Many of the books in Swem Library’s Special Collections have been gifted by individual donors who have themselves built up their own private collections. This practice of endowing educational institutions with the tools of study has long antecedents, but in the seventeenth century a librarian actually laid out a plan for building a library and advocated wider access for scholars. Shown here is a translation of such a plan, a 1627 book by Gabriel Naudé, addressed to his patron, the President of the Parlement de Paris. Naudé later became librarian to a number of famous figures, including the chief minister of France, Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661), and built him an enormous library which was open to the public on a regular basis and which remains to this day the oldest public library in France, the Bibliothèque Mazarine.
The translation of Naudé’s work, which is in Special Collections, was made by John Evelyn and published in 1661. Evelyn was a diarist who recorded many of the events following the Restoration of the English monarchy and was also a founding member of the Royal Society, the first scientific academy of its kind. As a member of that society and as the translator of Naudé he arranged for the Society to be given the library of the sixth duke of Norfolk, yet another instance of a benefactor contributing to learning through the gift of books.
In addition to this book on libraries, Special Collections owns a copy of the book Evelyn wrote on trees for the Royal Society, Sylva, or A discourse of forest-trees, and the propagation of timber in His Majesties dominions. Our copy is a replacement for the one lost in the fire of 1705 and has been acquired as part of the attempt to reconstruct the first library of the College of William & Mary, largely the gift of the Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, Francis Nicholson, another, more local, fondly remembered benefactor of libraries.
Written by Phillip Emanuel, Graduate Student Apprentice.