The Great Book-Collectors
By Charles Isaac Elton
Author of 'Origins of English History' 'The Career of Columbus,' etc.
& Mary Augusta Elton
Kegan Paul, Trench, Truebner & Co., Ltd.
CHAPTER I. CLASSICAL 1
CHAPTER II. IRELAND—NORTHUMBRIA 13
CHAPTER III. ENGLAND 27
CHAPTER IV. ITALY—THE AGE OF PETRARCH 41
CHAPTER V. OXFORD—DUKE HUMPHREY'S BOOKS—THE LIBRARY OF THE VALOIS 53
CHAPTER VI. ITALY—THE RENAISSANCE 63
CHAPTER VII. ITALIAN CITIES—OLYMPIA MORATA—URBINO—THE BOOKS OF CORVINUS 76
CHAPTER VIII. GERMANY—FLANDERS—BURGUNDY—ENGLAND 87
CHAPTER IX. FRANCE: EARLY BOOKMEN—ROYAL COLLECTORS 99
CHAPTER X. THE OLD ROYAL LIBRARY—FAIRFAX—COTTON—HARLEY—THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE 111
CHAPTER XI. BODLEY—DIGBY—LAUD—SELDEN—ASHMOLE 124
CHAPTER XII. GROLIER AND HIS SUCCESSORS 139
CHAPTER XIII. LATER COLLECTORS: FRANCE—ITALY—SPAIN 158
CHAPTER XIV. DE THOU—PINELLI—PEIRESC 169
CHAPTER XV. FRENCH COLLECTORS—NAUDE TO RENOUARD 183
CHAPTER XVI. LATER ENGLISH COLLECTORS 202
List of Illustrations
PORTRAIT OF PEIRESC Frontispiece (From an engraving by Claude Mellan.)
INITIAL LETTER FROM THE 'GOSPELS OF ST. CUTHBERT' 18
SEAL OF RICHARD DE BURY 38
PORTRAIT OF THE DUKE OF BEDFORD PRAYING BEFORE ST. GEORGE 59 (From the Book of Hours commonly known as the 'Bedford Missal.')
PORTRAIT OF MAGLIABECCHI 74 (From an engraving in the British Museum.)
BINDING EXECUTED FOR QUEEN ELIZABETH 112 (English jeweller's-work on a cover of red velvet. From a copy of 'Meditationum Christianarum Libellus,' Lyons, 1570, in the British Museum.)
PORTRAIT OF SIR ROBERT COTTON 117 (From an engraving by R. White after C. Jonson.)
PORTRAIT OF SIR THOMAS BODLEY 126 (From an engraving in the British Museum.)
BINDING EXECUTED FOR GROLIER 141 (From a copy of Silius Italicus, Venice, 1523, in the British Museum.)
PORTRAIT OF DE THOU 168 (From an engraving by Morin, after L. Ferdinand.)
In undertaking to write these few chapters on the lives of the book-collectors, we feel that we must move between lines that seem somewhat narrow, having regard to the possible range of the subject. We shall therefore avoid as much as possible the description of particular books, and shall endeavour to deal with the book-collector or book-hunter, as distinguished from the owner of good books, from librarians and specialists, from the merchant or broker of books and the book-glutton who wants all that he sees.
Guillaume Postel and his friends found time to discuss the merits of the authors before the Flood. Our own age neglects the libraries of Shem, and casts doubts on the antiquity of the Book of Enoch. But even in writing the briefest account of the great book-collectors, we are compelled to go back to somewhat remote times, and to say at least a few words about the ancient book-stories from the far East, from Greece and Rome, from Egypt and Pontus and Asia. We have seen the brick-libraries of Nineveh and the copies for the King at Babylon, and we have heard of the rolls of Ecbatana. All the world knows how Nehemiah 'founded a library,' and how the brave Maccabaeus gathered again what had been lost by reason of the wars. Every desert in the East seems to have held a library, where the pillars of some temple lie in the sand, and where dead men 'hang their mute thoughts on the mute walls around.' The Egyptian traveller sees the site of the book-room of Rameses that was called the 'Hospital for the Soul.' There was a library at the breast of the Sphinx, and another where Cairo stands, and one at Alexandria that was burned in Julius Caesar's siege, besides the later assemblage in the House of Serapis which Omar was said to have sacrificed as a tribute of respect for the Koran.
Asia Minor was celebrated for her libraries. There were 'many curious books' in Ephesus, and rich stores of books at Antioch on the Orontes, and where the gray-capped students 'chattered like water-fowl' by the river at Tarsus. In Pergamus they made the fine parchment like ivory, beloved, as an enemy has said, by 'yellow bibliomaniacs whose skins take the colour of their food'; and there the wealthy race of Attalus built up the royal collection which Antony captured in war and sent as a gift to Cleopatra.
It pleased the Greeks to invent traditions about the books of Polycrates at Samos, or those of Pisistratus that were counted among the spoils of Xerxes: and the Athenians thought that the very same volumes found their way home again after the victories of Alexander the Great. Aristotle owned the first private library of which anything is actually recorded; and it is still a matter of interest to follow the fortunes of his books. He left them as a legacy to a pupil, who bequeathed them to his librarian Neleus: and his family long preserved the collection in their home near the ruins of Troy. One portion was bought by the Ptolemies for their great Alexandrian library, and these books, we suppose, must have perished in the war with Rome. The rest remained at home till there was some fear of their being confiscated and carried to Pergamus. They were removed in haste and stowed away in a cave, where they nearly perished in the damp. When the parchments were disinterred they became the property of Apellicon, to whom the saying was first applied that he was 'rather a bibliophile than a lover of learning.' While the collection was at Athens he did much damage to the scrolls by his attempt to restore their worm-eaten paragraphs. Sulla took the city soon afterwards, and carried the books to Rome, and here more damage was done by the careless editing of Tyrannion, who made a trade of copying 'Aristotle's books' for the libraries that were rising on all sides at Rome.
The Romans learned to be book-collectors in gathering the spoils of war. When Carthage fell, the books, as some say, were given to native chieftains, the predecessors of King Jugurtha in culture and of King Juba in natural science: others say that they were awarded as a kind of compensation to the family of the murdered Regulus. Their preservation is attested by the fact that the Carthaginian texts were cited centuries afterwards by the writers who described the most ancient voyages in the Atlantic. When the unhappy Perseus was deprived of the kingdom of Macedonia, the royal library was chosen by AEmilius Paullus as the general's share of the plunder. Asinius Pollio furnished a great reading-room with the literary treasures of Dalmatia. A public library was established by Julius Caesar on the Aventine, and two were set up by Augustus within the precinct of the palace of the Caesars; and Octavia built another near the Tiber in memory of the young Marcellus. The gloomy Domitian restored the library at the Capitol, which had been struck and fired by lightning. Trajan ransacked the wealth of the world for his collection in the 'Ulpiana,' which, in accordance with a later fashion, became one of the principal attractions of the Thermae of Diocletian.
The splendours of the private library began in the days of Lucullus. Enriched with the treasure of King Mithridates and all the books of Pontus, he housed his collection in such stately galleries, thronged with a multitude of philosophers and poets, that it seemed as if there were a new home for the Muses, and a fresh sanctuary for Hellas. Seneca, a philosopher and a millionaire himself, inveighed against such useless pomp. He used to rejoice at the blow that fell on the arrogant magnificence of Alexandria. 'Our idle book-hunters,' he said, 'know about nothing but titles and bindings: their chests of cedar and ivory, and the book-cases that fill the bath-room, are nothing but fashionable furniture, and have nothing to do with learning.' Lucian was quite as severe on the book-hunters of the age of the Antonines. The bibliophile goes book in hand, like the statue of Bellerophon with the letter, but he only cares for the choice vellum and bosses of gold. 'I cannot conceive,' said Lucian, 'what you expect to get out of your books; yet you are always poring over them, and binding and tying them, and rubbing them with saffron and oil of cedar, as if they could make you eloquent, when by nature you are as dumb as a fish.' He compares the industrious dunce to an ass at a music-book, or to a monkey that remains a monkey still for all the gold on its jacket. 'If books,' he adds, 'have made you what you are, I am sure that you ought of all things to avoid them.'
