THE BOOK-HUNTER AT HOME.
Of this edition 500 copies have been printed, and 50 upon fine paper.
THE BOOK-HUNTER AT HOME
BY P. B. M. ALLAN
THE SECOND EDITION, REVISED
LONDON PHILIP ALLAN & CO. QUALITY COURT, CHANCERY LANE
PRINTED BY WHITEHEAD BROTHERS, WOLVERHAMPTON.
THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY
TO THE HONOURABLE AND VERTUOUS LADY MISTRESS E. K. A.
It would be churlish indeed were I to send this book into the world without some acknowledgment of the share which you have had in its making. Indeed, I feel that you are chiefly responsible for it: without your encouragement, your active help, your patience with me at all times (at which I marvel constantly), it would never have arrived at completion. Truly it is your name, not mine, that should appear upon the title-page; for although mine may have been the hand that penned the words, certain it is that yours was the mind that guided my pen throughout. It is to your sympathy, your judgment, your excellent taste, that I am indebted for every good thing that I have penned; and where I have put down aught that is trite or insipid, it is due to my own natural obstinacy in refusing, or carelessness in neglecting, to defer the matter to your better judgment. Thus it is only right that whatever praise may be bestowed upon this book should be accorded to you; my shoulders alone must bear the censure of the discerning reader.
I am, Madam, your very dutiful, and loving husband, THE AUTHOR.
In placing this second edition before his fellow book-lovers, the author would like to take the opportunity of thanking the numerous correspondents who have written to him from all parts of the world. In truth book-collecting establishes a bond between its devotees that is effected by no other pursuit.
The first edition was put forth only after much hesitation, and with a good deal of fear and trembling: that a second edition would ever be required was unthinkable. But since the book has so obviously been the means of bringing pleasure to so many, the author feels that it is his duty to bring this second edition 'up to date,' to make it as perfect as his poor skill allows. Accordingly the volume has been revised throughout, a number of additions have been made, both to the text and in the matter of footnotes, and the prices of books have been amended according to present conditions. Three illustrations have been added. QUALITY COURT, July, 1921.
CHAP PAGE I. ADVENTURES AMONG BOOKS 1 II. THE LIBRARY 31 III. BOOKS WHICH FORM THE LIBRARY 58 IV. CHIVALRY AND ROMANCE 84 V. THE CARE OF BOOKS 106 VI. THE CARE OF BOOKS (Continued) 126 VII. BOOKS OF THE COLLECTOR 160 VIII. A PLEA FOR SPECIALISM 194 IX. A PLEA FOR SPECIALISM (Continued) 230 INDEX 267
THE BOOK-HUNTER AT HOME frontispiece THE PERON page 96 THE HALL OF THE KNIGHTS " 104 THE HOME-MADE LIBRARY " 128
ADVENTURES AMONG BOOKS
'Thou shalt make castels thanne in Spayne.'
IT is a sad truth that bargains are met with more frequently in our youth than in our age. The sophist may argue that age begets philosophy, and that philosophy contemns all worldly things; yet certain it is that the book-hunter, one of the most philosophical of beings, remains on the look-out for bargains to the very end of his career. Nevertheless, it is a fact that in youth alone do we make those great bargains which lay the foundations of our careers as book-hunters.
It is this sad truth which fosters in most of us the belief that we live in a decadent age, and that the days of our youth were infinitely more seemly than those which we now endure. But it is we who have changed: the bargains are still there, and may still be had at the cost of youthful energy and enthusiasm.
'Ah, but you can't get the bargains nowadays that you could when I was a young man,' says the elderly bookseller, with a knowing shake of his head. Can't you! Then mankind must have changed strangely since the period of this sage's youth. Bargains, and rich ones too, in everything that is bought and sold, are made every day and will continue to be made so long as human nature endures, bargains in books no less among them.
The rich finds of which the aged bookseller dreams are bargains only in the light of present-day prices. As a matter of fact, the great majority of them were not really bargains at all. He may bitterly lament having parted with a copy of the first edition of the 'Compleat Angler,' in the 'sixties for twenty guineas, but he overlooks the fact that that was then its market value. Had he asked a thousand pounds for it, his sanity would certainly have been open to question. 'Why, when I was a boy,' he says, 'you could buy first editions of Shelley, Keats, or Scott for pence.' Precisely: which was their current value; by no stretch of the imagination can they be considered bargains. His business is, and has always been, to buy and sell; not to hoard books on the chance that they will become valuable 'some day.' Neither can it be urged that 'people' (by which he means collectors) 'did not know so much about books fifty years ago.' Collectors know, and have ever known, all that they need for the acquisition of their particular desiderata. If they were ignorant of the prices which volumes common in their day would realise at some future period, why, so were the dealers and every one else concerned! Judging by analogy, we have every reason to believe that many volumes which we come across almost daily on the bookstalls, marked, perhaps, a few pence, will be fought for one day across the auction-room table.
The chief reason why the elderly bookseller no longer comes across these advantageous purchases is that he has passed the age (though he does not know it) at which bargains are to be had. But bargains are not encountered, they are made. It is the youthful vigour and enthusiasm of the young collector, prompting him into the byways and alleys of book-land, that bring bargains to his shelves.
So, if you are young and enthusiastic, and not to be deterred by a series of wild-goose chases, happy indeed will be your lot. For over the post-prandial pipe you will be able to hand such and such a treasure to your admiring fellow-spirit, saying: 'This I picked up for n-pence in Camden Town; this one cost me x-shillings at Poynder's in Reading: Iredale of Torquay let me have this for a florin; I found this on the floor in a corner of Commin's shop at Bournemouth; this was on David's stall at Cambridge, and I nearly lost it to the fat don of King's'; and so on and so on.
Bargains, forsooth! Our book-hunter was once outbid at Sotheby's for a scarce volume which he found, a week later, on a barrow in Clerkenwell for fourpence! The same year he picked up for ten shillings, in London, an early sixteenth-century folio, rubricated and with illuminated initials. It was as fresh as when it issued from the press, and in the original oak and pig-skin binding. He failed to trace the work in any of the bibliographies, nor could the British Museum help him to locate another copy. David's stall at Cambridge once yielded to him a scarce Defoe tract for sixpence. But this being, as Master Pepys said, 'an idle rogueish book,' he sold it to a bookseller for two pounds, 'that it might not stand in the list of books, nor among them, to disgrace them, if it should be found.' A copy has recently fetched twenty guineas.
Doubtless every bibliophile is perpetually on the look-out for treasures, and it is essential that he learn, early in his career, to make up his mind at once concerning an out-of-the-way book. He who hesitates is lost, and this is doubly true of the book-collector. More than once in his early days of collecting has our book-hunter hesitated and finally left a book, only to dash back—perhaps a few hours later, perhaps next day—and find it gone.
Once upon a time a spotlessly clean little square octavo volume of Terence, printed in italics, caught his eye upon a bookstall. One shilling was its ransom, but it was not the price that deterred him so much as the fact that every available nook and corner of his sanctum was already filled to overflowing with books. 'A nice clean copy of an early-printed book,' he mused. But early-printed books were not in his line—then; had they been in those early days of book-hunting, his library would have been slow indeed of growth. So he passed on and left it.
All that evening the memory of the little square volume would keep recurring most absurdly. He didn't want it, it was not in his line, he would never read it, and so on and so on. But over his pipe that evening the colophon '. . . . studio & impensis Philippi de Giunta florentini . . ., 1505,' came back to his memory; he must have been mad not to have bought it at that price, and such a fine copy too. And so to bed, sorely harassed in his bibliophilic mind.
Next morning he awoke sane and conscious of his folly. An early visit to the bookstall followed, but the little volume had gone; and it was not comforting to learn that it had been sold shortly after our bookman saw it, to a man who 'knew a lot about that kind of books.' Let us hope that the purchaser treasures the little square volume, printed in italics, as much as our friend would.
What poignant memories they are, these memories of rare books which we have found and failed to secure! Two prominent instances of our bookman's folly stand out with bitter clearness, ever fresh in his memory as a reminder of the criminal stupidity of procrastination. One was an exceedingly scarce work by Lawrence Humphrey, entitled 'Optimates sive De Nobilitate eiusque Antiqua Origine,' printed in small octavo at Basle in 1560, which he once saw in a catalogue for five shillings. He sent for it three days after the receipt of the catalogue, and of course it had gone. The other was an unknown, or at least undescribed, edition of Osorio's 'De Gloria et Nobilitate,' printed at Barcelona in the early part of the sixteenth century. He lost this in the same manner, at two shillings! Perhaps, however, you too have been guilty of these lapses, reader? Semel insanivimus omnes. Experience is better than advice, and for his part our book-hunter will not be caught napping again. The following incident will show you, moreover, that it is not always safe to order books from a catalogue even by return of post.
