As I mentioned last time, Edward Gibbon had a very large personal library, which he kept track of with a then very modern device: the card catalog. Though most of the catalog now resides in the British Library, we’re fortunate enough to have one of his cards which, like the majority of them, is written on the blank back of a playing card, in this case an ace of diamonds. In the exhibit, I’ve propped it up in front of a mirror so that visitors can see both sides of the card.
In 1774, Gibbon was elected to The Club (also known as The Literary Club) a group founded by Sir Joshua Reynolds and consisting initially of Samuel Johnson’s circle of friends, but eventually expanding to include most of the great minds of the period. Gibbon was apparently admitted over the objections of James Boswell, who disliked him intensely. Gibbon later served as president of The Club, and in that capacity sent this letter to the great Shakespearean scholar Edmond Malone, informing him of his admission.
One more post still to come, hopefully before the exhibit ends!
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