Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Private Library For All

Samuel Pepys, Secretary of the Admiralty, Member of Parliament, President of the Royal Society, was born in 1633 and died in 1703. He's most famous as a diarist of seventeenth-century life in London. He was also a lifelong book collector and had amassed quite a large library. One of the treasures of the library is the series of diaries Pepys kept from 1660 to 1669.

Upon his death, he directed in his will that his library should pass to Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was a Scholar. His directions precisely stipulation that his library be housed at Magdalene after the death of his nephew and heir John Jackson. 

Pepys' 3,000 volumes, bound specially for him, are to stand at the College as they were when he died, without addition or subtraction, 'for the benefit of posterity.' The volumes are kept as he left them, arranged 'according to heighth' in the book-presses which he had made for him in a naval dockyard. His catalogue, shelf-list, and library desk are still in use. 

The content of Pepys' library reflects a wide range of interests. Literature, history, science, music, and the fine arts are strongly represented. 

Pepys wrote, and I quite strongly believe, that a private library should comprehend 'in fewest books and least room the greatest diversity of subjects, styles and languages its owner's reading will bear.' 

Well said and practiced, sir.

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