Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


Victoria Street.] THE MECHANICS? LIBRARY. 291 CHAPTER XXXV. SOME OF THE NEW STREETS WITHIN THE AREA OF THE FLODDEN WALL (concZuded). Victoria Street and Ter-The India Buildings-Mechanics? Subscription Library-George IV. BridgeSt. Augustine?s Church-Martyrs? Church-Chamber of the Hiehland and Amicultural Societv--SherifP Court Buildings and Solicitors? Hall-Johnstone Terrace-St. John?s - Free Church-The Church of Scotland Training College. VICTORIA STREET, which opens from the west side of George IV. Bridge, and was formed as the result of the same improvement Scheme by which that stately bridge itself was erected, from the north end of the Highland and Agricultural Society?s Chambers curves downward to the northeast corner of the Grassmarket, embracing in that curve the last remains of the ancient West Bow. Some portions of its architecture are remarkably ornate, especially the upper portion of its south side, where stands the massive pile, covered in many parts with rich carving, named the India Buildings, in the old Scottish baronial style, of unique construction, consisting of numerous offices, entered from a series of circular galleries, and erected in 1867-8, containing the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, which was instituted in November, 1864. Its objects are to watch over the interests of practical agriculture, to promote the advancement of that science by the discussion of all subjects relating to it, and to consider questions that may be introduced into Parliament connected with it. The business of the Chamber is managed by a president, vice-president, and twenty directors, twelve of whom are tenant farmers. It holds fixed meetings at Perth in autumn, and at Edinburgh in November, annually; and all meetings are open to the press. In the centre of the southern part of the street is St. John?s Established church, built in 1838, in a mixed style of architecture, with a Saxon doorway. It is faced on the north side by a handsome terrace, portions of which rise from an open arcade, and include a Primitive Methodist church, or Ebenezer chapel, and an Original Secession church. Victoria Terrace is crossed at its western end bya flight of steps, which seem to continue the old line of access afforded by the Upper West Bow. No. 5 Victoria Terrace gives access to one of the most valuable institutions in the city-the Edinburgh Mechanics? Subscription Library. It was established in 1825, when its first president was Mr. Robert Hay, a printer, and Mr. John Dunn, afterwards a well-known optician, was vicepresident, and it has now had a prosperous career of more than half a century. The library is divided into thirteen sections :- I, Arts and Sciences ; 2, Geography and Statistics ; 3, History; 4, Voyages, Travels, and Personal Adventures ; 5, Biography ; 6, Theology ; 7, Law ; 8, Essays; 9, Poetry and the Drama; 10, Novels and Romances ; I I, Miscellaneous ; I 2, Pamphlets ; 13, Periodicals. Each of these sections has a particular classification, and they are all constantly receiving additions, so as to CaNy out the original object of the institution-? To procure an extensive collection of books on the general literature of the country, including the most popular works on science.? Thus every department of British literature is amply represented on its shelves, and at a charge so moderate as to be within the reach of all classes of the community: the entry-money being only 2s. 6d., and the quarterly payments IS. 6d. The management of this library has always been vested in its own members, and few societies adhere so rigidly to their original design as the Mechanics? Library has done. It has, from the first, adapted itself to the pecuniary circumstances of the working man, and from the commencement it has been a self-supporting institution ; though in its infancy its prosperity was greatly accelerated, as its records attest, by liberal donations of works in almost every class of literature. Among the earliest contributors in this generous spirit, besides many of its own members, were Sir James Hall, Bart., of Dunglas, so eminent for his attainments in geological and chemical science; his son, Captain Basil Hall, R.N., the well-known author ; Mr. Leonard Horner ; and the leading publishers of the day-Messrs. Archibald Constable, William Blackwood, Adam Black, Waugh and Innes, with John Murray of London. Some of them were munificent in their gifts, ? besides granting credit to any amount required-an accommodation of vital service to an infant institution.? The property of the library is vested in trustees, who consist of two individuals chosen by vote every fifth year, in addition to ?the Convener of the Trades of the City of Edinburgh, the principal. librarian to the Faculty of Advocates, and the principal librarian to the Society of Writers to Her Majesty?s Signet, for the time being.? The right of reading descends to the heirs
Volume 2 Page 291
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