After the building of Constantinople a home for literature was found in the eastern cities; and, as the boundaries of the empire were broken down by the Saracen advance, learning gradually retired to the colleges and basilicas of the capital, and to the Greek monasteries of stony Athos, and Patmos, and the 'green Erebinthus.' Among the Romans of the East we cannot discern many learned men, but we know that there was a multitude ready to assist in the preservation of learning. The figures of three or four true book-lovers stand out amid the crowd of dilettanti. St. Pamphilus was a student at the legal University of Beyrout before he was received into the Church: he devoted himself afterwards to the school of sacred learning which he established at Caesarea in Palestine. Here he gathered together about 30,000 volumes, almost all consisting of the works of the Fathers. His personal labour was given to the works of Origen, in whose mystical doctrine he had become a proficient at Alexandria. The martyrdom of Pamphilus prevented the completion of his own elaborate commentaries. He left the library to the Church of Caesarea, under the superintendence of his friend Eusebius. St. Jerome paid a visit to the collection while he was still enrolled on the list of bibliophiles. He had bought the best books to be found at Treves and Aquileia; he had seen the wealth of Rome, and was on his way to the oriental splendour of Constantinople: it is from him that we first hear of the gold and silver inks and the Tyrian purple of the vellum. He declared that he had never seen anything to compare with the library of Pamphilus; and when he was given twenty-five volumes of Origen in the martyr's delicate writing, he vowed that he felt richer than if he had found the wealth of Croesus.
The Emperor Julian was a pupil of Eusebius, and became reader for a time in the Church at Caesarea. He was passionately fond of books, and possessed libraries at Antioch and Constantinople, as well as in his beloved 'Lutetia' on the island in the Seine. A sentence from one of his letters was carved over the door of his library at Antioch: 'Some love horses, or hawks and hounds, but I from my boyhood have pined with a desire for books.'
It is said that another of his libraries was burned by his successor Jovian in a parody of Alexander's Feast. It is true, at any rate, that the book-butcher set fire to the books at Antioch as part of his revenge against the Apostate. One is tempted to dwell on the story of these massacres. In many a war, as an ancient bibliophile complained, have books been dispersed abroad, 'dismembered, stabbed, and mutilated': 'they were buried in the earth or drowned in the sea, and slain by all kinds of slaughter.' 'How much of their blood the warlike Scipio shed: how many on the banishment of Boethius were scattered like sheep without a shepherd!' Perhaps the subject should be isolated in a separate volume, where the rude Omar, and Jovian, and the despoilers of the monasteries, might be pilloried. Seneca would be indicted for his insult to Cleopatra's books: Sir Thomas Browne might be in danger for his saying, that 'he could with patience behold the urn and ashes of the Vatican, could he with a few others recover the perished leaves of Solomon.' He might escape by virtue of his saving clause, and some excuse would naturally be found for Seneca; but the rest might be treated like those Genoese criminals who were commemorated on marble tablets as 'the worst of mankind.'
For several generations after the establishment of the Eastern Empire, Constantinople was the literary capital of the world and the main repository of the arts and sciences. Mr. Middleton has lately shown us in his work upon Illuminated Manuscripts that Persia and Egypt, as well as the Western Countries, 'contributed elements both of design and technical skill which combined to create the new school of Byzantine art.' Constantinople, he tells us, became for several centuries the main centre for the production of manuscripts. Outside the domain of art we find little among the Romans of the East that can in any sense be called original. They were excellent at an epitome or a lexicon, and were very successful as librarians. The treasures of antiquity, as Gibbon has said, were imparted in such extracts and abridgments 'as might amuse the curiosity without oppressing the indolence of the public.' The Patriarch Photius stands out as a literary hero among the commentators and critics of the ninth century. That famous book-collector, in analysing the contents of his library for an absent brother, became the preserver of many of the most valuable classics. As Commander of the Guard he led the life of a peaceful student: as Patriarch of Byzantium his turbulence rent the fabric of Christendom, and he was 'alternately excommunicated and absolved by the synods of the East and West.' We owe the publication of the work called The Myriad of Books to the circumstance that he was appointed to an embassy at Bagdad. His brother wrote to remind him of their pleasant evenings in the library when they explored the writings of the ancients and made an analysis of their contents. Photius was about to embark on a dangerous journey, and he was implored to leave a record of what had been done since his brother had last taken part in the readings. The answer of Photius was the book already mentioned: he reviews nearly three hundred volumes of the historians and orators, the philosophers and theologians, the travellers and the writers of romance, and with an even facility 'abridges their narrative or doctrine and appreciates their style and character.'
The great Imperial library which stood by St. Sophia had been destroyed in the reign of Leo the Iconoclast in the preceding age, and in an earlier conflagration more than half a million books are said to have been lost from the basilica. The losses by fire were continual, but were constantly repaired. Leo the Philosopher, who was educated under the care of Photius, and his son and successor Constantine, were renowned as the restorers of learning, and the great writers of antiquity were collected again by their zeal in the square hall near the Public Treasury.
The boundaries of the realm of learning extended far beyond the limits of the Empire, and the Arabian science was equally famous among the Moors of Spain and in the further parts of Asia. We are told of a doctor refusing the invitation of the Sultan of Bokhara, 'because the carriage of his books would have required four hundred camels.' We know that the Ommiad dynasty formed the gigantic library at Cordova, and that there were at least seventy others in the colleges that were scattered through the kingdom of Granada. The prospect was very dark in other parts of Western Europe throughout the whole period of barbarian settlement. We shall not endeavour to trace the slight influences that preserved some knowledge of religious books at the Court of the Merovingian kings, or among the Visigoths and Ostrogoths and Burgundians. We prefer to pause at a moment preceding the final onslaught. The letters of Sidonius afford us a few glimpses of the literary condition of Southern Gaul soon after the invasion of Attila. The Bishop of Clermont gives us a delightful picture of his house: a verandah leads from the atrium to the garden by the lake: we pass through a winter-parlour, a morning-room, and a north-parlour protected from the heat. Every detail seems to be complete; and yet we hear nothing of a library. The explanation seems to be that the Bishop was a close imitator of Pliny. The villa in Auvergne is a copy of the winter-refuge at Laurentum, where Pliny only kept 'a few cases contrived in the wall for the books that cannot be read too often.' But when the Bishop writes about his friends' houses we find many allusions to their libraries. Consentius sits in a large book-room when he is composing his verses or 'culling the flowers of his music.' When he visited the Prefect of Gaul, Sidonius declared that he was whirled along in a stream of delights. There were all kinds of out-door amusements and a library filled with books. 'You would fancy yourself among a Professor's book-cases, or in a book-shop, or amid the benches of a lecture-room.' The Bishop considered that this library of the Villa Prusiana was as good as anything that could be found in Rome or Alexandria. The books were arranged according to subjects. The room had a 'ladies' side'; and here were arranged the devotional works. The illuminated volumes, as far as can now be judged, were rather gaudy than brilliant, as was natural in an age of decadence; but St. Germanus was a friend of the Bishop, and as we suppose of the Prefect, and his copy of the Gospels was in gold and silver letters on purple vellum, as may still be seen. By the gentlemen's seats were ranged the usual classical volumes, all the works of Varro, which now exist only in fragments, and the poets sacred and profane; behind certain cross-benches was the literary food of a lighter kind, more suited to the weaker vessels without regard to sex. Here every one found what would suit his own liking and capacity, and here on the day after their arrival the company worked hard after breakfast 'for four hours by the water clock.' Suddenly the door was thrown open, and in his uniform the head cook appeared and solemnly warned them all that their meal was served, and that it was as necessary to nourish the body as to stuff the mind with learning.
When the barbarians were established through Gaul and Italy the libraries in the old country-houses must have been completely destroyed. Some faint light of learning remained while Boethius 'trimmed the lamp with his skilful hand'; some knowledge of the classics survived during the lives of Cassiodorus and Isidore of Seville. Some of the original splendour may have lingered at Rome, and perhaps in Ravenna. When Boethius was awaiting his doom in the tower at Pavia, his mind reverted to the lettered ease of his life before he had offended the fierce Theodoric. His philosophy found comfort in thinking that all the valuable part of his books was firmly imprinted on his soul; but he never ceased regretting the walls inlaid with ivory and the shining painted windows in his old library at Rome.
The knowledge of books might almost have disappeared in the seventh century, when the cloud of ignorance was darkest, but for a new and remarkable development of learning in the Irish monasteries.
This development is of special interest to ourselves from the fact that the church of Northumbria was long dependent on the Irish settlement at Iona. The Anglians taught by Paulinus very soon relapsed into paganism, and the second conversion of the North was due to the missionaries of the school of St. Columba. The power of Rome was established at the Council of Whitby; but in the days when Aidan preached at Lindisfarne the Northumbrians were still in obedience to an Irish rule, and were instructed and edified by the acts and lives of St. Patrick, of St. Brigit, and the mighty Columba.
We shall quote some of the incidents recorded about the Irish books, a few legends of Patrick and dim traditions from the days of Columba, before noticing the rise of the English school.
