A General Survey of the Pursuit and of those who have engaged in it at Home and Abroad from the Earliest Period to the Present Time
WITH AN ACCOUNT OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LIBRARIES AND ANECDOTES OF THEIR FOUNDERS OR OWNERS AND REMARKS ON BOOKBINDING AND ON SPECIAL COPIES OF BOOKS
W. CAREW HAZLITT
1 Mr. G. S. Snowden 11 Lord Brabourne 21 Mr. Dykes Campbell 2 Mr. E. Daniell 12 Mr. W. Ward 22 Palmer's boy 3 Mr. Railton 13 Mr. Leighton 23 Dr. Neligan 4 Mr. J. Rimell 14 Mr. E. W. Stibbs 24 Mr. C. Hindley 5 Mr. E. G. Hodge 15 Mr. H. Sotheran 25 Earl of Warwick 6 Mr. J. Toovey 16 Mr. Westell 26 Mr. Molini 7 Mr. B. Quaritch 17 Mr. Walford 27 Mr. H. Stevens 8 Mr. G. J. Ellis 18 Henry 28 Mr. F. Locker-Sampson 9 Mr. J. Roche 19 Mr. Dobell 29 Mr. E. Walford 10 Mr. Reeves 20 Mr. Robson
SEVERAL monographs by contemporary scholars on the inexhaustible theme of Book-Collecting have made their appearance during the last twenty years. All such undertakings have more or less their independent value and merit from the fact that each is apt to reflect and preserve the special experiences and predilections of the immediate author; and so it happens in the present case. A succession of Essays on the same subject is bound to traverse the same ground, yet no two of them, perhaps, work from the same seeing point, and there may be beyond the topic substantially little in common between them and the rest of the literature, which has steadily accumulated round this attractive and fruitful subject for bookman and artist.
During a very long course of years I have had occasion to study books in all their branches, in almost all tongues, of almost all periods, personally and closely. No early English volumes, while I have been on the track, have, if I could help it, escaped my scrutiny; and I have not let them pass from my hands without noting every particular which seemed to me important and interesting in a historical, literary, biographical, and bibliographical respect. The result of these protracted and laborious investigations is partly manifest in my Bibliographical Collections, 1867-1903, extending to eight octavo volumes; but a good deal of matter remained, which could not be utilised in that series or in my other miscellaneous contributions to belles lettres.
So it happened that I found myself the possessor of a considerable body of information, covering the entire field of Book-Collecting in Great Britain and Ireland and on the European continent, and incidentally illustrating such cognate features as Printing Materials, Binding, and Inscriptions or Autographs, some enhancing the interest of an already interesting item, others conferring on an otherwise valueless one a peculiar claim to notice.
My collections insensibly assumed the proportions of the volume now submitted to the public; and in the process of seeing the sheets through the press certain supplementary Notes suggested themselves, and form an Appendix. It has been my endeavour to render the Index as complete a clue as possible to the whole of the matter within the covers.
As my thoughts carry me back to the time—it is fifty years—when I commenced my inquiries into literary antiquities, I see that I have lived to witness a new Hegira: New Ideas, New Tastes, New Authors. The American Market and the Shakespear movement have turned everything and everybody upside down. But Time will prove the friend of some of us.
In the following pages I have avoided the repetition of particulars to be found in my Four Generations of a Literary Family, 1897, and in my Confessions of a Collector, 1897, so far as they concern the immediate subject-matter.
W. C. H.
BARNES COMMON, SURREY, October 1904.
 See the writer's Shakespear, Himself and his Work: A Study from New Points of View, second edition, revised, with important additions, and several facsimiles, 8vo, 1903.
HISTORY OF BOOK-COLLECTING
The plan—The writer's practical career—Deficiency of a general knowledge of the subject—The Printed Book and the Manuscript independent branches of study—The rich and the poor collector—Their relative systems and advantages—Great results achieved by persons of moderate fortune—The Rev. Thomas Corser—Lamb and Coleridge—Human interest resident in collections formed by such men, and the genuine pleasure experienced by the owners—A case or two stated—The Chevalier D'Eon—The contrary practice—Comparatively early culture in the provinces and interchange of books—Lady collectors—Rarity of hereditary libraries—The alterations in the aspect of books—The Mill a fellow-labourer with the Press—A word about values and prices—Our social institutions answerable for the difference of feeling about book-collecting—Districts formerly rich in libraries—Distributing centres—Possibility of yet unexplored ground—The Universities and Inns of Court—Successful book-hunting in Scotland and Ireland—Present gravitation of all valuable books to London.
A MANUAL for the more immediate and especial use of English-speaking inquirers is bound to limit itself, in the first place, mainly to the literary products of the three kingdoms and the colonies; and, secondly, to a broad and general indication of the various paths which it is open to any one to pursue according to his tastes or possibilities, with clues to the best sources of intelligence and guidance. The English collector, where he crosses the border, as it were, and admits works of foreign origin into his bookcase, does not often do so on a large scale; but he may be naturally tempted to make exceptions in favour of certain chefs-d'oeuvre irrespective of nationality. There are books and tracts which commend themselves by their typographical importance, by their direct bearing on maritime discovery, by their momentous relation to the fine arts, or by their link with some great personality. These stand out in relief from the normal category of foreign literature; they speak a language which should be intelligible to all.
It must be obvious that in a restricted space a writer has no scope for anecdote and gossip, if they are not actually out of place in a technical undertaking. Yet we have endeavoured to lay before our readers, in as legible a form as possible, a view of the subject and counsel as to the various methods and lines of Collecting.
Such an enterprise as we offer, in the face of several which have already appeared under various titles and auspices, may at first sight seem redundant; but perhaps it is not really the case. A book of this class is, as a rule, written by a scholar for scholars; that is all very well, and very charming the result is capable of proving. Or, again, the book is addressed by a bibliographer to bibliographers; and here there may be, with a vast deal that is highly instructive, a tendency to bare technique, which does not commend itself to many outside the professional or special lines. It was thought, under these circumstances, that a new volume, combining readability and a fair proportion of general interest with practical information and advice, was entitled to favourable consideration; and the peculiar training of the present writer during his whole life, at once as a litterateur and a practical bookman, encouraged the idea on his part that it might well be feasible for him to carry the plan into execution, and produce a view of a permanently interesting and important subject in all its branches and aspects, appealing not only to actual book-collectors, but to those who may naturally desire to learn to what the science and pursuit amount.
One of the best apologies for book-collecting, and even for the accumulation of fine books, is that offered by McCulloch in the preface to his own catalogue. The writer takes occasion to observe, among other points and arguments: "It is no doubt very easy to ridicule the taste for fine books and their accumulation in extensive libraries. But it is not more easy than to ridicule the taste for whatever is most desirable, as superior clothes, houses, furniture, and accommodation of every sort. A taste for improved or fine books is one of the least equivocal marks of the progress of civilisation, and it is as much to be preferred to a taste for those that are coarse and ill got up, as a taste for the pictures of Reynolds or Turner is to be preferred to a taste for the daubs that satisfy the vulgar. A man acts foolishly, if he spend more money on books or anything else than he can afford; but the folly will be increased, not diminished, by his spending it on mean and common rather than on fine and uncommon works. The latter when sold invariably bring a good price, more perhaps than was paid for them, whereas the former either bring nothing or next to nothing."
McCulloch's maternal grandfather was possibly the book-lover from whom the eminent political economist inherited his taste.
In common with the Manuscript Document and the Autograph Letter, the Written Book forms such a vast department of inquiry and study, that it would be undesirable, and indeed almost impracticable, in a volume of limited extent on book-collecting, to include the consideration of any collateral subject.
The broad facts regarding our national collections of MSS. are sufficiently well known, no less than the principal repositories in which they are to be found and consulted, and the individuals who have signalised themselves from time to time as owners of this class of property on various scales or on various principles. Nearly everybody with any claim to culture is familiar with the names of Cotton, Arundel, Harley, Lansdowne, Birch, Burney, Egerton, Hardwicke, and Stowe, in connection with precious assemblages of monuments in the National Library; Parker, Tanner, Fairfax, Ashmole and others at Oxford or Cambridge; Carew at Lambeth, and a succession of private enthusiasts in this direction, either independently or in conjunction with the printed side—Dering of Surrenden, Le Neve, Martin of Palgrave, Duke of Buckingham, Sir Thomas Phillipps, Libri, Lord Ashburnham, Heber, and Bright.
In the case of MSS. it is equally true with printed literature that the interest and value depend on circumstances, and are liable to changes and vicissitudes. They may be classified into countries, periods, and subjects, and their appreciation depends on their character even more than on their mere rarity. An unique MS. may possibly be quite worthless. A comparatively common one may command a good price. How numerous soever the ancient copies of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales might be, another coming into the open market would still be an object of keen competition; and where importance is coupled with scarcity or uniqueness, of course the latter feature lends a high additional weight to the matter, and multiplies inquirers.
We must, however, in justice to this branch of the topic and to our readers, refrain from further pursuit of the discussion of it, as its adequate treatment would absorb a monograph to the full extent as ample as the present, and such a Manual is in point of fact a desideratum—one, too, which the improved state of bibliographical knowledge would assist in rendering much more satisfactory than was formerly possible.
The Rolls of Collectors by the present writer afford a convenient view of the different classes of society in the now United Kingdom, which from the outset to the present day have created, during unequal periods of duration, more or less noteworthy centres of literary or bibliographical gatherings, from the Harley, Roxburghe, Heber, or Huth level to that of the owner—often not less to be admired or commended—of the humble shelf-ful of volumes. Here names occur associated with the most widely varied aims in respect to scope and compass, yet all in a certain measure participating in the credit of admitting to their homes products of intellectual industry and ingenuity beyond such matter as Family Bibles, Directories, Railway Guides, Charles Lamb's Biblia-a-Biblia, and sixpenny or threepenny editions of popular authors, which constitute the staple decorations of the average British middle-class household in this nonagenarian nineteenth century.
