The Private Library - What We Do Know, What We Don't Know, What We Ought to Know - About Our Books
by Arthur L. Humphreys
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Fourth Edition.




WITH all the literature published on behalf of Free Libraries—institutions which, after all, are of doubtful good—no one so far has written a book to assist in making THE PRIVATE LIBRARY combine practical useful qualities with decorative effect.

For many years I have had opportunities of inspecting and reporting upon Collections of Books in numerous Country Houses, and I must say that the condition of books in the greater number of them is chaotic. A man will talk about all his possessions—his pictures, his objets d'art, his horses, his garden, and his bicycle, but rarely will he talk about his books; and if he does so, all his geese are swans, or just as often, all his swans are geese. There are servants in every house qualified to do everything except handle a book. There is no reason why the Library should not be just as much a place of amusement as the billiard-room, where the men are usually to be found. Books are much more amusing than billiards, and you may learn to play in jest or work in earnest with books just as you take to any other amusement. The whole truth is that at present books do not get a proper share of attention, and it is with the desire to remedy such a condition of things that I have printed this little volume, containing things that we do know, that we don't know, and that we ought to know about our books.

A. L. H.






























What is a Good Edition?

A good edition should be a complete edition, ungarbled and unabridged. If the author is a classic, the format of the copy chosen should in some way represent the style of the author. Gibbon, for instance, should be in large octavo or quarto, with print of a size to correspond. This is not always possible, for English editions of books often aim at mere cheapness, and of many great authors there exist no good editions. Thus there is no suitable edition of the classics printed in England, as there is and for long has been in France. A good edition is not necessarily an expensive edition, nor is it necessarily noble and generous in print and margin. The editions known as the 'Globe' editions of Pope and others are good editions because (1) They are complete; (2) Each one has been taken in hand and superintended by the most competent scholar and has notes sufficient but not pedantic; (3) Because they are well printed on paper of fair quality by printers who give wages liberally to careful press readers; (4) Because each work being a work of the first or classic order, it is bound in a simple and unaffected style, without meretricious gold or tawdry ornament. Now the 'Globe' editions are fitting in their place as types of right editions of the cheap kind. I will now take right editions of the more liberal and expensive kind. The 'Cambridge' Shakespeare, the last issue, each play in a separate volume, is right because (1) The print, paper, spacing, and simplicity of binding, are suited to the dignity of the work; (2) The edition has had brought to it fulness of knowledge and rightness of judgment; (3) Each volume is light to handle and easy to hold, and flexible in opening.

But it would be misleading to say that these are the only examples of right editions. In other books which I might name, excellent work has been brought to play which in the two types already named there was not scope for. I would like therefore to take another instance, and name the editions of Pope's Works, edited by Courthope and Elwin, of Walpole's Letters, edited by Peter Cunningham, and Boswell's Johnson, edited by Birkbeck Hill. These editions contain excellent and workmanlike features, such as good arrangement and good indexing, with notes and elucidations sufficiently ample. The size too of each volume is not extravagant as in certain editions de luxe. Now in order that we may have good editions, there are, at least, ten people who must work well together: (1) the Author, (2) the Publisher, (3) the Printer, (4) the Reader, (5) the Compositor, (6) the Pressman, (7) the Paper Maker, (8) the Ink Maker, (9) the Bookbinder, (10) the Consumer.[1] When these ten people are not working in harmony, a book is spoilt. Too often the author, without technical knowledge of book production, insists on certain whims and fancies of his own being carried out. Too often the publisher aims at cheapness and nothing more.

The publications issued by Pickering in the 'forties' and 'fifties' were models of good workmanship. Pickering published and Whittingham printed, and it was their custom to first sit in consultation upon every new book, and painfully hammer out each in his own mind its ideal form and proportions. Then two Sundays at least were required to compare notes in the little summer house in Mr. Whittingham's garden at Chiswick. Here they would discuss size and quality of paper, the shape of the printed page, the number of lines, the size of the type, the form and comeliness of the title-page.[2] In all technical details the Edinburgh edition of R. L. Stevenson's works is satisfying. Here are more 'lines of beauty' than in almost any other modern printed book. As we handle it we feel satisfied that it is right. Perhaps it was such a format that Mr. Ruskin had in mind when he shaped out a scheme of a Royal series of books, which should be models of good work all round. And though it is necessary that we have cheap editions, and that books should circulate everywhere, we want to save the book trade from shoddy work by keeping good models before us. That we produce the best thought in the best form, and not in any mean, shabby dress, ought indeed to be a serious aim of everybody engaged in the matter.