The first mention of the Irish books seems to be contained in a passage of AEthicus. The cosmography ascribed to that name has been traced to very early times. It was long believed to have been written by St. Jerome; but in its present form, at least, the work contains entries of a much later date. The passage in which Ireland is mentioned may be even as late as the age of Columbanus, when Irish monks set up their churches at Wuerzburg and on the shores of the Lake of Constance, or illuminated their manuscripts at Bobbio under the protection of Theodolind and her successors in Lombardy. A wandering philosopher is represented as visiting the northern regions: he remained for a while in the Isle of Saints and turned over the painted volumes; but he despised the native churchmen and called them 'Doctors of Ignorance.' 'Here am I in Ireland, at the world's end, with much toil and little ease; with such unskilled labourers in the field the place is too doleful, and is absolutely of no good to me.'
Palladius came with twelve men to preach to the Gael, and we are told that he 'left his books' at Cellfine. The legendary St. Patrick is made to pass into Ulster, and he finds a King who burns himself and his home 'that he may not believe in Patrick.' The Saint proceeds to Tara with eight men and a little page carrying the book-wallet; 'it was like eight deer with one fawn following, and a white bird on its shoulder.'
The King and his chief Druid proposed a trial by ordeal. The King said, 'Put your books into the water.' 'I am ready for that,' said Patrick. But the Druid said, 'A god of water this man adores, and I will not take part in the ordeal.' The King said, 'Put your books into the fire.' 'I am ready for that,' said Patrick. 'A god of fire once in two years this man adores, and I will not do that,' said the Druid.
In the church by the oak-tree at Kildare St. Brigit had a marvellous book, or so her nuns supposed. The Kildare Gospels may have been illuminated as early as Columba's time. Gerard de Barri saw the book in the year 1185, and said that it was so brilliant in colouring, so delicate and finely drawn, and with such enlacements of intertwining lines that it seemed to be a work beyond the powers of mortal man, and to be worthy of an angel's skill; and, indeed, there was a strong belief that miraculous help had been given to the artist in his dreams.
The 'Book of Durrow' called The Gospels of St. Columba, almost rivals the famous 'Book of Kells' with which Mr. Madan will doubtless deal in his forthcoming volume on Manuscripts. A native poet declared that when the Saint died in 597 he had illuminated 'three hundred bright noble books'; and he added that 'however long under water any book of the Saint's writing should be, not one single letter would be drowned.' Our authorities tell us that the Book of Durrow might possibly be one of the three hundred, 'as it bears some signs of being earlier in date than the Book of Kells.'
St. Columba, men said, was passionately devoted to books. Yet he gave his Gospels to the Church at Swords, and presented the congregation at Derry with the volume that he had fetched from Tours, 'where it had lain on St. Martin's breast a hundred years in the ground.' In one of the biographies there is a story about 'Langarad of the White Legs,' who dwelt in the region of Ossory. To him Columba came as a guest, and found that the sage was hiding all his books away. Then Columba left his curse upon them; 'May that,' quoth he, 'about which thou art so niggardly be never of any profit after thee'; and this was fulfilled, 'for the books remain to this day, and no man reads them.' When Langarad died 'all the book-satchels in Ireland that night fell down'; some say, 'all the satchels and wallets in the saint's house fell then: and Columba and all who were in his house marvelled at the noisy shaking of the books.' So then speaks Columba: 'Langarad in Ossory,' quoth he, 'is just now dead.' 'Long may it be ere that happens,' said Baithen. 'May the burden of that disbelief fall on him and not on thee,' said Columba.
Another tradition relates to St. Finnen's book that caused a famous battle; and that was because of a false judgment which King Diarmid gave against Columba, when he copied St. Finnen's Psalter without leave. St. Finnen claimed the copy as being the produce of his original, and on the appeal to the court at Tara his claim was confirmed. King Diarmid decided that to every mother-book belongs the child-book, as to the cow belongs her calf; 'and so,' said the King, 'the book that you wrote, Columba, belongs to Finnen by right.' 'That is an unjust judgment,' said Columba, 'and I will avenge it upon you.'
Not long afterwards the Saint was insulted by the seizure and execution of an offender who had taken sanctuary and was clasped in his arms. Columba went over the wild mountains and raised the tribes of Tyrconnell and Tyrone, and defeated King Diarmid in battle. When the Saint went to Iona he left the copy of Finnen's Psalter to the head of the chief tribe in Tyrconnell. It was called the Book of the Battle, and if they carried it three times round the enemy, in the sun's course, they were sure to return victorious. The book was the property of the O'Donnells till the dispersion of their clan. The gilt and jewelled case in which it rests was made in the eleventh century: a frame round the inner shrine was added by Daniel O'Donnell, who fought in the Battle of the Boyne. A large fragment of the book remained in a Belgian monastery in trust for the true representative of the clan; and soon after Waterloo it was given up to Sir Neal O'Donnell, to whose family it still belongs. It is now shown at the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy. 'The fragment of the original Book of the Battle', says O'Curry, 'is of small quarto form, consisting of fifty-eight leaves of fine vellum, written in a small, uniform, but rather hurried hand, with some slight attempts at illumination.'
We have now to describe the great increase of books in Northumbria. In the year 635 Aidan set up his quarters with a few Irish monks on the Isle of Lindisfarne, and his Abbey soon became one of the main repositories of learning.
The book called The Gospels of St. Cuthbert was written in 688, and was regarded for nearly two centuries as the chief ornament of Lindisfarne. The monastery was burned by the Danes, and the servants of St. Cuthbert, who had concealed the 'Gospels' in his grave, wandered forth, with the Saint's body in an ark and the book in its chest, in search of a new place of refuge. They attempted a voyage to Ireland, but their ship was driven back by a storm. The book-chest had been washed overboard, but in passing up the Solway Firth they saw the book shining in its golden cover upon the sand. For more than a century afterwards the book shared the fortunes of a wandering company of monks: in the year 995 it was laid on St. Cuthbert's coffin in the new church at Durham; early in the twelfth century it returned to Lindisfarne. Here it remained until the dissolution of the monasteries, when its golden covers were torn off, and the book came bare and unadorned into the hands of Sir Robert Cotton, and passed with the rest of his treasures into the library of the British Museum.
Theodore of Tarsus had been consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 669. He brought with him a large quantity of books for use in his new Greek school. These books were left by his will to the cathedral library, where they remained for ages without disturbance. William Lambarde, the Kentish antiquary, has left an account of their appearance. He was speaking of Archbishop Parker, 'whose care for the conservation of ancient monuments can never be sufficiently commended.' 'The reverend Father,' he added, 'showed me the Psalter of David, and sundry homilies in Greek, and Hebrew also, and some other Greek authors, beautifully written on thick paper with the name of this Theodore prefixed,' to whose library the Archbishop thought that they had belonged, 'being thereto led by a show of great antiquity.'
The monks of Canterbury claimed to possess the books on pink vellum, with rubricated capitals, which Pope Gregory had sent to Augustine. One of these afterwards belonged to Parker, who gave it to Corpus Christi at Cambridge: the experts now believe that it was written in the eighth century 'in spite of the ancient appearance of the figure-painting.' Another is the Psalter of St. Augustine, now preserved among the Cottonian MSS. This is also considered to be a writing of the eighth century.
In the Bodleian library there is a third example, written in quarto with large uncial letters in double columns, in much the same style as the book given by Parker to Corpus Christi. The Bodleian specimen is especially interesting as containing on the fly-leaf a list in Anglo-Saxon of the contents of the library of Solomon the Priest, with notes as to other small collections.
We have reached the period in which Northumbria became for a time the centre of Western culture. The supremacy of Rome, set up at the Council of Whitby, was fostered and sustained by the introduction of the Italian arts. Vast quantities of books were imported. Stately Abbeys were rising along the coast, and students were flocking to seek the fruits of the new learning in well-filled libraries and bustling schools. We may judge how bright the prospect seemed by the tone of Alcuin's letters to Charles the Great. He tells the Emperor of certain 'exquisite books' which he had studied under Egbert at York. The schools of the North are compared to 'a garden enclosed' and to the beds of spices: he asks that some of the young men may be sent over to procure books, so that in Tours as well as at York they may gather the flowers of the garden and share in the 'outgoings of Paradise.' A few years afterwards came the news of the harrying of Northumbria by the Vikings. The libraries were burned, and Northumbria was overwhelmed in darkness and slavery; and Alcuin wrote again, 'He who can hear of this calamity and not cry to God on behalf of his country, must have a heart not of flesh but of stone.'
