Twenty-two thousand books!
Of British Prime Ministers, William Gladstone whose accent was under discussion on the Today programme this morning: can you tell he was from Liverpool? stands out as one of the most dedicated bibliophiles. As he acquired more and more books, he got into the habit of awarding his children prizes for finding new places to put them. He would ultimately own more than 32,000, of which he read some 22,000 (he kept a record) and annotated 12,000.
Gladstone’s daughter Mary Drew wrote of his desire “to bring together books who had no readers with readers who had no books”. He was a trustee of the London Library, and helped to found a number of reading rooms. He also saw to it that his own books at Hawarden Castle, North Wales, were used by local people when he was away. Reading, he said, offered a “vital spark to inspire with ideas altogether new”.