[1] Stevens' Who spoils our English Books?

[2] Stevens' Who spoils our English Books?

What is a Fine Copy?

To judge of a fine copy requires some years' handling of books. To some, the school prize, in light brown calf, represents an ideal of book beauty; to others, a padded binding and round corners. But these are neither beautiful nor in any way fine copies. The school prize book is not a fine copy (1) Because it is bound in a very perishable leather; (2) Because its margins have been trimmed away and ploughed into; (3) Because it is received in a form which renders it impossible to stamp one's own individuality upon it; (4) It has gaudy and meaningless ornaments stamped down the back. The padded binding is impossible as a fine copy because it has had applied to it a wholly incongruous method of preservation. Books require to be clothed, but not to be upholstered. The round corners usually adopted by the upholster binder can claim no advantage, and they rob the book of its natural neatness and squareness of edge. School prize bindings and padded bindings are sins against the sanctity of common sense. What then is a fine copy? Almost, though not entirely, essential is it that it be in the original binding as put out by the publisher, whether it be a paper covering, or cloth, or boards. The reason for this is that in securing a book in such a condition one has the book in full measure, and there is no necessity to undo anything which has already been done. Now, if a book be bought in a leather binding, the chances are that it is a leather binding which in no way suits its new owner, and he therefore has not only to sacrifice the binding, but in rebinding it he must sacrifice some of the margins too. The novels of Scott and Marryat in their original boards are delightful to handle. A fine copy should be a clean copy free from spots. When a book is spotted it is called 'foxed,' and these 'foxey' books are for the most part books printed in the early part of this century, when paper-makers first discovered that they could bleach their rags, and, owing to the inefficient means used to neutralise the bleach, the book carried the seeds of decay in itself, and when exposed to any damp soon became discoloured with brown stains.[3] A foxed book cannot have the fox marks removed, and such a book should be avoided. Ink marks can be removed, and a name written upon a title-page can generally be entirely obliterated without leaving any sign that it has been there. Here let me beg people who give presents of books never to write upon title-pages, but upon the fly-leaf. Many thousands of beautiful and valuable volumes are annually ruined for ever by their owners cutting the name from the title. A cut title-page is irreparable. A fine copy may be a bound copy, in which case the edges must not have been cut down, though the top edge may have been gilded, and the binding must be appropriate and not provincial in appearance. A provincial binding lacks finish, the board used is too thick or too thin, or not of good quality, and the leather not properly pared down and turned in. All such things go to spoil good books. In North's Lives of the Norths there is a passage which well describes the man of judgment in books. Dr. John North, whose life forms part of this work, is most picturesquely described in his book-loving habits. 'He courted, as a fond lover, all best editions, fairest characters, best bound and preserved. If the subject were in his favour (as the Classics), he cared not how many of them he had, even of the same edition, if he thought it among the best, rather better bound, squarer cut, neater covers, or some such qualification caught him.' And then his biographer adds, what is so true, and especially of books, 'Continual use gives men a judgment of things comparatively, and they come to fix on what is most proper and easy, which no man upon cursory view would determine.'

Large paper copies are not necessarily fine copies. When a cheap trumpery piece of book-making is printed on hand-made paper or Japanese vellum paper the result is vulgarity, just as when a common person attempts to swagger about in fine clothes. No, a book must show good binding and be appropriately apparelled, or it cannot be referred to as a fine copy. In the matter of large paper copies it is necessary to form a separate judgment in each case. One thing is certain, that the man who collects large paper books as large paper books is a vulgarian and a fool. He who collects such large paper books as mature judgment determines are appropriate, and because he sees them to have genuine points of merit over and above small paper copies, is a book lover. In a charming little volume, written by an American bibliophile, I read the following passage, confirming in part the foregoing:—

'Good editions of good books, though they may often be expensive, cannot be too highly commended. One can turn to a page in inviting letterpress so much easier than to a page of an unattractive volume.'[4]


[3] Blades' Enemies of Books (p. 25).

