If you can find time to write, my address 
will be, until the latter part of April : Care of J. S. Morgan 
& Co., 22, Old Broad Street, London, England. With my 
best wishes for you and all my friends, I am. 

Very truly yours, 

WiLLiAJi John Potts. 

Frederick D. Stoxe, Esi|., 

Librarian Hist. Soc. Penna., Philadelphia. 

Paris, France, March, 1882. 

Dear Sir : — Thank you very much for your letter, which I 
have already acknowledged some time since in one to Mr. 
Fred. D. Stone. 

It was qiutc interesting to hear of the valuable addition.s 
to the Historical Society's Library. Viewing our country 
from a distance, one sees a rajdd increase and a comino- era 
of American Literature, historical as well as general. 



Mr. Charles Dudley AVarncr, in his preliminary chaiitcr to 
ills Biograpliy of "U'ashiiiL'toii Irving, in the ne\s' series of 
American Men of Letters, shares my ojdnion ; and vou -will, 
I suppose, be interested in his estimate of the character and 
style of the wTitings of Charles Br.idcden Bro\\-n, the Phila- 
delphian, and his keen analysis of the general tone of Ameri- 
can literature in the present century. 

I hope there has been a noticeable increase in the students 
and attendance at the Library. The influence of the Pciin- 
sylvania Ma'jazine, which has now been some years before 
the public, must have iiad such an effect. 

My letter to Mr. Stone did not by any means contain a 
reference to all the letters copied at the British Museum, 
though I regTct my labors there were shortened for the rea- 
sons mentioned. 

In convci-satiou I once spoke to Mr. Stone of certain letters 
to (?) Samuel Wharton about the Revolutionary period. 
These, on examinatii:)n, proved to be almost entirely in 
cypher. 

The French National Library has one great ad%'antage over 
the Enghsh : it is much better ventilated, though occasionally 
draugjity. Lighted by nine domes or sky-lights, as well as 
a large section near the roof, the light is fully as good as that 
of the British Museum in its bright days. Though I have 
not attended here on the misty, gloomy days, which at their 
worst are much superior to the English climate, I have not 
noticed any apparatus for electric lights, nor do I believe i: 
was necessary. These lights are common enough in the 
streets, however, at night. 

The class of reailers, judging the average from their intel- 
lectual apjiearancc, their dress and air, seem to be much 
higher than those in London. A well-to-do Frenchman is 
much more careless of his apparel than an Englishman in 
comfortable circumstances. 1 have not noticed one blouse in 
the room : they are numerous about the city. The letters 
29 



" R. F." {Rcpubliqne Francaise). surr.iim le J by rays, are 
conspicuously blazoned in very laru'^e type <<n tlie titlc-jiages 
of the later catiil>)gues. A Republic that does not read, 
however, is a doubtful one. The Imperial " X " used to be 
stamped on everything in France, and it takes time, I sup- 
pose, for the etfect to wear otf. The erasures or removal from 
many of the public buildings of this detested symbol, and the 
substitution, on all these anl all the churches, of the words. 
Liberie, Eijalita, Fraternite, in large, black letters, is very 
striking. 

It has beeu repeatedly stated by writers who know Fr.uicc 
well, that only Frenchmen of the highest rank are general 
readers, while the mass of the people are very ignorant about 
subjects out of their own country. Therefore I ought not to 
have been surprised at the sort of people I saw in the 
Library, especially as my slight experience confirms in other 
ways the above-mentioned statements. It may be that the 
rules of entrance are such that the general public are ex- 
cluded, for there exists in the administration an absurd 
amount of formality. Once admitted to the British Museum, 
it is a true " Republic of Letters." Here one is watched 
continually by almost everv ofHcial in the building. A 
special officer in a cocked hat, with a medal hung by a yellow 
ribbon on his left breast, walks up and down the room, look- 
ing over the backs of the readers in a most vigilant manner. 
If he suspects any action on the part of the student to be in the 
least an infraction of the rules, he interrupts him in a way that 
has very little of traditional French suavity. To-day was 
the second instance within a week that I saw him sharply 
interrupt a reader, this time a lady, for there are a few of tlie 
other sex to be seen there, not more than four or five at the 
most. In London I saw several times as many. Two other 
cocked hats and numerous attendants add to the solerauity of 
this apartment. 