For many years he had searched in vain for that rarest of all English heraldry books (though not properly English, for it is in the Latin tongue), the 'De Studio Militari, Libri Quatuor' of Master Nicholas Upton. It was edited by Sir Edward Bysshe, and printed in folio at London in 1654. The numerous booksellers in London and the country from whom he sought it had never seen it; indeed, most of them were unaware of its existence, though it is well known to all heralds.
At length, coming home late one night, our book-hunter found on his table a catalogue from a bookseller who seems to garner more out-of-the-way books than any of his fellows. His catalogues are issued very frequently, for he has a large and quick sale, pricing most of his wares at less than five shillings. Moreover, the fact that the books described therein are thrown together without any attempt at classification, even alphabetical, serves but to add a zest to the repast. But our book-hunter was tired, and his evil star was in the ascendant, for he went to bed leaving the catalogue unopened.
Reading it over a late breakfast next morning, upon the last page he came across the following entry:—
Uptoni (Nich.) De Studio Militari. Johan de Bado Aureo, Tractatus de Armis. Henrici Spelmanni Aspilogia. Folio, calf. Scarce. 8s. 6d.
Scarce, indeed! In less than five minutes he was driving hot-haste to the shop.
Of course it was sold: sold by telegram dispatched the night before. He was allowed to see it, even to handle it, and he frankly confesses that murderous thoughts rose within him as he held it in his hands. . . . The bookseller was an old man . . . the shop was very dark . . . just a push, and perhaps one firm application super caput of a large-paper copy of Camden's 'Britannia' which lay handy upon the table. . . . But I am glad to say that our bookman's better nature prevailed, and sorrowfully he returned the volume to the dealer's hands. Did he know the customer, and if so would he try to buy it back? Certainly he would. A week later came a letter saying that the customer was also a collector of these things, but that he was willing to part with it 'at a price.' Unfortunately his price was not our book-hunter's, and he failed to secure the treasure—then.
Now comes the more pleasant sequel. About a year later, coming home in the small hours from a dance, our bookman found a catalogue from this same bookseller on his table. Although tired out, his previous bitter experience had taught him a lesson; so pulling up a chair before the remains of the fire he proceeded to skim through the catalogue. He had reached the last page, and was already beginning to nod, when suddenly his weariness vanished in a flash: he was wide awake and on his feet in an instant, for his eyes had met the same entry that had thrilled him a year ago. This time it was described as 'very scarce,' and the price was considerably enhanced; but he had his coat on and was in the street almost immediately.
The nearest telegraph office likely to be open at such an hour was a mile away, and it was a miserable night, snowing and blowing; but no weather would have deterred him. So the telegram was safely dispatched, and he returned to bed, pinning a notice on the bedroom door to the effect that he was to be called, without fail, at seven o'clock.
That night he was obsessed by Uptons of all shapes and sizes. Some he beheld with agony, cut down by the ruthless binder to duodecimo size; others there were no larger than Pickering's Diamond Classics; some (on his chest) were of a size which I can only describe as 'Atlas,' or, perhaps more appropriately, 'Elephant Folio,' large-paper copies with hideous margins.
Next morning our bookman was at the shop betimes. Yes! his wire had arrived; Upton was his at last! Should the dealer send it for him by carrier? Carrier, forsooth! As well entrust the Koh-i-noor to a messenger boy. Of course it was the same copy that our friend had missed previously, the owner having sold his books en bloc in the meantime.
Why Upton is so scarce it is hard to say; perhaps very few copies were printed, or perhaps a fire at the printer's destroyed most of them. Certain it is that the premises of James Allestry and Roger Norton, who published the book, were both burnt in the great fire twelve years after its publication. Besides the two copies in the British Museum, there are examples of it in several of the ancient libraries throughout the kingdom; but it is very rarely indeed to be met with in the London salerooms. Dallaway mentions two copies as being, in 1793, in the library of Lord Carlisle at Naworth; and probably there are examples in some of the libraries of our older nobility. There would seem to be copies, also, in France; for several writers upon chivalry, such as La Roque and Sainte Marie, make mention of it. The writer bought a portion of it, some forty-eight pages, a few years ago for four shillings. But take heart, brother bibliophile; it is quite possible that you may unearth a copy some day—if indeed the book be in your line—long buried in the dust of some old country bookshop.
Upton died in 1457, and his work was so popular that numerous copies of the manuscript were made. The treatise on coat-armour, or 'cootarmuris,' as it is quaintly spelt, which comprises the third part of the 'Book of Saint Albans' (first printed in 1486), is, for the greater part, a literal translation of the second half of the fourth book of the 'De Studio Militari' as printed by Bysshe. Ames, in his 'Typographical Antiquities,' asserts that Upton's work was reprinted from the St. Albans book in folio, 1496, 'with the King's Arms and Caxton's mark printed in red ink.' But he gives no authority for his assertion, and it seems doubtful whether such a volume ever existed. At all events there does not appear to be any trace of such a book beyond this mention, and Herbert, editing Ames, omitted the whole passage. Hain, probably copying Ames, calls this supposititious work 'De Re Heraldica,' and states that it was printed at Westminster in 1496 'Anglice.' So much for worthy Master Nicholas, Canon of Salisbury and protege of the 'good duke Humfrey.'
There is a curious phenomenon of not infrequent occurrence among book-collectors, and that is the enforced acquisition of certain volumes solely by means of the passive persuasion of their presence. In other words, it is possible to bully the bibliophile into purchasing a book merely by obtruding it continually before his gaze, till at length its very presence becomes a source of annoyance to him. To escape from this incubus he purchases the volume.
In nine cases out of ten, books so acquired never attain the same status as their fellow-volumes. They are invariably assigned either to the lowest or topmost shelves of the library, and are, in fact, pariahs. Their owner did not really want them, and he can never quite forgive their presence on his shelves. Generally their stay in any one home is not a long one, for they are weeded out at the first opportunity, and find no permanent rest until they come finally to that ultimate goal of books, the paper mills. I confess that in my early days of collecting this phenomenon was of not infrequent occurrence, being associated, probably, with the indecision of youth. And in this connection a bookseller once told me an interesting story.
A certain young man of the working class, on his way to work every day, used to pass a bookstall situated in a narrow alley. Every day he glanced at the books, and as custom was scanty he would notice what books were sold and with what works the bookseller filled the empty places on the shelves. In this way all of the books which the young man had first noticed gradually disappeared, with one exception. This was a volume bound in calf, containing some rather curious poems, and no one seemed to want it. At length, after some weeks, the young man could stand it no longer. He approached the bookseller, and for sixpence the volume became his.
The verses seemed to him rather poor, though one entitled 'Hans Carvel' amused him rather. The title-page bore the date 1707, and he wondered who was the 'E. Curll at the Peacock without Temple-Bar,' for whom the work was printed. Some time afterwards he read in the newspaper that a certain book had been sold for a large sum because of a misprint in it. This set him wondering . . . 'at the Peacock without Temple-Bar . . .' Temple-Bar without a peacock he could imagine: surely this was a misprint! Perhaps the book was valuable, and others had not 'spotted' the error!
And now he bethought him of an acquaintance who kept a bookshop in the West End of the town, a man who knew a lot about old books. He would take it to him and ask his advice. So, one Saturday afternoon he carried his 'treasure' to the shop in question. Inside, an elderly man was examining a calf-bound volume.
'. . . the first authentic edition, seventeen hundred and nine,' he was saying.
The young man glanced at the volume under discussion, and as a page was turned he caught sight of the heading 'Hans Carvel.' Good gracious; this volume was the same as his! Just then the elderly man looked up, and the young fellow handed his volume to the bookseller, saying: 'Here's another one, same as that, but mine's got something wrong on the front page.'
The bookseller opened the newcomer's volume, looked at the title-page, and handed it without a word to his customer, who took it with a look of surprise.
'Something wrong?' said he, 'why, bless me, what's this—1707—that rascal Curll's edition—where did you get this?'
The young man told him, adding that he gave sixpence for it.
'Sixpence, did you?' said the connoisseur; 'well, I'll give you six guineas for it': which he did, there and then.
It was a copy of the rare 'pirated' collection of his poems, published without Matt Prior's knowledge, some two years before the first authentic edition appeared. Some years later, when the elderly collector died, this volume came to the saleroom with the rest of his books. It realised forty pounds! So much for the ugly duckling.
What an absorbing topic is that of 'lost books'! There is a fascination about the subject that every bibliophile must have experienced. 'Hope springs eternal in the human breast,' and it is impossible to read of books long lost without making a mental note of their titles in the hope that some day we may come across them. Perhaps it is these memories, pigeon-holed in our mind, that add a zest to anticipation whenever we go book-hunting on our travels. But alas! the reward for the bibliophile's hope in this direction is rare as the blossoming of the aloe.