[4] Ellwanger's Story of my House, p. 213.

Book Values.

It would be impossible to tell all the causes which go towards determining the value of a book and which cause it to fluctuate in price. There is but one way to arrive at a reliable knowledge of book values, and that is to begin stall-hunting as soon as you leave school or college and continue until past middle age, absorbing information from stalls, from catalogues, and from sale-rooms. The records of prices at which books have been sold in the auction rooms, and which are regularly issued, are useless in the hands of an inexperienced person. To make up your mind on Monday that you are going to begin a career of successful bargain-hunting and book-collecting is only to be defrauded on all the other five remaining days. Experience must be bought, and an eye for a good copy of a book, or for a bargain of any kind, only comes after years of practice. I admit that if a man begins collecting some particular class of books, say Angling books, he may sooner arrive at safe judgment alone; but even here he has a pretty wide field to make blunders in. When Gabriel Naude wrote his pamphlet, Avis pour dresser une Bibliotheque, he laid down his first rule thus:—'The first means is to take the counsel and advice of such as are able to give it viva voce.' This was written more than two hundred years ago, and still no better advice could possibly be given to a book collector. By all means find a man whom you can trust, and whose knowledge is ample, and stick to him. Do not yourself bid in the auction room, or you will soon find out your mistake. Place your list of wants and your list of commissions in the hands of one good man whom you have reason to trust, and you will then get your money's worth.

I have said that it is impossible to set down all the causes which affect the prices of books, but in an old French bibliographical book, by D. Clement,[5] the subject is gone into more minutely than it has ever since been treated. First, there are causes which may be classed under the heading of Rarity. Secondly, there are causes which must be grouped under the head Condition.

According to Clement, there are two sorts of rarity in books; the one absolute, the other conditional or contingent. There are rare editions of very common books. There are books of almost common occurrence in public libraries, which are rarely seen in the market. A book or an edition of which but very few copies exist is called 'necessarily rare;' one which is only with difficulty to be met with—however many copies may be extant—he calls 'contingently rare.'

Under the first head he classes; (1) Books of which few copies were printed; (2) Books which have been suppressed; (3) Books which have been almost entirely destroyed by casual fire, or other accident; (4) Books of which a large portion of the impression has been wasted—usually for want of success when published; (5) Volumes of which the printing was never completed; (6) Copies on large paper or on vellum.

Under the second head, he enumerates; (1) Books on subjects which interest only a particular class of students; (2) Books in languages which are little known; (3) Heretical, licentious, and libellous books; (4) First editions of a classic author from MS.; (5) First productions of the printing press in a particular town; (6) The productions of the celebrated printers of the sixteenth century; (7) Books in the vernacular language of an author who printed them in a foreign country; (8) Books privately printed; (9) Works, the various parts of which have been published under different titles, in different sizes, or in various places.

Clement then analyses the degrees of rarity thus: (1) Every book, which is no longer current in the trade, and requires some pains in the search for it, is 'of infrequent occurrence;' (2) If there are but few copies in the country in which we live, and those not easily met with, it is 'rare;' (3) If the copies are so dispersed that there are but few of them, even in the neighbouring countries, so that there is increased difficulty to procure them, it is 'very rare;' (4) If the number of copies be but fifty or sixty, and those scattered, it is 'extremely rare;' (5) And finally, every work of which there are not ten copies in the world is 'excessively rare.' In all these cases, it must be supposed that the book is a book sought for, and that the seekers are more numerous than the sought.[6]

In the matter of Condition and its effect upon price, long training is required before all the qualities of a copy can be properly defined. There are copies on 'vellum,' 'large paper,' 'fine paper,' 'coloured paper.' There are 'crisp' copies, 'uncut' copies, 'tall' copies, 'ruled' copies, and 'illustrated' copies, cum multis aliis.[7]

