Celebrating Professional Librarians

Ducarel portrait

As a young man, Ducarel was blinded one eye, which is why it appears cloudy in this portrait. From A Series of above two hundred Ango-Gallic, or Norman and Aquitain coins… (London, 1757). 

On Wednesday, 14 July, the United States Senate confirmed Dr. Carla Hayden as the new Librarian of Congress. In addition to being the first woman and the first African-American to hold the post, she is also the first professional librarian to head the Library of Congress in more than 60 years. Most of the previous appointees have been scholars or writers who did not necessarily hold professional qualifications as librarians. (In the United States, this means a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from an ALA-accredited programme). Inspired by this historic appointment, today’s blog post looks at another noteworthy librarian, Andrew Coltee Ducarel, who was the first professional librarian of Lambeth Palace.

Andrew Ducarel was born in Paris on 9 June 1713 to a family of Huguenots from Normandy. Fleeing from persecution in France, his family stayed briefly in Amsterdam before settling in England in 1721. After studying law at Oxford and Cambridge, Ducarel was admitted to the College of Advocates (Doctors’ Commons) in November 1743. It was at Doctors’ Commons that he first tried his hand at library work, serving as its librarian from 1754-1757 in addition to his regular legal work.

Ducarel had a keen interest in history and antiquities, and was admitted to the Society of Antiquaries at the the age of twenty-four. Throughout his life, he published several tracts on English and Norman antiquities, especially coins and medals. He was elected a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Cortona in 1760, a fellow of the Royal Society in 1762, of the Society of Antiquaries of Cassel in 1778, and of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1781.

numismatics illustration

Ducarel’s antiquarian interests included numismatics, the study of coins and medals. Illustration from Ducarel’s A Series of above two hundred Ango-Gallic, or Norman and Aquitain coins… (London, 1757).

In March 1754, Archbishop Thomas Herring asked Ducarel to prepare an account of Croydon Palace and its surroundings. Assisted by his friend, Edward Rowe Mores, Ducarel presented the Archbishop with a manuscript copy of “Some account of the town, church, and archiepiscopal palace of Croydon” in 1755. (It was not published until 1783.) While preparing the research for this account, the two men spent several weeks in Lambeth Library, sorting and labelling nearly 2000 old records.

At least partly thanks to his work with the Lambeth records in 1754-1755, Ducarel was formally appointed to the position of librarian at Lambeth Palace in 1757, for which he received a salary of £30 per annum. Ducarel was the first layperson appointed to the position, and would become its longest-serving librarian, working under five archbishops over twenty-eight years, until his death in 1785.

Ducarel bookplate

Cardiff University holds two books with Ducarel’s armorial bookplate.

Although the post had previously been viewed as a stepping-stone on the path to greater preferment, Ducarel made caring for the library his life-long occupation. He continued the work of organizing and cataloguing its records, but also acquired, accessioned, and arranged for the binding of new books, pamphlets, and manuscripts; he dealt with visitors and enquiries, drew up surveys and reports in support of the building’s maintenance and repair, and researched the history of the palace and library. Ducarel frequently turned to his antiquary friends for assistance in writing the tracts which bear his name, preferring to devote his attention to organising and indexing the holdings of the library.

After his death. Many of Ducarel’s personal books and manuscripts were left to his friends Richard Gough and John Nichols, and were later sold at auction in 1786. Today, the bulk of his library is divided between Lambeth Palace, the British Library, and the Bodleian Library at Oxford, but at least two volumes from Ducarel’s library now reside at Cardiff University. One of these volumes is Dugdale’s Origines juridiciales (London, 1671). The other is a collection of seven tracts by Ducarel, including his first published work, A tour through Normandy, described in a letter to a friend (London, 1754), four Four letters concerning chesnut and other trees, and biographical notes on Browne Willis. Of the seven tracts, two have not previously been recorded in the English Short Title Catalogue

Table of Contents

This volume from Ducarel’s personal library contains seven of his own tracts bound together with a handwritten contents list.

2 responses to “Celebrating Professional Librarians

  1. Does that make the two tracts unique?

    • Not all libraries and private collectors report their holdings to the ESTC, so the two tracts are not necessarily unique, but they are certainly rare. As other institutions continue to tackle their cataloguing backlogs, more copies may surface.

      Whenever we come across an item that falls within the scope of the ESTC but isn’t yet recorded there, we send them a copy of our record to add to the database. Hopefully, the records that we provide will make it easier for other cataloguers to identify and describe their own holdings.

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