AN idea that we do not appreciate the valuable Library from which it is our privilege to draw books seems to have gained credence among some, from the fact that comparatively few books are taken by each student in the course of a year. It is not the number of books that can be read which makes a sure addition to knowledge, but the careful study of those we master, and this involves much labor and time. A thorough acquaintance with a few good books is of more advantage to the student than the smattering gained by the hasty perusal of a great number, one following another in such rapid succession that the mind is unable to digest any of them, but just as Cambridge water poured through a sieve, they leave only the more prominent facts behind, while much that is of real value is lost. The practice so common of reading all the new publications is of no real value except to enable one to maintain the position of a literary connoisseur, in appearance at least, and is only a superficial knowledge.
The indiscriminate acquaintance which many feel forced to maintain among "recent publications" deprives reading of its pleasure, and makes it for them a task; and no wonder, for who can feel any pleasure in turning the leaves of a book in which he feels no interest? One should read only as inclination leads him, for the mere skimming over a book as a task will do him but little good; if he satisfy that curiosity which leads to the study of a limited number of books, it will be of more advantage to him as an aid in the acquisition of knowledge and the culture of the mind, "which grows by what it feeds on," than a hasty digest of all the volumes on the shelves of a well-filled library.
The Germans, who stand high among nations in literary attainments, tell us that nothing is so prolific as a little known well. It is not necessary that one should confine himself to one book, or class of books, in order to do justice to the subject, for this would be to cramp the mind and fit it for only one channel; though it were better to be a man of one book and know that well, than to wander through the various authors, gleaning here a little and there a little, but neglecting the great value of a thorough study of their works. A judicious selection of some of the really valuable works of standard authors will afford variety enough for all practical purposes; for it would be better to be strong on a few well-chosen works than superficial on a great many and ill-arranged ones. From all the authors it is possible to make such a selection, which, while not extended, will introduce enough to afford a sound knowledge of literature, both past and present; to confine one's self to the past alone is like reading an old newspaper only to live behind the times, forgetting
"The dangers of the days but newly gone."
Instead, therefore, of being a cause of complaint that we read so few books, it ought rather to be a source of pleasure to think that we read so many; for the carefully compiled estimate, which announces that each student on the average draws fifteen books in a term year,-almost two each month,-is rather high than low, for, if the contents of each book are impressed on the mind so vividly that they immediately present themselves when wanted, this is surely the nucleus of an ever-increasing stock of valuable knowledge,-a requisite to all of any real literary attainments.