Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dowse Library Exhibit at MHS

To mark the 150th anniversary of Thomas Dowse's gift of his library to the Massachusetts Historical Society, some of the 'gems' from the collection are currently on display in the Dowse Library room at the Society (1154 Boylston Street, Boston). Dowse's library is also the subject of MHS' "Object of the Month" web highlight, which discusses the life of Mr. Dowse, his library, and how it came to the Historical Society.

The Dowse Library (which I got to spend some time with as we prepared for this exhibit) is a really spectacular collection of books, which range widely in subject, age and rarity. Edward Everett once called it "the most excellent library of English books, for its size, with which I am acquainted." I think that's probably still pretty close to accurate today. Between the astoundingly beautiful natural history books, the early travel accounts (Hakluyt, Martyr, de Bry), the books on books (Dibdin, de Bury) and the vast concentration of Shakespeare titles and criticism (even including the famed forgeries of William Henry Ireland) Dowse collected with an eye toward not just good literature, but also scarce and noteworthy items.

A remarkable collection, and one I'm glad I've gotten the opportunity to know.