THE text-books a man is compelled to buy, in passing through the four years of his college course, would present, if kept together, quite an imposing array at the end of the Senior year. Many of these are disposed of at second-hand bookstores, or handed down to those who come after us in the hard road to learning; but every one retains a few, with perhaps a comment here and there on the text or the professor, if not for their intrinsic value, at least to call to mind in after years these hours of recitation, dragging so heavily as they pass. If, however, we collect no books, during our four years at Harvard, except the interlined Euripides or Juvenal, or the well-worn Philosophy, and gather no other works, either in ancient or modern languages, to form the nucleus of a private library, we let slip some of our best opportunities for literary culture.
Though it is true that the works of Shakespeare, Byron, Hawthorne, and other standard writers may be bought at any time and without particular thought, yet there remain many books which every educated man wishes to select for himself at his leisure, - books which he does not care to purchase until he has at least looked through them, - books interesting to him because connected with some subject which he has studied, though not to the majority of even intelligent readers.
Some may say that it is not well for a student in college to attempt to gather a library, because, aside from the time it takes, he has not sufficiently mature judgment to select the books which he will want in after life. Although in some cases he may buy those which he will not afterwards wish to keep, yet by exercising his judgment he strengthens it, and forms the habit of noticing books, - a habit which will induce him to pay more attention to his library and to literature generally than among the cares of after life he otherwise would. To buy books one at a time as we want to read them, aside from the pleasure it gives, is a matter to be considered by those who desire to save expense, since valuable and rare books can often be purchased for a comparative trifle at the nooks of second-hand booksellers. Old Cornhill will still yield many a harvest, yellow with age, to one who gleans closely.
That a private library may give full enjoyment, the books composing it should not be bought for show or to lie forever unopened, but because each supplies a want, fills its own place in our circle of silent, thoughtful friends. Such a library can neither be purchased at wholesale nor in a hurry; it must be gathered carefully, and during our college course, and while our thoughts are constantly turned to books, is the natural and fit time to begin the collection.