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Book Description

First edition, 4to, (227 x 170 mm), 54pp., some light staining and dust soiling, cont. manuscript additions and alterations to the text in ink, bound in later full vellum.
Dealer Notes
Benjamin Mackerell (bap. 1685, d. 1738), Antiquary, Librarian, and Plagiarist. “In addition to his career as an antiquary, Mackerell is worth remembering for the work he undertook in his unpaid office of Librarian of the Norwich Public Library, between 1721 and 1732, and possibly later. This collection was already more than a century old, when Mackerell was first admitted to membership in 1715. The following year, he presented the library with a copies of Davila's History of France and Grimston's History of the Netherlands both in folio.

The Norwich City Library was founded in May 1608, when the Norwich Assembly set aside three rooms in the New Hall in St Andrew's parish for the provision of a library for local preachers. No funds were made available for book purchases however other than the provision of a donor's book. Gifts of books were soon forthcoming, particularly from the aldermen and other city dignitaries, and by 1617 more than one hundred and twenty volumes had been added to the collect. Over the next three centuries, the library continued to operate, although its fortunes tended to wax and wane. After the initial enthusiasm following it establishment, the collection was neglected and the library shut up, until 1657, when it was revived by the Presbyterian Minister John Collinges. Similarly, a further period of neglect towards the end of the century, was followed by the appointment of an enthusiastic librarian, Joseph Brett, the reorganisation of the collection and the publication of the first printed catalogue in 1706.

Mackerell's early membership of the library coincided with a period when the collection was well used, particularly by the Cathedral Clergy such as Thomas Tanner, or John Jeffery, the Archdeacon of Norwich, or Humphrey Prideaux, the Dean. However at the same time there was a decline in the number of donations, and relaxation in the application of the rules to members. Mackerell later expressed his disapproval of the management of the collection, in the account of the library in his history of Norwich.

Mackerell's opportunity to institute reform came in June 1724, when he was selected to be the new Library Keeper.46 He sought first of all to tighten up adherence to the regulations by the membership, and secondly to encourage more donations, particularly from his friends. Thus his good friend and neighbour John Knyvett made a donation shortly after Mackerell took office. However, his greatest coup was in persuading his friend the antiquary John Kirkpatrick to leave more than two hundred early printed books and manuscripts together with his collection of coins and medals to the library. Kirkpatrick did however reserve his valuable manuscript collections towards the history of Norwich, for the use and enjoyment of his brother Thomas during his lifetime, and only thereafter to the city. Had the City Library also received the Le Neve as the owner had intended, and subsequently the Tanner manuscripts, it would have become an enormously valuable resource for the history of the county and of the East Anglian region.

The acquisition of the Kirkpatrick collection provided an excellent reason for the complete reorganisation of the collection, and the compilation of a new library catalogue. On Mackerell's recommendation, the Norwich Assembly set up a Committee to consider the library, which agreed to finance the publication of 600 copies of a new catalogue.

Like much of Mackerell's antiquarian work, the printed catalogue was orderly and well executed; a model library catalogue for its period. The books were arranged into a broad alphabetical classification scheme, and each title allocated a shelf number. The catalogue was arranged alphabetically by author and presented into columns showing the donor's name, author, title, date (where known), format, class and number. In his introduction Mackerell mentions that the publication of Bret's catalogue in 1706 had given rise to a number of additional donations: "for which Reason 'tis hoped that publishing and dispersing this Catalogue may have its well-intended design effected. “He also cited two other potential advantages of its publication. First of all that "the Magistrates, Gentlemen, Tradesmen, &c. of this City, ... by their seeing what Books are there Already, they may avoid giving Duplicates". Secondly that "those who are or shall be admitted to the Use of this Library ... save themselves many an unnecessary journey to it, in hopes to find a Book they may have Occasion for, and is not there to be met with”.”—Aberystwyth University.
Author [MACKERELL (Benjamin)]
Date 1733
Publisher Norwich: Printed by William Chase,

Price: £2950.00

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