It is curious to think of the thousands of books that have completely disappeared. Nowadays the Act which assures the preservation in our greater libraries of every book published in this country will doubtless prevent the disappearance of a good many English books of lesser importance, such as school books and other works that are quickly superseded. But before the passing of this Act there was nothing to prevent an unpopular or useless work from becoming extinct, and vast numbers must have disappeared in this country alone. There are many books, however, important books even, and books which we know to have been immensely popular in their day, of which so much as a glimpse has been denied us. The 1606 octavo of 'The Passionate Pilgrim,' the first issue of John Barclay's satirical romance 'Euphormionis Lusinini Satyricon,' published at London in 1603, the 'Famous Historie of the Vertuous and Godly Woman Judith,' London, 1565 (of which a title-page has been preserved), what would not every book-collector give for copies of these?
Then there are such early-printed works as Caxton's translation of the Metamorphoses of Ovid, probably published by him about 1480, 'The Life of St. Margaret' (known by three leaves preserved in the Bodleian), the 'goste of guido' or Ghost of Guy, and the Epitaph of the King of Scotland, all printed by Pynson, as well as that mysterious volume ycleped 'The Nigramansir,' said to be by John Skelton the poet-laureate who lived under five kings and died in 1529. Many of Skelton's works, perhaps even the majority of his writings, are known to us by title and hearsay alone; but who shall say that his 'Speculum Principis,' or 'the Commedy Achademios callyd by name,' which he himself mentions, are lost beyond all hope of recovery? 'The Nigramansir' was actually seen by Thomas Warton, the poet-laureate, in the 'fifties of the eighteenth century, and is described by him in some detail. His account is so interesting that it deserves quoting.
'I cannot quit Skelton,' he writes, 'without restoring to the public notice a play, or MORALITY, written by him, not recited in any catalogue of his works, or annals of English typography; and, I believe, at present totally unknown to the antiquarians in this sort of literature. It is, The NIGRAMANSIR, a morall ENTERLUDE and a pithie written by Maister SKELTON laureate and plaid before the king and other estatys at Woodstock on Palme Sunday. It was printed by Wynkin de Worde in a thin quarto, in the year 1504.'
Against this Warton makes the following note: 'My lamented friend Mr. William Collins . . . . shewed me this piece at Chichester, not many months before his death (Collins died in 1759), and he pointed it out as a very rare and valuable curiosity. He intended to write the History of the Restoration of Learning under Leo the Tenth, and with a view to that design had collected many scarce books. Some few of these fell into my hands at his death. The rest, among which, I suppose, was this Interlude, were dispersed.'
Warton then goes on to describe the book in detail, and this circumstance, together with the fact that he quotes one of the stage directions ('enter Balsebub with a Berde') seems to point to the fact that he actually had the volume in his hands. It concerned the trial of Simony and Avarice, with the Devil as Judge. 'The characters are a Necromancer or Conjurer, the Devil, a Notary Public, Simonie, and Philargyria or Avarice. . . . There is no sort of propriety in calling this play the Necromancer: for the only business and use of this character is to open the subject in a long prologue.' Unfortunately there is no other mention of this interesting work, and of recent years its very existence has been doubted.
'It was at Chichester,' wrote Hazlitt, '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.' Mr. Gordon Duff, in his 'English Provincial Printers,' mentions seventeen books described by Herbert at the end of the eighteenth century, of which no copies are now known to exist. Another rare volume is known to have existed about the same time. A copy, the only one known, of 'The Fabulous Tales of Esope the Phrygian' by Robert Henryson, published at London in 1577, was formerly in the library of Syon College; for it is included in Reading's catalogue of that college library, compiled in 1724. But its whereabouts is now unknown. Fortunately in this case a later edition has survived.
Another mysterious volume is the treatise concerning Elizabeth Barton, the Maid of Kent, who was burnt at Tyburn in 1534. Cranmer, describing her story to a friend, writes: 'and a boke (was) written of all the hole storie thereof, and putt into prynte, which euer syns that tyme hath byn comonly sold and goone abrod amongs all people.' From the confession of John Skot, the printer of this work, at the trial, it seems that seven hundred copies were printed; but no copy is now known to exist.
Other works there are as yet unseen by bibliographer, such as Markham's 'Thyrsis and Daphne,' a poem printed in 1593, and the 1609 and 1612 quartos of Ben Jonson's 'Epicoene or the Silent Woman.' This last was seen by William Gifford a century ago, but neither is now known to exist. Or is a copy extant of Horace's 'Art of Poetry' english'd by Jonson and published so late as 1640. Alas! the list of works by 'rare Ben Jonson' now lost to us, it is feared, for ever, is quite a lengthy one. Who has seen the original issue of 'Gude and Godlie Ballatis,' printed at Edinburgh in 1546? Of this book it has been said that, after the Bible, it did more for the spread of Reformation doctrines in Scotland than any other volume; so presumably a fairly large edition was printed.
That the editions of some of these early-printed books, now with us no more, were of considerable size may be judged from contemporary evidence of their widespread popularity. Speaking of the 'Morte d'Arthur,' Mr. E. G. Duff remarks: 'Of the popularity of the book we have striking evidence. Of Caxton's edition two copies are known, of which one is imperfect. The second edition, printed by Wynkin de Worde in 1498, is known from one copy only, which is imperfect; while the third edition, also printed by de Worde is, again, only known from one imperfect copy. It may well be, considering these facts, that there were other intervening editions which have entirely disappeared.'
Of the thirteen early editions of Shakespeare's 'Venus and Adonis' only twenty-two copies have so far been traced. Yet if each of these editions comprised only 250 copies, the tale of survivors is not large out of a total of 3,250. 'Printers and publishers . . . strained their resources to satisfy the demands of eager purchasers,' remarks Sir Sidney Lee; so presumably the estimate of 250 per edition is a conservative one.
Where are these volumes now? It is difficult to believe they have been utterly destroyed, leaf by leaf, so that no vestige of them any longer exists. Surely they will turn up at an auction sale some day, for they may well be safely ensconced, at this very moment, on the shelves of some neglected country library. Mr. Duff himself records the discovery recently of a copy of Caxton's 'Speculum,' 'amongst some rubbish in the offices of a solicitor at Birkenhead.'
What a vast number of books there is, also, of which only one copy is known to exist. Of the early editions of Shakespeare's plays alone, more than a dozen are known by solitary examples. Of such books Hazlitt remarks that he 'has met in the course of a lengthened career with treasures which would make a small library, and has beheld no duplicates.' Probably many of these incognita and rarissima perished in the great fire of London; others again met their fate solely through their own popularity, being 'thumbed' to pieces. In 1494 Pynson thought well enough to reprint Caxton's 'Book of Good Manners'; but of this once popular book one copy only—that which was formerly in the Amherst Library—now survives.
Then there is that ancient romance of European popularity 'The four Sons of Aymon.' One of the great cycle of Charlemagne romances, such was its popularity that by the end of the thirteenth century it had penetrated even to Iceland. Many and various were the editions that issued from the early presses. Caxton printed it about 1489, but of this thick quarto impression one imperfect copy only has survived. A second edition, as we learn from the colophon of the third edition, was 'imprinted at London by Wynken de Worde, the viii daye of Maye, and the year of our lorde M.CCCCC. iiii'; but a solitary leaf, discovered in the binding of an ancient book, is the sole representative of an edition that ran probably into several hundreds.
In the case of some at least of these early books there is another reason for their disappearance and scarcity. Stephen Vaughan, the indefatigable agent of Mr. Secretary Cromwell, writing to his master from Antwerp, mentions that he is 'muche desirous t'atteyne the knowlage of the Frenche tonge,' but that he is unable to obtain a copy of the only primer which he knows to exist. This volume, called 'L'Esclarcissement de la Langue Francoyse,' was 'compose par Maistre Jehan Palsgraue, Angloys, natyf de Londres et gradue de Paris,' and was printed by Pynson, though it was finished and published by Hawkins in 1530.
Palsgrave, the author, seems to have been determined that his book should not fall into the hands of other teachers of French (he was 'scolemaster' to the Princess Mary, sister of Henry VIII., in 1513, at a stipend of L6 13s. 4d.); and although Vaughan writes that he 'made not a letle labour to Mr. Palsgrave to have one of his books,' yet 'in no wise he wolde graunt for no price.' So Vaughan entreats Thomas Cromwell to obtain a copy for him, 'not doubtyng but though he unkyndly denyd me one, he will not denye youe one.'
Apparently Palsgrave had entered into some kind of arrangement with the printer, for Vaughan writes that he 'hathe willed Pynson to sell none of them to any other person than to suche as he shall comaunde to have them, lest his proffit by teching the Frenche tonge myght be mynished by the sale of the same to suche persons as, besids hym, wern disposed to studye the sayd tongue.'
