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Wheatley, Benjamin Robert (DNB00)


WHEATLEY, BENJAMIN ROBERT (1819–1884), bibliographer, born on 29 Sept. 1819, was the eldest son of Benjamin Wheatley, a well-known auctioneer in Piccadilly. He was educated at King's College school, London, and on leaving, when barely seventeen years of age, he catalogued for his father the twelfth part of the great Heber library, which appeared in 1841.

From that time he devoted himself to the compilation of catalogues and indexes, his work being remarkable not only for its amount, but for its high quality and for the judgment shown by him in classification and arrangement. He altered and adapted what is known as the French system of classification, to suit the character of the library with which he was dealing. He has explained his principles in a paper entitled ‘Desultory Thoughts on the Arrangement of a private Library,’ which appeared in 1878 in the ‘Library Journal’ (iii. 211–16).

In 1843 he catalogued a portion of the library of the Athenæum Club, under the supervision of C. J. Stewart, the bookseller. In 1844 he catalogued the library of Charles Shaw-Lefevre (afterwards Viscount Eversley) at Heckfield in Hampshire, and in 1845 the remains of the library at Hafod in Cardiganshire collected by Thomas Johnes [q. v.] In the same year he catalogued the library of the Geological Society, and in 1846 that of Charles Richard Fox [q. v.] in Addison Road, Kensington, and that collected by John Byrom [q. v.] at Kersell Cell, Manchester. The last catalogue was printed in 1848. During his stay at Manchester he made the acquaintance of James Crossley [q. v.] and of other literary men residing in the neighbourhood. Between 1847 and 1850 he catalogued the libraries of John Archer Houblon at Hallingbury Place in Essex, of the Alfred Club, of the Marquis of Lansdowne at Bowood in Wiltshire, and in Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, of the Royal College of Physicians, of Augustus Gostling at Whitton, of Lord Bolton at Hackwood Park, and of the Army and Navy Club.

In 1850 and 1851 Wheatley was engaged in compiling an index of subjects to supplement the catalogue of authors at the Athenæum Library. It was printed in 1851. This work has served as a model for several subsequent indexes. In 1852 he catalogued the libraries of the Travellers' and the Oxford and Cambridge clubs, and in 1853 that of the United Service Club and the Dugald Stewart collection, bequeathed to the club by his son, Colonel Matthew Stewart.

In the subsequent years he catalogued the libraries of Lady Charlotte Guest at Canford Manor in Dorset, of the privy council office, of Lord Lilford, of Dr. Edward Moore, of the Junior United Service Club, and of the Earl of Romney. He also catalogued, jointly with his friend Thomas Boone, the library of Lord Vernon. In 1854 he made an index to the first fifteen volumes of the Statistical Society's ‘Journal’ (London, 1854, 8vo), and he continued to make the indexes of the annual volumes to the close of his life.

In 1855 Wheatley was appointed resident librarian of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society, for whom he had worked as early as 1841; and from that time he ceased to make library catalogues, with the exception of one with bibliographical notes which he subsequently prepared for the Royal College of Physicians. In 1857 he completed an index to Tooke's ‘History of Prices.’ He made two printed catalogues of the Medical and Chirurgical Society's library in 1856 and 1869, and two indexes of subjects in 1860 and 1879; the edition of 1879 is a useful guide to medical literature. He also found time to make a manuscript catalogue of the collection of engraved portraits of medical men in the possession of the society, with short biographies of nine hundred of the persons portrayed.

Wheatley was one of the organising committee of the conference of librarians, and served on the first council. He occasionally acted as vice-president of the Library Association. He died in London unmarried on 9 Jan. 1884 at 53 Berners Street, the premises of the Medical and Chirurgical Society.

Besides those specified, Wheatley's publications are: 1. ‘General Index to the Transactions of the Pathological Society, vols. xvi–xxv.,’ London, 1878, 8vo. 2. ‘General Index to the first twelve volumes of the Transactions of the Clinical Society of London,’ London, 1880, 8vo. He also contributed articles on bibliographical subjects to the ‘Transactions and Proceedings of the Conference of Librarians,’ the ‘Monthly Notes of the Library Association of the United Kingdom,’ the ‘Bibliographer,’ and the ‘Library Journal.’ Wheatley was a poet as well as a bibliographer, and printed several of his poems privately, including ‘Buds of Poesy,’ London, 1838, 12mo.

[H. B. Wheatley's Bibliographical Notes on the Life of the late Benjamin R. Wheatley, 1884, reprinted from the Bibliographer, March 1884; Academy, 1884, i. 44; Athenæum, 1884, i. 88; Medical Times, 1884, i. 79.]

E. I. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.278
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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433 ii 7 Wheatley, Benjamin R.: for Kersell read Kersal