藏書樓

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When I was serving in the Metropolitan Library I came to know an eminent man who had in his possession a treasured autograph manuscript of his father’s writings that he kept stored away in his book trunks. Whenever anybody happened to enquire about it he would always reply that he still had the MS and that he had long intended to have it printed. Whenever anybody asked to be allowed to borrow it in order to have it copied, he would always reply that, once he had had it printed, he would be sure to give a copy to his interlocutor, thus saving them the trouble of having it copied. Whenever anybody offered to have it printed for him, however, he would invariably reply that he could not abrogate his own responsibility in this respect and entrust the task to others. Sadly, after he died the MS disappeared. It wasn’t that he did not understand the need to treasure and preserve the MS, but it was simply the case that he did not have a plan whereby he would be able to ensure its preservation and circulation. …As I recount this story, I heave a deep sigh of regret. [from Miao Quansun 繆荃孫 (1844-1919), comp., Lotus Fragrances Gathered Together 藕香零拾, 1910; rpt. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1999, p.25.]

As the century unfolded, and China’s wealth of printed culture suffered from what some would later call a ‘book holocaust’ 書劫, Miao’s sigh of resignation would be chorused by the despair of many who love books.

— from ‘The Heritage of Books, Collecting and Libraries’, by Duncan Campbell

Libraries 藏書樓

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