Nicholson, Edward Williams Byron, 1849-1912

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Nicholson, Edward Williams Byron, 1849-1912

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Edward Williams Byron Nicholson was born on March 16, 1849, in St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands.

He was a British author and librarian. In 1867, he went to Trinity College, Oxford, as a classical scholar, winning the Gaisford Prize for Greek verse (1871) and the Hall Houghton junior Greek Testament (1872). After a brief spell of teaching at the Rookery School in Headington, Oxford, Nicholson was appointed librarian of the London Institution in 1873. He reinvigorated the organization, which promoted education through lectures and a library and helped increase its activities, membership and income, as well as the quality of its library. An international conference of librarians was held in London in 1877, leading with his help to the foundation of the Library Association of the United Kingdom and the Metropolitan Free Libraries Committee. He resigned from the Library Association Council in 1881 and applied for the position of Bodleian Librarian at the University of Oxford. Nicholson instituted several reforms and improvements to the library. He obtained more space for the library in the rooms of nearby buildings, changed the system of cataloguing, acquired more books, and introduced open access to some reference books in the Radcliffe Camera. However, these changes had internal opponents, including Falconer Madan, the senior Sub-Librarian (and Nicholson's eventual successor). The battles between Nicholson and some of his staff, which included anonymous complaints in newspapers, were an ongoing problem and affected his health. He suffered a breakdown in 1901 and collapsed twice in the street in 1907. His absences from work increased, and he suffered a further relapse in 1909. Suspicious of the curators' motives, he resisted all their suggestions that he should take a leave of absence until forced to do so late in February 1912. Outside the library, he enjoyed chess, swimming, cycling, and writing limericks. He was noted for his kindness and consideration and was particularly appreciated by junior staff at the library. Nicholson was an early advocate of animal rights. He argued in his book “The Rights of an Animal” (1879) that animals have the same natural right to life and liberty that humans do.

In 1876, he married Helen Grant (1850–1938). He died on March 17, 1912, in Oxford, England.


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