Benedict Biscop was our first English book-collector. The son of a rich Thane might have looked to a political career; he preferred to devote himself to learning, and would have spent his life in a Roman monastery if the Pope had not ordered him to return to England in company with Theodore of Tarsus. His first expedition was made with his friend St. Wilfrid. They crossed in a ship provided by the King of Kent. Travelling together as far as Lyons, Wilfrid remained there for a time, and Benedict pushed on to Mont Cenis, and so to Rome, after a long and perilous journey. On a second visit he received the tonsure, and went back to work at Lindisfarne; but about two years afterwards he obtained a passage to Italy in a trading-vessel, and it was on this occasion that he received the Pope's commands. Four years elapsed before he was in Rome again: throughout the year 671 he was amassing books by purchase and by the gifts of his friends; and returning by Vienne he found another large store awaiting him which he had ordered on his outward journey. Benedict was able to set up a good library in his new Abbey at Wearmouth; but his zeal appears to have been insatiable. We find him for the fifth time at the mart of learning, and bringing home, as Bede has told us, 'a multitude of books of all kinds.' He divided his new wealth between the Church at Wearmouth and the Abbey at Jarrow, across the river. Ceolfrid of Jarrow himself made a journey to Rome with the object of augmenting Benedict's 'most noble and copious store'; but he gave to the King of Northumbria, in exchange for a large landed estate, the magnificent 'Cosmography' which his predecessor had brought to Wearmouth.
St. Wilfrid presented to his church at Ripon a Book of the Gospels on purple vellum, and a Bible with covers of pure gold inlaid with precious stones. John the Precentor, who introduced the Roman liturgy into this country, bequeathed a number of valuable books to Wearmouth. Bede had no great library of his own; it was his task 'to disseminate the treasures of Benedict.' But he must have possessed a large number of manuscripts while he was writing the Ecclesiastical History, since he has informed us that Bishop Daniel of Winchester and other learned churchmen in the South were accustomed to supply him constantly with records and chronicles.
St. Boniface may be counted among the collectors, though he could carry but a modest supply of books through the German forests and the marshes of Friesland. As a missionary he found it useful to display a finely-painted volume. Writing to the Abbess Eadburga for a Missal, he asked that the parchment might be gay with colours,—'even as a glittering lamp and an illumination for the hearts of the Gentiles.' 'I entreat you,' he writes again, 'to send me St. Peters Epistle in letters of gold.' He begged all his friends to send him books as a refreshment in the wilderness. Bishop Daniel is asked for the Prophecies 'written very large.' Bishop Lulla is to send a cosmography and a volume of poems. He applies to one Archbishop for the works of Bede, 'who is the lamp of the Church,' and to the other for the Pope's Answers to Augustine, which cannot be found in the Roman bookshops. Boniface was Primate of Germany; but he resigned his high office to work among the rude tribes of Friesland. We learn that he carried some of his choicest books with him on his last ill-fated expedition, when the meadow and the river-banks were strewn with the glittering service-books after the murder of the Saint and his companions.
Egbert of York set up a large library in the Minster. Alcuin took charge of it after his friend's death, and composed a versified catalogue, of such merit as the nature of the task allowed. 'Here you may trace the footsteps of the Fathers; here you meet the clear-souled Aristotle and Tully of the mighty tongue; here Basil and Fulgentius shine, and Cassiodorus and John of the Golden Mouth.' As Alcuin was returning from book-buying at Rome he met Charles the Great at Parma. The Emperor persuaded the traveller to enter his service, and they succeeded by their joint efforts in producing a wonderful revival of literature. The Emperor had a fine private collection of MSS. adorned in the Anglo-Frankish style; and he established a public library, containing the works of the Fathers, 'so that the poorest student might find a place at the banquet of learning.' Alcuin presented to the Emperor's own collection a revised copy of the Vulgate illuminated under his personal supervision.
Towards the end of Alcuin's career he retired to the Abbey of St. Martin at Tours, and there founded his 'Museum,' which was in fact a large establishment for the editing and transcription of books. Here he wrote those delightful letters from which we have already made an extract. To his friend Arno at Salzburg he writes about a little treatise on orthography, which he would have liked to have recited in person. 'Oh that I could turn the sentences into speech, and embrace my brother with a warmth that cannot be sent in a book; but since I cannot come myself I send my rough letters, that they may speak for me instead of the words of my mouth.' To the Emperor he sent a description of his life at Tours: 'In the house of St. Martin I deal out the honey of the Scriptures, and some I excite with the ancient wine of wisdom, and others I fill full with the fruits of grammatical learning.'
Very few book-lovers could be found in England while the country was being ravaged by the Danes. The Northern Abbeys were burned, and their libraries destroyed. The books at York perished, though the Minster was saved; the same fate befell the valuable collections at Croyland and Peterborough. The royal library at Stockholm contains the interesting 'Golden Gospels,' decorated in the same style as the Book of Lindisfarne, and perhaps written at the same place. An inscription of the ninth century shows that it was bought from a crew of pirates by Duke Alfred, a nobleman of Wessex, and was presented by him and his wife Werburga to the Church at Canterbury.
It seems possible that literature was kept alive in our country by King Alfred's affection for the old English songs. We know that he used to recite them himself and would make his children get them by heart. He was not much of a scholar himself, but he had all the learning of Mercia to help him. Archbishop Plegmund and his chaplains were the King's secretaries, 'and night and day, whenever he had time, he commanded these men to read to him.' From France came Provost Grimbald, a scholar and a sweet singer, and Brother John of Corbei, a paragon in all kinds of science. Asser came to the Court from his home in Wales: 'I remained there,' he says, 'for about eight months, and all that time I used to read to him whatever books were at hand; for it was his regular habit by day and night, amidst all his other occupations, either to read to himself or to listen while others read to him.' St. Dunstan was an ardent admirer of the old battle-chaunts and funeral-lays. He was, it need hardly be said, the friend of all kinds of learning. The Saint was an expert scribe and a painter of miniatures; and specimens of his exquisite handiwork may still be seen at Canterbury and in the Bodleian at Oxford. He was the real founder of the Glastonbury library, where before his time only a few books had been presented by missionaries from Ireland. His great work was the establishment of the Benedictines in the place of the regular clergy: and the reform at any rate insured the rise of a number of new monasteries, each with its busy 'scriptorium,' out of which the library would grow. We must say a word in remembrance of Archbishop AElfric, the author of a great part of our English Chronicle. He was trained at Winchester, where the illuminators, it is said, were 'for a while the foremost in the world.' He enacted that every priest should have at least a psalter and hymn-book and half a dozen of the most important service-books, before he could hope for ordination. His own library, containing many works of great value, was bequeathed to the Abbey of St. Alban's. We end the story of the Anglo-Saxon books with a mention of Leofric, the first Bishop of Exeter, who gave a magnificent donation out of his own library to the Cathedral Church. The catalogue is still extant, and some of the volumes are preserved at Oxford. There were many devotional works of the ordinary kind; there were 'reading-books for winter and summer,' and song-books, and especially 'night-songs'; but the greatest treasure of all was the 'great book of English poetry,' known as the Exeter Book, in which Cynewulf sang of the ruin of the 'purple arch,' and set forth the Exile's Lament and the Traveller's Song.
A more austere kind of learning came in with the Norman Conquest. Lanfranc and Anselm introduced at Canterbury a devotion to science, to the doctrines of theology and jurisprudence, and to the new discoveries which Norman travellers were bringing back from the schools at Salerno. Lanfranc imported a large quantity of books from the Continent. He would labour day and night at correcting the work of his scribes; and Anselm, when he succeeded to the See, used often to deprive himself of rest to finish the transcription of a manuscript. Lanfranc, we are told, was especially generous in lending his books: among a set which he sent to St. Alban's we find the names of twenty-eight famous treatises, besides a large number of missals and other service-books, and two 'Books of the Gospels,' bound in silver and gold, and ornamented with valuable jewels.
A historian of our own time has said that England in the twelfth century was the paradise of scholars. Dr. Stubbs imagined a foreign student making a tour through the country and endeavouring to ascertain its proper place in the literary world. He would have seen a huge multitude of books, and 'such a supply of readers and writers' as could not have been found elsewhere, except perhaps in the University of Paris. Canterbury was a great literary centre. At Winchester there was a whole school of historians; at Lincoln he might listen to Walter Map or learn at the feet of St. Hugh. 'Nothing is more curious than the literary activity going on in the monasteries; manuscripts are copied; luxurious editions are recopied and illuminated; there is no lack of generosity in lending or of boldness in borrowing; there is brisk competition and open rivalry.'
