St. Bibiania, A.D. 363.
On the 2d of December, 1823, the London Mechanics' Institution was formed, and on the anniversary of the day, in 1824, the first stone of its theatre for the delivery of the lectures, in Southampton Buildings, Chancery-lane, was laid by Dr. Birkbeck. In a cavity of the stone was placed a bottle, wherein were sealed up a book of the laws of the insitution—the tenth number of the "Mechanics' Magazine," which contained an acount of the first meeting of the members—a vellum roll, on which was inscribed the names of the officers of the institution,—and a portrait of Dr. Birkbeck, the president. The bottle having been deposited, the president proceeded to lay the stone, which bears the following inscription, with the names of all the officers of the institution:—
This Stone, the first of the Lecture Room,
was laid on the 2d of December, 1824,
Being the First Anniversary of the Establishment
LONDON MECHANICS' INSTITUTION,
by GEORGE BIRKBECK, M. D. PRESIDENT
In the presence of the following Officers of the Institution,
Vice-Presidents, Trustees, Auditors,
John Martineau, Esq.,
John Borthwick Gilchrist, LL. D.
Robert M'William, Esq.
After the stone was laid, Dr. Birkbeck addressed the meeting in nearly the following words:—"Now have we founded our edifice for the diffusion and advancement of human knowledge. Now have we begun to erect a temple, wherein man shall extend his acquaintance with the universe of mind, and shall acquire the means of enlarging his dominion over the universe of matter. In this spot, hereafter, the charms of literature shall be displayed, and the powers of science shall be unfolded to the most humble inquirers; for to 'the feast of reason' which will be here prepared, the invitation shall be as unbounded as the region of intellect. For an undertaking so vast in its design, and so magnificent in its objects (nothing short, indeed, of the moral and intellectual amelioration and aggrandizement of the human race), the blessing of heaven, I humbly trust, will not be implored in vain. If, in this institution, we seek to obey the mandate which has gone forth that knowledge shall be increased; if we act in obedience to the injunction, that in all our gettings we should get understanding; if we succeed in proving, that for the existence of the mental wilderness, the continuance of which we all deeply deplore, we ought 'to blame the culture, not the soil;' if by rendering man more percipient of the order, harmony, and benevolence, which pervade the universe, we more effectually 'assert eternal Providence, and justify the ways of God to man;' and if thus we shall be the happy means of rendering it palpable, that the immortal essence within us, when freed from the deformity of ignorance and vice, has been created in the express image of God—then may we confidently hope that Omniscience will favourably behold our rising structure; and that in its future progress, Omnipotence, without whose assistance all human endeavours are vain, will confer upon us a portion of his powers. Whilst I remind you that the illustrious Bacon, long ago, maintained that 'knowledge is power,' I may apprize you that it has, since his time, been established that knowledge is wealth—is comfort—is security—is enjoyment—is happiness. It has been found so completely to mingle with human affairs, that it renders social life more endearing; has given to morality more sprightliness; and, politically, has produced more consistent obedience—it takes from adversity some of its bitterness, and enlarges the sphere, as well as augments the sweetness of every laudable gratification; and lastly, unquestionably one of its brightest influences, it becomes at once an avenue and a guide to that 'temple which is not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.'"
Lemon Geodorum. Geodorum citrinum.
Dedicated to St. Bibiania