The French say, ''Eternal vigilance is the price of lib- 



erty." Uarrisse, in his Americana Vttustissima, 2d vol., 
Paris, 1872, p. xi, gives such an interesting account of his 
experiences in foreign researches, wliich, though a long 
extract, I give in full, for it makes me believe that such great 
care is necessary. I read it in this hbrary, and it took awav 
from the chsagreoable feeling of so much surveillance : " The 
Continental Libraries wore, a quarter of a century ago, richer 
in important works relating to America than thev are at 
present. The first and fourth Columbus letters and three 
Latin Vespucci have (hsapjieared in the last tlfteen vears from 
the Eojal Library at Munich ; the Columbus of the Casate- 
nense, the Vespuccius in the Escorial. and the illustrated 
Columbus in the Brera, have been stolen, but the latter was 
certainly taken prior to the inventory made in 1841. Several 
Vespucci have also disappeared from the Paris public libra- 
ries. The descriptions in the Catalogues are not suliicientlv 
minute to enable us to detnie all the etUtions, but there is no 
doubt that the copy stolen from the Paris National Library 
was a Hup/uff, whilst one of those taken from the Mazarine 
was a Oilles de Gourmont. The Columbina, at Sevilla, once 
possessed the following works, the ilescription of which we 
copy from the catalogue wTitten by Fernando Columbus him- 
self. .... (eleven titles given). All these works, with 
nearly ten thousaml more, have long since disappeared from 
the Biblioteca C ilombina." The wTiter. in a footnote, 
speaks of the rarity of ''the Epistles of Columbus," and on 
page xxii, after speaking of the number of letters existing 
relating to Americus Vespuccius, apparently commemorates 
another theft : " As to the well-known letter written by 
Americus to his father in October, l-17i>, tirst discovered by 
Bandini in the Strozzi library, it now graces M. Feuillot de 
Conches' private collection in Paris. This and two or three 
signatures added to receipts which were brought to light by 
Navarrete, constitute the only autogrraphs of Vespuccius 
known." 

.31 



I may do this French collector injustice : the letter mipht 
have been sold by the Strozzi family, for the Italian families 
have sold many things. However, it is interesting, showing 
how rare letters of Vespucci have become. Only -within the 
last month a statement has appeared in the English Press, 
that extremely valuable letters of Xapoleon and others, 
known to have been stolen from the Library at ililan, are 
advertised for sale in London. The Itahan ambassador tele- 
graphed to his government on the subject, and was informed 
they were powerless to claim them, but was authorized to bid 
a large sum at the sale. 

To return to the great Xational Library of France. The 
three principal librarians are enthroned at a high circular 
desk at the head of the room. They are generall}' formal in 
their manner and very particular about the giving out and 
receiving of the ordinary cards of application for each book. 
One of these gentlemen, a M. Bcranger, speaks excellent 
English, and I have been jxirticularly indebted to his courtesy. 

I am not aware of the method by which the Parisians 
obtain a ticket of entrance. On application in another part of 
the building, after passing several ollicials, I was told I might 
have a card for one day only ; after that, an introduction 
from the American minister would gain me admittance for a 
specified time. Through the kindness of my friend, Mr. 
Thomas 11. Dudley, I obtained a letter to Mr. L. P. Morton, 
whom I found a very creditable representative. His intro- 
duction readily gained entrance for both my brother and 
myself for a period of six months, which can be renewed at 
the end of that time, if desired. "Life tickets" are not 
given here, as they are occasionally, though not generally, 
in the British Museum. The Reading Koorn has been nearly 
full of readers every time I have \'isited it, except an hour or 
two after ten o'clock, at which time it opens. It seats o2-i 
persons. 

