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Edward Edwards Issues the First Comprehensive Account of the History & Development of Libraries


In 1859 Edward Edwards, former librarian of the Manchester Free Library, the first library opened under the 1850 Public Libraries Act, the passage of which was in no small part due to efforts by Edwards, published Memoirs of Libraries: Including A Handbook of Library Economy.  The first roughly 1400 pages of this work of approximately 1900 pages, published in two thick octavo volumes, consisted of a series of interrelated chapters which covered the development of libraries from the earliest times to the mid-19th century. Because of its unusual arrangement it is debatable whether or not Edwards' book is the first comprehensive "history" of libraries. It is certainly the first large, comprehensive collection of historical essays on the subject in English, and it contains a wealth of information difficult to find elsewhere. The final 500 pages consisted of what Edwards called "A Handbook of Library Economy"—a manual on how to run an institutional library.

Edwards continued his writings on the history of libraries in a collection of essays entitled Libraries and Founders of Libraries (1865).

In 1885, the year before his death, Edwards issued a second revised edition of the first 400 pages of Memoirs of Libraries as Memoirs of Libraries of Museums; and of Archives; (Public and Private); and of Some of Their Chief Founders, Collectors, Keepers.  Of the 500 copies printed of this second edition, a good number must have remained in sheets at the author's death. Those were reissued by Thomas Greenwood for presentation, with a new title page and frontispiece, in 1901.

Greenwood, Edward Edwards, The Chief Pioneer of Municipal Public Libraries (1902).  Munford, Edward Edwards 1812-1886. Portrait of a Librarian (1963).

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