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The Library of Bryant Barrett, Laceman and Country Squire

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 February 2015


Bryant Barrett (c.1715–1790) was a Catholic tradesman who managed to become affluent enough to be able to collect a library of nearly 2,000 volumes. His library catalogues are still extant and the aim of the present article is to analyse these in order to get an insight into the intellectual world of an eighteenth-century RC self-made man. There are a number of catalogues of institutional RC libraries and the occasional catalogue of an RC clergyman, but as far as we know the Barrett catalogues are a unique register of the books possessed by an ‘ordinary’ RC layman. The traditional picture of eighteenth-century English Catholic life is that of a dwindling community with a rather provincial and conservative outlook on life. Heroic martyrdom was a feature of the past: ordinary life entailed guarding against modern enlightenment views and – towards the end of the century – internal discussions about the concessions necessary to achieve Catholic emancipation. Barrett's library modifies this picture in a number of ways: it reveals an eminently practical man who was also an intellectual, someone interested in the past, loyal to his faith, knowledgeable about the latest developments in industry and science, intrigued by perspectives opening up through exploration and travel, fascinated with new developments and ideas. Barrett was a both a devout Roman Catholic and a well-read man of the world.

Copyright © Catholic Record Society 2013

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1 The Berkshire Record Office (hereafter BRO) holds a substantial collection of Barrett papers. D/EBt B10 is an ‘Inventory of stock in trade compiled annually’. The entry for 1768 contains the names of debtors who owe Barrett money. The list is headed by the King, followed by the rest of the Royal family and some 60 members of the nobility, followed by an endless series of generals, colonels, captains and ensigns (the combined debts amounting to an astonishing £ 10,359).

2 In the inventory mentioned in note 1 Barrett calculates that he is worth £23,000, which sum includes the £10,000 owing to him by his noble clientele; their notorious reluctance to pay their bills would result in Barrett's near bankruptcy at the time of his death (see Murphy's article, cited above, p. 115).

3 In addition to the two catalogues there is a list among the papers at Milton Manor of ‘Books carried to Milton’ i.e. books moved from Barrett's London residence to his country seat. It is in the same hand as the 1760 catalogue and contains some 470 titles of printed books (and some manuscripts). With very few exceptions all titles are covered by the two catalogues. We are grateful to the present owner of Milton Manor, Mr Anthony Mockler, for permission to consult the relevant manuscripts.

4 ‘Reading as pastime: the place of light literature in some gentlemen's libraries of the seventeenth century’, in Myers, R. & Harris, M. (eds), Property of a Gentleman: the formation, organisation and dispersal of the private library 1620–1920 (Winchester, 1991), pp. 113–31.Google Scholar

5 It is, of course, typical that when Birrell was consulted about the 1760 Barrett library catalogue he drew up a very astute report about its contents that the authors of the present article have gratefully made use of.

6 After the death of the Roman Catholic priest, William Errington (1716–1768) the London publisher and bookseller J.P. Coghlan compiled a catalogue of his books (see BKS 738), amounting to 3,000 titles. However, the list that Coghlan drew up also contained parts of the libraries of ‘several other gentlemen’ and part of the stock of the publisher Thomas Meighan, so that it is impossible to get a picture of Errington's own books.

7 In our subsequent discussions of Barrett's library we supply dates for titles from the 1760 catalogue. For titles from the 1790 catalogue we supply dates if there is only one edition prior to 1790: in the case of more editions it is impossible to determine which edition is referred to.

8 See note 2.

9 Louis de Richeome. The book contains 15 engraved plates and 64 MS pages comprising homilies in English on the Eucharist to accompany the engravings. There is an inscription on a flyleaf ‘For Mr Smith's near Red Lyon Square, London’. In view of the address and the alias it seems reasonable to assume that the author is Challoner or one of his chaplains. See also the Bodleian Library Friends’ Newsletter, Summer 2008 and Winter 2008/2009, p. 5.

10 Apart from book purchases mention is made of orders for bookbinding from, among others, Thomas Meighan and James Marmaduke, and for the construction and mending of book cases.

11 Basic facts about the booksellers mentioned can be found in Dictionaries of the Printers and Booksellers … 1557–1775 (Bibliographical Society, 1977) ed. by H.R. Plomer et al. and – for a number of the names – in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

12 E.g. D/EBt A3, 22 June 1753 ‘The charges of a parcel of books bought for me at Paris. £4.4s.6d.’

13 The first part of the catalogue of a library, which has been almost two hundred yearscollecting by a society of gentlemen (London, 1778, BKS 739)Google Scholar published by J.P. Coghlan is one example. See also note 6 for another possible source of Barrett's books.