From this premise it is easy to understand why 'L'Esclarcissement' is such a rare book. Very few copies indeed are known to exist. Yet one cannot help wondering what became of the copies that had not been disposed of at the author's death. Possibly a very small number was printed, and perhaps 'Johan Haukyns,' faithful to his pact, destroyed those on hand. That the book was in high esteem may be gathered from the fact that, in spite of his rebuff, Vaughan says: 'If I had one, I wolde no less exteme it then a Jewell.' The letter ends with a delightful burst of ingenuousness. 'Syr, I remember Mr. Palsgrave gave youe one of his books, which if it please you to geve me I wer muche bounde to youe.' Whether he obtained a copy in the end history does not relate; but if our book-hunter is ever so fortunate as to come across one, like Vaughan he will certainly 'no less exteme it then a Jewell.'
Very many, indeed the vast majority, of the popular jest-books which appeared in such numbers during Queen Elizabeth's reign are now lost to us. Some are known by later quotation of their titles, others by later editions, such as 'The Life of Long Meg of Westminster,' 'A Lytle and Bryefe Treatyse called the Defence of Women,' etc. But these were small volumes of few pages, and were doubtless considered as little worthy of preservation as is the modern 'penny dreadful.' 'But, when we consider how very many of these early books have come down to our time only in single copies or even fragments out of an edition of some hundreds, it is only natural to suppose that a great number must have utterly disappeared.'
It is not for want of enterprise that so many of these books have not so far been recovered. The smaller and more remote towns, even villages, of these islands and the Continent have been, and are being, ransacked by dealers as well as collectors. The number of works hitherto undescribed that has been brought to light during the last sixty years must be considerable; and one still hears every now and then of some rich trover that has been unearthed. In 1887 a small octavo manuscript volume, in a worn brown binding, was offered at the end of a sale at Sotheby's. It had stood, for how long no man knows, on the shelf of a small parish library in Suffolk; and it was offered for sale 'presumably as being unreadable to country folk, and capable of being turned into hard cash wherewith a few works of fiction might be purchased.' Acquired by the Bodleian Library for L6, it proved, by perhaps one of the most romantic chains of evidence ever attached to a book, to be the favourite devotional volume and constant companion of Saint Margaret, Queen of Scotland, who died in 1093. It was not until 1905 that the original quarto edition (1594) of Shakespeare's 'Titus Andronicus' was known to exist, when a copy was discovered and sold for L2000.
Books travel far afield. At the dissolution of the monasteries the rich libraries that many of them possessed were scattered far and wide. One of these religious houses was famed for its rich store of books; and that the report was not exaggerated we know from its ancient library catalogue, still extant. In this case some of the books were taken by the inmates with them into exile in Flanders; and when the small community migrated thence to Portugal, the precious tomes were carried reverently with them. A fire at their convent in 1651 destroyed a large number of the volumes, and when some of the nuns returned to England in 1809 they brought the remaining books with them. Some were sold, but three cases of these ancient books were sent back to the nuns who stayed behind in Portugal, and of these cases two were lost in transit.
London, however, has always been the centre of book production in this country, and it is there that any existing copies of these forgotten books are most likely to re-appear. Was not a priceless manuscript, a Household Book of the Black Prince, discovered only a few years ago in the office of a city lawyer? Once, in the course of his rambles by the bookstalls of the Farringdon Road, our book-hunter caught a glimpse of an old box almost covered by books and prints on one of the stalls. Being unearthed, it proved to be a veritable gem of a trunk, about two feet by one, and nine inches deep. It had a convex lid, and was covered with shaggy horsehide, bound with heavily studded leather. The proprietor stated that he had found it in a cellar, full of old books, most of which had already been sold (his listener promptly pictured Caxtons among them); and he was amused to think that any one could be so foolish as to offer him two shillings for such a dirty old box. However, it was carried home in triumph, regardless of the great interest shown by fellow-travellers in the train. A year or two ago the same vender produced a similar trunk, rather larger, which was full of ancient deeds relating to property in Clerkenwell. These he sold for a shilling or two shillings apiece, according to size and seals. The box was larger than our bookman wanted, but apparently it soon found a purchaser.
Surely such instances must be common in this great city, and many a trunk must yet linger in cellars and attics in the old parts of the town. Not many years ago our book-hunter chanced to visit an ancient house at the end of a small court off Fleet Street. Inside, it seemed to be entirely lined with oak planking, and it was occupied, or at least that part into which he penetrated was, by a printer in a small way of business. The staircase was magnificent, of massive coal-black oak; and when our book-hunter remarked upon it, the printer informed him he had discovered that the house had once been the town residence of a famous bishop of Tudor times. How the occupant discovered this fact our bookman does not remember; possibly the house is well known to antiquaries, and the occupier may have read about it or have been told by the previous tenant. But it is also within the bounds of possibility that he unearthed some deed or papers relating to the premises. It is strange, too, that one of the few letters of this bishop which have been preserved refers to books. 'Ye promised unto me, long agone,' he writes to Secretary Cromwell, 'the Triumphes of Petrarche in the Ytalion tonge. I hartely pray you at this tyme by this beyrer, . . . to sende me the said Boke with some other at your deuotion; and especially, if it please you, the boke called Cortigiano in Ytalion.'
There must be many such houses still extant in London, and who knows what there may be in their long-disused attics? Hidden away in the darkness beneath their tiles, between joists and under the eaves, it is possible that books till now unknown to us, by sight at least, may still exist. Or who has explored the lumber accumulated in many a disused cellar within a quarter of a mile of the Mansion House? The very existence of the trunks which we have mentioned proves that such things do still linger in the nooks and crannies of this great city.
And I would not confine my surmise in this direction to London alone. Two ancient libraries there are, one in the North Countrie, the other in the West, that to my certain knowledge have never been explored by modern bibliographer. The latter is spurned and neglected, the books are deep in dust and even mildew; the former is also neglected, but at least the house is inhabited. The owner, an old, old woman, will never permit of any volume being disturbed. It is said that her father collected the books many years ago, and that she still guards them jealously for him.
Perhaps one day a copy of the 'Nigramansir' will emerge from its long sleep in some such house as these. Indeed, it is not so much a matter of surprise that such books should have disappeared, as that they should have remained hidden for so long. In 1909 an ancient volume was accidentally discovered in an old manor-house in the North of England, where it had lain undisturbed for generations. It proved to consist of no less than five of Caxton's publications bound up together. Moreover, it was in the original binding, and was bound, probably, by one of Caxton's workmen, whose initials it bore. On being put up for sale at Sotheby's, it changed hands at L2,600.
The account which Gairdner gives in the Introduction to his last edition of the Paston letters, of the loss and rediscovery of those historic documents, is also a striking example of the manner in which books may lie hidden for years. For nearly a century the originals of Sir John Fenn's compilation were utterly lost. 'Even Mr. Serjeant Frere who edited the fifth volume . . . declared that he had not been able to find the originals of that volume any more than those of the others. Strange to say, however, the originals of that volume were in his house all the time. . . .' Gairdner then applied to the owner of Roydon Hall for the remainder of the manuscripts, but received answer 'that he did not see how such MSS. should have found their way to Roydon.' Yet there they were discovered (with many others) eight years later! Even then the whereabouts of the letters forming Fenn's first and second volumes, which he had presented in 1787 to King George III., was still unknown. 'The late Prince Consort . . . caused a careful search to be made for them, but it proved quite ineffectual.' No wonder, for in 1889 they came to light in a Suffolk manor-house!
It is difficult to portray in words the sensations of the book-collector when engaged in searching some ancient building or library—especially if he be upon a 'hot scent.' The thrills that he experiences as he handles some rich volume that has lain hid for years, the delicious excitement that pervades him while exploring some huge charter chest or ancient oaken press, these are feelings not to be described in words. 'It was discovered in the library at such and such a place,' we read, and we barely stop to picture the scene of its finding or to imagine the sensations of its finder. The very finding at Syon by 'Master Richard Sutton, Esq.,' of the manuscript containing the 'revelacions' of St. Katherin of Siena, from which de Worde printed his edition, conjures up a whole romance in itself; yet in his eulogy of the work Wynkyn dismisses the matter briefly, merely stating that it was found 'in a corner by itself.' 'We were shipwrecked,' says the mariner, relating his adventures; and in those three words what a world of incident and sensations is comprised!
Our book-hunter confesses frankly to having had much good luck in book collecting. Some years ago he made up his mind to start collecting Elzeviers, more with the intention of gathering a representative collection of books printed by that great family of printers than with any idea of specialising in them. Probably he was urged thereto by reading that wholly delightful book 'The Library' by Andrew Lang, wherein the author discourses so pleasantly on these rare pygmies of the book world. 'The Pastissier Francois,' we read, 'has lately fetched L600 at a sale'; and the 'Caesar' of 1635 seemed nearly as rare, provided it were a copy of that impression wherein the 149th page is misprinted '153.' A little later our bookman was dipping, for the n-th time, into that bibliophile's bible 'The Book Hunter,' by John Hill Burton, whose opinion of the Caesar seemed even higher, for he devotes nearly half a page to the little volume which Brunet describes as 'une des plus jolies et plus rares de la collection des Elsevier.'
