Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Living Libraries

Harry Emerson Fosdick:

Life is like a library owned by an author. In it are a few books which he wrote himself, but most of them were written for him.

Have you ever known anyone who is a "walking encyclopedia" or a "living library"? Well, I have come across similar expressions a few times in my studies of the Puritans (and the Puritan-minded), so often known not only for their piety but their scholarship and intellectual acumen.

Andrew Willet (1562-1621), the great English Puritan Biblical commentator is described as a "living library." Thomas Fuller, Abel Redevivus, or, The Dead Yet Speaking: The Lives and Deaths of Modern Divines, Vol. 2, pp. 317-318:

...yet I am well assured that he had learned over and to good purpose many learned authors ancient and modern, till he [Andrew Willet] became himself [Gk.], "a living library."

In fact, Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), the famous English Church historian, earned a similar nickname as well. Life of Thomas Fuller, p. 69:

He was a perfect walking library...

John Quarles (1624-1665), son of Francis Quarles (1592-1644) -- both notable British poets -- wrote an elegy upon the death of a dear friend of the family, James Ussher (1581-1656), Irish Anglican bishop, in which the younger Quarles described him as a "living library." John Quarles, An Elegie on the Most Reverend and Learned James Usher, L. Archbishop of Armagh (1656), p. 4:

He was a living Library, in whom
A man might read things past and things to come.

Miles Smith (1554-1624), British bishop and Biblical scholar, was a one of the translators of the King James Bible and the author of its famous Preface. Another bishop described him as "a very walking library."

John Rainolds (or Reynolds) (1549-1607), English Puritan who helped to initiate and translate the King James Bible, is described by Daniel Neal as a "living library." Daniel Neal, History of the Puritans, Vol. 1, p. 440:

He [John Rainolds] was a prodigy for reading, his memory being a living library.

George Hakewill, An Apologie or Declaration of the Power and Providence of God, states that Rainolds had memorized the entire corpus of Augustine, and indeed all classical authors, becoming "a living librarie" and "a third university."

Edmund Staunton (1600-1671), Westminster Divine, was known as a "walking concordance." John Stoughton, Ecclesiastical History of England, Vol. 2, p. 256:

Dr. Edmund Staunton, President of Corpus, has been called a Walking Concordance, on account of his minute knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.

Another Westminster Divine, Richard Capel (1586-1656) was styled a "living library." Samuel Clarke, Lives of Thirty-Two English Divines, p. 311:

He [Richard Capel] was a living library, a full storehouse of all good literature, a judicious preacher, and a sound orthodox divine.

Cotton Mather (1663-1728), American Puritan and historian, wrote of his grandfather English-American Puritan John Cotton (1595-1652), Magnalia Christi Americana, Vol. 1, p. 273, that:

Mr. Cotton was indeed a most universal scholar, and a living system of the liberal arts, and a walking library.

Matthew Slade (1569-1628), English divine who took up academic duties in Holland, was also said to be a "walking library." Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, Vol. 2, p. 154:

...he [Matthew Slade] was esteemed, by all that knew him, an excellent Latinist, a good Grecian, one well read in profound authors, a stiff enemy to the Socinians, and a walking library.

1 comment:

  1. Is a walking library the same as a photogenic memory? I have often wondered about people who can do this without effort.
    ~ Donna