14 In the following account we will concentrate on printed books, but the catalogues also list a number of manuscripts: an ‘Officium Beatae Mariae’, a ‘Life of Sir Toby Matthews’ (which might be the manuscript of BKS 395, Butler's, Alban The life of Sir Tobie Matthews, London 1795),Google Scholar ‘Horae BMV cum fig’ and ‘Arsdeacon MS’ (which probably refers to a work by the Irish Jesuit, Richard Archdeacon).

15 Murphy, p. 110.

16 Stevenson, Allan, ed., Catalogue of botanical books in the collection of Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt, vol. 2, 1700–1800 (Pittsburgh, 1961), ‘Preface’, p. VIII.Google Scholar

17 BRO D/EBt, B1 second part.

18 Carozzi, Albert V., ed., [de Maillet, Benoit] Telliamed (U. of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1968),Google Scholar ‘Introduction’.

19 [Tollemache, Marguerite], French Jansenists (London, 1893).Google Scholar

20 For the paragraphs on Thomas Hearne and antiquities we are indebted to Harmsen, Theodor, Antiquarianism in the Augustan Age. Thomas Hearne 1678–1735 (Peter Lang, Bern, 2000).Google Scholar

21 Doble, C.E. et al. (eds), Hearne's Remarks and Collections, XI vols (Oxford, 1885–1921), vol. IX, letter Hearne to Parkinson, 22 May 1726, p. 136.Google Scholar

22 Harmsen, p. 264.

23 For general surveys in this field see Davies, Godfrey and Keeler, Mary Frear (eds), Bibliography of British history. Stuart period 1603–1714 (Oxford, 1970);Google Scholar Grose, C.L., A selectbibliography of British history 1660–1760 (New York, 1967);Google Scholar Pargellis, Stanley & Medley, D.J., Bibliography of British history. The Eighteenth Century 1714–1789 (first pbd 1951, London, 1977).Google Scholar

24 See e.g. Hadland, Tony, Thames Valley Papists (privately printed, 1992), p. 135.Google Scholar

25 J.S., Modern Europe (London, 1757), ‘Preface’, p. vi.

26 A general account of the history of science is given by Hall, A.R. in The scientific revolution1500–1800 (first pbd 1954, London, 1962).Google Scholar

27 See the article on Benjamin Martin by Milburn, John R. in the Oxford DNB, vol. 36, pp. 921–3.Google Scholar

28 A detailed account of a trip from 18 July-30 October 1752, undertaken together with his first wife Mary Belson, can be found in BRO D/EBt F 26 and D/EBt A2/1 – the expenses amounted to the considerable sum of £ 446. On 1 June 1784 his second wife, with an extensive entourage, left for Douai in order to take the two eldest sons to school there (D/EBt A2/2).

29 For a general survey of accounts of travel and exploration see Cox, E.G., A reference guide tothe literature of travel (Seattle, 1949).Google Scholar

30 Heawood, Edward, A history of geographical discovery in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (first pbd 1912, New York, 1969),Google Scholar especially ch. 10, ‘Russian discoveries in the north-east 1700–1800’. Barrett bought this book from Thomas Jeffreys, bookseller in St Martin's Lane, on 20 February 1764 for 18sh. (BRO D/EBt A2/1).

31 Barrett bought this book from William Otridge, bookseller in the Strand, on 4 August 1773 for 11 sh. (BRO D/EBt A2/2).

32 Cox, p. 584.

33 For an extensive survey of books on botany and gardening see Catalogue of botanical books in the collection of Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt, 2 vols (Pittsburgh, 1958 Google Scholar and 1961; vol. 1 compiled by Jane Quinby, vol. 2 by Allan Stevenson).

34 Cox, p. 515.

35 The dates of purchase of the several volumes are 28 April 1764, 21 November 1765, 16 June 1767, 19 August 1768, 5 December 1768 and 12 February 1771 (BRO D/EBt A2/1 and A2/2).

36 For Hellot see Guerlac, Henry, ‘Some French Antecedents of the Chemical Revolution’, Chymia, 5 (1959), pp. 73112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

37 On March 6, 1770 Barrett records the purchase of a pianoforte for £16.16s. (D/EBt A2/2).

38 Sidney and Webb, Beatrice, English local government from the Revolution to the Municipal Corporation Act: The Parish and the County (London, 1906), p. 354.Google Scholar

39 Murphy, p. 107.

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