« PreviousContinue »
Ladies and Gentlemen : These walls, though mute, are eloquent. Rising in the midst of a city that never saw a temple such as this, they tell us as they rise that a new era dawns !
In a community where the arts have been the grand object of pursuit ; where sacred edifices dedicated to God declare a religious people, and schools bear witness that knowledge is valued as means to the great end for which man was made, it is a fact which may well excite surprise, that nearly two hundred years had passed since the city was founded, and no stone had yet been laid for a structure such as this!
We extol the spirit of the early and later citizens of Newark. Here it is: and in all that constitutes the excellence and glory of the State, where is a city with which it will not favorably compare ? In morals, intelligence, order, industry, enterprise, prosperity, social happiness it is eminent, and its name is its praise the land
But when I say that up to this hour this city has never made such provision as these walls now promise, I speak of her self-denial in the process of advancement : of years of progress forever lost: of treasures of
knowledge, and stores of pleasure, which might have been hers, and which now are opening upon her with a healthfulness, richness, beauty and power, that shall make this a NEW ERA in the history of Newark mind.
The fathers of Newark were men of faith and forecast. The memorials of their wisdom and worth, as well as their sepulchres, are with us till this day. Good men and true, they planted seeds that have borne fruit on soil that was blessed by their footsteps, enriched by their labors and hallowed by their ashes. Green be the turf over their graves, and sacred their memory in the hearts of their posterity.
We have said the fathers of Newark were religious men, and when they put their hands to the first stones of their first temples, it was in faith that with the progress of religious institutions, is blended the growth of every thing that tends to the elevation and happiness of man. And if I were to spend the hour assigned me this evening in setting forth the union of mental illumination with the happiness of the human race, or the connexion between knowledge and enjoyment, we should traverse a field of enquiry as fertile and refreshing as any domain of thought, and arrive at this grand conclusion, that with the NEWARK LIBRARY ASSOCIATION is identified the intellectual and moral happiness of all who seek to draw waters of health, pleasure and life from its invigorating fountains.
I ask you then to follow me in a rapid sketch of the rise and progress of libraries. The history will incidentally exhibit the enthusiasm with which their collection has been pursued, and will lead the way for us to contemplate the pleasures and advantages to flow from this Association. We have thus a field before us so wide and so fruitful, that we must touch and taste only as we proceed.
The earliest libraries of which we have knowledge were in Egypt, in the time of the Ptolemies. They were gathered in the temples of the gods, and over the door of the first library, was the inscription, dear to every true scholar, “the nourishment of the soul,” or as Diodorus renders it,
THE MIND.' Ptolemy Soter, or, as some suppose, his son Ptolemy founded the celebrated library of Alexandria, and drew into its alcoves manuscripts from every region of earth into which the light of letters had travelled. His librarian was Demetrius Phalerius, by whose diligence and taste the whole collection was rendered easily accessible, and by his zcal and perseverance the world was ransacked for books. A curious fact is recorded in proof and illustration.
The Athenians were famishing for want of bread, while the Egyptians had grain to spare. But the Athenians had the original manuscripts of Æschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and Ptolemy would not sell them his grain unless they would lend him those manuscripts to be copied for his library. The starving Athenians refused the terms, except on his giving them a pledge, in the sum of fifteen talents of gold, for their safe return. Ptolemy gave the pledge, took the manuscripts, had them transcribed, and on returning them safely, bade them keep his gold, as he now had all he wanted!
This Library at length contained 700,000 volumes, and was finally burnt during the seige of Alexandria by Julius Cæsar. It was partially replaced by the Library of Pergamus, which was founded by Eumenes III, and in it parchment was first used in writing : the necessity for its use arising from the rivalry of the Egyptian libraries. Papyrus was to be had only from Egypt, and in order to check the growth of the