HC Deb 26 June 1868 vol 193 cc165-8

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the Record Publications relating to Great Britain and Ireland, published under the direction of the Master of the Rolls, and to propose means of rendering these valuable works more useful to the Public; and also to call attention to some valuable Irish Records which had been long ready for publication, but were still unpublished. Great expense had been incurred in publishing the Records to which his Motion referred. They had been published in an unwieldly form, in folio, and in consequence of that useless and cumbrous form great loss had been the result of this publication. What he wanted to see was that the Records should be issued in a useful form, and if this were done he should not object to the considerable expense annually incurred in the work of publication. Historically valuable as the Record Publications were, and well worthy of a place in good libraries, either their prices or ignorance of their existence caused them to be neglected, and to remain as useless stores on the shelves of the Stationery Office; and he therefore suggested, as it was better they should be sold at a loss rather than remain unused, that the prices should be reduced, and that copies should be presented to every free library in towns of over 5,000 inhabitants in the kingdom. There were many valuable Irish Records which had long been ready for publication, and it was desirable that the issue of them should be expedited. The Irish statutes from Henry I. to Henry VII. should be published, for they would throw great light on the social and political state of the country at the time they were passed. He begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed,

To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the prices of the Record Publications ought to be reduced from fifteen shillings to ten shillings, and from ten shillings to six shillings, and that the Statutes of Ireland, from the first meeting of the Irish Parliament to the Union with England, ought to be published at the national expense,"—(Mr. Pim,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, great credit was due to the present Master of the Rolls for the care and pains which he had taken in having these State Papers given to the public. Still if it were the fact that the public did not buy them, he agreed with the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Pim) that the remedy for this was to lower the price. As to the Patent Rolls and other State Papers a portion of them had been published, and then a stop had been put to the publication of the remainder. The Calendars, from the reign of Henry VIII. to that of Charles I., of the Patent Rolls, had been published, edited by Mr. Morrins, but they had omitted the Records of the time of James I., which were most interesting to the Irish historian. The Records of this reign, or most of it, had been edited by a Commission composed of most able men, some years since, and prepared and published in folio. The Government of each succeeding Ministry had promised either to re-publish them in that form or uniformly with the Calendars of Mr. Morrins, yet none had kept their promise, and they remained inaccessible to the public. The Calendars of Mr. Morrins were severely criticized, and he thought somewhat severely, for he attributed most of the scanty notices in them to the penury of the Treasury which prevented the original being given in extenso, or at least more fully, and some errors would naturally occur in a work of the kind. The Government had promised to correct them in a supplement, but equally failed to redeem these promises. There were but few of the more ancient Records in the Irish Office. One of Henry III. was considered apocryphal; but in the English Office there were Records of the earliest date, even to Henry II. He had suggested that where those Records were so mixed with English that they could not be separated, they should be copied, and the copies sent to Ireland, where they would be of infinite value. This, also, was promised. He could not understand the reason of this apathy on the part of the Government. It was unfair to neglect, on account of the expense, to publish Records of the greatest importance to Ireland and without which no satisfactory history of that country could be written, while the English Records were being proceeded with without any reference to cost.


suggested that the tens of thousands of copies lying in Dublin Castle and becoming mouldy, should be issued to the public at a reasonable rate. The matter was as important for the whole of the country as for Ireland itself.


said, he had been taken by surprise, the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Pim) having concluded his speech with a specific Motion of which no Notice had been given, and he should object to the House pledging itself to any expenditure in reference to these documents without obtaining the advice of the officers conversant with the subject. According to arrangement, these publications were offered for sale at the cost of printing and publishing, but still they were not purchased. The country was under obligation to the noble Lord (Lord Romilly) at the head of the Record Office and his able staff for their services, and this subject had frequently been brought under the notice of the Government. In 1857 an annual sum was voted for the publication of the Records, at a reasonable price. With respect to the suggestion that those books, instead of being kept in store at the Record Office, should be sold at a cheap price or given away, he could state that the giving of them away had been found of no benefit, for nearly all of those which had been so disposed of found their way to second-hand booksellers' stalls, or into waste-paper shops. The only mode by which the documents could be brought to the knowledge of the public was by the labours of literary men, who published their contents in a condensed and sifted form. The volumes of Froude showed in every page the assistance he had derived from his researches in the Record Office. A Treasury Minute of the 23rd of April, 1866, contained a statement of all that had occurred in reference to these documents. If copies were given gratuitously to public libraries great expense would be incurred to little purpose, and it was not thought advisable that they should to any extent be gratuitously circulated. The hon. Member might rest assured that the attention of the Government was directed to the Records, not only in Dublin, but in Edinburgh and London. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press his Resolution.


said, he thought the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Pim) had done good service in bringing the question before the House, and it was highly desirable to show that there were some Members of the House who took an interest in matters of such importance. After hearing the statement of his hon. Friend the Secretary for the Treasury, he was bound to say that he did not think it was desirable that any further reduction of price should take place. Great credit was due to the Government for the endeavours they had made to place at the service of the public Records and ancient documents, not only those belonging to England, but also those belonging to foreign countries. They could not expect Her Majesty's Government to incur a loss in publishing those Calendars, considering the liberality which they and their predecessors had evinced in regard to the compilation of them. It might be a question whether the prefaces to the Records might not be produced separately in a cheap form. The services of Messrs. Burganrot and Brown in connection with this subject were worthy of great praise. A key had been discovered by which to read some most interesting historical documents connected with the history of Isabella of Spain, and other matters intimately connected with important portions of English history. The Government had displayed no parsimony on the subject.

Amendment and Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.