The acquisition of books by Chetham's Library, 1655-1700 [electronic resource] /
by Matthew Yeo.
Leiden ; Boston : Brill, c2011.
xiv, 263 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
9789004206656 (acid-free paper)
More Details
Leiden ; Boston : Brill, c2011.
9789004206656 (acid-free paper)
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
contents note
The foundation of Chetham's Library -- The selection of texts by Chetham's Library -- Robert Littlebury and the sale of books -- The reception of theology at Chetham's Library -- The acquisition of classics, history, and law -- Natural philosophy and 'useful' texts.
general note
Revision of the author's thesis (doctoral)--University of Manchester, 2009.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. [230]-250) and index.
A Look Inside
First Chapter
Chapter I: The Foundation of Chetham’s Library Figure 1: Mary Chapel Wing, Chetham’s Library. ‘As for Manchester… there is a fair library of books’ It is true that a fair Librarie, is not onely an ornament and credit to the place where it is; but a useful commoditie by itself to the publick; yet in effect it is no more than a Dead Bodie as now it is constituted, in comparison of what it might bee, if it were animated with a publick Spirit to keep and use it, and ordered as it might bee for publick Service. Chetham’s Library was founded at a time when libraries were at the forefront of many scholars’ minds. The diarist and writer John Evelyn’s ‘Method for a Library’ projected seventeenth-century models of rationality onto the organisation of an ideal library. Although the connection is coincidental, the quotation above from the Reformed Librarie-Keeper is all the more pertinent to the study of Chetham’s Library because it was published by Robert Littlebury, the publisher and bookseller who supplied books to the Library between 1655 and the end of the seventeenth century. The Reformed Librarie-Keeper argued that libraries were objects that had to be treated as active beings. Books had to be arranged on the shelves in order to facilitate an easy transition from one book to another. Durie captured the importance of the usefulness of books to early modern readers. Libraries were not just beautiful additions to houses or communities, but had to provide a service. Durie lamented the reduction of librarianship to mere conservation, and he looked back to an earlier age of activist Protestant librarianship, in which the library was a knowledge factory, exemplified by the librarian and controversialist Thomas James. And, as the author Geoffrey Whitney reminded the dean of Ely Sir Andrew Perne in the 1586 work A Choice of Emblems, books in libraries and collections had to be used rather than simply read: The volumes great, who so doth still peruse, And dailie turnes, and gazeth on the same, If that the fruicte thereof, he do not use, He reapes but toile, and never gaineth fame: First reade, then marke, then practise that is good, For without use, we drinke but LETHE flood. The poem suggests that not all of the purposes to which books can be put should be described as reading. At Chetham’s Library in the seventeenth century, many books were read selectively. These works, such as biblical concordances and harmonies, formed a large part of the Library’s earliest purchases, intended to combat the ‘information overload’ generated by the fruits of the printing press. The scholarly value of these books came not from the persuasiveness of their arguments. Instead, it was derived from the capaciousness of the indexes and from readers’ strategies to wade through the huge number of texts to be read. To employ the work on reader-response theory developed by Wolfgang Iser, these were books that indicated that the reader was an active and creative participant in the creation of meaning from the text. Stephen Orgel rightly points out that, ‘we go to them [reference works] to find primarily what we are looking for’. As Orgel continues, ‘the coherence in this case is not the book’s, but the reader’s.’ Early modern readers acknowledged the fact that books were for use, and increasingly, historians of the early modern period recognise it too. Readers in libraries acknowledge that libraries have to be organised to make them useful rather than just repositories of books. They provide ‘standards of coherence’ by which readers understand the texts they read, which include catalogues, shelving and practices of storage and retrieval. The ‘intelligencer’ Samuel Hartlib made efforts in the seventeenth century to create coherent bodies of knowledge, and corresponded with John Worthington, a regular visitor to Chetham’s Library, to discuss how to perfect catalogues and indexes for books in libraries. For Hartlib, a librarian, and particularly one responsible for a scientific library, had to become ‘a factor and trader for helpes to learning, a treasurer to keep them and a dispenser to apply them to use, or see them well used, or at least not abused’. Libraries and librarians were important elements in the early modern trade in books and ideas. John Durie and his French librarian counterpart Gabriel Naudé acknowledged that librarians had a special responsibility to be actively aware of the fruits of the printing press and book trade: we neglect nothing which is worth the reckoning, and which may be of use, be it either to ourselves or others; such as are libels, placarts, theses, fragments, proofs, and the like… However, there is a real danger in the inference that libraries simply store the products of the book trade. They are far more than simply the material residues of previous intellectual cultures. Sears Jayne’s claim that they are ‘the shortest and most accurate route to knowledge of what was known in Renaissance England about any subject’ is at best reductive. Jayne’s assessment of the role of the library in early modern England starts and stops at the point at which a book reached the library shelf. The study of early modern libraries in fact works outwards from a Library’s acquisition and ownership of a book, through a multitude of issues around intellectual content, material forms and the book trade, to the reading and employment of texts in the early modern period. The Creation of a Public Library Scholars and enthusiasts alike would be only too pleased to be in the position in which Humphrey Chetham’s executors found themselves