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RED CROSS STREET, CRIPPLEGATE;
FOUNDED PURSUANT TO THE WILL OF THE
REVEREND DANIEL WILLIAMS, D.D.
WHO DIED IN THE YEAR 1716.
PRINTED AND SOLD BY RICHARD AND JOHN E. TAYLOR,
RED LION COURT, FLEET STREET.
THE REV. DR. DANIEL WILLIAMS was an eminent Protestant dissenting minister of the Presbyterian denomination, in the latter part of the seventeenth, and the beginning of the eighteenth, century; he was born at Wrexham, in Denbighshire, in 1644, and died in London in 1716, bequeathing nearly the whole of his ample fortune to public and charitable objects.
For some time previous to his decease, he had formed the design of founding in the Metropolis a Public Library, to be placed under the management and control of a succession of Trustees, and to be accessible to such persons as they, in their discretion, should admit to the privilege.
Dr. Williams's private collection of books, which he destined to this object, was very numerous and of great value; but before his death, he had added to it, by purchase, the entire library of Dr. William Bates, which was known to contain a large number of rare and curious works, Dr. Bates being esteemed one of the most learned and accomplished bibliographers of his time.
Owing to some technical difficulties in the establishment of the trusts of Dr. Williams's will, his Trustees were not able to complete the arrangements for the opening of the Public Library before the year 1729, about thirteen years after the Testator's death.
They had obtained from the Court of Chancery, in the suit under which the affairs of the Trust have always been admi
nistered, an order to lay out a certain sum of money in the purchase of ground and the erection of a house in Red Cross Street, for the reception of the books; but this sum having been wholly expended before the building had advanced near its completion, the Trustees, who were unwilling to apply to the Court for an addition to the original grant, raised the funds that were wanted for finishing the house and furnishing the principal apartments, by handsome contributions from themselves, and liberal donations from opulent friends who were favourable to the design.
Whilst these arrangements were in progress, the books were, conformably to Dr. Williams's directions, carefully examined, the "duplicates and useless books" removed, and a Catalogue prepared of those selected for preservation, which was printed in the year 1727. The object of the Trustees in publishing the Catalogue so long before the Library was ready for use, is stated to have been " to induce other munificent and public-spirited persons, and lovers of literature, to contribute to its augmentation." In this expectation they were not disappointed; many donations, some of them of great value, were received for the increase of the Library; but the largest accession was derived from Dr. William Harris, the personal friend of Dr. Williams, who bequeathed for this purpose the whole of his own library. At many subsequent periods, liberal contributions have been made to it, both by Trustees, and by other friends of the Institution not connected with its management*.
Dr. Williams having, in the disposal of his property, made no provision for the augmentation of the Library, orders were obtained by the Trustees from the Court of Chancery, in the years 1805 and 1830, authorizing the application of certain
* It has been usual with the Lay Trustees, on their appointment, to present to the Library the sum of ten guineas, or some book or books equivalent to that sum.
portions of the annual surplus profits of the Trust estates to this specific purpose. In consequence of this order, they have from that time been enabled to enrich the Library by the purchase of a considerable number of standard works in various languages.
The Library, in its present state, comprises a very extensive and valuable collection of books in both the ancient and modern tongues, and in all the more important departments of learning, especially in those of theology and ecclesiastical history and biography.
Looking, however, to the uses to which such an Institution may be applied,-open without distinction to persons of all classes and parties,—and placed in the centre of the Metropolis, now made the seat of a University, and therefore furnishing a new stimulus to the more general cultivation of science and literature, it must be apparent, that whatever may hitherto have been done, much yet remains, which it is desirable to effect for its improvement, by contributions from authors and learned bodies, and from the opulent and liberal of all descriptions.
The chief aim of those benefactors who have contributed to the augmentation of the Library, has been to promote its general usefulness, without reference to sectarian distinctions. The Trustees, in the appropriation of the money placed at their disposal for its improvement, have been guided wholly by the same principle,-looking to public utility alone.
It was the intention of the benevolent Founder, that, with a view to its more extensive usefulness, his Library should be easy of access. Acting up to his liberal design, the Trustees have always aimed to afford every practicable facility for the admission of visitors; imposing no restraints beyond such as they deemed to be indispensable for the security of the property, and the general interests of the Institution, and such, indeed, as are usual in other public libraries.