Fashion determines much as to price. As soon as it becomes a fad to collect books relating to some particular subject, competition instantly steps in, and prices go up. It may be well to state, for the benefit of a very numerous and uninitiated public, that, because a book is old, it is not necessarily rare. There are many thousands of people who have most imperfect and valueless books, mostly on theology, or some controversial abominations, and these people spend days wasting their own and booksellers' time in seeking to sell at prices which their own imagination alone has determined is right. Distrust the advertisements of large paper editions. Very few of them are worth purchasing, and very few, indeed, increase in value. Fight against the first-edition craze, which is the maddest craze that ever affected book collecting. Again and again it must be repeated, and cannot be gainsaid, that a first edition may be the best, but in most cases it is the worst. In every case, inquire and find out which is the best edition as to completeness, good paper and print, and safe editing, if such has been necessary, and then purchase a copy of that edition. One remark finally. The prices of all good books are going up, and any one who lays out money with care within the next ten years will have the enjoyment of his library and a good investment as well.


[5] D. Clement, Bibliotheque curieuse.

[6] Edwards, Memoirs of Libraries, ii. 647-649.

[7] Edwards, ii. 659.

On the Care of Books.

The two things most neglected in houses are the trimming of lamps and the care of the books. The condition of many libraries in large country houses is most lamentable. In such neglect are they that it would take months, and in some cases years, working day and night, to restore them to a healthy condition. For, poor things! they are really so neglected, that their covers become like the limbs of rheumatic people. If you touch them they seem to shriek and cry with pain. They are either parched for lack of a proper atmosphere, or else they are sticking together with the damp or thickly covered with dust.[8] There is nothing else in a house like this, and why are these things so? It is because there are so few people who understand the care of books. I once read the following in a daily paper, and thought I recognised in it a familiar hand, that of Mr. Andrew Lang:—

'The foes of books are careless people—first of all. They tear pages open with their thumbs, or cut them with sharp knives which damage the margins. It is so difficult to keep paper knives, and ivory paper knives are the favourite pasture of some scholars, who bite the edges till the weapon resembles a dissipated saw. To avoid this temptation some employ mediaeval daggers, or skene dhus, but the edges spoil a book. Cigarette ashes are very bad for books, so is butter, also marmalade. Dr. Johnson and Wordsworth are said to have been very careless with their books. Dr. Johnson used to clean his from dust by knocking them together, as Mr. Leighton says housemaids do. Scott was very careful; he had a number of wooden dummies made, and, when a volume was borrowed, he put the dummy in its place on the shelf, inscribing it with the name of the borrower. He also defended his shelves with locked brazen wires. "Tutus clausus ero" ("I shall be safe if shut up"), his anagram, was his motto, under a portcullis. Borrowers, of course, are nearly the worst enemies of books, always careless, and very apt to lose one volume out of a set. Housemaids are seldom bibliophiles. Their favourite plan is to dust the books in the owner's absence, and then rearrange them on fancy principles, mostly upside down. One volume of Grote will be put among French novels, another in the centre of a collection on sports, a third in the midst of modern histories, while others are "upstairs and downstairs, and in my lady's chamber." The diversity of sizes, from folio to duodecimo, makes books very difficult to arrange where room is scanty. Modern shelves in most private houses allow no room for folios, which have to lie, like fallen warriors, on their sides.'

All that is very true, particularly about housemaids. Indeed, I have rarely found any woman who cared sufficiently for her books to really fondly tend them.

The principal enemy which books have is DAMP. This means ruination, more perhaps to the paper than to the binding, though both suffer. A fungus growth comes on the leather, and inside there come stains and 'fox' marks. Damp is caused (1) through lack of fires or warmth; (2) through too many sides of a room being exposed to the elements without having the walls battened; (3) the thaw following a frost, proper means for warmth not being adopted during the frost. The only remedy for damp is the trying process of opening each volume and suspending it open, after wiping with a dry cloth each page affected. The next worst enemies are gas and heat.

Gas alone, provided the books are not placed high up, will not be nearly so destructive as it is generally supposed; but all atmospheres heated too highly are destructive. Mr. Poole, a very experienced American librarian, has reported as follows, and, I think, very rightly:—

'The burning of many gas lights doubtless has a tendency to increase the evil by increasing the heat. Yet the deterioration of bindings goes on in the libraries where gas is never used. This fact shows that the chief injury arises from heat, and not merely from the sulphurous residuum of gas combustion.'

