Edmund Lester Pearson (1880- 1937) was a professional librarian. He got an AB degree from Harvard College in 1902, and a B.L.S. (Bachelor of Library Science?) degree from the New York State Library School at Albany in 1904. From 1904 to 1909, he held posts at the Washington DC Public Library, the Library of Congress, the War Department, and a private library in Asheville NC. In 1909, he returned to Newburyport MA to devote full time to writing.
Pearson's "Old Librarian" views library patrons as insufferable nuisances distracting librarians from their true vocation (personal reading), when not an actual danger to precious books they itch to steal or damage. Patrons certainly had no useful suggestions to make on what books to acquire. No librarian in 1909 would admit to sharing the "Old Librarian"s attitudes, but some of the satire could apply to bureaucracies in general.
Table of Contents for the Old Librarian's Almanack, as reprinted by W.A. Wiegand:
|Subject||Page number in Wiegand|
|Cover, supposedly reproduced from 1773||37|
|1909 "Librarian's Series" title page||39|
|Pearson's 1909 preface to the "reprint"||40-42|
|Eclipses and listing of major stars||44|
|Introduction supposedly from 1773||45|
|Entries for January 1774 (2 pp. format)||46-47|
|Identical 2-page format for months Feb-Dec||48-69|
|A Cure for the Bite of a Rattlesnake (satirical).||70-71|
Some Quotations from The Old Librarian's Almanack:
p. 49 (Feb 1774)
"There will then remain the necessity of recording [a book's] Acquisition in your Ledgers of Record. As for the Entry of its Style and Title in the Catalogue, many counsel that this is not needful, since you may be expected to remember that the Book has been Purchas'd for the Library. It may, however, occupy your leisure moments. Some would advise that if it be a Volume of Sermons it be placed on the Shelves with others of its like; or if it be a work of Natural Philosophy it stand near the Volumes of that class. This is a waste of time.
"Assign it a Number which shall correspond to its Position on the Shelf, and shall be the next in Sequence from the latest Book which you have added, and so let them stand in the Order in which thay are Receiv'd. For, surely, if you desire to find a number of volumes of Sermons, it will be an easy matter for you, recalling when they were Purchas'd, to pluck them from their several resting-places.
"Keep your books behind stout Gratings, and in no wise let any Persons come at them to take them from the Shelf except yourself.
"Have in Mind the Counsel of Master Enoch Sneed (that most Worthy Librarian) who says: It were better that no Person enter the Library (save the Librarian Himself) and that the Books be kept in Safety, than that one book be lost, or others Misplac'd. Guard well your Books, -- this is always your foremost Duty."
"And what Condemnation shall befit the accurst Wretch (for he cannot justly claim the title of Man) who pilfers and purloins for his own selfish ends such a precious article as a Book? I am reminded of the Warning display'd in the Library of the Popish Monastery of San Pedro at Barcelona. This is the version English'd by Sir Matthew Manhan, who saw it writ in Latin in the Monastery, as he himself describes in his learn'd Book, Travels in Spanish Countries, 1712
"The Warning reads thus: 'For him that stealeth a Book from this Library, let it change to a Serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with Palsy, and all his Members blasted. Let him languish in Pain, crying aloud for Mercy and let there be no surcease to his Agony till he sink to Dissolution. Let Book-worms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, and when at last he goeth to his final Punishment let the Flames of Hell consume him for ever and aye.'"
"So far as your Authority will permit of it, exercise great Discrimination as to which Persons shall be admitted to the use of the Library. For the Treasure House of Literature is no more to be thrown open to the ravages of the unreasoning Mob, than is a fair Garden to be laid unprotected at the Mercy of a Swarm of Beasts.
"Question each Applicant closely. See that he be a Person of good Reputation, scholarly Habits, sober and courteous Demeanour. Any mere Trifler, a Person that would Dally with Books, or seek in them shallow Amusement, may be Dismiss'd without delay.
"No person younger than 20 years (save if he be a Student, of more than 18 years, and vouched by his Tutor) is on any pretext to enter the Library. Be suspicious of Women. They are given to the Reading of frivolous Romances, and at all events, their presence in a Library adds little to (if it does not, indeed, detract from) that aspect of gravity, Seriousness and Learning which is its greatest Glory. You will make no error in excluding them altogether, even though by that Act it befall that you should prohibit from entering some one of those Excellent Females who are distinguished by their Wit and Learning. There is little Chance that You or I, Sir, will ever see such an One.
"Master Enoch Sneed (for whom I am ever ready to Testify my Reverence) has written: I am so be-pestered and bothered by persons insinuating themselves into the Library to get Books that frequently I am near to my Wit's end. There have been days when I was scarce able to read for two Hours consecutive without some Donkey breaking in upon my Peace. Only the thought of the Annual Examination sustains me. Then, forsooth, I can defy them all and read in some Security."
[...] "He can be no lover of books if he be at ease when his books are absent from the Library."
"When the latter had entered he gave the Member into custody of the Officer, professing against him a charge of Disturbance of the Peace."
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