That decided our friend. He would collect Elzeviers. Moreover, he would continue to collect them until he had acquired both the 'Pastissier Francois' and the 1635 'Caesar.' Such was the confidence of youth! So he sallied forth straight away, determined to ransack the nooks and corners of certain shops of his acquaintance.
He didn't find the 'Pastissier Francois' that afternoon, but he found the 1635 'Caesar' in Charing Cross Road for two shillings. Moreover, it had the requisite misprint and certain other distinctions which proclaim it to be of the rare impression, and it is no less than 126 millimetres in height! He has not yet come across the Pastissier, but doubtless he will find a copy one day, provided his luck holds good.
The little 'Pastissier' is a far more interesting volume than the 'Caesar.' The latter is a dainty book, beautifully printed upon fine paper, with folding maps and plans of castramentation. The 'Pastissier,' on the other hand, is a disappointing little book in appearance, for it is but indifferently printed upon poor paper. It cannot even claim the merit of originality, being merely a pirated reprint of a volume that appeared in Paris some two years previously. But it is very, very rare, and it has been celebrated by many distinguished pens.
'"Monsieur," said I, "pray forgive me if my question seems impertinent, but are you extremely fond of eggs?"'
Such were the words with which Alexandre Dumas first addressed Charles Nodier, the famous dramatist and bibliophile, whom he found sitting next to him at the Theatre Porte-Saint-Martin. Dumas' curiosity as to the little volume that was engrossing his neighbour's attention more than the play was at length allayed, and it was a view of the title-page that prompted his unusual question. Looking over his neighbour's shoulder, he read, opposite the engraved frontispiece, as follows:—
But Nodier was far from being the gourmet that Dumas supposed him to be. He was merely a bookhunter devouring a rare 'find'; and the little book, he explained to Dumas, was one of those tiny volumes published in the seventeenth century by the house of the Elzeviers at Leyden and Amsterdam; and of all the many productions of that press, this was the most sought for by collectors.
Elzeviers, however, are no longer fashionable, in this country at least. The Caesar might possibly bring five pounds if it came to the notice of an Elzevier specialist, but I doubt it. Only the Pastissier has retained its exalted price, probably on account of its notoriety. A copy, in modern calf binding, sold recently (1917) at Sotheby's for so much as L130; but Lord Vernon's copy, choicely bound by Cape, realised only L70 at the Sudbury sale in June 1918. However, it was a poor copy and much cut down.
Railway-trains, among other things, have killed Elzeviers. Nothing could be more convenient for saddle-bag or knapsack, or the restricted luggage which one could stow in the boot of a coach. But who makes a practice nowadays of putting books into his suit-case or gladstone-bag? Besides, before the advent of railways, there was not the same facility for distributing books, and one might travel many leagues and visit many villages without coming to a place where there would be a bookshop. In travelling nowadays one is continually in the presence of cheap books.
The fate of the little Pastissier was probably that of many popular books. There must have been thousands of copies of it printed. Dumas, in that delightful chapter of 'Mes Memoires' which we have just quoted, makes Nodier say, 'Techener declares that there were five thousand five hundred copies issued, and I maintain that there were more than ten thousand printed'; and he goes on to declare that 'there are probably only ten examples of it left in Europe.' Willems, however, in his bibliography of the Elzeviers published in 1880, enumerates some thirty copies, and states that the highest price yet paid for the Pastissier was 10,000 francs. But that was for a quite exceptional copy. From 4,500 francs to 5,500 francs seems to have been the average value of the book in Willems' time, and, enthusiast as he is, he hesitates not to describe it as a 'bouquin insignifiant et mediocrement imprime.'
Its scarcity at the present day is, perhaps, not surprising; for, from the very nature of its contents, its habitat must always have been the kitchen rather than the library. How long would such a tiny volume, with its 130 thin paper leaves, bear the rough and greasy handling of chefs and 'pastissiers'? Book-shelves are rare in kitchens, and the little book must have been continually moved from pillar to post. Besides, it is unlikely that copies for kitchen use would be strongly bound in morocco. The very printing and paper of the book sufficiently indicate the use to which its producers at least expected it to be put. So the little 'French pastrycook' gradually disappeared. Those for whose benefit it had been written would soon learn its secrets by heart and confide them verbally to their apprentices; and it would not be long ere the tattered and greasy booklet found its way into the dustbin.
Of all the rarae aves sought by book-collectors this little volume is perhaps the most widely known. That copies may still exist in this country is shown to be possible by the fact (recorded by Willems) that one was sold at an auction in Belfast. Another was found at Brighton, and occasionally one appears in the London salerooms, as we have shown. It requires little imagination to picture merchants and travellers, whose paths led through the Low Countries at that time, slipping copies into their pockets or holsters for use in the household across the water. Many a courtly exile during the Protectorate, glancing through the bookshops of Amsterdam, must have chanced upon the little volume as a gift for wife or daughter.
Numbers, also, must have found their way to France. Some years ago our book-hunter happened to stay at an ancient hostel in Rouen. From the outside the building was everything that could possibly be desired by bibliophile or antiquary. It was situated in one of those quaint narrow back streets that lead towards the Place Henri Quatre; and the courtyard was so small as scarcely to allow a baker's cart to turn round in it. Like many of the houses in this ancient town, its crookedness was such that it seemed impossible for it to remain standing much longer. Misgivings arose within him as he ascended the staircase, which seemed to sway as he avoided the broken treads. But the sight of the bedroom he was to occupy, furnished with such furniture and such a bed, all spotlessly clean and polished, sent him into the seventh heaven of delight. Here he could read and write undisturbed for as long as he chose to stay. Surely pleasant surprises must be in store for one in every way in such surroundings as these!
It was not long before he got one.
'Will Monsieur require anything to be cooked for him to-night?' inquired the trim hostess.
It was rather late and our bookman was disinclined to seek a restaurant. Besides, he was anxious to explore his lodging before it got too dark. An omelette would be delicious, provided she could make one properly.
'Eggs, perhaps, and tea, with bread and butter'—could she turn the eggs into an omelette?
'Why certainly,' with a merry laugh, 'of course—I can prepare eggs in more than sixty ways.'
To say that our book-hunter started would be to put it mildly. A certain title-page instantly rose before his eyes. There was only one way in which anybody could possibly learn to cook eggs in sixty different ways, and that was by studying the 'Pastissier Francois.' Without the slightest doubt the hostess possessed a copy, and he was at last to look upon the tiny volume that he had sought for so long. But as she seemed so proud of her achievement, could she be induced to part with the precious tome? These and many other kindred thoughts passed rapidly through his mind as he repeated slowly 'en plus de soixante facons?'
She laughed again. Ah yes, but she couldn't repeat them d'abord, she would have to refer to her book.
He had difficulty in controlling his voice sufficiently to inquire what her book was.
Oh, it was just a little book which her mother had given her, a little book of la cuisine. Could he see it? Why certainly, but it could not possibly interest monsieur, it was only a common little book, and dirty.
Ah, as usual it would be soiled, perhaps badly, for it was evidently still in constant use; but so long as it were complete one might possibly be able to clean it. What delightful thoughts and anticipations passed through his mind as the hostess slowly descended the rickety stairs to fetch her treasure! At last he had found it, and just in the very sort of house and town where he had always expected to come across it. Well, well, if you make up your mind to have a thing and search eagerly enough for it, you are bound to obtain it in the long run.
Then another thought entered his mind: how much should he offer her for it? Probably she would not part with it unless he named a sum which she could not resist; yet if the sum were at all large she might suspect the book's value and refuse. Ten francs, twenty-five, a hundred? While he was deliberating this important point she was ascending the stairs. Should he turn his back to her, shut his eyes, and tell her to place the volume on the middle of the table, then suddenly turn about and gloat upon the little treasure?
Before he could make up his mind she came in and he got his second surprise that day. It was not as pleasant as the first, for in her hands she held a thick octavo volume bound in shiny black leather. Heavens! . . . a large-paper copy? . . . No, no, impossible. . . .
'Le voici, m'sieu.'
Our poor book-hunter's feelings almost overcame him, and he opened the dirty manuscript volume mechanically, feebly muttering 'tres interessant.' She watched him closely, and from that moment considered him slightly mad. However, the book certainly did contain sixty-two recipes for cooking eggs as well as receipts for making fancy pastry and cakes. Whether it was copied out of the 'Pastissier' I know not; but certain it is that the hostess had no knowledge of, nor had ever seen, that volume.
There must be many book-treasures lying hid in all these ancient towns of Northern France, towns also that lie far off the restless tourist's track, small country towns in which the majority of the houses are slipshod timbered relics of a bygone age. No striking or unusual feature can they offer to the curious, and so for the most part they are dismissed in brief by the guide book. Yet there is many an aged building in Brittany where old books do still lie hid, as our bookman knows from the library of a friend who lives in Finisterre. St. Brieuc, Guingamp, Morlaix, Quimper, even Brest, all these must harbour long-forgotten books.
