Books know far more than they reveal. Rapt readers see vastly more in written words than their authors could ever imagine. Facts are widely rumored to be unbiased and objective, yet they are known to flirt gleefully with almost any suitor who will embrace them. In evidence of these propositions stands the library of John Fisher, Jr. of London (1764–1838), preserved at the Athenæum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Fisher was a successful entrepreneur and public servant, like his namesake father. He was also a laconic chameleon who divulged almost nothing about his true feelings, allegiances, or real intentions, again, traits surely learned from observing how well they served his father. Fisher, Sr. shrewdly built a complex and sometimes contradictory web of family and political alliances in rising from relative obscurity in England to wealth and prominence in Colonial America, and to even greater wealth and status in late Georgian England. The books in Fisher’s library parrot the stories and statistics written in them, but a careful evaluation of the whole, and a close examination of promiscuous pertinent facts reveals a multi-generational, multinational tapestry interwoven with familial love, duty, and affection; social and political scheming; and a persistent love of books and the secret power they hold and hide.
About the Author
Thomas Hardiman Jr., Keeper of the Portsmouth Athenaeum, has more than 30 years of experience in the museum, library, and historic preservation fields. He has been Athenaeum keeper since 2000 and was previously curator of the Saco Museum. In addition to museum administration, Mr. Hardiman has significant experience with the management, exhibition, and conservation of art and artifact collections and with the sensitive conservation of historic buildings. Visit www.portsmouthathenaeum.org for more information.