An effort to reconstruct the late Bishop John Medley’s library is moving slowly, with just 100 of 3,000 books recovered, said Eric Swanick, director of the New Brunswick Legislative Library in Fredericton, who is leading the project.
In June 1999, Mr. Swanick appealed to readers of the Anglican Journal, via a letter to the editor, to search for Bishop Medley’s books or, at least, communicate their whereabouts.
“Bishop Medley, bishop of Fredericton from 1845 to 1892, possessed one of the most important private libraries of 19th century New Brunswick,” Mr. Swanick wrote. His collection included books on theology, literature, travel, music and architecture, in several languages. It was one of the most extensive collections of the time for the area.
Bishop Medley died in 1892 at the age of 88. In 1904, his widow distributed his books to the six deaneries that then made up the diocese, said Mr. Swanick. She attached bookplates that read: “From the library of the late Most Rev. John Medley, D.D., Bishop of Fredericton and Metropolitan of Canada. Presented to … By Mrs. Medley.”
Since 1997, when the project began under the auspices of the Diocese of Fredericton’s archives, Mr. Swanick has spoken to provincial historical societies and spread the word through local radio and newspapers. However, it is likely, he said, that the books are widely scattered. “Some of his family went back to England, so it’s likely some of the books could be there,” he said.
After Mr. Swanick’s letter to the Journal, he received a call from a man in Florida who said that when he was a student at King’s College in Halifax, he had seen some Bishop Medley books at book auctions. The largest number were acquired when the St. Andrew’s deanery sold a clergy residence and about 80 Medley books were found in the attic, Mr. Swanick said.
When asked if he is disappointed that the search seems to be going so slowly, Mr. Swanick pointed out that “it is a century later.” Another difficulty, he noted, is that libraries, naturally, don’t catalogue books by bookplate. “People probably just walked off with a lot of them,” he said.
Contact Eric Swanick at [email protected] or by phone during business hours at (506) 453-2338.