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The Armitage Memorial Library

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Armitage library copy

The Armitage Memorial Library

The Armitage Memorial Library was established in 1822 in Maundbury, New Hampshire and boasts to be one of the oldest Free Public Libraries in the United States.

The collection began in 1768 when Hamilton Armitage , a descendent of one of the town's founding members and most prolific philanthropists returned from a trip to London with over 300 books he had purchased there using his family's wealth. He allowed town patrons to borrow from him every third Tuesday of every third month, collecting a small fee for damages, the most common being "greasing" by wax dripped from the candles that most patrons read by.

Until 1801, Armitage kept the books in his family's library but recent contributions began to tax the space he had set aside for the tomes so he conscripted a formal library be built near the town square. A large building of stone granite, constructed of local quarry was erected though still operated by Hamilton Armitage and had yet been open to the general public.

After Hamilton Armitage's death on February 8, 1822 he stated in his will that his Library be open to the town. He also left a sum of 10,000 dollars to the town to be put forth for the upkeep of the library, the purchase of books and the construction of additional wings. On March 16th of that same year the town passed a vote where the library would be named The Armitage Memorial Library in honor of its founder and subsequently open to any town members who wished to make use of its collection.

Over the years the library added two additional wings, including a children's section, stacks, a well rounded collection of both fiction and non-fiction, reference material, maps, newspapers and periodicals. Most notably is the Library's collection of "occult" books though those are not lent to the general public and can only be viewed with express permission from the town's committee and the Maundbury Historical Society as they are amongst the oldest of the collection and once owned personally by Hamilton Armitage himself.

In front of the library is a statue of Hamilton Armitage made of granite, seated in a simple granite throne with a dour expression on his face. On the base is the inscription, "adde parvum parvo magnus acervus erit" which translates to: "Add a little to a little and there will be a great heap."

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