So early as the time of the later Stuarts, a movement seems to have commenced both in England and Scotland, not only in the chief centres, but in provincial towns, for the education of the middle class, and even of the higher grade of agriculturists, who sent their children to schools, and at the same time, in the absence of circulating libraries, improved their own minds by the exchange of books, as we perceive in contemporary diaries and correspondence; and Macaulay doubtless overcolours the ignorance and debasement of the bulk of society about the period of the Revolution of 1688, apparently in order to maintain a cue with which he had started. The Diary of John Richards, a farmer at Warmwell in Dorsetshire, 1697-1702, is an unimpeachable witness on the other side; it is printed in the Retrospective Review, 1853.
It was about the same date that we find even in Scotland a project for establishing throughout the country, in every parish, Reference or Lending Libraries, and some pamphlets on the subject have come down to us; but we hear nothing more about it. This was in 1699-1702, just when the indefatigable John Dunton was sending from the press his multifarious periodical news-books for the benefit of the more literary sort in South Britain.
The Circulating Library in the United Kingdom in its inception was intended more particularly for the better-to-do class, and even to-day its tariff is hardly compatible with very narrow resources. Perhaps the earliest effort to bring literature within the reach of the working-man was Charles Knight's scheme of "Book-Clubs for all Readers," mentioned in a letter to him of 1844 from Dickens.
A remarkable change in the fortunes and tactics of the collector has arisen from one in our social institutions. The book-hunter of times past, if he was a resident in the provinces, and worked on a more or less systematic and ambitious scale—nay, if he merely picked up articles from year to year which struck his fancy, relied, as he was able to do, on his country town. Thither gravitated, as a rule, the products of public and private sales from the surrounding neighbourhood within a fairly wide radius. If a library was placed in the market, the sale took place on the premises or at the nearest centre; there was no thought of sending anything short of a known collection up to London. The transit in the absence of railways was too inconvenient and costly. These conditions, which long survived better possibilities, naturally made certain headquarters throughout the kingdom a perfect Eldorado and Elysium, first of all for local enthusiasts miles round, and later on for metropolitan bargain-seekers, who made periodical tours in certain localities at present as barren as Arabia Petraea.
The principal points appear, so far as existing information goes, to have been in the North: Newcastle, York, Sheffield, Leeds; in the Midlands: Birmingham and Manchester; in the West: Plymouth, Exeter, and Bristol; in the South: Chichester; in the East: Norwich, Yarmouth, Colchester, Bury, and Ipswich. It was at Chichester that the poet Collins brought together a certain number of early books, some of the first rarity; his name is found, too, in the sale catalogues of the last century as a buyer of such; and the strange and regrettable fact is, that two or three items, which Thomas Warton actually saw in his hands, and of which there are no known duplicates, have not so far been recovered.
East Anglia during a prolonged period was peculiarly rich in holders and seekers of the Old Book, both manuscript and printed. It formerly abounded in monastic institutions, affluent county families, and literary archaeologists. We may mention Lord Petre, the Hanmers of Mildenhall, the Herveys of Ickworth, the Bunburys of Bury, the Tollemaches, the Freres, the Fountaines, Sir John Fenn, Martin of Palgrave, Dawson Turner, and the Rev. John Mitford. It was the same, as we take elsewhere occasion to show, in the West of England, in the Midlands, in the Northern counties, and in the South of Scotland. The absence of ready communication with the metropolis and the relative insignificance of provincial centres kept libraries together. Their owners, while the agricultural interest was flourishing, had no motive for sale, and the inducement to part with such property was far less powerful, while the competition remained limited.
In Kent: Canterbury and Maidstone; in Surrey: Guildford, Croydon, Kingston, and even Richmond, may have helped to supply local requirements to a certain extent. But the Sydneys of Penshurst, the Oxindens of Barham, the Lee-Warlys, the Barretts of Lee, the Evelyns of Sayes-Court and Wootton, and others among the gentry of these and the adjacent shires, probably filled their shelves in principal measure from the London shops during their periodical visits to the metropolis for various purposes.
Even in later times the suburbs of London, and now and then such localities as Woolwich, Reading, Manchester, Shrewsbury, Salisbury, Wrexham, Conway, Keswick, and Dublin have yielded a prize or so, owing to the dispersion of some small library in the neighbourhood on the premises. Otherwise one may prospect the country towns all over the three kingdoms nowadays, and not see anything save new stock and penny-box ware. Even the provincial centres are, in general, sterile enough; but the rural districts are dried up. Every species of property seems to drift to London.
The Bristol houses, Kerslake, Jefferies, George, Lasbury, often came across rarities; but it is so no longer. The West has been threaded through. If there is a section of England where some good things may yet linger, it is, we should say, in Staffordshire, Lancashire, and Shropshire, to which might perhaps be added Worcestershire.
The seats of our two ancient Universities, and cathedral cities generally, have not yielded such ample fruit to the explorer, perhaps because there has always been a species of magnetic attraction, by which any spoils of the kind are drawn into the local libraries and museums. A graduate of Oxford or Cambridge, a canon of this or that church, a loyal dweller in Winchester or Lincoln, possesses or discovers a rare volume, and his impulse, if he does not keep it himself, is to bestow it on his place of residence or education. Whatever happens, the stranger coming to hunt in these preserves arrives only in time to learn that the stall or the shop has given up some unique desideratum a day or two before, and is referred to the librarian of the college, or to the buyer at such an address, if he desires to inspect it, which, if his aims are simply commercial, be sure he does not. The aggravation is already sufficient!
At the same time, the Universities and Inns of Court have been from time to time the homes of many famous book-collections. Robert Burton, Anthony Wood, John Selden, Sir David Dundas, Mr. Dyce, Dr. Bliss, Dr. Bandinel, Dr. Coxe, Mr. Bradshaw, are only a few select names.
In the same way there was a time, and not so distant, when Edinburgh, and even Dublin, yielded their proportion of finds, and the Duke of Roxburghe and General Swinton, David Laing and James Maidment, obtained no insignificant share of their extremely curious and valuable stores from their own ground. Now the Scotish amateur and bookseller equally look to the great metropolis for the supply of their wants, and the North Country libraries are sent up to London for sale. The capital of Scotland has lost its ancient prestige as a cover for this sort of sport, and is as unproductive as an ordinary English provincial town.
From an acquisitive standpoint the locality signifies no longer. The game is up. The three kingdoms have been well-nigh ransacked and exhausted. The country town is as bare as a bird's tail of anything but common-place stuff, bought in the London market, and (if any dweller in a distant city is simple enough to order it from the unsophisticated vendor) charged with a good profit and the freight up. Naturally the provincial dealer, if he stumbles on a gem or two in an accidental way, takes care that it is sold in no corner, unless it be at the corner of Wellington Street in the Strand. He considers that the value may be a matter of doubt, and he leaves it to gentlemen to decide between them how much it is worth. Do you blame him?
It is a frequently debated point whether at home in Great Britain the feeling for books, in the collector's sense, is not on the decline; and, indeed, the causes of such a change are not far to seek. The acute pressure of business among the wealthy mercantile class, which principally contributes to the ranks of book-buyers, and the decrease of resources for such luxuries among the nobility and clergy, might be sufficient to explain a shrinkage in the demand for the older and rarer literature in our own and other languages; but there is another and even more powerful agency at work which operates in the same direction, and is adverse to the investment of money in objects which do not appeal directly to the eye. The bibliophile discovers, when he has expended a small fortune (or perhaps a large one) in the formation of a library, that his friends evince no interest in it, have no desire to enter the room where the cases are kept, do not understand what they are told about this or that precious acquisition, and turn on their heel to look at the pictures, the antique furniture, or the china. This undoubtedly wide-spread sentiment strikes a very serious blow at a pursuit in which the enthusiast meets with slight sympathy or encouragement, unless it is at the hands of the dealers, naturally bound for their own sakes to keep him in heart by sympathy and flattery. Doubtless the present aspect of the question might have become ere now more serious, had it not been for the American market and the extension of the system of public and free libraries.
But, on the other hand, while enormous numbers of books are sold under the hammer year by year, there must be an approximately proportionate demand and an inexhaustible market, or the book trade could not keep pace with the auctioneers; and, moreover, we may be in a transitional state in some respects, and may be succeeded by those whose appetite for the older literature will be keener than it ever was.
The complaint of a superabundance of books of all kinds is not a new one. It goes back at least to the reign of Elizabeth and the age of Shakespeare, for in 1594, in a sermon preached at Paul's Cross, a divine says:—
"There is no ende of making Bookes, and much reading is a wearinesse to the flesh, and in our carelesse daies bookes may rather seeme to want readers, than readers to want bookes."
No one should be too positive whether it is to the rich or to the poor book-collector that the romantic element chiefly or more powerfully attaches itself. It has been our lot to enjoy the acquaintance of both classes, and we hesitate to pronounce any decided opinion. There is the unquestionable triumph of the man with a full purse or an inexhaustible banking account, who has merely to resolve upon a purchase or a series of purchases, and to write a cheque for the sum total. He is no sooner recognised by the members of the trade as a zealous enthusiast and a liberal paymaster, than offers arrive, and continue to arrive, from all sides. He is not asked to take any trouble; his library is an object of solicitude to everybody who has anything to sell; the order on his bankers is all that his humble servants desire. He finds himself, after the lapse of a decade or so, the master of a splendid collection, without having once known what it was to get disagreeably warm or anxious in the pursuit of a volume, to deliberate whether he could afford to buy it, or to submit to the ordeal of attending an auction, one of a motley throng in a fetid atmosphere. All these trials he has been spared; he has collected with kid gloves.
On the contrary, a good deal may be said in favour of the amateur of moderate fortune, who by personal judgment slowly accumulates an important and enviable assemblage of literary monuments, like the Rev. Thomas Corser, who spent L9000 during a lifetime on books, which realised L20,000, and would now bring thrice as much, and perhaps even more; and in that of men such as Charles Lamb and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who had to pause before they laid out a few shillings in this way. The history of Lamb's books is more humanly interesting than the history of the Huth or Grenville library; as chattels or furniture they were worthless; they were generally the poorest copies imaginable; but if they did not cost money, they often cost thought; they sometimes involved a sacrifice, if the price was in the high altitude of a sovereign. In the case of Lamb, the sister's opinion was sought, and the matter lay ever so long in abeyance before the final decision was taken, and Lamb hastened to the shop, uncertain if he might not be too late, if the person whom he saw emerging as he entered might not have his book in his pocket. Here was payment in full for the prize; the coin handed to the vendor was nothing to it; Lamb had laid out more than the value in many a sleepless night and many an anxious calculation. Lamb, although he probably never bound a volume of his own in his life, or purchased one for the sake of its cover, could grow enthusiastic over his favourite Duchess of Newcastle, and declare that no casket was rich enough, no casing sufficiently durable, to honour and keep safe such a jewel.
Collectors of the abstract type looked, and still look, at the essence or soul—at the object pure and simple. A book is a book for a' that. It may be imperfect, soiled, wormed, cropped, shabbily bound—all those things belong to its years; let it suffice that there is just enough of the author to be got in glimpses here and there to enable the proprietor of him in type to judge his quality and power. That is what such men as Lamb wanted—all they wanted. A copy of Burton's Anatomy, of Wither's Emblems, or Browne's Urn-Burial, in the best and newest morocco, was apt to be a hinderance to their enjoyment of the beauties of the text, was almost bound to strike them as an intrusion and an impertinence—perchance as a sort of sacrilege—as though the maker of the cover was seeking to place himself on a level with the maker of the book. Nor are there wanting successive renewers of this school of collector—of men who have bought books and other literary property for their own sake, for their intrinsic worth, irrespectively of rarity and price. A relative of the writer devoted a long life—a very long one—to the acquisition of what struck him as being curious and interesting in its way and fell within his resources, which were never too ample; and in the end he succeeded in gathering together, without much technical knowledge of the subject, a fairly large assortment of volumes, not appealing for the most part to the severer taste of the more fastidious and wealthier amateur, but endeared to him at least, as Lamb's were, by the circumstances under which they came to his hands. Each one had its historiette. This gentleman represented, as I say, a type, and a very genuine and laudable one, too. I admired, almost envied him, not in his possession, but in his enjoyment of these treasures; they were to him as the apple of his eye. When I speak of him as a type, I mean that the same phenomenon still exists. In a letter of 1898 from the extreme North of England there is the ensuing passage, which strongly impressed my fancy: "Ever since I had a house of my own—nearly twenty years—I have been a collector of books on a humble scale. . . . Still, by being continually on the look-out for 'bargains,' I have managed to gather between three and four thousand volumes together, chiefly of a poetical nature." Now, to my apprehension, the present aspect of the matter touches a higher or deeper chord than that reached by the owner of the most splendid library in the universe; for all this Heliconian harvest signified personal search and personal sacrifice.
We do not always bear in mind that the rare books of to-day were the current literature not merely of, but long posterior to, the period of their appearance. They suffered two kinds and stages of deterioration and waste. While they remained in vogue among readers and students, they necessarily submitted to a succession of more or less indifferent owners, who regarded without much concern objects which it was in their power to replace without much difficulty. The worst day dawned, however, for our ancient literature, especially that of a fugitive or sentimental class, when it had ceased to be in demand for practical purposes, and was not yet ripe for the men, in whose eyes it could only possess archaeological attractions. Independently of destruction by accidental fires, a century or two of neglect proved fatal to millions of volumes or other literary records in pamphlet or broadsheet form; and as tastes changed, the mill and the fire successively consumed the discarded favourites of bygone generations, just as at the present moment we pulp or burn from day to day cartloads of old science, and theology, and law, and fiction, and ever so much more, preparing to grow unique.
The Mill has been as busy as the Press all these centuries on which we look back. It has neither eyes nor ears, nor has it compassion; it unrelentingly grinds and consumes all that comes in its way; age after age it has reduced to dust what the men of the time refuse in the presence of something newer, and, as they hold, better. The printers of each generation, from those of Mainz downward, lent themselves, not unnaturally, not unwisely, to subjects in the first place (by way of experiment) which were not costly, and secondly to such as appealed to contemporary taste and patronage. We find under the former head Indulgences, Proclamations, Broadsides, Ballads; under the second, Church Service Books of all kinds, succeeded after a while by certain of the Classics. The impressions long remained limited; and continual use and subsequent neglect accomplished between them the task of creating the modern bibliographical and bibliomaniacal schools.
Even in Anglo-Saxon times the ferocity of warfare and the ravages of invasion on invasion, coupled with the scanty diffusion of literary taste, destroyed many of the monastic libraries. But, which is stranger and less excusable, even down to the second half of the seventeenth century, down to Aubrey's day, the greatest havoc continued to be made in this way alike among printed books and MSS., the latter being used for all sorts of utilitarian purposes—even as bungs for beer-barrels. In our own period it is immeasurably sadder and more astonishing to learn that, besides the losses arising from casual conflagrations to public and private libraries, the old vandalism is not extinct, and that nothing is sacred in its eyes, not even the priceless muniments of a cathedral church.
What must the aggregate have become, if such a process had not been steadily in operation all these centuries! And, even as it is, the dispersion of old libraries, like those of Johnson of Spalding and Skene of Skene, encourages the waste-paper dealer to believe that the end is not yet reached. The frequenter of the auction-rooms of London alone has perpetually under his eyes a mountain of illegible printed matter sufficient to overload the shoulders of Atlas.
Bibliomania has as many heads as the famed Briareus; but it seldom lifts more than two or three at once. Perhaps it would be impossible to name any variety of fancy which has not at some time entered into the pursuit which we are just now attempting to illustrate. The love of the book without regard to the binding, or of the binding irrespectively of the book; the fashion for works with woodcuts, of certain printers, of certain places, of certain dates; the establishment of a fixed rule as to a subject or a group of subjects, taken up collectively or in succession; a limitation as to price or as to size, for a candidate for admittance to some cabinets may not exceed so many inches in altitude; it must go back to the century which produced it, to be rewritten or reprinted, ere it may have a place.
It is said of the elder Wertheimer that, when some one expressed his astonishment at the price which he had given for an item, and even insinuated his want of wisdom, he retorted pleasantly that he might be a fool, but he thought that he knew greater ones than himself.
Do we not under existing conditions view with too uncharitable sentiments the marvellous good fortune of the book-hunters of the last century, at the very outset of a revival of the taste for our own vernacular literature? Does it not seem tantalising to hear that Warton the historian could pick up for sixpence a volume containing Venus and Adonis, 1596, and seven other precious morceaux, off a broker's counter in Salisbury, when the British Museum gave at the Daniel sale L336 for the Shakespeare alone? What a thrill passes through the veins, as we read of Rodd the bookseller meeting at a marine store-shop on Saffron Hill, somewhere about the thirties, with a volume of Elizabethan tracts, and having it weighed out to him at threepence three-farthings! Our space is far more limited than such anecdotes; but they all strike us as pointing the same moral. If one happens on a Caxton or a quarto Shakespeare to-day for a trifle, it is the isolated ignorance of the possessor which befriends one. But till the market came for these things, the price for what very few wanted was naturally low; and an acquirer like George Steevens, Edward Capell, or Edmond Malone was scarcely apt to feel the keen gratification on meeting with some unique find that a man would now do, seeing that its rarity was yet unascertained, and even had it been so, was not likely to awaken much sensation.
Low prices do not alone establish cheapness. Cheap books are those which are obtained by accident under the current value. In the time of the later Stuarts, Narcissus Luttrell found from one penny to sixpence sufficient to satisfy the shopkeepers with whom he dealt for some of the most precious volumes in our language; and a shilling commanded a Caxton. The Huths of those days could not lay out their money in these things; they had to take up the ancient typography in the form of the classics, or large-paper copies of contemporary historians, or the publications of Hearne.
We do not know that the celebrated Chevalier D'Eon was singular in his views as a collector in the last century. He bought in chief measure, if we may judge from a document before us, what we should now term nondescripts, and in the aggregate gave a very handsome price at a London auction in 1771 for an assemblage of items at present procurable, if any one wanted them, at a far lower rate. There is not a lot throughout which would recommend itself to modern taste, save the Cuisinier Francois, and perhaps that was not in the old morocco livery considered by judges as de rigueur. We append the auctioneer's account entire, because it exhibits a fair example of the class of book which not only Frenchmen, but ourselves, sought at that time more than those for which we have long learned to compete, and which were then offered under the hammer by the bundle, if not by the basketful. For L8, 4s., a hundred and twenty-five years ago, how many quarto Shakespears could one have acquired?
THE CHEVALIER D'EON, Bought of Baker & Leigh.
L s. d.
Catalogus Librorum MSS. Angl. et Hibern 0 7 6 Index Librorum Bibliothecae Barberinae, 2 vols. 0 10 6 Reading Catal. Lib. in Collegio Sionensi 0 4 0 Le Long, Bibliotheque Hist. de la France 0 9 0 Voyage Literaire de deux Religieux Benedictins 0 5 0 Histoire de Demelez de la Cour de France 0 2 6 Memoires sur le Rang entre les Souv. de l'Europe, &c. 0 2 6 Discours Politiques sur Tacite, par Josseval 0 2 0 Dictionnaire Mathematique, par Ozanam 0 5 0 Dictionnaire Practique du Bon Menager de Campagne, par Liger, 2 vols. 0 6 0 Leland agt. Bolingbroke's Study of History 0 2 0 Mutel's Causes of the Corruption of Christians 0 1 0 Bindon on Commerce 0 2 6 Essay on Money, Trade, War, Banks, &c. 0 1 0 England's Gazetteer, 3 vols. 0 7 6 Halifax's Advice to a Daughter 0 1 0 Tresor de la Pratique de Medecine, 3 vols. 0 4 0 Seneque de la Consolation de la Mort 0 1 0 Tacite (la Morale de) par Houssaie 0 1 6 Tite Live reduit en Maximes 0 1 0 Gracien l'Homme Universel 0 1 6 L'Ecole de l'Homme 0 2 6 Memoire pour diminuer le nombre de Preces 0 1 6 Receuil des Edits 0 1 6 Le Secret des Cours, par Walsingham 0 1 6 Receuil de Maximes pour Institut. du Roy 0 1 0 Callieres de la Science du Monde 0 1 0 Traites des Interests des Princes' & Souverains de l'Europe 0 1 0 Sciences des Princes, par Naude, 3 vols. 0 5 0 Etat present du Royaume de Danemarc 0 2 0 Memoires de l'Empire Russien 0 1 6 Memoires & Negociations Secrettes de diverses Cours de l'Europe par M. la Torre, 5 vols. 0 7 6 Memoires pour Servir a l'Histoire de Corse 0 1 6 Memoires Militaires sur les Anciens, 2 vols. 0 2 0 Histoire Generale de Suisse 0 2 0 Memoire du Card. Richelieu, 5 vols. 0 5 0 La Vie du Card. Richelieu, 2 vols. 0 4 0 La Vie de Mons. Colbert 0 1 6 Voyage de Grece, Egypte, &c. 0 2 0 Voyage du Mont du Levant 0 1 6 Lettres du Card. Richelieu 0 1 0 Lettres d'un Turque a Paris 0 1 6 Lettres Persanes, par Montesquieu 0 3 0 Le Passe Tems Agreable 0 1 6 Essai Politique sur le Commerce 0 2 0 Theorie de l'Impot 0 2 0 Histoire du Systeme des Finances, 1719 & 1720, 6 vols. 0 6 0 Histoire du Commerce, par Huet 0 2 0 Le Vrai Cuisinier Francois 0 1 6 Dictionnaire Neologique 0 2 0 Relations de quelques Religieux, 6 vols. 0 10 6 Reflexions sur l'Edit 0 1 0 Several lots of Pamphlets, 1s. each 0 4 0 Five Pamphlets, at 6d. each 0 2 6 ———— L8 4 0 ========
Jan. 12th, 1771.
Recd. the contents For Baker and Self, GEO. LEIGH.
The neglect of our early literature continued, as we have said, down to the second half of the eighteenth century. Prior to that time, all the information at our command tends to show that collectors almost uniformly restricted themselves to the books current in or about their own time, as we find even Pepys asking Bagford to secure for him, not Caxtons or Elizabethan books, but items which we should now regard with comparative or absolute indifference. While some insignificant trifle, which had happened to go out of print, was sought with avidity, while editions of the classics and Continental writers, long since converted to waste paper, were objects of keen rivalry, the most precious examples of ancient English and Scotish typography and poetry were obtainable for pence.
A very interesting side to the subject before us is the share claimable in it by the fair sex. In our two Rolls of Book-Collectors we have included the names of several ladies, who in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as in the earlier part of the present, established a title to rank among possessors of libraries in a larger or smaller measure. Two of the most prominent names are probably those of Miss Richardson Currer, of Eshton Hall, Yorkshire, and Mrs. Rylands of Manchester, the latter not only the acquirer of the Althorp treasures, but of a most valuable body of books, ancient and modern, in augmentation of them. This feature in the annals of collecting is the more to be borne in mind, in that it has in recent days declined almost to disappearance, and may be said to be limited to a few gentlewomen, who pursue special studies, like the Hon. Alicia Amherst and Mrs. Earle, and bring together for use or reference the works illustrative of them.
A study of the writer's Rolls of Book-Collectors, which embrace over two thousand names, will satisfy any one that the hereditary or transmitted collections in this country are very few, if we limit ourselves to libraries of note, and do not compensate for the long catalogue of old libraries which have been dispersed even in our own time. Are there really more than the Miller and the Huth, unless we add the Spencer or Althorp, kept intact and amplified, yet in the hands of a stranger? Book-collecting by individuals is, then, mainly a personal affair, which begins and ends with a life. The continuance even of the two libraries above mentioned in private hands cannot be regarded as otherwise than precarious and terminable; the fourth succession of Miller has just expired in an unexpected manner, and the destiny of the Britwell treasures is problematical. Rumour has long since pointed to the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh as the ultimate reversioner.
In a volume of moderate compass, professedly addressing itself in a special manner to English collectors, the consideration of foreign literature must of necessity be a secondary and incidental feature and element, although it may be quite true that our countrymen and countrywomen look so frequently aside, as it were, from the literary productions of their own soil to study those of other lands. In Great Britain we may be said to be much more cosmopolitan in our book-collecting tastes than many of our contemporaries on the Continent of Europe, Germany perhaps excepted. In France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and elsewhere, the demand is almost exclusively for native authors; but the Germans, Americans, and ourselves take a pride, and a just one, in being more catholic and broad: we see the advantage, no doubt, and no doubt we reap the fruit, of such a policy. At the same time, in a monograph of limited scope it is obviously impossible to embrace even a general view of the enormously wide range which is before any one who crosses over from his own country to add to his English possessions even a select collection of books in foreign languages; and we have confined our efforts in this direction to an indication of such typical or special works (principally French) as are usually sought by people in these islands, who resort more or less to the Continental market. Even prominent Anglo-French amateurs like Mr. R. S. Turner and Lord Ashburton are found keeping within certain classes of literature, and certain copies recommendable by their provenance, binding, or graphic peculiarities.
Spoliation of public libraries in past times—Denouncers of the robbers of books—Schedule of public libraries in the United Kingdom—View of the chief features of some of these—Cathedral libraries—Public libraries on the Continent and in America—Early English books in foreign collections—Difference in the constitution of public collections—Private libraries—Their classification—The writer's Rolls of Collectors—The Harleian Library—The idea borrowed from abroad—Formation of a new English School of Collecting—The Roxburghe sale in 1812—Richard Heber and his vast library—His services to literature—His scholarship—The Britwell Library.
IT hardly falls within the province of a manual for the book-collector to dwell on the character and relative merits of the purely public libraries at home and abroad, or even on the bibliographical possessions of private personages which are not available for purchase. Recent experience, however, teaches us that we are not entitled to count any longer on the intact preservation of the books of any individual or family, as the sale by auction has almost become fashionable. At any rate, there can be no harm in introducing a few remarks on this aspect and branch of our subject, particularly seeing that the effect of throwing on the market thousands of rare books, which were once thought to be hopelessly unattainable, has contributed to improve the prospects and opportunities of purchasers.
The spoliation of public libraries at home and abroad is an aspect of the question or subject neither very agreeable nor very flattering. In England and other parts of the Empire, within the last century, numerous examples have occurred where valuable or unique books have been stolen or mutilated. The national collection in Great Russell Street has perhaps suffered the least, and whatever may be said about the system on which it was formerly conducted and managed, sufficient care seems always to have been exercised to guard against depredators of various kinds. So far as is publicly known, petty thefts of articles more or less easily replaceable are all that we have to regret. It is notorious that the Bodleian has lost several important volumes, and no one will probably ever arrive at any definite information of the extent to which the libraries at Cambridge and the other minor collections at the sister Universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, and Dublin have been pillaged and impoverished.
It has been the same all over the Continent. The Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris, and many of the leading provincial libraries of France, have been robbed wholesale in former times, and in some cases annihilated. One has only to read the observations and evidence of M. Achille Jubinal accompanying a (then) inedited letter of Montaigne (8vo, Paris, 1850), to form an idea of the ravages which have been made through neglect of officials and dishonesty of visitors; and what must the fact be in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and elsewhere? The denunciations against robbers of books and libraries date, however, from the remotest period, and were at first highly necessary as a means of safeguarding the treasures of monasteries and churches. Isaac Taylor, in his History of the Transmission of Ancient Books to Modern Times, 1875, p. 246, prints an anathema of this kind: "Whosoever removeth this volume from this same mentioned convent, may the anger of the Lord overtake him in this world, and in the next to all eternity. Amen." Let the energetic explorers who have transferred so many hundreds of such MSS. to the Vatican and the British Museum look to it; and what are His Holiness and the Trustees in Great Russell Street but palpable accessories after, if not before, the fact! A common peril hangs over them all.
A visit to a library such as the British Museum or the Bodleian, or even to those of some of the Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, is apt to instil a feeling of reverential affection for the founders and benefactors of such institutions; the existing functionaries seem to withdraw into middle distance, and one enters into communion with the spirits of the departed.
From the private collector's point of view these great public libraries are mainly serviceable for purposes of reference and comparative study. These storehouses of bibliographical and literary wealth may be classified into—
(i) National or quasi-National Collections:— The British Museum Guildhall Library South Kensington Museum (Dyce and Forster and General Fine Art Collections) Society of Antiquaries Dr. William's Library, Gordon Square Chetham Library, Manchester Spencer-Rylands Library, Manchester Bodleian University Library, Cambridge University Library, Edinburgh Advocates' Library, Edinburgh Signet Library, Edinburgh Hunterian Library, Glasgow Trinity College, Dublin
The British Museum readily divides itself, of course very unequally, into the Printed Book and Manuscript Departments, and each of these has been periodically enriched by large donations or purchases en bloc, the former more especially by the gift of the Grenville books, and the latter by the Cottonian, Harleian, Lansdowne, Stowe, and Hardwicke MSS. The Bodleian would fall far short of what it is, had it not been for the bequests of Tanner, Selden, Burton, Crynes, Gough, Malone, and Douce, and so with the University Library at Cambridge, which owes so much to Bishop Moore's books, and Trinity, Dublin, to Archbishop Marsh's.
(ii) College Libraries:— Sion College Dulwich College Eton College Winchester College Stonyhurst College St. Cuthbert's College, Ushaw Cambridge Colleges Oxford Colleges
Sion College preserves a few items of the rarest and most precious class—Shakespeare's Lucrece, 1594, Barnfield's Affectionate Shepherd, 1594, the Phoenix Nest, 1593, Drayton's Matilda, 1594, and others; but a few specified in the old catalogue have disappeared. Many of the most valuable volumes bequeathed by Edward Alleyn to Dulwich are now among Garrick's books in the British Museum, or among Malone's at Oxford, by conveyance; but a few yet remain. Eton College Library contains a small number of early printed books (including Caxton's Book of Good Manners) and the unique copy of Udall's Ralph Roister Doister. At Winchester they have a volume or two of very rare poetical tracts of Elizabeth's and James I.'s time. Stonyhurst is solely remarkable for MSS. and printed works of Robert Southwell and other Romish writers.
Of the subordinate libraries at Oxford and Cambridge the treasures are innumerable. Those which belong to the printed department are very fully registered in special catalogues and by Hazlitt, except, perhaps, the very recent legacy to Trinity College, Cambridge, of the library of the late Mr. Samuel Sandars, rich in early English typography, and the result of life-long researches.
Outside these fall the Royal Library at Windsor, which includes the unique perfect AEsop, and one of the two books on vellum (the Doctrinal of Sapience) printed by Caxton; the Archiepiscopal one at Lambeth, rich in rare early printed books and MSS., and the Chetham and Rylands foundations at Manchester, the latter comprehending the Althorp treasures en bloc. Humphrey Chetham also established the Church Libraries at Turton and Gorton, bibliographical notices of which have been printed by Mr. Gilbert French, 4to, 1856; and a few strays from the Chetham collection will be incidentally mentioned hereafter.
A reference to the writer's Collections, where such facts are not matters of familiar knowledge, will show that the majority of this section is more remarkable for the possession of a few rarities, or even unique items, than for a systematic representation of classes and periods. Yet some are very strong in specialities: Christ Church, Oxford, in music; Magdalen, Cambridge, in early English books (Pepys's); Corpus, Cambridge, in MSS. (Archbishop Parker's); the Bodleian, in Shakespeariana, early popular books, Elizabethan poetry, &c. (Malone's, Douce's, Selden's, Burton's), and so forth.
(iii) Cathedral Libraries:— St. Paul's, London Canterbury (Christ Church) York Minster and Chapter Peterborough Lichfield Lincoln Hereford
At Lincoln there was formerly the precious Honeywood bequest, improperly sold to Dibdin for 500 guineas; but the library still contains about 5000 volumes, to which the Dean and Chapter make additions from time to time; and there is a paid custodian, who is one of the minor canons. York Minster and Chapter are rich in early typography and Yorkshire books. The Cathedral library is under the charge of a canon as librarian and a vicar-choral as sub-librarian, who receive no salary. It is open to the public on three days in summer and on two days in winter in each week. There is no fund for the support or improvement of the library, except the interest of L400 and a few voluntary subscriptions. Hereford possesses a remarkable assemblage of chained volumes. To the present group most properly appertains the library at Westminster Abbey, founded by Lord-Keeper Williams, while he was Dean of Westminster.
(iv) Public Libraries on the Continent or in America:— Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris French Institute (the gift of the late Duc d'Aumale), Chantilly Vatican Library, Rome Royal Library, Naples Medicean Library, Florence St. Mark's Library, Venice Royal Library, Turin Imperial Library, Vienna Imperial Library, St. Petersburg Royal Library, Berlin Library of Electors and Kings of Bavaria, Muenich Library of the Dukes and Kings of Saxony, Woelfenbuettel Landerbibliothek, Cassel Public Library, Hamburg Public Library, Goettingen Public Library, Zuerich Archiepiscopal Library, Eichstadt Archiepiscopal Library, Salzburg Archiepiscopal Library, Worms, &c. Plantin Museum, Antwerp University Library, Upsala Royal Library, Copenhagen Lenox and Carter Brown Libraries, New York
The two last named, as it may be at once concluded, are principally English and Anglo-American in their character. Our collectors do not, as we are aware, by any means restrict themselves to the literature of the mother country so exclusively as their Transatlantic contemporaries; and for them therefore it becomes of importance and interest to acquire through catalogues a familiarity with the contents of the leading assemblages of foreign and classical literature in Continental hands. But there are very few of the great public libraries abroad which have not casually or otherwise acquired English books, and those of the rarest description. At Goettingen they have, from an auction at Lueneburg in 1767, the C. Merry Tales of 1526; at Cassel, Marlowe's Edward II., 1594; and at Hamburg the Elizabethan edition of Blanchardine and Eglantine, 1597, all unique or most rare; and this is only by way of instance or sample. The Huth copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets, 1609, was obtained from Zuerich.
The private amateur does well if he keeps before him the salient features connected with his pursuit from this point of view. It is to be deeply regretted that the Government of the Netherlands did not take steps to preserve intact the Enscheden collection at Haarlem, in the same manner that that of Belgium did the Plantin heirlooms.
The late Mr. Quaritch narrated an amusing and characteristic anecdote, commemorative of his participation in the Enscheden sale, where the agent of the British Museum waited till the morning to bid at the table for the Troy-Book, printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1502, and he bought it privately over-night of the auctioneer.
There is, it must be noted, a fundamental difference in the constitution of public libraries in Great Britain and America as compared with those on the Continent. The latter, if they do not restrict themselves, in principal measure, to the literature of their own country, or at least tongue, very seldom go far outside those limits otherwise than by accident or for works of reference. On the contrary, the English and American collections are cosmopolitan, like those who have formed them. At the British Museum a volume in Icelandic, Chinese, Hawaian, or any other character is welcomed nearly as much as one in the vernacular. In Germany, at all events at Berlin and Vienna, English books of importance are recognised. But at the Bibliotheque in Paris it is not so. The French collect only the classics and their own literature, just as they ignore in coins all but the Greek and Roman and national series.
Within their own lines, however, it is wonderful, looking at all the political convulsions which the country and capital have undergone, what vast treasures remain in France—treasures of all epochs and in every class, from the rise to the fall of the monarchy, from volumes written for the Carolingian, if not Merovingian kings, to volumes bound for Marie Antoinette.
Some interesting and instructive notices of our own public libraries, and of a few private collections of former times, may be found in the later volumes of the Retrospective Review.
The two Rolls of Collectors before mentioned are capable of making a not inconsiderable volume; but they are classifiable in groups and periods, and certain individuals may be taken as the central figures in the successive onward movements. Our immediate concern is with printed monuments, and consequently we do not hearken back beyond the men who witnessed the introduction of typography. Nor does there appear, while the purchasing power of money for literary possessions or the book-closet was high, to have been any esprit de corps or emulation tending to constitute schools or coteries, and to raise certain books or series to an artificial standard. Men at first acquired at random what happened to fall in their way; booksellers there were few or (except at London or in the Universities) next to none; and auctions were long unknown. Except for topography and the classics, there was, down to the middle of the eighteenth century, no active competition. The bulk of the Harleian Library was probably obtained without extravagant outlay, though not without labour and time; not those divisions which we should now prize would be the most expensive, unless we include the manuscripts for which Lord Oxford had even then to pay a price.
We have drawn the line where it appears that the principle of forming libraries, in the modern sense of the word, commenced in this country. Down to the Harleian epoch, when the Continental system began to influence us, the shelf of books which we observe in many old prints was the limit of nearly all collectors: not necessarily of their resources, but of their views and of the feeling of the time. Men acquired a handful or so of volumes, which came into their hands by gift or otherwise; from the absence or paucity of public institutions there were few individuals of any culture whatever without a few books besides the family Bible and Pilgrim's Progress; but such a colossal accumulation as was formed under the auspices of the second Lord Oxford, and still more that of Richard Heber, was as undreamt of as the vast and multifarious contents of the building in Great Russell Street as it now exists. A study of early correspondence and other sources of original information on the present point will be found to corroborate such a view of the average private collection in these islands anterior to the last century.
It was not till many years after the dispersion of that noble Harleian memorial of generous ardour among the public and private collections of England and the Continent (Dr. Johnson in his letter to Sir F. Barnard, 1768, says that many books passed direct into the Bibliotheque du Roi at Paris), that the Shakespeare revival led to an inquiry, on the one hand, into the literature connected with the Elizabethan period, and on the other to a partial discovery of how much of it had perished. That epoch may be regarded as the true Hegira from which we have to date the modern annals of collecting; the antecedent time was in a sense pre-historic, for the most precious remains of our national literature were unheeded and uncalendared; the means of forming a comprehensive estimate of the printed stores in actual existence were yet latent or unknown, and the almost undivided attention of students and purchasers was directed to the ancient classics and foreign typography. It must be conceded, we think, that whatever the importance of those branches of inquiry may be, the cause of British letters is more closely and permanently bound up with our own classics and the products of our own soil; and we repeat that the movement which first gave a stimulus to a sort of revolt from the Continental school and to the formation of a native one was the persuasion, on the part of a few scholars, that something more was to be done towards popularising the plays of Shakespeare and his more eminent contemporaries, and elucidating their writings by the help of those who lived amid the same scenes and habits of thought and under the same institutions.
Leigh Hunt used to speak to me of having attended the great Roxburghe sale in 1812 just for the sake of gaining an idea of what such an affair was. It was, no doubt, a fine collection which the noble owner and his predecessors (particularly John, Earl of Roxburghe in the time of Queen Anne) had acquired, mainly in the preceding century, at very moderate prices; and the result must have been highly satisfactory to the estate. But many things have happened since then; the Heber Library, the most extensive, most valuable, and most ill-fated in its realisation: the grandest and proudest bibliographical monument of the nineteenth or any other century, has been completed and scattered; and yet to-day, if the general reader were asked, he would probably be of the belief that the first rank was due to the earlier personage and collection. There is somehow a prestige about the Roxburghe sale which time seems incapable of weakening; yet in comparison with its successor it was a mere handful; and in fact the accumulations even of Harley, the second Earl of Oxford, vast and precious as they may have been, were not equal in magnitude or in value to those of Heber, of whom the most surprising and most interesting trait is his conversance with the interiors of so many of his treasures; nor should we ever forget his generosity in lending them to literary workers. The Rev. Alexander Dyce, who so ably edited our elder dramatists and poets, could never have accomplished his projects, if Heber had not come to his assistance with the rare, or even unique, original editions.
We have taken elsewhere an opportunity of recording the probable obligation under which we all lie to Heber for his offices in prevailing on the Government under the Regency to arrange the so-called gift to the country of the library of George III. What an inestimable boon and advantage it would have been, had he left us his own magnificent gatherings, with the liberty of exchanging duplicates! To how many a subsequent collection would such a step have been the deathblow or rather an insuperable bar! The Britwell and Huth libraries would have been robbed of half their gems, and the Daniel sale could not have proved the singular coup and sensation which it was, had the Heber element been absent.
The flyleaves of an enormous proportion of Heber's books are found enriched by his scholarly and often very interesting memoranda; they usually bear a stamp with BIBLIOTHECA HEBERIANA, but never an ex libris. That distinction the accomplished owner resigned to minor luminaries. The notes are always pertinent and occasionally numerous; and the pages of the sale catalogue, of which we have no fewer than thirteen parts, are lifted above mechanical common-place by the curious and varied matter interspersed from this source, as well as to a certain extent from the pen of John Payne Collier, who edited the early poetical and dramatic portions, and attended the auction to secure some of the rarest old plays for his friend the Duke of Devonshire.
Heber had, in the course of a not very prolonged life (he died at sixty), absorbed by degrees mainly all that fell within his reach, both at home and abroad; and he acquired much which never came to England, but was warehoused at Antwerp or elsewhere on the Continent, pending future arrangements, which he did not live to make. The library is said to have cost L150,000, and to have fetched about a third of that sum. As the owner had built it up from the ruins of others, so some more recent collectors found there their opportunity.
A good deal of interesting information about this once conspicuous figure in book-collecting circles may be found in Dibdin's Reminiscences. Heber seems to have inherited some shares in Elliott's brewery at Pimlico, and a residence within the precincts. How far this fortune contributed to enable him to devote so large an amount to the purchase of books and MSS., we hardly know; it was said that he derived advantage from the slave trade, but perhaps this was a calumny. At any rate, there was trouble which saddened his later years.
Mr. William Henry Miller of Craigentinny bought nearly the whole of the early English poetry, and made the Britwell Library what it was and is; and George Daniel of Canonbury carried off, at what might have then seemed exorbitant prices, the Shakespeare quartos, to have the enjoyment of them for thirty years, and then leave them as a valuable inheritance to his family; for his death just occurred, when Henry Huth had begun to compete more courageously for this class of books, and when the National Library was in a better position to offer tall figures for really vital acquisitions. It was in 1864, and the struggle for the quartos and a few other prizes was principally between the British Museum, Mr. Huth, and Sir William Tite.
At the present moment the Britwell collection is probably, on the whole, the finest private library in the kingdom; the founder of it was a solicitor in Edinburgh, whose name already meets the eye as a purchaser in 1819, when the Marquis of Blandford's books were sold at White-Knight's, and it passed by bequest to the Christy family, in whose hands it now remains.
Had it not been for Heber and for the bibliophobia which prevailed, when his possessions came to the hammer in 1834, it is doubtful whether Miller of Craigentinny could have achieved the extraordinary coup, which he did by transferring to his own shelves at one swoop the harvest of a lifetime—a lifetime almost dedicated to a single object.
The Huth Library—Special familiarity of the writer with it—Seven influential collectors of our time—The great dispersions of old-established libraries—Althorp—Ashburnham—Johnson of Spalding—List of the other leading collections, which no longer exist.
DURING a long series of years it was my special good fortune to see nearly every week the late Mr. Henry Huth, and to learn from him many particulars of the sources from which he had derived some of his fine and rare books. We made Mr. Huth's acquaintance not long after the enrichment of his library by the sale of George Daniel's collection in 1864; and that, with his very important acquisitions when Mr. Corser died, and his early English poetry came into the market soon after, constituted the backbone or stamina of the new-comer. Mr. Huth did not collect on a large scale during a great length of time; he made his library, or had it made for him, chiefly between 1854, when he bought his first folio Shakespeare at Dunn-Gardner's auction, and 1870. Once or twice his health and spirits failed, and he was always more or less desultory and capricious. We saw him one afternoon, when he shyly mentioned that he had at last taken courage to order home the Mazarin Bible, which Mr. Quaritch had kept two years after giving L2625 for it at the Perkins sale, and then sold to Mr. Huth for L25 profit. He did not show the book to us, for he had not opened the parcel, and confessed that he was rather ashamed of himself. A very curious circumstance was that one of the Rothschilds, who had been nibbling at the copy, called at Quaritch's a day or so later, and was of course vexed to find that he had been anticipated. Huth necessarily bought in every case, like Addington and Locker, at the top of the market, for he waited till the books were shown or sent to him; he never searched for them. Condition governed his choice a good deal; he was fond of Spanish books, his mother having been a Spaniard, and of early German ones, being a German on his father's side. He took the classics and Americana rather hesitatingly, and there is no doubt that the old English literature interested him most powerfully, as it was most fully represented on his shelves. The folio volume of black-letter ballads, knocked down to his agent at the Daniel sale for L750, was regarded by him with special tenderness; but we think that its real history was unknown to him. He was not aware that it was only a selection by Daniel from a much larger number obtained by Thorpe the bookseller from a private source, suspected to have been a person in the employment of the Tollemaches of Helmingham Hall, near Ipswich. Thorpe parted with the bulk to Mr. Heber for L200, and the latter, in sending the vendor the money, declared how conscious he was of his extravagance, and asked whether he had been so fortunate as to secure "the inheritance of the Stationers' Company!"
A far more extensive collection, though of later date, came some years afterward into Mr. Huth's possession; it consisted of three hundred and thirty-four sheet ballads of the Stuart period, which had formed part of a larger lot bought at a house-sale in the West of England for fifty shillings. Some went to the British Museum, some elsewhere; Mr. Huth's share cost him L500!
The Huth catalogue is a disappointing production, owing to the circumstance that a good deal of useful information was suppressed, and the opportunity was not taken, where expense was the least object, to furnish an exhaustive account of the books. It is singular that the Grenville and Chatsworth catalogues were spoiled much in the same way, and that Lord Ashburnham's own privately printed account of his books is a thousandfold inferior to the auctioneer's one.
The Duke of Roxburghe, Mr. Heber, Mr. Grenville, Mr. Daniel, Lord Spencer, Mr. Miller and Mr. Huth were seven personages who exercised on the printed book-market in their time (to say nothing of MSS.) a very notable influence, particularly Heber. One might add the names of Mr. Jolley, Mr. Bright, and Mr. Corser, who severally between 1810 and 1870 made their competition sensible and raised the standard of prices for many classes of old English books. It was said in 1845, when the Bright Library was dispersed, that the advance in realised values led some collectors to relinquish the pursuit. The formation, not only of such a library as that of Heber or Harley, but that of Corser or Daniel or Bright, will be in the future a sheer impossibility from the absence of the means of acquiring in many branches so large a proportion of the rarer desiderata. To gather together a collection of books on an extensive scale may always remain feasible; but the probability seems to be that assemblages of literary property outside mere works of reference will show a tendency to distribute themselves over a more numerous body of owners, including the public repository, which year by year removes a certain body of rare books of all kinds beyond the reach of competition. The Bright episode was to a considerable extent a duel between Mr. Corser and the British Museum. But Mr. Miller and Lord Ashburnham, and (it may be added) Mr. Henry Cunliffe of the Albany, were also in the field; and two years prior, Maitland in his Account of the Early Printed Books at Lambeth, 1843, already takes occasion to animadvert on what he terms the puerile competition for rarities, which had then set in.
Miss Richardson Currer, of Eshton Hall, Craven, Yorkshire, whose extensive and valuable library came to the hammer in 1864, was one of the most distinguished lady-collectors of the century. There is a privately printed catalogue of the books, of which two editions appeared in 1820 and 1833. Miss Currer was a competitor side by side with those already named for a certain proportion of the literary treasures which were in the market in her time. The late Lady Charlotte Schreiber confined herself to a few subjects, of which playing-cards were one; but both these personages have been eclipsed in our immediate day by Mrs. Rylands, who conceived, as a tribute to the memory of a deceased husband, the princely design of founding on the theatre of his commercial success a grand literary monument, of which the Spencer books should be the nucleus and central feature.
One of the greatest surprises of our time in a bookish way was not the sale of the library at Althorp, which had been rumoured as a contingency many years before it occurred, but its transfer by the purchaser to Manchester. We were all rather sorry to learn that the climax had at length been reached; the sacrifice was doubtless a painful one on more than one account; but it was presumably unavoidable, and the noble owner was encouraged by numerous precedents: the fashion for selling had quite set in then. I visited Althorp in 1868 for the purpose of examining some of its treasures. I remember the room, and the corner of it where the largest private collection of Caxtons in the world was kept, and the glass case which enshrined quite a number of Elizabethan rarities. His Lordship mounted a ladder to get me one or two of his Aldines printed on vellum. He showed me a delightful old volume of tracts, bound in a vellum wrapper, some absolutely unique, which his grandfather had bought, and a copy of the romance of Richard Coeur de Lion, 1509, which came out of a poor cottage in Lincolnshire. That former Lord Spencer once did a gentlemanly act in handing Payne the bookseller a bonus of L50, on finding that a volume he had had from him was a Caxton. Alas! the spell is broken. Althorp was its library, and that has left it for ever! Sic transit gloria.
In the wake of the Spencer books have followed those of the late Earl of Ashburnham, whose representative had previously disposed of his father's coins and of some of the MSS. The remainder of the latter still await dispersion or a purchaser en bloc.
The Ashburnham printed books included a considerable number of Caxtons and Wynkyn de Wordes, the St. Albans Chronicle and Book of Hunting, &c., printed at the same place, and many distinguished rarities in the foreign series of ancient typography; but first and foremost the Perkins copy of the Gutenberg or Mazarin Bible on vellum, which realised L4000, being L600 in excess of the figure given by the buyer. There was also the Bible of 1462 on vellum, which fetched L1500.
But the prevalent characteristic of the collection was an ostensible indifference on the part of the nobleman who formed it to condition. There were several fine books and interesting examples of binding; but the absence of any definite plan and of judgment was conspicuous throughout. Circumstances aided the immediate proprietor in his project for converting the property into cash, and the prices reached were, in the cases of the early printed volumes by Caxton and others, simply unprecedented, looking at the sorry state of the copies offered. The catalogue (sooth to speak) was not very carefully or scientifically prepared, and when the important lots were put on the table, the company had, as a rule, some serious deduction to make from the account printed by the auctioneers. The noble vendor did not see anything unbecoming in attendance to note the prices of lots during the earlier stages, and did not disguise his gratification when a book brought a heavy profit. Yet twenty years ago it was almost accounted a disgrace for an ancient family even to part with its heirlooms. In those cases, when want of the money cannot and is not pleaded, the proceeding seems all the stranger and the more discreditable. The late Lord bought at the right time, and his son sold at the right time. The prices realised were not merely high, but outrageous. Yet, after all, prices are a figure of speech and a relative term. To a wealthy Manchester manufacturer a thousand pounds are nothing more than four figures on a piece of paper instead of one or two, and the sole difference between L1000 and L2000 is the substitution of one numeral for another.
It was known, in a few cases, what the noble owner had given for the articles. His Jason, printed by Caxton, cost L87 plus commission, and produced L2100. The Merlin of 1498 was bought for 30 guineas, and realised L760. A little French volume by Jean Maugin, Les Amours de Cupidon et de Psiche, 1546, was carried to L60, having been acquired for half-a-crown. Certain other antecedent quotations were left far behind, as in the Canterbury Tales of 1498, which at Dunn-Gardner's sale in 1854 brought L245, and now went up to L1000, and in the Antonius Andreas of 1486, which was thought worth L231, as probably the earliest volume issued in the City of London.
There was a notable drop in the biddings for the imperfect copies of Chaucer from Caxton's press, and a host of items went for next to nothing, which in an inferior sale would have realised far more. It is ever so; and of course there was half a century's interest on the outlay. Still what an intense pleasure beyond money it had afforded the nobleman who formed it! And let us think, again, to how long a succession of holders the same beautiful or rare book has been a friend and a companion, a source of delight and pride!
It was remarked in the room that the present Earl had enlarged his father's possessions only to the extent of ONE VOLUME (No. 2748), for which he gave L4, and which yielded him L7. He had no right to complain so far.
Concurrently with the Ashburnham episode in 1897, there came upon us all, like a shell, the extraordinary report, which proved too true, not only that the representative of Johnson of Spalding had determined to part with the valuable library preserved in the house since at least the time of the Stuarts, if not of the Tudors, but that Mrs. Johnson had actually called in a local clergyman to select what books he deemed worthy of being sent up to London for sale, and had committed the residue to a local auctioneer. The catalogues were partly distributed before the books were added, and very few booksellers were even aware of the matter, till the sale was over. Not more than three or so, and a few private persons, were present; the volumes were made up in parcels and only one mentioned, and the bidding did not exceed two or three shillings a lot. Supposing 2000 items, comprised in 100 bundles at 3s. each; the grand total would be L15! Blades quotes the library as containing seven Caxtons, and the late Mr. Henry Bradshaw thought it worth while to pay a visit to Spalding to make notes, which he very kindly communicated to us. One of the purchasers at the sale offered me two of his minor acquisitions for L30. Although the library included a proportion of desirable articles, many of the books were esteemed so worthless that the acquirers removed the ex libris, and left the rest behind them!
Some of the Caxtons in the public library at Cambridge have belonged to the Johnson family, and are supposed to have been formerly presented to it by those of Spalding. They were acquired in the earlier half of the reign of Henry VIII. by Martin Johnson at the then current prices—from sixpence to a shilling or so; and a stray or two from the same collection, long prior to the dispersion of 1897, has occurred in the auction-rooms. I have to mention in particular the Spalding Chartulary, sold in 1871. But a few still remained on the old ground, and fortunately five were bound up together in one volume, which was not comprised in the wretched fiasco and anti-climax. This precious collection was offered to Mr. Jacobus Weale, while he was still curator at South Kensington, for L20, and declined, because, as an officer of a public institution, he could not accept it at that price, and was unable to pay the real value. Two, Curia Sapientiae, by Lydgate, and Parvus et Magnus Cato, have since been acquired by the British Museum, with five excessively rare specimens of the press of Wynkyn de Worde. The National Library did not require the Reynard the Fox or the Game of the Chess.
The Spalding case was as unique as some of the books themselves. The owner seems to have been grossly ignorant of their value, as well as wholly indifferent to the property as heirlooms.
Except as a matter of record and history, the collector need not so greatly concern himself with all those libraries which have been scattered, and yet he finds it desirable to refer to the catalogues, if they were publicly sold, in order to trace books from one hand to another, till they return into the market and find a new owner—perhaps himself. One might fill a volume with a list of all the sales which the last forty years have witnessed; but, taking the principal names, let us enumerate:—
Addington Ashburnham Auchinleck (Boswell) Bandinel Beckford Blew Bliss Bolton Corney Collier Corser Cosens Crossley Dunn-Gardner Fountaine Fraser of Lovat Frere Fry Gibson-Craig Halliwell-Phillipps Hamilton Palace Hartley Henry Cunliffe Inglis Ireland Johnson of Spalding Laing Maidment Makellar of Edinburgh Middle Hill Mitford Offor Osterley Park Ouvry Rimbault Sir David Dundas Sir John Fenn Sir John Simeon Singer Stourhead Sunderland Surrenden Syston Park Way William Morris (residue after private sale) Wolfreston
Within these broad lines, which do not include libraries privately acquired by institutions, such as the Dyce, Forster, and Sandars, or by the trade, which is an almost daily incidence, are comprehended a preponderant share of all the important books which have come to the front since the earliest period, of which there is an authentic register.
For we have to recollect that many of the persons whose possessions were dispersed only in our time were buyers a century or more ago, and had from Osborne, at what still appear to our weak minds provokingly low prices, his Harleian bargains. By the way, he kept them a tolerably long time. Did some one help him to find the money, or did he pay it by instalments? Seriously speaking, it was rather a white elephant. One of the most notorious private transactions in the way of sales of books en bloc was that by the Royal Society in 1873 of the printed portion of the Pirkheimer Library, presented to it by Henry Howard, Duke of Norfolk, the first president, and originally purchased by his ancestor, the celebrated Earl of Arundel, in 1636.
The dispersion of the Harleian Library doubtless gave an impetus to the revival in the eighteenth century of a taste for book-collecting; but of course a large proportion of the purchases from Osborne himself was on the part of buyers who parted with their acquisitions, and of whom we have no further record. But the Osterley Park and Ham House collections, the latter still intact, owed many indeed of their greatest treasures to this source. In 1768 Dr. Johnson, who had had a leading hand in the compilation of the Harleian Catalogue, and had so gained a considerable experience of the bearings of the matter, as they were then understood, addressed a long and interesting letter to the King's Librarian on the subject of the public collections of Europe and other bibliographical particulars.
Of the libraries above mentioned, the Sunderland, Syston Park (Sir John Thorold), and Hamilton-Beckford collections owed their chief importance to early typography, editiones principes of the classics, and bindings. Among the Blenheim books were a few miscellaneous rarities in the English class. Of Beckford's volumes many contained his MSS. notes.
The Surrenden (Dering family), Stourhead (Sir Richard Colt-Hoare), and Hartley libraries were historical and topographical. In the Inglis, Dunn-Gardner, and Osterley Park (Earl of Jersey) catalogues we encounter, among a good deal that is more or less commonplace, the rarest ancient typography, poetry, and romances.
We next approach the larger and more important Private Collections of books, which are more or less of a permanent and hereditary character, and which we have to content ourselves with admiring at a distance or otherwise according to circumstances. We cannot enumerate the holders of a few volumes or so up and down the country. The names of which we think are Devonshire, Bute, Bath, Dysart, Bridgewater (Earl of Ellesmere), Britwell, Huth, Aldenham (H. H. Gibbs), and Acton (or Carnegie). The Duke of Fife is believed to possess some curious books inherited from Skene of Skene. The Duke of Northumberland owns a few, and a few are in the possession of Lord Robartes at Llanhydrock, near Bodmin, Lord Aldenham, and Mr. Wynn of Peniarth. All these centres affect the book-collector in one of two ways: in showing him what exists, and in showing him now and then what he is never likely to obtain. For in these repositories there are actually certain things which have never been offered for sale, and of which the most indefatigable research has failed to bring to light other examples. Such is not the case, however, with Lord Acton's library at Aldenham Park, near Bridgnorth. That is a collection made by a scholar for scholars; it is wonderfully extensive and complete in its way, and it were much to be desired that it should be preserved intact. It commercial value is, relatively to its extent, inconsiderable.
The collections at Chatsworth and Devonshire House (including the books of Henry Cavendish and many of those of Thomas Hobbes) principally consist of early printed literature, English and foreign, and old plays; of the latter the Kemble dramatic library formed the nucleus, Payne Collier filling up at the Heber and other sales many important lacunae. The late Duke ill-advisedly engaged a foreign gentleman to compile his catalogue, and the result is most unfortunate. Besides the Henry Cavendish and Hobbes elements, a few very valuable items came from the old library at Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire.
The Althorp heirlooms, now removed to Manchester, have been familiarised by the catalogues of them printed by Dibdin; but there are hundreds of precious volumes which he has overlooked, and of which some account is given in the present writer's Collections from the books themselves. An idea of the Dysart and Britwell libraries is to be gathered from Blades's Caxton, Dibdin's Ames, and Hazlitt's Collections. Of the possessions in this way of the Marquises of Bath and Bute we gain only casual glimpses from the same sources. Payne Collier and Hazlitt have made the Bridgewater House library fairly well known. The Huth one is elsewhere referred to, and of Lord Acton's a sale catalogue of a portion was prepared some years since, as well as a bibliographical account; but the former was suppressed, and the latter remains incomplete and in MS.
