Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Library at Åbo

The museum and library of Abo in Finland have been involved in the dreadful calamity which has lately befallen that town, which was destroyed by fire. The British public have subscribed nearly £900 for the relief of the inhabitants. An effort is now making in this country to restore the library. We subjoin the following extract of a circular letter from Mr. Bowring:

"When I visited Finland a few years ago, the university of Abo was in a most prosperous and improving condition. It had many distinguished professors, and was the seat and the source of the civilization of the whole country. A literary journal was established there, and almost all the works published in Finland issued from the press of Abo. Attached to the university were a valuable museum of natural history, extensive philosophical apparatus, and a library consisting of more than thirty thousand volumes, rich in records, and unpublished manuscripts relating to the history of Finland and Sweden. With the exception of about eight hundred volumes, of which not more than two hundred form perfect works, the whole of this interesting collection perished in the flames; and the circumstances were so much the more distressing, as the library funds had been wholly exhausted, and even anticipated for years, in order to gain possession of works which were then obtainable, and which were deemed of great importance to the establishment. In a country like Finland, so little visited, so far removed from the attention and sympathy of the civilized world, the destruction of the only large public library is a calamity, the greatness and extent of which can hardly be estimated here.

"I have been addressed by some valuable Finnish friends on the subject, and have been requested to ascertain whether many of the literary and scientific individuals of our country would not probably contribute their own writings or those of others, to repair the dreadful loss with which Finland has been visited. And I have ventured to say, that I feel persuaded numbers would be found cheerfully to assist in the re-formation of their library. The inhabitants of Finland are almost universally poor, but as universally desirous of instruction; and of late many men have appeared among them, who have done no inconsiderable services to science, philosophy, and the belleslettres. So much have even the Finnish peasants been touched by the destruction of the Abo library, that in some places where money is little known, they have subscribed the produce of their farms towards its restoration: and among them the villagers of Wichtis sent fifty barrels of rye; the University of Dorpat has contributed 394 scientific works, besides many philosophical instruments and collections in natural history. One liberal Russian bookseller (Mr. Hartmann, of Riga) has presented books to the value of 5,357 silver rubles, or nearly £800 sterling. His townsman, Mr. German, sent 193 volumes. Dr. Hassar, of Petersburg, 995; and Professor Storch (whose works on political economy are so well known), 269. Many other useful and generous donations have been received; and I confidently trust that examples so honourable will find many imitators here. Messrs. George Cowie and Co., of No. 31, Poultry, have kindly undertaken to receive and forward any works, instruments, &c, which may be liberally given to the Abo University Library. I shall be most happy to communicate any particulars I possess; and if information be desired from the spot, the venerable Archbishop of Finland, Dr. Tengstrom, or M. John Julin, will, I am sure, be most happy to furnish it.—John Bowring."

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