Charleston Library Society


[A note on the text]

The Charleston Library Society owes its origin to seventeen young gentleman who, in the year 1748, associated for the purpose of raising a small fund to "collect such new pamphlets" and magazines as should occasionally be published in Great Britain. They advanced and remitted to London ten pounds sterling, as fund to purchase such pamphlets as had appeared during the current year, acting at first under a mere verbal agreement, and without a name. Before the close of the year their views became more extensive, and on the 28th December they were organized under the name of a Library Society, and arrangements were made for the acquisition of books as well as of pamphlets.

Officers were first elected on the 1st April, 1749 and a few members were added during the Spring and Summer of that year. But as soon as the benefits of such an association were better understood, the Society became popular; and before the close of the year 1750, numbered more than one hundred and sixty members. Efforts were early made to obtain an Act of Incorporation. A Bill for that purpose passed both Houses of Assembly in 1751, but was defeated by the refusal of the Governor to give his assent. Another effort made in 1752, met with the same fate; thereupon the friends of the Society made an effort through the Colonial Agent in London, to obtain a charter from the Privy Council; or, if not, to cause instructions to be sent to the Governor to approve that granted by the Colonial Legislature. The proposition was rejected by the Board of Trade, because it was unprecedented to ratify in England a Bill to which a Provincial Governor had refused his assent.

We cannot now ascertain why Gov. Glenn should have twice refused to incorporate an association so unlikely to be obnoxious to the government as a Library Society. In 1754 his opposition was withdrawn, and he gave his assent to the charter, which, on the 24th June, 1755, was confirmed by the Crown.

From this time the Society made rapid progress. The number of books on its shelves increased steadily and rapidly; and the books themselves, comprising a large proportion of the ancient classical authors, reflected the enlightened character of the Society. This was the palmy period of its existence. It was, in a large measure, a social club, and admission into it was eagerly sought by those who were leaders of the society of the town. At an early period it became an understood thing that the Governor of the Province should be the President of the Society. Gov. Lyttelton was the first of these royal Presidents. After his departure from the Colony, Lieut.-Gov. Wm. Bull succeeded him, and was continued by successive elections until the arrival of Lord Charles Montague. The latter was elected in 1766, and held the office until 1768, when he retired from the Province, and Lieut-Gov. Bull was again elected and served until 1778. The disturbed condition of the Province, and the ill feelings with the royal Governors had come to be regarded, may account for the absence of the mane of Lord Wm. Campbell from the list of Presidents; but we cannot ascertain why Gov. Boone's name does not appear. He was very unpopular; but between him and the Library Society there were interchanges of good will.

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The original text of Catalogue of the books belonging to the Charleston Library Society
is not subject to copyright restriction.
This electronic version of the work created by Teresa Newman
Updated January 17, 2000.
Copyright 2000 by the
Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina