Heh. Yes, public libraries are a monument to literary vanity which has ended in forgotten books and authors which predominate in the thousands of miles of public library shelving. (The Library of Congress has almost 130 million items on about 530 miles of shelves.)
"No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes, than a publick library; for who can see the wall crowded on every side by mighty volumes, the works of laborious meditation, and accurate inquiry, now scarcely known but by the catalogue . . . ."*
Samuel Johnson bust (in the National Portrait Gallery, London)
(The Rambler, No. 106. SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 1751.)
I've been reading Samuel Johnson's essays in The Rambler. Some of the entries are interesting as sidelights (like Johnson's take on the proper scope and pitfalls of pastoral poetry). But, Johnson isn't famous for nothing. There's a surprising amount of wisdom vividly expressed. Like the quotation above.
Most of what he writes isn't surprising or new, for as Johnson says in Rambler, No. 2:
"What is new is opposed, because most are unwilling to be taught; and what is known is rejected, because it is not sufficiently considered that men more frequently require to be reminded than informed."Johnson does a lot of great reminding. Which, when one comes to think of it, is what good blogging is about. Johnson published his Rambler opinion pieces twice a week.
*rest of the quotation: "and preserved only to increase the pomp of learning, without considering how many hours have been wasted in vain endeavours, how often imagination has anticipated the praises of futurity, how many statues have risen to the eye of vanity, how many ideal converts have elevated zeal, how often wit has exulted in the eternal infamy of his antagonists, and dogmatism has delighted in the gradual advances of his authority, the immutability of his decrees, and the perpetuity of his power?"