There is no general catalogue, printed or manuscript, to 
32 



which the public are admitted, unless we except the many 
little volumes with titles on printed slips pasted in them, 
called Ouvra'jes Utrawjers recus depuis 1S71, each volume 
labeled with the subject : Eiography, Science, etc. In both 
London and Berlin there is one in M.S. The individual 
books, Brunet, Lorenz, Denis and i'inoon (French ^/Ziiorie^), 
are the actual catalogue. All of them, as you know, have a 
list of subjects at the end, and are very useful ; but some 
knowledge of bibliography is i)rcsumed to be possessed by 
the reader by the multiplication of such books. There is 
also the weekly bulletin, Bibliographie de la France, bound 
in annual volumes. I think the alphabetical card-catalogue 
system, which is used at Harvard, in the Boston Pubhc 
Library, the Astor, and in the Philadelphia, superior. My 
knowledge of French is perhaps too limited to be critical of 
the attendants, but they certainly appear to be mere carriers 
of books, and do not render the assistance of those at the 
British Museum. Only twelve applications for books are 
allowed in a day, two cards at a time. If there are several 
volumes in the set asked for, they are included in the one 
demand, however. In the British Museum you can have as 
many as you like. In the early morning it takes about half 
an hour to get a book ; later in the day, when readers are 
numerous, from forty minutes to an hour, sometimes longer. 
I met an Englishman tliere last July who complained 
bitterly that he had waited an hour and a half for a book. 
He informed me there was " entirely too much of what we 
call ' red tape,' " as if I was unacquaintcil with the word. 

The works of reference in the room itself, free of access to 
the reader -without the slow process of a card, number three 
thousand ; those in Loudon, twenty tliousand. The English 
have a useful handbook of bibliographies acces.sible in their 
Reading Room, an admirable volume in which I was proud 
to see a number of American works. It is also very credita- 
ble to the state of the literature of so young a nation as ours, 
33 



that the one large case in the Eeading Room of the National 
French Library containing only bibliographies should have 
Allibonc, Ilarrisso's two volumes ot' Americana Vetustissima , 
his Nouvelle France, and Rich's two books,* Great Britain 
being represented onlv by the volumes of "Watts, Lowndes, 
and Darling, the Royal Society's Catalojue of ^Scientific Papers, 
and the Universal Catalogue of Books on Art, 2 vols., 1S70. 

Our old friend Saliin, perhaps, if he were living, would not 
feel complimented that the French could do without his 
Dictionary of Bvuks relating to Ainerica in the Reading Room, 
and in his critical spirit he might repeat the German saying 
that " a Frenchman is a person who wears mustaches and 
does not know anything about geography." 

I enclose the card of ajiplication for books, also that given 
up at the door when the reader leaves. It is presented to 
him a blank by an oflicial in a cocked hat, as he enters tlie 
room. This man has the "eternal vigilance" principle by 
heart : he looks you well over as you come in and go out, 
and if not perfectly familiar with your focc, demands your 
admission card very jiromptly and stidly. On the paper you 
leave with him, you have to write your name and address 
before you ask for books ; then, when the books are about 
ready, an attendant comes and picks uj) your paper, and goes 
away with it to the hbrarian's deslc, and his secretary writes 
out the number, titles and size of the books on the blank 
lines. When you return your volumes at this desk, the 
word rendu is stamped in red ink after each title, when all are 
counted, and you deposit this paper vnth. the guardian above- 
mentioned when you go away for the day. 

The blank card which I enclose is that of the card-cata- 
logue, to which the jmblie are not admitted. The sliape is 
such that a number can be more quickly handled than the 

* Ternaux'a Dihliothique Americaine is the only otlicr bibliography in 
this case ou Aiiicriraii subjects, but that is not by an American author. 
— [W. J. P.] 

34 



oblong form, but the easier reading of tlic title and author's 
name on the latter are to my mind sujierior advantages. 
The penmanship on two of these catalogue cards which I 
saw was not by any means as legible as those in tlie Ameri- 
can libraries spoken of. The generality of French penman- 
ship, it has often been said, is bad — much inferior to ours, as 
ours in turn is inferior to the English. 

No books are given out after three ; at that hour the large 
clock over the door, which is silent at other times, strikes 
three sharp sudden strokes, with a half-military air, like 
everything else connected with the cstaldishmcnt, as though 
it said, " Attention, Company !" and there is a visible sensa- 
tion among the readers. At four the room is closed. 

There is, I think, one mistake in this French system beside 
the formalities mentioned. The manuscripts have to be 
examined in another room upstairs, a long chstance off. It 
often happens that the student, while consulting them, 
desires to have printed books about him, which he cannot do 
here. The British Museum in this has the advantage : 
there, both printed books and MSS. can be consulted in the 
?ame room. To this may be excepted certain very choice 
examples under the head of " Select," which are placed in a 
distant apartment ; even there, however, I noticed some 
printed books. 1815089 

The Manuscript Room in the National French Library is 
small, holding under fifty people. It was crowded, and here 
I saw two ladies. I should have mentioned that on one occa- 
sion in the large Reading Room I counted more ladies than I 
have noted previously in this letter. There were thirteen. 

