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IN THE COLLECTION OF THE
MERCANTILE LIBRARY ASSOCIATION
CITY OF NEW-YORK:
WITH A GENERAL INDEX, AND ONE OF DRAMATIC PIECES;
TOGETHER WITH AN
THE CONSTITUTION, AND THE RULES AND REGULATIONS
LIBRARY IN CLINTON HALL.
PRINTED BY HARPER & BROTHERS,
NO. 82 CLIFF STREET..
OFFICERS FOR 1837.
CHARLES ROLFE, President. ALEXANDER NISBET, Vice-President. EDMUND COFFIN, Secretary.
E. A. LEWIS, Treasurer.
In publishing a sixth catalogue of the books of the Mercantile Library Association, its directors think it well to prefix a succinct account of the origin, progress, and present state of the institution.
The persuasion, that to liberalize the minds of that great body of young men who form the rising hope of our active and varied commerce; to enlarge and invigorate their capacity by solid knowledge; to elevate their spirits and their morals by familiarizing their moments of leisure with whatever is fair in the actions of other times or excellent in science, was the truest method of advancing, not only their individual respectability, but their utility to others and their own ultimate success, led the clerks in general, of New-York, to set on foot, in the year 1820, the existing association.
To its original formation, certain prejudices (now happily disap pearing) that clung to a narrow routine and strict ignorance of everything else, as the only true resources of mercantile skill, at first opposed themselves. The impediments, however, which these could offer, were not enough to hold back the better spirit of our commercial class from an object so worthy; and the organization of the society went successfully forward, until, in 1823, it obtained the more permanent form of a corporate body.
At the first opening of the institution, a collection, amounting to about seven hundred volumes, derived principally from personal donation, was found to have been assembled. In 1821 this number had risen to about a thousand volumes, and the association embraced two hundred and four members. The detailed progress of the next five years can be but imperfectly traced, in records then rather irregularly kept. In January, 1826, however, we find the number of associates risen to four hundred and thirty-eight, and that of volumes in the collection to twenty-two hundred. A still better impulse seems to have been felt in the affairs of the association during the ensuing year; since it more than doubled its number of members before the return of its next anniversary, and added more than a thousand volumes to its library. In January, 1828, three hundre
and sixty new members and twelve hundred added volumes are reported; and four hundred and five of the former, and six hundred of the latter, in 1829.
Meanwhile, the accomplishment, by our institution, of a highly salutary and useful effect, had become so marked and certain, that many leading merchants of our city grew warmly solicitous for its advancement. Of that solicitude they proceeded to give us a solid token, by establishing the fund from which the stately edifice, now devoted to our gratuitous use, was erected. These fine halls, and the spacious lecture-rooms which, since 1830, we enjoy, will long form a noble monument of the enlightened views and the munificent spirit of which merchants are capable.
In January, 1831, our roll was swelled by the accession of four hundred and fifty-one new members; but our annual gain in books was this year lessened, by the necessity of repairing, out of a special appropriation, such losses or injuries in sets of books as had supervened since our foundation. In January, 1832, we had gained five hundred and seven new members and seven hundred and fifty fresh volumes; and, before the next anniversary, eight hundred and sixty-four of the latter and three hundred and eighty-three of the former. The next year brought us three hundred and eighty-two members and thirteen hundred and ninety-seven volumes; and the succeeding one, three hundred and ninety-three members and one thousand and ninety volumes; leaving the number of actual associates in January, 1835, fifteen hundred and fifty-four, and the volumes in possession nine thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight. Our accession of members, in 1835, was six hundred and eighty, and of books, fifteen hundred and twenty-two; and that of 1836, eight hundred and thirty-three of the former and eighteen hundred and forty-five of the latter; a rate of augmentation in both far more considerable than that of any previous year. The present number of members, including annual subscribers and stockholders, may be stated at three thousand five hundred; and the volumes actually in our library at fourteen thousand five hundred.
These leading facts in the history of our association ascertain a rapidity of progress in its prosperity, a recognised utility and efficiency, and a growing popularity, full of pride for those who have been the patrons of our institution, and full of hope for those who reap its benefits. Apart from the usual advantages of literary bodies and the pomp of learned names, we have created, out of the zeal, the taste, and the liberal spirit of a class, held almost eareless of any praise but that of gain, an institution diffusing knowledge and