in late 1653. Chetham, one of Manchester’s wealthiest merchants and notables, had bequeathed £1,000 in cash, and after other charitable donations, the remainder of his estate, for the foundation of a school and a ‘publick’ library. Between 1655 and 1700, it acquired some 3,000 books, globes, maps, mathematical instruments and museum curiosities. The use of the word ‘public’ in Chetham’s inevitably draws in discussions of the development of the ‘public sphere’ in the latter part of the seventeenth century. ‘Public library’, however, did not prefigure the creation of an eighteenth, or even seventeenth-century ‘public sphere’. Chetham did not see the creation of a library in what might be described as a Habermasian sense, calling into existence an abstract referent of public interest to justify the creation of the institution in Manchester. While Chetham’s ambition was certainly to promote learning and reconciliation after the English Civil War, his understanding of ‘public’ was part of public service, something to which Samuel Hartlib alluded in his Office of Address. As Elizabeth Yale noted of early modern naturalists and their efforts to create archives, their efforts signalled a growing faith in the power of public institutions to preserve cultural patrimony and memory through changes of time, war, government, and religion. The ‘growing faith in the power of public institutions’ noted here extended into intellectual life. As Ann Blair identifies in her recent book on ‘information overload’ in the early modern period, anxiety about the loss of ancient learning and a desire to avoid further destruction of knowledge culminated in the growth of repositories of knowledge and techniques to manage the information they stored: Printing, along with improvements in postal systems, likely heightened the sense that scholars had of working toward the common good of an international Republic of Letters, notably through the formal and informal circulation of information…the motivation to form large collections of textual information stimulated the refinement of old techniques and the development of new ones both in manuscript and print. The provision of a repository of knowledge and its public use was particularly important for Chetham in the aftermath of the English Civil War: following Paul Kaufman’s definition, ‘public’ libraries in the early modern period were institutions supported by some secular body for the use of any responsible person, as distinct from the ‘private’ libraries in universities and colleges. For Chetham and the Library trustees, ‘public’ was understood to mean that any reader was allowed into the Library without hindrance or charge, although the scholarly nature of the book meant that the trustees’ definition of public did not extend as far as making all of the Library’s acquisitions available to the populace of the town. Many early modern libraries were built upon the private collections of individuals or with alumni donations. The Oxford and Cambridge college libraries from which the Library trustees drew their ideas were forced by a shortage of money to rely on alumni donations for stock. Chetham’s Library was an opportunity to create a scholarly library ab initio as part of the growing faith in the power of institutions to preserve and encourage patrimony and institutional memory. The extensive financial resources available to the trustees for the purchase of books from Britain and Europe enabled them to create what is today one of the finest collections of early modern printed books, broadsides and pamphlets in the world. Its acquisitions comprise the core texts of early modern scholarship and reflect the intellectual and book trade history of the period. Inevitably, the scholarly contents of Chetham’s Library precluded readers without a considerable degree of education, but its public function differentiated it from contemporary college, university and professional libraries, because college libraries were often restricted to the fellows of colleges or more senior students. During the seventeenth century, Chetham’s Library was better stocked than many college and university libraries, and so was used by a number of undergraduates preparing for their university examinations, including Nathaniel Baxter, who applied unsuccessfully to become Chetham’s Librarian in 1657. By way of nomenclature, the verb ‘acquire’ and the noun ‘acquisition’ stand in place of any other term to describe books and other items taken into the Library’s hands between 1655 and 1700. By no means were all of the materials that came into the Library selected by Humphrey Chetham’s trustees, and not all items were printed titles. There were books passed on by booksellers to rid themselves of unsold stock, and some books and manuscripts were unsolicited gifts. ‘Deliveries’ does not cover titles given by hand by the Library’s readers, so the term acquisitions seems most appropriate to describe the books and other items in the Library. Similarly, the word ‘title’ is employed to describe a book, or collection of books under one entry in the Library’s manuscript Accessions Register, and ‘volume’ is used for individual books in a set under one title. In his magisterial collection of essays entitled ‘The Library at Night’, Alberto Manguel meditates on the role of chance in the history of libraries: A library is not only a place of order and chaos; it is also the realm of chance. Books, even after they have been given a shelf and a number, retain a mobility of their own. The survival of Chetham’s Library to the twenty-first century was the result of Humphrey Chetham’s desire for his charitable donations not to go the way of many other previous libraries in the town of Manchester. Yet many books came into Chetham’s Library as the result of chance, misfortune or a previous owner’s death. That some books proved their usefulness in later years was the result of the workings of chance. This book is an exploration of why, how and through whom such an extraordinary library was stocked with material, from its inception to the end of the seventeenth century. Crucially, the analysis of the Library’s early history is more than an antiquarian study of its early records. As an institution, Chetham’s Library testifies to the growing desire in the early modern period to preserve bodies of knowledge and to make useful in perpetuity. Moreover, the