Of Lord Aldenham's collection (Early English Literature, Bibles, Classics, MSS., &c.) there is a privately printed catalogue, 1888, and there is also one of the late Mr. Locker-Lampson's literary treasures.
Classification of collections—Origin of the taste for books—Schedule of topics or branches of inquiry—Each separately considered and the authorities cited—Ancient typography—British history and topography—Liturgies—Books of Hours—The Imitatio Christi—Pilgrim's Progress—Books of Emblems—Books of Characters—Books printed before the Great Fire, at Oxford, during the Civil War and Interregnum, &c.—Monastic and patristic writers—English devotional and other books printed abroad—Froschover's Zuerich Bible of 1550—Other Bibles—The French Bible of 1523-28—Minor specialisms.
AS books, in a manuscript or printed shape, are far more numerous and varied than any other species of property, and are also more largely sought for purposes of direct study and instruction, there exists the greater difficulty in attempting to advise collectors as to the line which it is best, wisest, or safest to embrace.
The class of persons who engage in this attractive pursuit are:—
(i) Pure amateurs, without any eye to the financial question. (ii) Specialists of more than a single kind. (iii) Students. (iv) Speculators. (v) Miscellaneous or casual buyers.
The normal amateur starts, in general, without any well-defined scheme before him. He has seen in the hands of a friend, perhaps, a curious book; and the notion takes possession of him, rather stealthily, yet rather languidly too, that it might be a "nice" thing to have oneself—that or such another. The spirit of collecting, like a delicate germ, is at first easily extinguished; but an incident as trivial and fortuitous as the one just suggested has ere now constituted the nucleus and starting-point of a large library. It may, indeed, be a favourable symptom and augury when a man begins circumspectly and deliberately; he is more apt, other circumstances favouring, to prosecute his scheme to the end, and to prove a valuable friend to the trade.
We have mentioned that the Specialist may be of more than one sort. He may, in short, be of ten thousand sorts; and the Student, after all, may be bracketed with him; for both equally devote their exclusive attention to a prescribed class of works or branch of inquiry for a more or less definite term.
The subjects which principally engage the notice of specialists are:—
Ancient Typography (including Xylographic works). English, Scotish, and Irish History. English Topography. English Genealogy and Family History. Liturgies and Prayer-Books. Books of Hours. Bibles. Roman Catholic books. English books printed abroad. Voyages and Travels. Irish Literature. Scotish Literature. Early illustrated books. Modern illustrated books. French illustrated books. Books of Emblems. Books of Engravings. Early English Poetry. Early Romances. Early Music. Spanish Romances. Italian Romances. Dantesque Literature. Cromwell Literature. Civil War and Commonwealth tracts. Editions of the Imitatio Christi. Editions of the Pilgrim's Progress. Occult Literature. Folk-lore. Tobacco. Educational books. Caricatures in book form. Miracles and phenomena. Broadsides. Chap-books.
There is probably not much of consequence to be suggested outside this calendar from which an intending collector may make his choice. Each of the topics indicated is, for the most part, susceptible of being subdivided and subdivided again.
Ancient Typography is not only a large, but a difficult and costly field. It is, notwithstanding, a not unusual circumstance for a beginner, and not a rich one, to start by making himself master of a few examples of our first printers; and this arises from the fact that among the remains in such a line of collecting are pieces of no high interest or character, and copies whose condition does not attract the riper connoisseur. At the same time it arises from the feeling of the period which witnessed the dawn of the art, that a heavy percentage of the output of the printers of all countries amounts to little more than typographical curiosities, which may be substantially possessed in the form of an example of moderate cost. The novice generally selects books and tracts of foreign origin, and of a theological or technical complexion. Perhaps he goes further—even so far as to discard his earlier purchases; perhaps he does not. It is a matter of taste and money. If he does not seek the finest and rarest specimens, especially in the English series, it is not too much to say that L500 spread over a career would suffice to procure one a fair representation in which Fust and Schoeffer, Gutenberg, Mentelin, and Caxton might appear in the form of a leaf—possibly a damaged one. Yet there would be a chronological view in actual originals of the art of printing from the commencement in all countries. We go for our facts on this subject to Panzer, Hain, Brunet, the British Museum Catalogue, &c.
British History and Topography are alike departments which can scarcely be regarded as specialities without questionable fitness. For when we survey the catalogues of those who have professedly restricted their aim to these two ranges, and reflect that all such collections are, by the light of bibliographical authorities, more or less tentative and imperfect, we are brought to the conclusion that there would be, in a thoroughly exhaustive treatment of the matter, less left outside than could be found within. Of the divisions which present themselves above so much is capable of being drawn into the two other series. Numerically an assemblage of ancient and modern books in these classes would be by possibility immense. But the attendant outlay, unless certain signal rarities were included, or it was deemed necessary to comprise all the poetical relics with a historical or a topographical side, ought not to be relatively so high as that on the preceding category, particularly if the acquirer were satisfied here and there with trustworthy reproductions of three-and-four-figure items. From L1000 to L1500 will go a long way in supplying a collection with that qualifying proviso; without it, four times the amount would barely cover you. The Hartley and Phillipps catalogues should be consulted, as well as Upcott and other older authorities.
Liturgies form one of the tastes and objects of pursuit of persons who have left behind them the fancies of their novitiate, and possess the means of purchasing a description of literature which is abnormally costly, and might prove more so, were the buyers more numerous. The editions of the Prayer-Book fall under this section, and are almost innumerable, being tantamount to Annuals, and of many years we possess more than one issue.
The printed Books of Hours might, from their extent, as regards subordinate variations arising from the different uses and occasional changes in portions of the ritual, constitute in themselves a life's study and absorb a fortune. There is great disparity in their typographical and artistic execution, no less than in their commercial value. A tolerably full description of the series occurs in Brunet, Lowndes, Maskell, the British Museum Catalogue, and in those of the principal collectors on these lines. Of those adapted to English or Scotish uses there is an account in Hazlitt's Collections; but we may look in the early future for an exhaustive monograph from the pen of Mr. Jacobus Weale.
The British Museum is singularly rich in editions in all languages of the Imitatio Christi, having enjoyed the recent opportunity of supplying wants from an enormous collection sold by public auction en bloc. The Offor Catalogue is considered an authority on the Pilgrim's Progress and other works of Bunyan; but the National Library contains a large proportion of these books, and the Huth Catalogue and Hazlitt's Collections must not be overlooked.
The authorities just cited, the Corser Catalogue, and the publications of the Holbein Society, will prove useful guides to any one desirous of studying the EMBLEM Series, which was some time since in marked request, but has sustained the customary relapse, and is what booksellers term rather slow just now. Our own literature is not particularly wealthy in these productions; there is nothing of consequence beyond Whitney, Peacham, The Mirror of Majesty, 1618, Wither, Quarles, and Harvey (School of the Heart). But if the collector goes outside the national frontier, he meets with works of this class in even bewildering abundance in regard to number, variety of type and treatment, and degree of artistic and literary merit. Moreover, among the works of this species just enumerated as of national origin, four of the six were more or less heavily indebted to the Continent; the Whitney was printed at Leyden, and Wither, Quarles, and Harvey did little more than write English letterpress to sets of foreign plates.
Books of Characters, of which perhaps Earle's Microcosmography, 1628, is the most familiar, have attracted attention from more than one of our book-fanciers; they constitute a somewhat extensive series, and we gain a fair apercu of it in the catalogue of the library of DR. BLISS, of St. Mary's Hall, Oxford, 1858. It was Bliss who reprinted Earle in 1811, and inserted a bibliography of publications on similar lines.
The above-mentioned gentleman also lent himself to two other paths of collecting: one suggested by local associations, and consisting of works printed at Oxford, the second dealing with those which appeared just prior to the Great Fire of London in 1666.
One of Bliss's Oxford friends, DR. BANDINEL, Bodley's librarian, made it his speciality to bring together as many of the fugitive publications as possible relative to the Civil War Period and the Commonwealth, and MR. JOHN FORSTER did the same. The Bandinel Catalogue, 1861, is an excellent guide on this ground, although it is almost unnecessary to state that it is very incomplete. The best and most exhaustive assemblage of the literature of the Troubles and Interregnum (1640-59) is the descriptive list of the King's pamphlets in the British Museum formed by Thomason the stationer.
The interest and profit attendant on the study of the monastic and patristic writers, who may be said to be less strictly national and more cosmopolitan than those of later schools, are, as a rule, casual and slender for the merely literary consulter or peruser, supposing the rather extreme case, where such a person is sufficiently courageous and robust to engage in anything approaching a serious examination of these families of books. The authors were true enthusiasts, labouring to their lives' last thread in some obscure cell or dim closet, where pride of authorship, as we may feel and enjoy it, there was none, when beyond the walls of a convent or those of a native town their names were unknown, their personality unrecognised. Except to the theologian or ritualist how repellent and illegible this mass of printed and manuscript matter must ever seem! How deficient in human sympathy and pertinence! These treatises, so erudite, so prolix, and so multifarious, were composed by men (Universal, Irrefragable, or Seraphic Doctors), and after a certain date by women too (Angelical Sisters), who had no knowledge of the world, of society, of human nature, or of real philosophy. Yet they were, and long remained, the class of literature most cultivated, most studied, and most multiplied; and to this hour, notwithstanding the destruction of millions of them, they abound in our national, cathedral, and college libraries, and in private collections dedicated to that particular side of inquiry and learning. In the booksellers' catalogues we sometimes meet with examples, which are recommended to the curious buyer by their illustrations of conventual life, and their exposure of those vices which a state of celibacy is calculated to promote in both sexes. The chained book is not an uncommon feature in the ancient ecclesiastical repositories, and even in certain churches; and apart from the Scriptures, it almost invariably enters into the department of early divinity or polemics.