Some Proprietors of Note – Rutter and Brown

Extract from ‘The History of The Athenaeum – 1797-1997’.

John Rutter 1762-1838
President 1804-05 and 1816-17 and one of The Athenaeum’s founders.

A graduate in medicine of Edinburgh, he spent his working life in his native town, Liverpool. Of relatively humble origins – his father being a painter and chandler – he was brought up a Quaker.

In 1797 he wrote the original prospectus for The Athenaeum. He was a prime mover in the establishment of the Liverpool Medical Institution, which absorbed the Medical Library founded in 1779. He performed the Institution’s opening ceremony in 1837 and became its first President. He thus had a direct involvement with two of Liverpool’s earliest important libraries.

As a dissenter he was one of Roscoe’s circle and with him helped to found the Liverpool Botanic Garden in 1802.

Henry Brown 1745 (or 1746) – 1822
One of The Athenaeum’s original subscribers.

Lawyer and book-collector. Son of a Liverpool barber and wigmaker, articled at 17 to the Town Clerk. As a lawyer he prepared the cases fought by the Borough Council to preserve its rights and privileges. Described by one Lord Chief Justice as the best-read corporation lawyer in existence. Elected a Councillor in 1796, he could combine this with his role as the Council’s attorney in the unreformed borough.

His book collection was extensive; when sold at auction after his death there were about 10,000 volumes. The core of the collection was the legal section, among these were the volumes of church law which Sir William Norris of Speke Hall ‘removed’ from Edinburgh in 1543. Brown probably bought them at the sale of Speke Hall Library and from him they passed to The Athenaeum.

This was fitting, as, according to his obituary in the Liverpool General Advertiser “Latterly… his studies have been confined to the Courier – the Liverpool Tory newspaper – and the New Times in The Athenaeum and the frequenters of that Newsroom will not soon forget the loud, vociferous and vehement gestures with which he used to enforce his philippics against the radicals and to exult in his favourite Church and King principles.

Henry Brown was certainly not a member of Roscoe’s circle!