But there are other towns which no power on earth shall force our book-hunter to disclose. One there is far off the beaten track, where the houses, painted with bright colours, lean all askew, supporting each other and sometimes almost toppling across the narrow winding streets. So that, entering it, one seems to have stepped suddenly into some such fairy town as exists in the pages of Grimm or Hans Andersen; and, half ashamed, one peers curiously at the dwellers in this goblin town, as though expecting to find that they have pointed ears and narrow elfin feet. They never seem to move about, and, sitting at almost every doorstep, watch one intently from weird nooks and crannies. Hurry and bustle are here unknown, and though they will reply to you in the best of French, yet to each other the townsfolk speak a strange and uncouth tongue.
Once, rambling in the narrow alleys about the ancient church, our book-hunter ventured through a gothic doorway along a broad passage that was guarded by a huge and ancient iron grille and presently he found himself in a small courtyard paved with moss-grown cobbles. About it was a timbered gallery, roofed, once doubtless level, now gently and gracefully undulating so that it seemed about to fall from off the wall to which it was attached. But the walls had also subsided with the gallery, so that the whole still showed a symmetry that was pleasing to the eye. Above the gallery and across the front of the building had been painted the legend HOTEL DU LION D'OR, and a dim weatherbeaten shield above the doorway still bore the trace of a rampant lion. It seemed a large building, judging by the number of its windows, far larger than its present-day custom could possibly warrant.
The place was curiously still, for the noise of carts and footsteps could never penetrate into that silent court, and it must have been many years since chaise or horseman clattered across its now mossy pave. The stillness was almost uncanny, forbidding, and our book-hunter hesitated to cross the courtyard lest the sound of his footsteps should disturb the slumber of the ancient building. Presently a rat squealed somewhere along the gallery, and a voice called out sharply within. The spell was broken, and entering the house he called for a 'petit verre' preparatory to finding out something of the inn's history.
Yes, it was very old, and madame had been born in it; but now that she was left alone with Jeanne it was very lonely, and there was little custom. Did they have many travellers there? Oh no, not for a long time, the house was not easy to find, and as the old customers died none came to fill their places. But sometimes Messieurs So and So came in of an evening and took a 'petit verre,' and then the neighbours were very friendly, so it was not so bad.
So the hostess prattled on, only too pleased to impart the news of her little world to a newcomer from the greater one, while all the time fantastic visions rose before him. He pictured old hide-bound trunks that had been left behind by travellers who had never returned, trunks which, opened, would prove to contain priceless black-letter books: boxes, stored in attics and cellars and in concealed presses, which would contain ancient apparel with copies of the 'Pastissier' in the pockets: small travelling bags, tendered by needy scholars in lieu of payment, which he would find stuffed with rare Elzeviers: rusty iron-bound chests enclosing missals, books of hours and antiphonals: in short to such heights did his imagination soar that he resolved to sojourn there till he had explored the old house from attic to cellar.
Then a rat squealed again, near at hand. Oh yes, they were everywhere, ever since Monsieur Gautier rented the left wing of the house to store grain in; and they were so tame and so large that Madame was obliged to keep miou-miou in her bedroom every night.
That decided our book-hunter. Enthusiasm can be carried too far. Even the possibilities of a rich trover would not compensate for having rats running about one's bed at night. Moreover the vermin would surely have gnawed, if not devoured, any copies of the 'Pastissier' that might have been lying about, even if these were innocent of bacon-grease stains. And so consoling himself, he took another 'petit verre' and departed, casting more than one regretful glance backwards at the old Lion d'Or.
 Apparently there is only one copy of Upton's work in the United States at present—that which was formerly in the Huth Library. It was purchased at Sotheby's in July, 1920, by a well-known New York dealer, Mr. G. D. Smith, for ten guineas, the writer of these lines being the underbidder. Mr. Smith had sent "an unlimited commission" to secure it. An announcement in The Bookman's Journal (1920) asking for information respecting other copies elicited but one response.
Since writing the above, the author has secured the splendid presentation copy given by Upton's editor (Bysshe) to the great Parliamentary leader, Sir Humphrey Mackworth, of Neath, in Glamorganshire. It had remained at Glen Uske until the dispersal of the Mackworth Library in 1920.
 No. 16096. See page 164.
 Possibly the title was Nigromanser, from niger, black, and manser, a bastard.
 The perfect copy was purchased by Mr. Pierpont Morgan at the sale of the Hoe Library, in 1911, for L8,560. It formed originally one of the twenty-two Caxtons which were dispersed in 1698 with the library of Dr. Francis Bernard, Physician to King James the Second, when it realised two and tenpence! It became the property of the great Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, and was acquired later by the Countess of Jersey for two and a half guineas. Passing thus into the Osterley Park collection, it was purchased, when that library was sold in 1885, by Bernard Quaritch for L1,950, becoming the property, the same year, of Mrs. Abby E. Pope, of Brooklyn, U.S.A.
 By Edward More of Hambledon, Bucks.
 Mr. E. G. Duff.
 For this romantic story see Books in Manuscript, by Mr. Falconer Madan, 8vo, 1893, p. 107 et seq.
 Book-collectors always speak of The Farringdon Road; why, I know not, but the definite article certainly gives it an old-world tang.
 Alas for romance! Truth compels me to add that as the Great Fire swept across this very court, the existing house must date at earliest from King Charles' reign. But the site and tradition as to its former owner may well be true.
 The Courtier, by Baldassare Castiglione, was first printed at Venice in 1528, folio. This letter was written by the fearless churchman, then of Wolsey's household, on the great Cardinal's 'last lingering journey north.' There is, perhaps, a certain significance in his wish to study a volume which treats of the art of living in courts, and of becoming useful and agreeable to princes, for he was shortly to transfer his services to a royal master.
 At the sale of Baron Seilliere's books in 1887, a copy of this prototype of the Elzevier volume, printed at Paris 'chez Jean Gaillard,' 1653, brought only L6, 10s. It was described as 'a beautiful copy, red morocco, super extra, gilt edges, by Petit.' It is exceedingly rare, but—it is not an Elzevier.
 A recent (1920) catalogue offers a copy for thirty-five shillings.
 I confess that I do, but then I am hopelessly out of date, or I shouldn't be fond of Elzeviers.
'Unto their lodgings then his guestes he riddes: Where when all drownd in deadly sleepe he findes, He to his studie goes.'—SPENSER.
WHAT magic there is for the book-lover in that word 'library'! Does it not instantly conjure up a vision of happy solitude, a peaceful seclusion where we may lie hidden from our fellow-creatures, an absence of idle chatter to distract our thoughts, and countless books about us on either hand? No man with any pretensions to learning can possibly fail to be impressed when he enters an ancient library, older perhaps by generations than the art of printing itself.
'With awe, around these silent walks I tread, These are the lasting mansions of the dead: "The dead!" methinks a thousand tongues reply, "These are the tombs of such as cannot die!" Crowned with eternal fame, they sit sublime, And laugh at all the little strife of time.'
They are delicious retreats, abodes of seasoned thought and peaceful meditation, these ancient homes of books. 'I no sooner come into the library,' wrote Heinz, that great literary counsellor of the Elzeviers, 'than I bolt the door, excluding Lust, Ambition, Avarice, and all such vices, whose nurse is Idleness, the mother of Ignorance and Melancholy. In the very lap of Eternity, among so many divine souls, I take my seat with so lofty a spirit and sweet content, that I pity all great men and rich to whom this happiness is unknown.'
Happy indeed are those days when the book-lover has been accorded the freedom of some ancient library. A delicious feeling of tranquillity pervades him as he selects some nook and settles himself to read. Presently the mood takes him to explore, and he wanders about from case to case, now taking down some plump folio and glancing at the title-page and type, now counting the engravings of another and collating it in his mind, now comparing the condition of a third with the copy which he has at home, now searching through the text of some small duodecimo to see whether it contains the usual blanks or colophon. But presently he will chance upon some tome whose appeal is irresistible. So he retires with it to his nook, and is soon absorbed once more with that tranquillity which is better than great riches.
Dearly, however, though we may treasure the benefits and conveniences which these libraries of ancient foundation afford, for most of us there is another library that is nearer to our hearts; that cosy chamber with which we are accustomed to associate warmth, comfort, soft chairs and footrests, a wide writing-table that we may pile high with books, with scribbling-paper, foolscap and marking-slips in plenty. In short, a room so far removed from earthly cares and noise, that the dim occasional sounds of the outside world serve but to accentuate our absolute possession of ease. Here we may labour undisturbed though surrounded by a thousand friends. Or, if the mood take us, we may abandon ourselves to idle meditation
'Where glowing embers through the room Teach light to counterfeit a gloom,'
and, lying back at our ease, may gaze contentedly upon the faithful companions of our crowded solitude, gathering inspiration from their silent sympathy.