Mr. Poole made an experiment in the upper gallery of a library, and found that—

'While the temperature of the floor was 65 deg. Fahr., that of the upper gallery was found to be 142 deg.. Such a temperature dries up the oil of the leather, and burns out its life. Books cannot live where men cannot live.' Similarly, Mr. Blades wrote in his little manual:

'The surest way to preserve your books is to treat them as you would your own children, who are sure to sicken if confined in an atmosphere which is impure, too hot, too cold, too damp, or too dry. It is just the same with the progeny of literature.'

In London particularly dust, smoke, and soot get at books and do great damage. To have the top edges gilded is an excellent way to prevent dust getting into the leaves. Books which have roughly trimmed tops harbour dust much more readily, and it is with great difficulty removed from such. If a book is very dusty, a small brush is perhaps the best means to adopt to remove the offending particles. Books should not be either swung together or beaten together. The carpet in a library should not reach to the wall, or right to the cases, but should fall short so as to be removed when required to be cleaned. A librarian at Bath gives the following advice:—

'Our books are taken down once a year, in the month of August, to be dusted, and, for the last four or five years, I have adopted a simple plan. When the books are well dusted I take about half an ounce of the best horn glue, and, having dissolved it in the usual way, I add to it about a pint of warm water and a teaspoonful of glycerine, and stir it well. Then dipping a soft sponge into the solution, I wash over the backs of the books. If the leather is much perished or decayed, it will unduly absorb the size, and a second touch over may be necessary. The glycerine will have the effect of preventing the glue from drying too hard or stiffening the leather. When dry, the books may be rubbed over with a chamois leather. The above process, I find, helps to nourish the leather, and to restore that property which the heated air has destroyed. It also freshens up and greatly improves the appearance of the volumes upon the shelves. The operation must be repeated once a year at least.'

Bottles of preparation are sold ready made up for this purpose. Mr. Blades warmly echoed the sentiment that housemaids and helps are seldom bibliophiles, and, if, peradventure, one Eve in a family can be indoctrinated with book reverence, there may be salvation for all the books. Mr. Blades himself had a fine library, and goes fully into the subject of the period of dusting and its methods.[9]

'Books must now and then be taken down out of their shelves, but they should be tended lovingly and with judgment. If the dusting can be done just outside the room, so much the better. The books removed, the shelf should be lifted quite out of its bearings, cleansed, and wiped, and then each volume should be taken separately and gently rubbed on back and edges with a soft cloth. In returning the volumes to their places, notice should be taken of the binding, and especially when the books are in whole calf or morocco, care should be taken not to let them rub together. The best-bound books are soonest injured, and generally deteriorate in bad company. Certain volumes, indeed, have evil tempers, and will scratch the faces of all their neighbours who are too familiar with them. Such are books with metal clasps and rivets on their edges; and such, again, are those abominable old rascals, chiefly born in the fifteenth century, who are proud of being dressed in real boards with brass corners, and pass their lives with fearful knobs and metal bosses. . . . . When your books are being dusted, don't impute too much common sense to your assistants—take their ignorance for granted.'

Mr. Blades then points out certain dangers which beset the inexperienced handler of books. Never lift a book by one of its corners. Do not pile books up too high. Be careful not to rub the dust into instead of off the edges. If mildew or damp is discovered, carefully wipe it away, and let the book stand open for some days in a very dry spot—but not in front of a fire. Be careful that no grit is on the duster, or it will surely mark your books. Do not wedge books in too tightly. Common-sense must dictate what is right, but every volume should fit easily in its place.

Children and servants are not to be classed as friendly to books, but little lapses on their part are much more easily tolerated than the ignorance of the person who ought to know better. Such people insist upon having their books bound in hideous bindings, and mutilated almost beyond recognition by the bookbinder's plough.

I will talk about bookbinding later, but this I will say, that in no way can a book be easier ruined than by being placed unconditionally in the hands of a bookbinder.

It is frequently supposed that the insect, known as the bookworm, is a great enemy to books. 'Tis true where the bookworm exists it does irreparable damage, but fortunately it is not an insect which may be found every day. In America, they have, I believe, greater trouble from these boring insects. They have 'fish bugs,' 'silver fish,' and 'bustle tails,' scientifically known as Lepisma Saccharina. Another is known as 'Buffalo Bug,' or 'Carpet Bug,' or the Anthrenus varius of scientists. A third is Blatta Australasia, a species of cockroach.