The Benedictines were ever the pioneers of learning: the regular clergy were still the friends of their books, and 'delighted in their communion with them,' as the Philobiblon phrased it. We gather from the same source the lamentation of the books in the evil times that followed. The books complain that they are cast from their shelves into dark corners, ragged and shivering, and bereft of the cushions which propped up their sides. 'Our vesture is torn off by violent hands, so that our souls cleave to the ground, and our glory is laid in the dust.' The old-fashioned clergy had been accustomed to treat religious books with reverence, and would copy them out most carefully in the intervals of the canonical hours. The monks used to give even their time of rest to the decoration of the volumes which added a splendour to their monasteries. But now, it is complained, the Regulars even reject their own rule that books are to be asked for every day. They carry bows and arrows, or sword and buckler, and play at dice and draughts, and give no alms except to their dogs. 'Our places are taken by hawks and hounds, or by that strange creature, woman, from whom we taught our pupils to flee as from an asp or basilisk. This creature, ever jealous and implacable, spies us out in a corner hiding behind some ancient cabinet, and she wrinkles her forehead and laughs us to scorn, and points to us as the only rubbish in the house; and she complains that we are totally useless, and recommends our being bartered away at once for fine caps and cambrics or silks, for double-dyed purple stuffs, for woollen and linen and fur.' 'Nay,' they add, 'we are sold like slaves or left as unredeemed pledges in taverns: we are given to cruel butchers to be slaughtered like sheep or cattle. Every tailor, or base mechanic may keep us shut up in his prison.' Worst of all was the abominable ingratitude that sold the illuminated vellums to ignorant painters, or to goldsmiths who only wanted these 'sacred vessels' as receptacles for their sheets of gold-leaf. 'Flocks and fleeces, crops and herds, gardens and orchards, the wine and the wine-cup, are the only books and studies of the monks.' They are reprehended for their banquets and fine clothes and monasteries towering on high like a castle in its bulwarks: 'For such things as these,' the supplication continues, 'we, their books, are cast out of their hearts and regarded as useless lumber, except some few worthless tracts, from which they still pick out a mixture of rant and nonsense, more to tickle the ears of their audience than to assuage any hunger of the soul.'
A great religious revival began with the coming of the Mendicant Friars, who, according to the celebrated Grostete, 'illumined our whole country with the light of their preaching and learning.' The Franciscans and Dominicans reached England in 1224, and were established at Oxford within two years afterwards, where the Grey Friars of St. Francis soon obtained as great a predominance as the Dominicans or Black Friars had gained in the University of Paris. St. Francis himself had set his face against literature. Professor Brewer pointed out in the Monumenta Franciscana that his followers were expected to be poor in heart and understanding: 'total absolute poverty secured this, but it was incompatible with the possession of books or the necessary materials for study.' Even Roger Bacon, when he joined the Friars, was forbidden to retain his books and instruments, and was not allowed to touch ink or parchment without a special licence from the Pope. We may quote one or two of the anecdotes about the Saint. A brother was arguing with him on the text 'Take nothing with you on the way,' and asked if it meant 'absolutely nothing'; 'Nothing,' said the Saint, 'except the frock allowed by our rule, and, if indispensable, a pair of shoes.' 'What am I to do?' said the brother: 'I have books of my own,' naming a value of many pounds of silver. 'I will not, I ought not, I cannot allow it,' was the reply. A novice applied to St. Francis for leave to possess a psalter: but the Saint said, 'When you have got a psalter, then you'll want a breviary, and when you have got a breviary you will sit in a chair as great as a lord, and will say to some brother, Friar! go and fetch me my breviary!' And he laid ashes on his head, and repeated, 'I am your breviary! I am your breviary!' till the novice was dumbfounded and amazed; and then again the Saint said that he also had once been tempted to possess books, and he almost yielded to the request, but decided in the end that such yielding would be sinful. He hoped that the day would come when men would throw their books out of the window as rubbish.
A curious change took place when the Mendicants got control of the schools. It was absolutely necessary that they should be the devourers of books if they were to become the monopolists of learning. In the century following their arrival, Fitz-Ralph, the Archbishop of Armagh, complained that his chaplains could not buy any books at Oxford, because they were all snapped up by the men of the cord and cowl: 'Every brother who keeps a school has a huge collection, and in each Convent of Freres is a great and noble library.' The Grey Friars certainly had two houses full of books in School Street, and their brothers in London had a good library, which was in later times increased and richly endowed by Sir Richard Whittington, the book-loving Lord Mayor of London.
There were some complaints that the Friars cared too much for the contents and too little for the condition of their volumes. The Carmelites, who arrived in England after the two greater Orders, had the reputation of being careful librarians, 'anxiously protecting their books against dust and worms,' and ranging the manuscripts in their large room at Oxford at first in chests and afterwards in book-cases. The Franciscans were too ready to give and sell, to lend and spend, the volumes that they were so keen to acquire. A Dominican was always drawn with a book in his hand; but he would care nothing for it, if it contained no secrets of science. Richard de Bury had much to say about the Friars in that treatise on the love of books, 'which he fondly named Philobiblon,' being a commendation of Wisdom and of the books wherein she dwells. The Friars, he said, had preserved the ancient stores of learning, and were always ready to procure the last sermon from Rome or the newest pamphlet from Oxford. When he visited their houses in the country-towns, and turned out their chests and book-shelves, he found such wealth as might have lain in kings' treasuries; 'in those cupboards and baskets are not merely the crumbs that fall from the table, but the shew-bread which is angel's food, and corn from Egypt and the choicest gilts of Sheba.' He gives the highest praise to the Preachers or Friars of the Dominican Order, as being most open and ungrudging, 'and overflowing with a with a kind of divine liberality.' But both Preachers and Minorites, or Grey Friars, had been his pupils, his friends and guests in his family, and they had always applied themselves with unwearied zeal to the task of editing, indexing, and cataloguing the volumes in the library. 'These men,' he cries, 'are the successors of Bezaleel and the embroiderers of the ephod and breast-plate: these are the husbandmen that sow, and the oxen that tread out the corn: they are the blowers of the trumpets: they are the shining Pleiades and the stars in their courses.'
Brother Agnellus of Pisa was the first Franciscan missionary at Oxford, and the first Minister of the Order in this county. He set up a school for poor students, at which Bishop Grostete was the first reader or master; but we are told that he afterwards felt great regret when he found his Friars bestowing their time upon frivolous learning. 'One day, when he wished to see what proficiency they were making, he entered the school while a disputation was going on, and they were wrangling and debating about the existence of the Deity. "Woe is me! Woe is me!" he burst forth: "the simple brethren are entering heaven, and the learned ones are debating if there be one"; and he sent at once a sum of L10 sterling to the Court to buy a copy of the Decretals, that the Friars might study them and give over their frivolities.' The great difficulty was to prevent the brethren from studying the doctrine of Aristotle, as it was to be found in vile Latin translations, instead of attending to Grostete, who was said to know 'a hundred thousand times more than Aristotle' on all his subjects. Grostete himself spent very large sums in importing Greek books. In this he was helped by John Basingstoke, who had himself studied at Athens, and who taught the Greek language to several of the monks at St. Alban's. Grostete upheld the eastern doctrines against the teaching of the Papal Court, and indeed was nicknamed 'the hammerer of the Romans.' He based many of his statements upon books which he valued as his choicest possessions; but some of them, such as the Testament of the Patriarchs and the Decretals of Dionysius are now admitted to be forgeries. On Grostete's death in 1253 he bequeathed his library, rich in marginal commentaries and annotations, to the Friars for whom he had worked before he became Bishop and Chancellor. Some generations afterwards their successors sold many of the books to Dr. Gascoigne, who used to work on them at the Minorites' Library: and some of those which he bought found their way to the libraries of Balliol, Oriel, and Lincoln; the main body of Grostete's books was gradually dispersed by gifts and sales, and dwindled down to little or nothing; so that, when Leland paid his official visit after the suppression of the monasteries, he found very few books of any kind, but plenty of dust and cobwebs, 'and moths and beetles swarming over the empty shelves.'