Each to his taste. Whether we be student, book-hunter, librarian, or precentor, no earthly abode can be compared with that garden of our choice wherein we labour so contentedly. It may be a small room in our own house, it may be an ancient university or college library, but it is all one: it is a library, that haven of refuge from our worldly cares, where troubles are forgotten and sorrows lightened by the gently persuasive experience of the wise men that have gone before us.
But, mark you, it must be literally removed from cares and noise, for it is impossible to study at all deeply while exposed to interruption. How terribly most of us have suffered from this form of mental torture, for it is little else! What trains of lucid thought, what word-pictures have been destroyed by thoughtless breakings of the chain of sequence! 'I have never known persons who exposed themselves for years to constant interruption who did not muddle away their intellects by it at last,' wrote Miss Florence Nightingale. Hamerton, quoting her, is equally emphatic upon this point.
'If,' he writes, 'you are reading in the daytime in a house where there are women and children, or where people can fasten upon you for pottering details of business, you may be sure that you will not be able to get to the end of the passage without in some way or other being rudely awakened from your dream, and suddenly brought back into the common world. The loss intellectually is greater than any one who had not suffered from it could imagine. People think that an interruption is merely the unhooking of an electric chain, and that the current will flow, when the chain is hooked on again, just as it did before. To the intellectual and imaginative student an interruption is not that; it is the destruction of a picture.'
Who has not suffered from the idle chatter, or even worse—the lowered voice, that often assails the ear when working in our larger public libraries? Some innocent-looking individual will be reading quietly some paces away, so quietly and decorously in fact that one's heart goes out to him as a sympathetic fellow-bookman. Then enters some one whom he knows. In a flash he becomes a fiend incarnate. A word or two of greeting spoken in an ordinary voice one would pardon; but a long conversation is carried on in a monotonous forced undertone, terrible in its intensity. It is impossible to read so long as the conversation lasts, and murder surges in one's heart. O for the power to drop ten atlas folios in a pile upon their heads! People do not realise the carrying power of a strained and lowered voice. Generally the volume of sound is the same as when speaking aloud, for the tone is merely lowered and the same amount of breath is used. But often more force is required to vibrate the slackened vocal chords, and the maddening sound reaches to every corner of the building.
In the Reading Room of the British Museum one is constantly aware of this buzzing going on all over the room. Would that the rule enforced at one of our older monasteries were applied: 'In the Chafynghowys al brethren schal speke latyn or els keep silence.' This would indeed ensure quietness nowadays. The rule for nuns, however (who, presumably, were not so well acquainted with Latin) would be better still. They were not to speak at all.
So, if it be possible, see to it that your library, study, sanctum, or whatever you may call that one room in the house which is sacred to the daughters of Mnemosyne, is really your own: that it be a close closet to which you (and you alone) may retire at all seasons, certain in the knowledge that by closing the door you may shut out effectually all earthly cares and interruptions. Whether you are engaged in research merely for the gratification of your desire to possess knowledge, or whether literary production be your aim, unless you may study undisturbed your labours will never bear their full fruit. Interrupted, your knowledge will be scanty, diverse, and generally inapplicable, your literary output sketchy, incoherent, and disconnected.
Perhaps it is this incubus of interruption that drives so many men to working late at night. Doubtless those whose habit it is to work at that season produce just as good work in those hours as at any other time; possibly better, for habit may have accustomed them to put forth their finest intellectual efforts at that time of day. But the mind that has been brought up to rise at seven and go to bed at ten, is undoubtedly at its best before noon. Night working is not a natural tendency, it is an acquired habit; and though the expression 'burning the midnight oil' is taken to be synonymous with the acquisition of learning, yet in the long run it is but a poor economy of time, for the wisdom so acquired is often obtained at the cost of health and eyesight.
And what is freedom from interruption but another name for solitude? It may be temporary, it may be prolonged, it may be permanent, but for the intellectual man it is absolutely essential. No one would be so foolish as to deny that literary work of the highest rank can be, and has been frequently, accomplished amid the bustle and noise of cities; witness the works of those literary giants who have passed their lives as town-dwellers. Doubtless they obtained the necessary solitude by spiritual detachment. But on the other hand, for intense and prolonged meditation, for the communing with one's innermost soul on the immense principles of life and nature, for the production of such deep soul-searching work as we see in the compositions of a Kempis, Dante, Milton, and Wordsworth, absolute solitude for some seasons is essential. There must be complete freedom from the daily distractions caused by one's fellow-beings.
'Believe me, upon my own experience,' wrote St. Bernard, 'you will find more in the woods than in books; the forests and rocks will teach you what you cannot learn of the greatest masters.' It is not necessary, however, for us to take up our abode in a cave that we may meditate undisturbed. Let us rather follow Wordsworth's example when he pours forth gratitude
'For my own peaceful lot and happy choice; A choice that from the passions of the world Withdrew, and fixed me in a still retreat; Sheltered, but not to social duties lost, Secluded, but not buried; and with song Cheering my days, and with industrious thought; With the ever-welcome company of books; With virtuous friendship's soul-sustaining aid, And with the blessings of domestic love.'
It is sufficient if we can withdraw at will into the solitudes. The younger Pliny, moralising to his friend Minutius (I should like to think him the progenitor of Aldo Manuccio), describes the delights of seclusion at his villa on the shore of the Adriatic. 'At such a season,' says he, in a retrospect of the day's work, 'one is apt to reflect how much of my life has been lost in trifles! At least it is a reflection that frequently comes across me at Laurentum, after I have been employing myself in my studies, or even in the necessary care of the animal machine; for the body must be repaired and supported if we would preserve the mind in all its vigour. In that peaceful retreat I neither hear nor speak anything of which I have occasion to repent. I suffer none to repeat to me the whispers of malice; nor do I censure any man, unless myself, when I am dissatisfied with my compositions. There I live undisturbed by rumour, and free from the anxious solicitudes of hope or fear, conversing only with myself and my books. True and genuine life! Pleasing and honourable repose! More, perhaps, to be desired than the noblest employments! Thou solemn lea and solitary shore, best and most retired scene for contemplation, with how many noble thoughts have you inspired me! Snatch then, my friend, as I have, the first occasion of leaving the noisy town with all its very empty pursuits, and devote your days to study, or even resign them to ease. For, as my ingenious friend Attilius pleasantly said, 'It is better to do nothing than to be doing nothings!''
The great Cardinal Ximenes, in the zenith of his power, built with his own hands a hut in a thick unfrequented wood, where he could retire occasionally from the busy world. Here he used to pass a few days, every now and then, in meditation and study. These he was wont to describe as the happiest days of his life, and declared that he would willingly exchange all his dignities for his hut in the chestnut wood. Thomas Aquinas, coming to visit the learned Bonaventura, asked him to point out the books which he used in his studies. The monk led him into his cell and showed him a few common volumes upon his table. Thomas explained that the books he wished to see were those from which the learned master drew so many wonders. Thereupon Bonaventura showed him a small oratory. 'There,' he said, 'are my books; that is the principal book from which I draw all that I teach and write.'
To the thoughtless and those of shallow intellect solitude is inseparable from loneliness. There is, for them, something terrible in the thought of being debarred, even temporarily, from the society of their fellow-beings. 'Retirement,' says Disraeli, 'to the frivolous is a vast desert; to the man of genius it is the enchanted garden of Armida.' And for 'man of genius' I would substitute 'man of literary pursuits.'
There is a pleasant story told of a monk who lived in the monastery of St. Honorat, which is situated on one of the Lerine Islands, off the coast of Provence. Possessed of a mind which, in the larger world, would indubitably have become an influence in the artistic progress of mankind, he found the sole outlet for its expression in the painting of those exquisite miniatures which are at once the delight and the despair of a more modern age. But it was not in the scriptorium nor was it in the bestiaries or the examples of his predecessors that he acquired his art. Every year, in the spring and autumn, he would go alone to one of the delicious islands of Hyeres, where there was a small hermitage. Here he would spend the weeks, not altogether in prayer and fasting, but in making friends with the birds and small animals that resorted there; studying their gestures, plumage, and colours, that he might reproduce them faithfully on the vellum of his missals and devotional books. Surely he learnt more on this deserted island than was possible at that time in the richest library in France.
There is another kind of solitude, however, which can afford consolation to the soul as deep and as lasting as that afforded by the woods, the hills, the moors, the islands, those
'Waste And solitary places; where we taste The pleasure of believing what we see Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be'—
and that is, the solitude engendered by a deep communion with books. For, if our paths lie amid the toil and turmoil of the world, and if it be impossible for us to seek seclusion amid the wastes, where else than in a library can we obtain that mental solitude so necessary for the nourishing of our literary spirit?
