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THE Barton Collection of the Boston Public Library consists mainly of the books collected by Mr. Thomas Pennant Barton, who was born in Philadelphia, in 1803, and who died at Montgomery Place, near Barrytown, on the Hudson, April 5th, 1869.
A portion of the collection came from the library of his father-in-law, the Hon. Edward Livingston, consisting chiefly of works upon jurisprudence and penal law, and of American public documents and political pamphlets.
His correspondence with booksellers shows that Mr. Barton began this collection as early as 1834, and that he continued adding to it till the latter part of 1866, when the correspondence ceases.
Aside from the Shakespeare portion, to which Mr. Barton seems to have endeavored to add everything relating to Shakespeare, he evidently contented himself with acquiring those works which rank among the best in various departments of literature, without attempting to make any one branch complete. He also availed himself of the material gathered by others, as, for example, the collection of pamphlets and magazine articles bearing upon the ChattertonRowley poems, said by Malone to be the most curious and complete ever made, and the twenty-nine volumes, containing 300 dramatic tracts, brought together by Joseph Haslewood.
The notes and memoranda in Mr. Barton's own handwriting, to be found in many of the volumes, show him to have been not a mere collector, but a lover of what his books contained. Mrs. Barton's early determination, therefore, that the library should be kept intact can cause no surprise. Indeed, no monument could have been erected that would have preserved her husband's memory in so enduring and beneficent a form as this library, the result of years of untiring labor and appreciative study. Negotiations for its purchase by the City of Boston at a price named by Mrs. Barton, far below its cost and value at the time, were begun in the year 1869, resumed in the year 1872, and finally completed early in the year of 1873. The particulars of these negotiations, and the contract finally signed, are given in the twenty-first annual report of the Trustees. From this it appears that the Barton library was sold to the Trustees for the sum of $34,000, upon condition that the collection be kept separate, in an apartment known as the "Barton Library"; that none of the books be taken from the library; that a book-plate, from a design selected by Mrs. Barton, be placed in each volume; and that a catalogue of the collection be prepared. Within two days after the library had been delivered, Mrs. Barton died suddenly, at Montgomery Place, May 22, 1873.
"This bare narration gives no idea of the generous spirit with which this most estimable lady carried forward every step of the contract. The library had been left to her by her husband's will, without condition, to do with as she pleased. But she knew that his desire had been that the labor of his lifetime should not be lost by the separation of his dearly prized books, and she determined that his wishes should be literally carried out. In doing this she gave to the Barton library everything in her possession which could add value to the collection, including the correspondence, autographs, and plates which would illustrate and complete it. She added a mask of Shakespeare's face, taken at Mr. Barton's expense from the monument at Stratford-on-Avon, and a statuette of Richard III., the work of Rogers." (Extract from the twenty-first annual report of the Trustees, 1873.)
The collection contained 12,108 volumes. This number has been slightly increased by binding into volumes, pamphlets and excerpts from periodicals. The number of volumes given in the current annual reports, as belonging to the Barton library, includes subsequent purchases of editions of Shakespeare's works, Shakespeariana, etc., which have been placed in the same room with the original Barton library for safer keeping, and on account of similarity of subject.
The collection has been very fully described by Dr. James Wynne in his Private libraries of New York. (New York, i860.) An estimate of its commercial value was made by Dr. Joseph Green Cogswell and Joseph Sabin in 1870. Through the vicissitudes of time and the rivalry of collectors this value has greatly increased since the collection became a part of the Public Library of the City of Boston.
The publication of the first part of the catalogue, embracing the Shakespeare portion of the library, in 1880, called forth many commendatory notices. Among them can be cited one by Mr. Horace Howard Furness, which was printed as an appendix to the Thirtieth annual report of the Trustees, made in 1882; and another by Prof. Albert Cohn, in the Shakespeare Jahrbuch for 1880, in which he says: "We do not hesitate to pronounce it the best bibliographical guide to Shakespearian literature hitherto produced." That part was compiled by Mr. James Mascarenc Hubbard, with the assistance of Mr. Arthur Mason Knapp. Mr. Hubbard left the service of the Public Library soon after this was printed. The catalogue of the Miscellaneous portion made by Mr. Knapp, with some assistance from the Catalogue department, was, later, put into the hands of Mr. Jose Francisco Carret to be revised and printed. The assistance he has received in this work is mentioned in the preface to second part of this catalogue.