It has been said that Richard de Bury had not much depth of learning; and it has been a favourite theory for many years that his book might have been written for him by his secretary, the Dominican Robert Holkot. The matter is not very important, since it is certain, in spite of ancient and modern detractors, that Richard de Bury or 'Aungerville' was a most ardent bibliophile and a very devoted attendant in the 'Library of Wisdom.' He was the son of Sir Richard Aungerville, a knight of Suffolk; but in accordance with a fashion of the day he was usually called after his birthplace. He was born at Bury St. Edmunds in the year 1287: he was educated at Oxford, and afterwards took a prominent part in the civil troubles, taking the side of Queen Isabel and Edward of Windsor against the unfortunate Edward II. He was appointed tutor to the Prince, and soon afterwards became the receiver of his revenues in Wales. When the Queen fled to her own country, Richard followed with a large sum of money, collected by virtue of his office; and he had a narrow escape for his life, being chased by a troop of English lancers as far as Paris itself, where he lay concealed for a week in the belfry of the Minorites' Church. When his pupil came to the throne many lucrative offices were showered on his faithful friend. Richard became Cofferer and Treasurer of the Wardrobe, and for five years was Clerk of the Privy Seal; and during that period he was twice sent as ambassador to the Pope at Avignon, where he had the honour of becoming the friend of Petrarch.
The poet has himself described his meeting with the Englishman travelling in such splendid fashion to lay before his Holiness his master's claims upon France. 'It was at the time,' says Petrarch, 'when the seeds of war were growing that produced such a blood-stained harvest, in which the sickles are not laid aside nor as yet are the garners closed.' He found in his visitor 'a man of ardent mind and by no means unacquainted with literature.' He discovered indeed that Richard was on some points full of curious learning, and it occurred to him that one born and bred in Britain might know the situation of the long-lost island of Thule. 'But whether he was ashamed of his ignorance,' says Petrarch, 'or whether, as I will not suspect, he grudged information upon the subject, and whether he spoke his real mind or not, he only answered that he would tell me, but not till he had returned home to his books, of which no man had a more abundant supply.' The poet complains that the answer never came, in spite of many letters of reminder; 'and so my friendship with a Briton never taught me anything more about the Isle of Thule.'
Richard was consecrated Bishop of Durham in 1333, after an amicable struggle between the Pope and the King as to the hand that should bestow the preferment. A few months afterwards he became High Treasurer, and in the same year was appointed Lord Chancellor. Within the next three years he was sent on several embassies to France to urge the English claims, and he afterwards went on the same business to Flanders and Brabant. He writes with a kind of rapture of his first expeditions to Paris; in later years he complained that the study of antiquities was superseding science, in which the doctors of the Sorbonne had excelled. 'I was sent first to the Papal Chair, and afterwards to the Court of France, and thence to other countries, on tedious embassies and in perilous times, bearing with me all the time that love of books which many waters could not extinguish.' 'Oh Lord of Lords in Zion!' he ejaculates, 'what a flood of pleasure rejoiced my heart when I reached Paris, the earthly Paradise. How I longed to remain there, and to my ardent soul how few and short seemed the days! There are the libraries in their chambers of spice, the lawns wherein every growth of learning blooms. There the meads of Academe shake to the footfall of the philosophers as they pace along: there are the peaks of Parnassus, and there is the Stoic Porch. Here you will find Aristotle, the overseer of learning, to whom belongs in his own right all the excellent knowledge that remains in this transitory world. Here Ptolemy weaves his cycles and epicycles, and here Gensachar tracks the planets' courses with his figures and charts. Here it was in very truth that with open treasure-chest and purse untied I scattered my money with a light heart, and ransomed the priceless volumes with my dust and dross.'
He shows, as he himself confessed, an ecstatical love for his books. 'These are the masters that teach without rods and stripes, without angry words, without demanding a fee in money or in kind: if you draw near, they sleep not: if you ask, they answer in full: if you are mistaken, they neither rail nor laugh at your ignorance.' 'You only, my books!' he cries, 'are free and unfettered: you only can give to all who ask and enfranchise all that serve you.' In his glowing periods they become transfigured into the wells of living water, the fatness of the olive, the sweetness of the vines of Engaddi; they seem to him like golden urns in which the manna was stored, like the fruitful tree of life and the four-fold river of Eden.
Richard de Bury had more books than all the other bishops in England. He set up several permanent libraries in his manor-houses and at his palace in Auckland; the floor of his hall was always so strewed with manuscripts that it was hard to approach his presence, and his bedroom so full of books that one could not go in or out, or even stand still without treading on them. He has told us many particulars about his methods of collection. He had lived with scholars from his youth upwards; but it was not until he became the King's friend, and almost a member of his family, that he was able 'to hunt in the delightful coverts' of the clerical and monastic libraries. As Chancellor he had great facilities for 'dragging the books from their hiding-places'; 'a flying rumour had spread on all sides that we longed for books, and especially for old ones, and that it was easier to gain our favour by a manuscript than by gifts of coin.' As he had the power of promoting and deposing whom he pleased, the 'crazy quartos and tottering folios' came creeping in as gifts instead of the ordinary fees and New Year's presents. The book-cases of the monasteries were opened, and their caskets unclasped, and the volumes that had lain for ages in the sepulchres were roused by the light of day. 'I might have had,' he said, 'abundance of wealth in those days; but it was books, and not bags of gold, that I wanted; I preferred folios to florins, and loved a little thin pamphlet more than an overfed palfrey.' We know that he bought many books on his embassies to France and Flanders, besides his constant purchases at home. He tells us that the Friars were his best agents; they would compass sea and land to meet his desire. 'With such eager huntsmen, what leveret could lie hid? With such fishermen, what single little fish could escape the net, the hook, and the trawl?' He found another source of supply in the country schools, where the masters were always ready to sell their books; and in these little gardens and paddocks, as chances occurred, he culled a few flowers or gathered a few neglected herbs. His money secured the services of the librarians and bookstall-men on the Continent, who were afraid of no journey by land, and were deterred by no fury of the sea. 'Moreover,' he added, 'we always had about us a multitude of experts and copyists, with binders, and correctors, and illuminators, and all who were in any way qualified for the service of books.' He ends his chapter on book-collecting with a reference to an eastern tale, comparing himself to the mountain of loadstone that attracted the ships of knowledge by a secret force, while the books in their cargoes, like the iron bars in the story, were streaming towards the magnetic cliff 'in a multifarious flight.'
ITALY—THE AGE OF PETRARCH.
The enlightenment of an age of ignorance cannot be attributed to any single person; yet it has been said with some justice, that as the mediaeval darkness lifted, one figure was seen standing in advance, and that Petrarch was rightly hailed as 'the harbinger of day.' His fame rests not so much on his poems as upon his incessant labours in the task of educating his countrymen. Petrarch was devoted to books from his boyhood. His youth was passed near Avignon, 'on the banks of the windy Rhone.' After receiving the ordinary instruction in grammar and rhetoric, he passed four years at Montpellier, and proceeded to study law at Bologna. 'I kept my terms in Civil Law,' he said, 'and made some progress; but I gave up the subject on becoming my own master, not because I disliked the Law, which no doubt is full of the Roman learning, but because it is so often perverted by evil-minded men.' He seems to have worked for a time under his friend Cino of Pistoia, and to have attended the lectures of the jurist Andrea, whose daughter Novella is said to have sometimes taken the class 'with a little curtain in front of her beautiful face.' While studying at Bologna, Petrarch made his first collection of books instead of devoting himself to the Law. His old father once paid him a visit and began burning the parchments on a funeral pile: the boy's supplications and promises saved the poor remainder. He tried hard to follow his father's practical advice, but always in vain; 'Nature called him in another direction, and it is idle to struggle against her.'
On Petrarch's return to Avignon he obtained the friendship of Cardinal Colonna: and here the whole course of his life was fixed when he first saw Laura 'in a green dress embroidered with violets.' Her face was stamped upon his mind, and haunted him through all efforts at repose: and perhaps it is to her influence that he owed his rank among the lyrical poets and the crown bestowed at Rome. His whole life was thenceforth devoted to the service of the book. He declared that he had the writing-disease, and was the victim of a general epidemic. 'All the world is taking up the writer's part, which ought to be confined to a few: the number of the sick increases and the disease becomes daily more virulent.' A victim of the mania himself, he laughs at his own misfortune: yet it might have been better, he thought, to have been a labourer or a weaver at the loom. 'There are several kinds of melancholia: and some madmen will write books, just as others toss pebbles in their hands.' As for literary fame, it is but a harvest of thin air, 'and it is only fit for sailors to watch a breeze and to whistle for a wind.'
Petrarch collected books in many parts of Europe. In 1329, when he was twenty-five years of age, he made a tour through Switzerland to the cities of Flanders. The Flemish schools had lost something of their ancient fame since the development of the University of Paris. Several fine collections of books were still preserved in the monasteries. The Abbey of Laubes was especially rich in biblical commentaries and other works of criticism, which were all destroyed afterwards in a fire, except a Vulgate of the eighth century that happened to be required for use at the Council of Trent. Petrarch described his visit to Liege in a letter to a friend; 'When we arrived I heard that there was a good supply of books, so I kept all my party there until I had one oration of Cicero transcribed by a colleague, and another in my own writing, which I afterwards published in Italy; but in that fair city of the barbarians it was very difficult to get any ink, and what I did procure was as yellow as saffron.'