One reason of the class of people who attend this library 
being of one sort chiefly, is perhaps the fact that there are 
numerous other libraries in Paris. A writer in the New York 
Times, Sunday edition, Feb. 19, in an article apparently care- 
fully written, speaks of certain ones fi-eqiicnted by students 
of the law and medical professions, etc., as follows : " The 



Salles de lecture are circulatinir-libr.irv reai.lin;:r-rooms, and 
abound in the neighborhood of the Sorbonnc and the Odcou. 
Admission to them is generally five cents, and for that mod- 
est sum you can read books and papers a whole evening. 
Tiie trouble abuut these little institutions is that the book 
you want is almost certain to be ' out,' and then the ventila- 
tion is very wretched. The Sainte Oenevicve, the free public 
library of the (quarter, is open daily from 10 to o, and from C 
to 10. It is the resort of the studious, the poor, the sleepy, 
and the cold. In the evening the fair sex is. for evident 
good reasons, unmercifully excluded. Tlie SainU Qeneviive 
is remarkable for its fme collections, its poor catalogues, its 
learned librarians, who are generally absent, and its poorly 
paid assistants, who miglit be absent also and nobody feel the 
want of them. There is a guard at the Genevieve who is as 
much of a study as any Elzevir in the library. lie is an aged 
soldier, dressed in sober blue. He has a cap on his head and 
a sword at his side. lie paces regularly along the waxed 
floor of the library, and keeps his eye on the renders at tlic 
long green-covered tables. lie is cpiick to reprimand tiie 
noisy, and inexorable toward the man who dozes and gently 
snores over the books before him." 

Until I read the following extract from a Boston newspaper 
in 187G, I was unaware that tlie French capital po.ssessed so 
many libraries, as we hear only of the great one. " Paris 
Libraries. A recent enumeration of the Ijooks and manu- 
scripts gives the following result. The Library of the 
Arsenal contains 200,000 printed volumes and 8000 manu- 
scripts ; The Sorbonne, «0,000 volumes ; the School of 
Medicine, 35,000 volumes ; the National Library, 1,700,000 
volumes, 8000 manuscripts, 1,000.("»mO cop].ier-platcs and 
maps, and 120,000 medals; the Mazarin Library, 200,000 
printed books, 4000 manuscripts, 8»> reliefs and plaster monu- 
ments ; and the Sainte Genevieve Librar\-, 1(30,000, and 
35,000 manuscripts." 



Since wnting the foregoiiiir, I liavc spoken to M. Berancrcr, 
the Librarian, about the superiority of the class of readers in 
the French Xatioual Library to those in London, and he said 
I was correct ; it liad often liecn noticed before, and he men- 
tioned Professor Loomis (my fellow-countryman, I suppose) 
being of the same opinion. 

Speaking of books being stolen, he said this Library lost 
many fine miniatures on vellum, cut out of illuminated manu- 
scripts ; many of these were found in a certain collection of 
one of the best-known French names : I shall not mention 
it. He did not charge the individual with .stealing them ; 
but somebody stole them, and they were taken in a curious 
way. The thief used what appeared to be a lead pencil. 
Where the lead ought to be, was a sharp steel blade, which 
cut into the vellum and easily detached the craved objects. 
After hearing this story and adding it to Harrisse's statement, 
I have gone over to the '" Eternal Vigilance ' ' party, and I 
believe, as I have lately made friends with the cocked hats, 
that I approve of everything in this library but the want of 
a catalogue and the time it takes to deliver books. Certainly 
the first and chief thing in every library is the possession 
and preservation of the volumes ; all other things are secon- 
dary. 

The British Jf useum must lose many of its treasures. The 
desks come up in front of the reader, completely hiding him 
from the person who is reading on the other side, and also 
making his books hidden from observation beyond some dis- 
tance ; while in France, there are flat table-desks quite oj^cn ; 
the reader and all he has can be seen not only by the person 
sitting opposite, Ijut iVom all jtarts of the room, so that the 
students can keep a watch on each other. 

