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The earliest reference to a Library belonging to the Society
of the Middle Temple occurs in a manuscript" generally ascribed
to the reign of Henry VIII. and containing a description of the
government and state of the Inn. The section devoted to the
Library states :

“They now have no library, so that they cannot attaine to the
knowledge of divers learnings, but to their great chardges, by the
buying of such bookes as they lust to study. They had a simple
library, in which were not many bookes besides the law, and that
library by meanes that it stood allways open, and that the learners
had not each of them a key unto it, it was the last robbed of all
the bookes in it.”

The first mention of the Library in the records of the Inn is in connection with the bequest of Robert Ashley, who was the youngest brother of Sir Anthony Ashley, Clerk of the Privy Council, and Sir Francis Ashley, called to the degree of Serjeant in 1618. Robert Ashley recorded in his will ? that he had “some opportunitie of a retired life in this Society for many yeares together, and of some short excursions to acquaint myselfe with our neighboring nations” and had not “ spared any labour or expence in procuring the principall writers in their severall languages, espetially such as had opportunitie to be

Preserved in the British Museum, Vitellius C. 9. in Bibl. Cotton. f. 320 a. and printed in Herbert's Inns of Court, pp. 211 et seq.

2 The will is printed at length in the Minutes of Parliament, vol. ii. p. 917, published in 1904.

acquainted with the moste remote and unknowne partes." He bequeathed his Library to the Inn that it might “happily be

“ usefull to some good spirittes after me," and desired that the books might be available for any student “whether of our owne or of any forraigne nation that may be curious to see somewhat

1 which he cannot so readily finde elsewhere.” Sir Peter Ball, a Master of the Bench, and the Master of the Temple, were requested to make a Catalogue of the books given to the Inn. A comparatively small number of volumes can be distinguished with certainty as having belonged to Ashley's Library and, until the recent identification of some Year Books as his property, it was believed that they consisted wholly of non-legal works, chiefly history and geography, theology and philosophy. Under the terms of Ashley's bequest a Keeper of the Library was to be appointed, and one of his executors was selected in 1642 to be the first Keeper.”

In 1657 the Masters of the Bench directed that "a book of parchment leaves shall be provided handsomely bound to register the names and gifts of benefactors.” 3 At the same time it was ordered that “all law books which are or shall come forth shall be bought and placed” in the Library. Two years before £25 had been paid to Mr. Henry Muddiman, probably the same as he who was afterwards founder of the London Gazette,


1 Ashley's intention has become a tradition of hospitality on the part of the custodians of the Library towards foreign students. Among works in recent years of which the whole or greater part has been written in the Library may be mentioned La Recognizance dans le Droit Anglais, par M. Adrien Paulian; Het Burgerlijk Geding voor de King's Bench Division in Hoofdtrekken Geschetst, by Dr. Paulus ; and Professor Matsunami's treatise on the subject of collisions between warships and merchant vessels.

2 For a list of Keepers of the Library, with brief biographical notices, see The Middle Temple Bench Book, by Master A. R. Ingpen, K.C.

3 The record was continued only until the year 1710. It was revived from 1826 to 1865.

4 For some further particulars of the Library and its development, see d Brief History of the Middle Temple, pp. 79-99, by C. E. A. Bedwell.

6 See Cambridge History of English Literature, vol. vii. p. 362 et seq.

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