A few years afterwards he went from Avignon to Paris, and was astonished at the net-work of filthy lanes in the students' quarter. It was a paradise of books, all kept at fair prices by the University's decree; but the traveller declared that, except in 'the world's sink' at Avignon, he had never seen so dirty a place. At Rome he was dismayed to find that all the books were the prey of the foreigner. The English and French merchants were carrying away what had been spared by the Goths and Vandals. 'Are you not ashamed,' he cried to his Roman friends, 'are you not ashamed that your avarice should allow these strangers every day to acquire some remnant of your ancient majesty?'
He used to pore over his manuscripts on the most incongruous occasions, like Pliny reading his critical notes at the boar-hunt. 'Whether I am being shaved or having my hair cut,' he wrote, 'and whether I am riding or dining, I either read or get some one to read to me.' Some of his favourite volumes are described in terms of delightful affection. He tells us how Homer and Plato sat side by side on the shelf,—the prince of poets by the prince of philosophers. He only knew the rudiments of Greek, and was forced to read the Iliad in the Latin version. 'But I glory,' he said, 'in the sight of my illustrious guests, and have at least the pleasure of seeing the Greeks in their national costume.' 'Homer,' he adds, 'is dumb, or I am deaf; I am delighted with his looks; and as often as I embrace the silent volume I cry, "Oh illustrious bard, how gladly would I listen to thy song, if only I had not lost my hearing, through the death of one friend and the lamented absence of another!"'
In his treatise on Fortune, Petrarch has left us a study on book-collecting in the form of a dialogue between his natural genius and his critical reason. He argues, as it were, in his own person against the imaginary opponent. A paraphrase will show the nature and the result of the contest.
'Petrarch. I have indeed a great quantity of books.
Critic. That gives me an excellent instance. Some men amass books for self-instruction and others from vanity. Some decorate their rooms with the furniture that was intended to be an ornament of the soul, as if it were like the bronzes and statues of which we were speaking. Some are working for their own vile ends behind their rows of books, and these are the worst of all, because they esteem literature merely as merchandise, and not at its real value; and this new fashionable infliction becomes another engine for the arts of avarice.
Pet. I have a very considerable quantity of books.
Crit. Well! it is a charming, embarrassing kind of luggage, affording an agreeable diversion for the mind.
Pet. I have a great abundance of books.
Crit. Yes, and a great abundance of hard work and a great lack of repose. You have to keep your mind marching in all directions, and to overload your memory. Books have led some to learning, and others to madness, when they swallow more than they can digest. In the mind, as in the body, indigestion does more harm than hunger; food and books alike must be used according to the constitution, and what is little enough for one is too much for another.
Pet. But I have an immense quantity of books.
Crit. Immense is that which has no measure, and without measure there is nothing convenient or decent in the affairs of men.
Pet. I have an incalculable number of books.
Crit. Have you more than Ptolemy, King of Egypt, accumulated in the library at Alexandria, which were all burned at one time? Perhaps there was an excuse for him in his royal wealth and his desire to benefit posterity. But what are we to say of the private citizens who have surpassed the luxury of kings? Have we not read of Serenus Sammonicus, the master of many languages, who bequeathed 62,000 volumes to the younger Gordian? Truly that was a fine inheritance, enough to sustain many souls or to oppress one to death, as all will agree. If Serenus had done nothing else in his life, and had not read a word in all those volumes, would he not have had enough to do in learning their titles and sizes and numbers and their authors' names? Here you have a science that turns a philosopher into a librarian. This is not feeding the soul with wisdom: it is the crushing it under a weight of riches or torturing it in the waters of Tantalus.
Pet. I have innumerable books.
Crit. Yes, and innumerable errors of ignorant authors and of the copyists who corrupt all that they touch.
Pet. I have a good provision of books.
Crit. What does that matter, if your intellect cannot take them in? Do you remember the Roman Sabinus who plumed himself on the learning of his slaves? Some people think that they must know what is in their own books, and say, when a new subject is started: 'I have a book about that in my library!' They think that this is quite sufficient, just as if the book were in their heads, and then they raise their eyebrows, and there is an end of the subject.
Pet. I am overflowing with books.
Crit. Why don't you overflow with talent and eloquence? Ah! but these things are not for sale, like books, and if they were I don't suppose there would be many buyers, for books do make a covering for the walls, but those other wares are only clothing for the soul, and are invisible and therefore neglected.
Pet. I have books which help me in my studies.
Crit. Take care that they do not prove a hindrance. Many a general has been beaten by having too many troops. If books came in like recruits one would not turn them away, but would stow them in proper quarters, and use the best of them, taking care not to bring up a force too soon which would be more useful on another occasion.
Pet. I have a great variety of books.
Crit. A variety of paths will often deceive the traveller.
Pet. I have collected a number of fine books.
Crit. To gain glory by means of books you must not only possess them but know them; their lodging must be in your brain and not on the book-shelf.
Pet. I keep a few beautiful books.
Crit. Yes, you keep in irons a few prisoners, who, if they could escape and talk, would have you indicted for wrongful imprisonment. But now they lie groaning in their cells, and of this they ever complain, that an idle and a greedy man is overflowing with the wealth that might have sustained a multitude of starving scholars.'
Petrarch was in truth a careless custodian of his prisoners. He was too ready to lend a book to a friend, and his generosity on one occasion caused a serious loss to literature. The only known copy of a treatise by Cicero was awaiting transcription in his library; but he allowed it to be carried off by an old scholar in need of assistance: it was pledged in some unknown quarter, and nothing was ever heard again of the precious deposit.
He returned to Avignon in 1337, and made himself a quiet home at Vaucluse. His letters are full of allusions to his little farm, to the poplars in the horse-shoe valley, and the river brimming out from the 'monarch of springs.' In these new lawns of Helicon he made a new home for his books, and tried to forget in their company the tumults that had driven him from Italy. In 1340 he received offers of a laureate's crown from Rome, the capital of the world, and from Paris, 'the birth-place of learning.' 'I start to-day,' he wrote to Colonna, 'to receive my reward over the graves of those who were the pride of ancient Rome, and in the very theatre of their exploits.' The Capitol resounded to such cheers that its walls and 'antique dome' seemed to share in the public joy: the senator placed a chaplet on his brow, and old Stephen Colonna added a few words of praise amid the applause of the Roman people.
At Parma, soon afterwards, Petrarch formed another library which he called his 'second Parnassus.' At Padua he busied himself in the education of an adopted son, the young John of Ravenna, who lived to be a celebrated professor, and was nicknamed 'the Trojan Horse,' because he turned out so many excellent Grecians. In a cottage near Milan the poet received a visit from Boccaccio, who was at that time inclined to renounce the world. He offered to give his whole library to Petrarch: he did afterwards send to his host a Dante of his own copying, which is now preserved in the Vatican. The approach of a pestilence led Petrarch to remove his home to Venice: and here he was again visited by Boccaccio, this time in company with Leontio Pilato, a Calabrian Greek trading in books between Italy and Constantinople.
Leontio was the translator of Homer, and expounded his poems from the Chair of Rhetoric at Florence. He was a man of forbidding appearance, and 'more obdurate,' said Petrarch, 'than the rocks that he will encounter in his voyage': 'fearing that I might catch his bad temper, I let him go, and gave him a Terence to amuse him on the way, though I do not know what this melancholy Greek could have in common with that lively African.' Leontio was killed by lightning on his return voyage; and there was much anxiety until it could be ascertained that his literary stock-in-trade had been rescued from the hands of the sailors. It was not till the end of the century that Chrysoloras renewed the knowledge of the classics: but we may regard the austere Leontio as the chief precursor of the crowd of later immigrants, each with a gem, or bronze, or 'a brown Greek manuscript' for sale, and all eager to play their parts in the restoration of learning.