study of the creation of Chetham’s Library offers a unique and vivid picture of the trade in books and ideas between London and the provinces and of textual reception in the period. Informed as much by modern debates about the history of the book, the history of reading and textual reception as by traditional analytical bibliography, the following section addresses the structure of the book and how it builds to its wider conclusions. Properly explored, the evidence of the acquisitions revises and refines existing analyses of the workings of the British and Continental trade in new and second-hand books, looking at the multiple ways in which early modern readers bought and read texts, and the complex and dynamic relationships between writers, publishers and readers in any historical period. If Books be the Spectacles we see through to all Learning If Books be the Spectacles we see through to all Learning, let’s then use them so; branch them forth, and spread their Knowledge. Margaret Schotte’s work on the Newcastle bookseller William London showed how he regarded books as scientific tools in the noble project of spreading wisdom. London sold by catalogue, a relatively new way for booksellers to organise and sell their stock. London’s 1657 catalogue was an idealised concatenation of books on sale in his shop, books he had sold in the past and books he wanted to sell in the future. His catalogue, which provided the full names of each title, was a vivid example of where the book trade and librarianship coincided: what a bookseller would sell to his customers if the stock were available and the resources unlimited. Moreover, London’s statement about using books as ‘spectacles…to all learning’ sets out the method employed in this book: how and why early modern readers went about choosing the books they did, the role of the book trade in the distribution and dissemination of knowledge, and how the study of a collection of books can open up the connections between intellectual culture, material culture and readership in the early modern period. It begins with a discussion of the foundation of the Library, and works outwards to a number of increasingly complex discussions about the links between the distribution and reception of books, manuscripts and scientific instruments in the early modern period. The book is divided into seven chapters, of which this Introduction is the first. The second chapter provides the historical background to the creation of the Library through the bequest of Humphrey Chetham. It discusses the major figures in the acquisition of books by and for the Library between 1655 and 1700, and outlines the basic statistical framework and qualitative methods for the study of the Library’s acquisitions as a whole. In particular, it emphasises the various implications of taking into account the use of books for students of the acquisition and reception of texts in the early modern period at Chetham’s Library, and demonstrates how the concept of the ‘usefulness’ of texts shapes the book as a whole. The third chapter employs the evidence of the Library’s Accessions Register, the extant invoices and extant correspondence to explore the Library’s forty-year business relationship with Robert Littlebury, the second-hand bookseller and Haberdasher of the ‘Unicorn in Little Britain’. Littlebury’s work for Chetham’s Library provides the historical timeframe around which this book is organised. As well as being the year of the foundation of the Library, 1655 was the beginning of Littlebury’s career. His death in 1695 and the Library’s increasing reliance on Manchester booksellers by 1700 provide a natural endpoint to the enquiry. Drawing on theoretical models of ‘communications circuits’ and previous research into the structure of the early modern boo
Review Quotes
"This book covers much more ground than its title would suggest. It provides interesting new perspectives on the book trade during the seventeenth century, and on the relationship of booksellers to libraries." Brandon High, King's College London. In: CILIP Rare Books and Special Collections Group Newsletter, No. 92, July 2012, pp. 27-78."Reading this book is not just to learn about Chetham's Library, but also to be called to think about what is important about historic books and libraries, and what we can learn from them by looking from many angles. In summary, therefore: this is an excellent book whose contribution to scholarship goes far beyond the narrative account that its title might be thought to imply. Certainly, it should be of interest to early modernists of many persuasions and should be on the shelves of any library which supports serious study in such fields."David Pearson, City of London. In: Library & Information History, Vol. 28, No. 1 (March 2012), pp. 62-63.
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Reference & Research Book News, August 2011
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Long Description
Chetham's Library, Manchester, was founded in 1655 by the bequest of the Manchester merchant, Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653). Drawing on recent debates about the methods of book history, this book is a detailed study of the way in which an early modern provincial library was created, stocked with books and administered. Using extensive archival research into the Library's acquisitions and the trade in books and ideas in the later seventeenth century, Yeo examines the motivations behind the Library's foundation, the beliefs of those responsible for the selection of books and the Library's relationship with the London bookseller Robert Littlebury. The result is a refreshing reinterpretation of provincial intellectual culture and the workings of the early modern trade in books and ideas.
Bowker Data Service Summary
Chetham's Library, Manchester, was founded in 1655 by the bequest of the Manchester marchant, Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653). Drawing on recent debates about the methods of book history, this volume is a detailed study of the way in which an early modern provincial library was created, stocked with books, and administered.
Description for Reader
All those interested in the history of early modern libraries, the reception of texts in the English provinces, as well as students of the early modern book trade.

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