The Special Bequest of Francis Douce
Francis Douce was a wealthy Englishman whose hobby was to collect various antiques, especially rare children’s books, games, artwork, coins, and manuscripts. Douce had an extensive collection, when he died in 1834 he donated most of it Bodleain Library, including 15,000 books, 50,000 prints and drawings, and a large collection of coins. However, in his will he left a strongbox containing his letters and correspondence, manuscripts, books, essays, diaries, and various other papers of rarity and importance to the British Museum on the stipulation that it not be opened until after 66 years. The strange bequest stirred up many rumors as to what precisely could be inside the box. What secrets could lie within? Unfortunately speculation would have to go unquenched as the British Museum dutifully obeyed his request.
On January 1st, 1900 the British Museum opened the box with the entire board of trustees in attendance. Inside the box were pieces of scrap paper, torn book covers, and various other pieces of worthless trash. Also inside the box was a letter by Douce to the board of trustees, in which he explained that in his opinion, it would be a waste to leave anything of greater value to the philistines at the British Museum.