All things being considered, this enclosed Bulletin Person- 
nel, which is delivered at the door, is a positive necessity and a 
most useful check against stealing. I send you also the 
ticket of application for books at the British Museum, 
37 



which, when tlic reader h.is tinishc'l reading, is given to liini 
when he returns the volunies to the officials at the central 
desk. The Royal Library at Berlin uses a somewhat similar 
application ticket, which is, however, not printed, but written 
out entirely with pen and ink by the student on blank slips 
of paper. There is no Bulletin Personnel, and, the applica- 
tions for books being made, they must be handed in before 
twelve o'clock, and not until that hour are they searched for 
by the librarian's attendants : then the rules are such that thev 
are not to be delivered until one, no matter whether they can 
be had in ten minutes or not. This library closes at four, so 
that unless you have your books kept over niglit en bloc, 
so as to have them next morning at ten when the room is 
open, most of the day is gcmc before you can get to work. 
Though the officials liavc tlie true German courtesy and good 
breeding, the state of alVairs seems very primitive. The 
Reading Room is very small, and quite behind tlie age in its 
accommodations. The Royal Library at Munich I regret 
very much I did not visit more often, for I was some weeks 
there. The one day I read in the Library for a short time I 
noticed the room was much superior to that of the Prussian 
capital. There are no reading-rooms, however, in any of the 
great libraries so beautiful as those in the French Xational 
Library and the British ^[useum, nor any which impress the 
reader so much as regards the great army of workers who 
daily are to be seen there. There cannot be the slightest 
doubt that the.se rivals have a most perceptible influence on 
modem thought and research which is felt throughout Europe. 
The importance of the subject, therefore, must be my excuse 
for having detained you with so long a letter, and for entering 
into those practical details which I hope may be interesting 
to you. They arc the little matters which I have often 
wanted to know myself, but have ucvcr foimd them in Ed- 
wards On Libraries or similar works. In the French Library 
I saw but one person I recognized as an American ; there 



were a number of Englishmen. If one wants to see Lis 
fellow-countrymen seriously occupied in Paris, Le must go to 
the milliners' shops, the theatres or the races. I never 
remember, though, to have seen so few Americans in this 
city; there were more in 1SG6, '07 and '08. A wTiter in 
Galignani's Messewjer makes the same remark, stating 
they stay now in many other parts of Eui'opc, having been 
driven away by the cheating and extortion of the rapacious 
Parisians. 

Please to thauk Mr. Stone for his interesting letter lately 
received. It was very kind in him to send me such an 
agreeable reply, as I know perfectly well how busy he is. I 
feel now from his letter and yours as if I had a pretty general 
resume of the accessions to the Society during my absence, 
and look forward with considerable pleasure to examining 
them. I hope to write a short answer to Mr. Stone when I 
return to London. Please to thank him also for Mr. Ilildc- 
burn's bibliographical ])amphlct, which is qi-dtc useful as 
well as entertaining. The enclosed notes, which may be 
serviceable to Mr. llildeburu, I wish you would read and 
hand to him. 

In a day or two, I shall send by registered post, in your 
name, two volumes of Oldeudorp's Geschichte der Mission der 
evanyelisclien Br'ddtr auf den caraihischen Inseln S. TJiomas, 
S. Croix und S.Jan, etc., 1777. The title says " Mit Sieben 
Kupferstalen," but this contains only lour. Should the Society 
possess a copy of this work, I wish you to accept it for your 
personal library. 

With regards and remembrances to all my friends, I am 
Very truly yours, 

"William Joux Potts. 
John Jordax, Jr., 
Historical Society, £120 Spruce Street, 
Philadelphia. 

P.S. — In justice to the National Library, I should state 
39 



that I have just discovered there is a free reading-room in 
one of the ^\'ing3 of the building entered at Xo. 3 Rue Col- 
bert. It has the same hours and method of administration as 
its chief ou the Eue Richelieu. The collection of books, 
however, appears small, and is of a much inferior character 
to the great reading-room. The catalogue in manuscript is 
here accessible, and it is very well arranged. The character 
of the readers also is totally difl'erent. I noticed one man in 
a blouse and a number of workmen, also four latlics in a room 
which scats 112 persons, and was nearly crowded — only a 
few vacant seats left. This crowd may be exceptional, as 
to-day the " Great Reading Room "' is closed, and readers 
are referred to this. The same Bulletin Ptrsonnel is used, 
and no one, on any pretense whatever, is allov.-ed to pass with- 
out giving it up. The Bulletin de Demande is much the 
same. I enclose a copy. 



70^8 ^