Towards the end of his life Petrarch became tired of carrying his books about. When he broke up the libraries at Parma and Vaucluse he had formed the habit of travelling with bales of manuscripts in a long cavalcade; but he determined afterwards to offer the collection to Venice, on condition that it should be properly housed, and should never be sold or divided. The offer was accepted by the Republic, and the Palazzo Molina was assigned as a home for the poet and his books. Petrarch, however, had other plans for himself. He wished to be near Padua, where he held a canonry; and he accordingly built himself a cottage at Arqua, among the Euganean Hills, about ten miles from the city. A few olive-trees and a little vine-yard sufficed for the wants of his modest household; and there, as he wrote to his brother, broken in body but easy in his mind, he passed his time in reading, and prepared for his end. His only regret was that there was no monastery near in which he might see his beloved Gerard fulfilling his religious duties. He seems to have given up his love for fine books with other worldly vanities. He offers excuses for the plain appearance of a volume of 'St. Augustine' which he was sending as a present. 'One must not,' said he, 'expect perfect manuscripts from scholars who are engaged on better things. A general does not sharpen the soldiers' swords. Apelles did not cut out his own boards, or Polycletus his sheets of ivory; some humble person always prepares the material on which a higher mind is to be engaged. So is it with books: some polish the parchment, and others copy or correct the text; others again do the illumination, to use the common phrase; but a loftier spirit will disdain these menial occupations.' The scholar's books are often of a rough and neglected appearance, for abundance of anything makes the owner 'careless and secure'; it is the invalid who is particular about every breath of air, but the strong man loves the rough breeze. 'As to this book of the Confessions, its first aspect will teach you all about it. Quite new, quite unadorned, untouched by the corrector's fangs, it comes out of my young servant's hands. You will notice some defects in spelling, but no gross mistakes. In a word, you will perhaps find things in it which will exercise but not disturb your understanding. Read it then, and ponder upon it. This book, which would enflame a heart of ice, must set your ardent soul on fire.'
On a summer night of the year 1374, Petrarch died peacefully at Arqua, alone in his library. His few remaining books were sold, and some of them may still be seen in Rome and Paris. Those which he had given to Venice suffered a strange reverse of fortune. How long the gift remained in the Palazzo Molina we cannot tell. We conjecture that it was discarded in the next century, before Bessarion presented his Greek books to the senate, and became the actual founder of the library of St. Mark. The antiquary Tomasini found Petrarch's books cast aside in a dark room behind the Horses of Lysippus. Some had crumbled into powder, and others had been glued into shapeless masses by the damp. The survivors were placed in the Libraria Vecchia, and are now in the Ducal Palace; but it was long before they were permitted to enter the building that sheltered the gift of Bessarion.
OXFORD—DUKE HUMPHREY'S BOOKS—THE LIBRARY OF THE VALOIS.
The University Library at Oxford was a development of Richard de Bury's foundation. The monks of Durham had founded a hall, now represented by Trinity College, in which Richard had always taken a fatherly interest. He provided the ordinary texts and commentaries for the students, and was extremely anxious that they should be instructed in Greek and in the languages of the East. A knowledge of Arabic, he thought, was as necessary for the study of astronomy as a familiarity with Hebrew was requisite for the understanding of the Scriptures. The Friars had bought a good supply of Hebrew books when the Jews were expelled from England; Richard not only increased the available store, but supplied the means of using it. 'We have provided,' he said, 'a grammar in Greek and Hebrew for the scholars, with all the proper aids to instruct them in reading and writing those languages.' He formed the ambitious design of providing assistance to the whole University out of the books presented to the hall. The rules which he drew up were not unlike those already in use at the Sorbonne. Five students were chosen as wardens, of whom any three might be a quorum for lending the manuscripts. Any book, of which they possessed a duplicate, might be lent out on proper security: but copying was not allowed, and no volume was on any account to be carried beyond the suburbs. A yearly account was to be taken of the books in store, and of the current securities; and if any profit should come to the wardens' hands it was to be applied to the maintenance of the library.
When the Bishop died some of his books went back to Durham; but the monks were generous towards the hall, and on several occasions sent fresh supplies to Oxford. It may also be observed that some of his best MSS. were returned to the Abbey of St. Alban's. He had bought about thirty volumes from a former abbot for fifty pounds weight of silver; but the monks had continually protested against a transaction which they believed to be illegal, and on Richard's death some of the books were given back, and others were purchased by Abbot Wentmore from his executors.
De Bury's generous care for learning was imitated in several quarters. A few years after his death the Lady Elizabeth de Burgh made a bequest of a small but very costly library to her College of Clare Hall at Cambridge. Guy Earl of Warwick about the same time gave a collection of illuminated romances to the monks of Bordesley. John de Newton in the next generation divided his collection of classics, histories, and service-books, between St. Peter's College at Cambridge and the Minster at York, where he had acted for some years as treasurer. The lending-library at Durham Hall was the only provision for the public, with the exception of a few volumes kept in the 'chest with four keys' at St. Mary's. Thomas Cobham, Bishop of Worcester, had long been anxious to show his filial love for the University: as early as the year 1320 he had begun to prepare a room for a library 'over the old congregation-house in the north churchyard of St. Mary's'; and, though the work was left incomplete, he gave all his books by will to be placed at the disposal of the whole body of scholars. Owing to disputes that arose between the University and the College to which Cobham had belonged, the gift did not take effect until 1367. The University Library was established in the upper room, which was used as a Convocation House in later times; it is said not to have been completely furnished until the year 1409, more than eighty years after the date of the Bishop's benefaction. According to the first statute for the regulation of Cobham's Library, the best of the books were to be sold so as to raise a sum of L40, which according to the current rate of interest would produce a yearly income of L3 for the librarian; the other books, together with those from the University Chest, were to be chained to the desks for the general use of the students. It was soon found necessary to exclude the 'noisy rabble': and permission to work in the library was restricted to graduates of eight years' standing. Richard de Bury had warned the world in his chapter upon the handling of books, how hardly could a raw youth be made to take care of a manuscript; the student, according to the great bibliophile, would treat a book as roughly as if it were a pair of shoes, would stick in straws to keep his place, or stuff it with violets and rose-leaves, and would very likely eat fruit or cheese over one page and set a cup of ale on the other. An impudent boy would scribble across the text, the copyist would try his pen on a blank space, a scullion would turn the pages with unwashed hands, or a thief might cut out the fly-leaves and margins to use in writing his letters; 'and all these various negligences,' he adds, 'are wonderfully injurious to books.'
A generous benefactor gave a copy of De Lyra's 'Commentaries,' which was set upon a desk in St. Mary's Chancel for reference. A large gift of books came from Richard Courteney, the Chancellor of the University; and as a mark of gratitude he was allowed free access to the library during the rest of his life. Among the other benefactors whose good deeds are still commemorated we find King Henry IV., who helped to complete the library, his successor Henry V., who contributed to its endowment as Prince of Wales, and his brothers John Duke of Bedford and Humphrey Duke of Gloucester; and the roll of a later date includes the names of Edmund Earl of March, Philip Repington Bishop of Lincoln, and the munificent Archbishop Arundel.
The good Duke Humphrey has been called 'the first founder of the University Library.' We know from the records of that time that his gifts were acknowledged to be 'an almost unspeakable blessing.' He sent in all about three hundred volumes during his life, which were placed in the chests of Cobham's Library as they arrived, to be transferred to the new Divinity Schools as soon as room could be made for the whole collection. He had intended to bequeath as many more by way of an additional endowment, but died intestate: and there was a considerable delay before the University could procure the fulfilment of his charitable design. When the books at last arrived 'the general joy knew no bounds'; and the title of 'Duke Humphrey's Library' was gratefully given to the whole assemblage of books which from several different quarters had come into the University's possession.
The catalogue shows that the Duke's store had consisted mainly of the writings of the Fathers and Arabian works on science: there were a few classics, including a Quintilian, and Aristotle and Plato in Latin: the works of Capgrave and Higden were the only English chronicles; but the Duke was a devotee of the Italian learning, and his gifts to Oxford included more than one copy of the Divina Commedia, three separate copies of Boccaccio, and no less than seven of Petrarch.
The fate of the libraries founded by De Bury and Duke Humphrey of Gloucester was to perish at the hands of the mob. Bishop Bale has told the sad story of the destruction of the monastic libraries. The books were used for tailors' measures, for scouring candlesticks and cleaning boots; 'some they sold to the grocers and soap-sellers'; some they sent across the seas to the book-binders, 'whole ships-full, to the wondering of foreign nations': he knew a merchant who bought 'two noble libraries' for 40s., and got thereby a store of grey paper for his parcels which lasted him for twenty years. The same thing happened at Oxford. The quadrangle of one College was entirely covered 'with a thick bed of torn books and manuscripts.' The rioters in the Protector Somerset's time broke into the 'Aungerville Library,' as De Bury's collection was called, and burnt all the books. Some of De Bury's books had been removed into Duke Humphrey's Library, and met the same fate at the Schools, with almost every other volume that the University possessed. So complete was the destruction that in 1555 an order was made to sell the desks and book-shelves, as if it were finally admitted that Oxford would never have a library again.