Roger Ascham, sick at heart with long parting from his beloved books, writes to Sir William Cecil from Brussels in 1553, to beg that 'libertie to lern, and leysor to wryte,' which his beloved Cambridge alone could afford him. 'I do wel perceyve,' he says, 'their is no soch quietnesse in England, nor pleasur in strange contres, as even in S. Jons Colledg, to kepe company with the Bible, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, and Tullie.' And he goes on to say, 'Thus I, first by myn own natur, . . . lastly caulled by quietnesse, thought it good to couche myself in Cambridge ageyn.'
Yet although we may seek solitude among our books, how far removed are we from being really alone! 'A man is never less alone than when he is alone,' said the noble Scipio; and this is especially true of the book-lover. What bibliophile does not prefer the companionship of his books to that of all other friends? What friends so steadfast, so reliable in their friendship, so helpful in our difficulties, so apt upon all occasions, as the books which form our library? They are never elated at our mistakes, they are never 'superior' when we display ignorance. Human friendships are limited; but to the number of our most intimate acquaintances in cloth, vellum, and morocco, there is no end.
It is this universal sympathy afforded by our books that makes our sanctum such a delicious retreat. Here we need never be bored, for we can put aside the tedious or insipid at will, and turn to whatever subject or companion our fancy indicates. We are not bound to talk with persons or on themes that have no interest for us. There is no clashing of ideas, and complete harmony reigns amid our comfort.
To the man of literary tastes there are few things more depressing than the conversations of 'small-talk' which an exacting society occasionally demands. Who has not suffered from their enervating effects? We are not all possessed of that mental abstraction which La Fontaine succeeded in carrying with him throughout life, forming a buffer from which all idle talk rebounded. He was once asked to dinner by a 'fermier-general' to amuse the guests. Thoroughly bored, La Fontaine ate much and said little, and rising very early from the table said that he had to go to the Academy. 'Oh,' said his host, 'but you are much too early for it.' 'Oh well,' replied Jean, 'I shall go the longest way to it.' Poor Jean was really very absent-minded. He had a son whom he confided at the age of fourteen to a friend to educate. Not having seen the youth for a long time, he met him one day at the house of a savant without knowing him. Afterwards he happened to mention that he thought him a youth of wit and taste. Some one told him that the lad was his own son. 'Is he indeed,' said Jean, 'well I'm very glad to hear it.'
There is no end to the delightful hobbies that we may cultivate in a library. Here we may go fishing or whaling, fighting battles or exploring new countries, tracing pedigrees or going on crusade, cutting our way through virgin forests or filling herbaceous borders in our mind, or we may even descend into the pyramid of Cheops.
Our book-hunter has a friend whose hobby takes the form of tracing the parentage and posterity of men who lived long years ago. They are mostly unknown to fame, and their names are only to be found in ancient peerages and suchlike books. Whether they were good or bad, religious or wicked, useful to their country or indifferent, handsome or ugly, is immaterial to him. In some cases they founded families that have endured, in others they perished with all their kindred within a century of the Norman Conquest. But to our genealogist they are very living people. He is intimately acquainted with the most of them, no less than with their wives and children, their fathers and grandfathers, their uncles and their aunts. As to the personal characteristics of Reginald Fitz-Ranulf lord of Bosham Castle in Com. Ebor, or his deeds or memorable actions (if, indeed, he ever perpetrated any) this student is unable to enlighten us. But that his wife was called Gunnora and that she was a daughter and co-heir of Richard de Tourville, he is quite positive. Apparently they had two sons, Fulk and Waleran, but our friend is strongly of opinion that Hamon FitzReginald (who had a moiety of the manor of Worthleys and was co-parcener with Payn FitzGeoffrey lord of Buncombe) was really a son of Reginald by a former wife.
The memory of this eager student is little short of marvellous. He can remember not only names and marriages, but at least several of the families which owned any manor that you like to mention. He would certainly have put to the blush Pierre d'Hozier, the great French genealogist whose memory was so wonderful that it was said he must surely have been present at all the marriages and baptisms in Christendom!
The library of this genealogist is a most interesting room. Many of the books necessary for his researches are of folio size and must be ready to hand; so they are ranged round the apartment at the level of one's waist. On entering the room one is struck by this belt of massive volumes, the more so when their owner takes them up casually and turns to page after page without ever troubling to refer to the index.
An evening spent with him is quite exciting. He asks the book-hunter's assistance over a knotty point. Several huge sheets of paper are laid upon the table, and each step in the pedigree is debated graphically. Volume after volume is referred to. At the slightest hitch out come Patent Rolls, Close Rolls, Fine Rolls, Pipe Rolls, and records of almost every description. Presently the room has the appearance of having been struck by a tornado. Volumes are lying about everywhere, and in every conceivable position. The floor is covered with them, all the chairs are in use, three Patent Rolls are lying open and face downwards on the mantelpiece, there are several on the hearthrug. In fact it is now impossible to move. Yet our host, accustomed to these things, in his search for a volume jumps from spot to spot with the agility of an antelope. The book-shelves are half-emptied, some of the remaining volumes have fallen down. My coffee cup lies on a pile composed of Rotuli Hundredorum, a Placita Abbreviatio, and a Testa de Nevil. But it is good fun, if exhausting, and a sovereign cure for insomnia. Our book-hunter usually leaves him about one o'clock in the morning, and the genealogist is genuinely sorry when he goes.
But to tell the truth our bookman is not a bit the wiser as to Reginald FitzRanulf!
One day friend Brown (for so he is called) came to see the book-hunter in great distress. He had but lately become a parent, and was still slightly excited about it.
''Pon my word,' said he, 'I don't know what to do. You know how proud I am of my family, and how I hoped all along that it would be a boy so that I could give it the name that generations of my ancestors possessed. And now Mary says she won't hear of it.'
The bookman sympathised with him, but asked what was the proposed name.
'Turchetil,' said he; 'they were all called that for generations. But of course the name wasn't Brown then, Le Brun was the family name in the twelfth century.'
'A fine lofty name,' replied his friend, 'but wouldn't Turchetil Brown sound rather funny nowadays?'
'I don't see why,' said he stiffly; 'they're both good old names.'
The bookman assented, though inwardly he could not but agree with Mrs. Brown. Turchetil Le Brun was one thing, and Turchetil Brown quite another. Perhaps, however, a compromise might be reached.
'Is there no other ancient name in your family that would do?' he suggested.
'Yes,' said the genealogist, 'there are two others, but not so good as Turchetil. They are Baldric and Bigod . . .'
Truly the study of genealogy has its disadvantages. There must have been great bitterness in the Brown household before its mistress obtained her own way, and even more in the heart of our poor friend as he stood at the font and heard his firstborn son irrevocably named—George.
Another friend and brother collector with whom our book-hunter sometimes passes an evening is a medical man of no small talent. But attached as he is to his profession, archaeology is for ever striving with medicine for the first place in his affections, and his knowledge of herbals and the literature of alchemy is immense. His collection of works dealing with these subjects is well known to the booksellers, and the book-hunter sometimes receives a line from him asking him to pay a visit for the purpose of examining some recently acquired treasure.
Of late his hobby has taken a curious turn. A chance conversation induced him to inquire into the death of Queen Anne. He professed to discover, in the accounts of her demise, certain symptoms which indicated a different disease from that usually assigned to her. So now he must needs hold an inquest upon the death of each one of our sovereigns, from the time of King William the Conqueror. He is exceedingly enthusiastic about it, and is preparing a paper to read before the local antiquarian society. In this he hopes to prove conclusively the impossibility of lampreys having had any share in the death of Henry the First, which was clearly due to appendicitis.
Sometimes when the book-hunter visited his medical friend he would find another collector there already, deep in bookish or scientific talk. Like the doctor, the biologist was a specialist in books no less than in science, and his hobby comprised a field till recent times untilled. Keen though he was in his pursuit, it was the sea that claimed his every day of leisure. An active mind, eager in the elucidation of the more abstruse problems of physiology, yet his alert bearing, his quickness of movement and springy step, spoke more of the quarterdeck than the laboratory. Denied the sea as a profession, his heart was for ever in ships; and when at length preferment took him inland to one of the ancient seats of learning, the ordered training of his mind turned his hobby towards the history and evolution of all craft that sail upon the waters.
He is a great authority upon all matters pertaining to the rigging of mediaeval ships. The history of their hulls he leaves to the attention of the important societies of nautical research. But on the evolution of the sky-topsail or fore-top-gallant-backstays his word carries much weight. He will travel a hundred miles in a week-end to see an illumination or carving of a ship, and his vacations he spends touring France and Flanders in search of stained glass windows that may throw some light upon his hobby. His collection of seals incised with ancient ships is a fine one, and the proceedings of more than one society are the richer for his researches.
Not long ago I came across another example of the manifold uses to which a private library can be put. A friend had given me a letter of introduction to a collector with whom he desired me to become acquainted. I was given to understand that the fellow-spirit was an exceedingly well-read man, and something of a wanderer.