On Books and the Housing of Them by William Ewart Gladstone

By William Ewart Gladstone

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In libraries of the medium scale, not too vast for some amount of personal survey, some would multiply subdivision, and some restrain it. An acute friend asks me under what and how many general headings subjects should be classified in a library intended for practical use and reading, and boldly answers by suggesting five classes only: (1) science, (2) speculation, (3) art, (4) history, and (5) miscellaneous and periodical literature. But this seemingly simple division at once raises questions both of practical and of theoretic difficulty.

The diversities included under science would be so vast as at once to make sub-classification a necessity. The ologies are by no means well suited to rub shoulders together; and sciences must include arts, which are but country cousins to them, or a new compartment must be established for their accommodation. Once more, how to cope with the everlasting difficulty of 'Works'? In what category to place Dante, Petrarch, Swedenborg, Burke, Coleridge, Carlyle, or a hundred more? Where, again, is Poetry to stand?

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