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g* 'g g; I - The Private Libraries Association

FACILIS DESCENSUS HELICONIS

We recently purchased for five shillings the Report ofthe Trustees Ofthe

British Museum and hasten to say that it is very good value for the

money, 94 pages 10" x 7" with fifty four illustrations, some of them in

colour. It covers the period since 1939 when the Museum

strains and distractions from which it has never recovered. ft Was a

courageous act on the part of the Trustees, ladies and gentlede" who

are all of eminence, to publish this report which admits their failure to

establish an institution worthy of Great Britain. The fact sees"s to be

that they are no match for the astute politicians and smooth civil

servants who control the money which is needed to provide dhive

facilities. Far from the Museum being able to expand, it is smaller

than it was thirty years ago.

Our main concern is with the library, and we cannot escape the

conclusion that it would be better off separated from the antiPities-

It would then be fighting only the government for money and not

other departments for space as well. It often loses the latter battle. At

three o'clock in the afternoon there is not a seat to be had in the peading

Room; we could not help comparing this, recently, with tbe

Marbles at the same time of day, occupying a vast lofty hall with a

scattering of viewers in it.

To the user the library presents a strange mixture of the niceteenth

and twentieth centuries. The outlook of the former is exemplified in

the Catalogtie ojjijeenth century books. This reflects the view of inc"nabula

of the Roxburghe Club in its heyday -- that Italian and German

books are the only really worth while ones. Publication started in 1908 ;

sixty years later it still does not cover English books. In c0ntra5~ to this

we have the photolitho reprint of the General catalogue, a reflarkable

feat utilising the most up-to-date techniques and carried out wichrapidity

and to schedule. It is a pity the opportunity was not taken c0 delete

from it the 200,000 volumes destroyed during the war. To travel

from Scotland, as we once did to consult one of these, and then be

informed that it has been missing for over twenty years is an exasperating

experience.

Although we now have a Ministry of Technology and a Department

of Science we appear to be further away from a National ~ ~~e~ence

Library of Science and Invention than if the project had neqer been

broached. Part of this library is the old Patent Office Library housed in

a delightful construction in the cast iron gothic tradition, perhaps

more appropriate to what is actually going on than the converted Ware-

36 The Private

house in Bayswatcr where the rest of it is thought to be. Its South

Bank accommodation never existed even as a drawing.

It is a sad experience to browse through this report, adnziring the

illustrations of what the Nation hasinanaged to buy and regretting that

the job cannot be done properly. We be nlust grateful to the Trustees

for publishing it and to both them and their staff for endeavouring to

persevere in trying circun~stances.

LIBRARY HISTORY

We have just seen the first number of a new periodical-Lil~rary Jiistory,

published by the Library History Group of the Library Association.

It contains an illustrated article on the Library of Edinb~r~h University

from I 580 to 1710, which takes LIP most of the issue, followed by one

on Hagberg Wright and the London Library. There is an interesting

scction of notes on recent publications relevant to library history, and

some book reviews. The subscription to non-members of the Group ic

AI a year for two issues.

BAXTER CENTENARY

It was late in 1866 that George Baxter was struck the blow by a horse

omnibus from which he died in 1867. Leiccstcr City Museums co111-

menlorated the centenary of his death very enterprisingly with an

exhibition of his work as a colour printer. The examples were drawn

from the collection of Mr W. C. Reeves who also coinpiled an eleven

page catalogue of this exhibition. The opportunity to see so man)-

Baxter prints together does not often occur, which madc this exhibition

additionally welcomc.

Book illustration was well reprewnted with a nice copy of the

Cnhiizrt of'paintin'q5 and a number of prints fronl Mudie's books. Thc

diversity of Baxter's output was well illustrated, varying from very

small needle box prints to quite large pictorial work. It was in the

subjcct matter of many of the latter that we could see excn~plificd

Baxter's desire to 'bring taste of a refined and intellectual nature to the

working people'. A lot of them represent much that was worst in

Victorian art and presumably would not have survived but for

Baxter's name on them. The technical skill of the printing contrasts

sharply with the sloppiness and sentimentality of the original pictures.

The most interesting prints were the historical ones, the Great Exhi-

bition crowded with visitors, and spirited actions in the Crimean war;

an un~~sual portrait showed Queen Victoria looking a little haggard

in 18 58. Mr Reeves and the Museum arc to be congratulated on an

exccllcnt exhibition.

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