The following maxims may be learned by heart, or if preferred, they can be bought by experience:

Do not bite your paper knife until it has the edge of a saw.

Do not cut books except with a proper ivory paper knife.

It is ruination to a good book not to cut it right through into the corners.

Do not turn the leaves of books down. Particularly, do not turn down the leaves of books printed on plate paper.

If you are in the habit of lending books, do not mark them. These two habits together constitute an act of indiscretion.

It is better to give a book than to lend it.

Never write upon a title-page or half-title. The blank fly-leaf is the right place.

Books are neither card-racks, crumb-baskets, or receptacles for dead leaves.

Books were not meant as cushions, nor were they meant to be toasted before a fire.

Valets and maids appear to take kindly to the packing of everything except books. I will therefore say that only small quantities (twelve volumes to twenty) should be packed in a parcel. Boxes, either wine-cases, or boxes specially made, should be used. Books being very solid and heavy should be packed in strong cases, and the method of packing them should be to place them upright alternately on back and edge in layers. By this means they can be fitted tightly to the case they are meant to travel in. Leather bound volumes should be wrapped up singly before being packed, and the box should be carefully lined with paper so that any roughness on the wood of the box may not damage the volumes.

Book and parcel post volumes should have three or four thicknesses of paper, and if bound volumes a strawboard on either side as well as paper.


[8] Leighton (John), Book-plate Annual.

[9] Enemies of Books.

The Art of Reading.

First, how to read. The reason why so many people who read much know so little, is because they read isolated books instead of reading one book in connexion with another. The memory is trained by association, and if you read two books in succession on one subject you know more than twice as much as if you had read one book only. A good memory is a memory which assimilates. Every one has a good memory for something. A good memory rejects and sifts, and does not accept everything offered to it like a pillar-box. Do not join reading societies, because they kill individuality. Choose your subject, and work all round it. There is an extensive literature on the subject of 'The Art of Reading,' 'The Best Hundred Books,' &c. Most of it is useless and bewildering. The best advice I have ever seen in print about reading was by Sir Herbert Maxwell, and it appeared some years ago at the end of a Nineteenth Century article. It is as follows:

'If any young person of leisure were so much at a loss as to ask advice as to what he should read, mine should be exceedingly simple—Read anything bearing on a definite object. Let him take up any imaginable subject to which he feels attracted, be it the precession of the equinoxes or postage stamps, the Athenian drama or London street cries; let him follow it from book to book, and unconsciously his knowledge, not of that subject only, but of many subjects, will be increased, for the departments of the realm of knowledge are divided by no octroi. He may abandon the first object of his pursuit for another; it does not matter, one subject leads to another; he will have acquired the habit of acquisition; he will have gained that conviction of the pricelessness of time which makes it intolerable for a man to lie abed of a morning.'

The art of reading is a thing to learn, and with it comes the equally valuable art of skipping.

Mr. Balfour's advice to readers is to learn the arts of skipping and skimming, and the late Philip Gilbert Hamerton said:—'The art of reading is to skip judiciously. The art is to skip all that does not concern us, whilst missing nothing that we really need. No external guidance can teach this; for nobody but ourselves can guess what the needs of our intellect may be.'

No one knows how to skim and skip who has not first well threshed out some subject for himself. No one can tear the heart out of a book who has not first been through the student period. Advice is poured forth in lengthy magazine articles, and lectures, but as far as I know there is nothing which embodies such good sense on this subject, excepting Sir Herbert Maxwell's advice above, as a tiny pamphlet, about two inches square, written by Miss Lucy Soulsby, and sold for twopence. It is rather absurdly called Things in Books Clothing!

Below are printed only such passages, gathered from many sources, as I think are necessary to be known about the art of reading.

'It is true that the most absolute master of his own hours still needs thrift if he would turn them to account, and that too many never learn this thrift, whilst others learn it late. . . . . Few intellectual men have the art of economising the hours of study. The very necessity which every one acknowledges of giving vast portions of life to attain proficiency in anything, makes us prodigal where we ought to be parsimonious, and careless where we have need of unceasing vigilance. The best time-savers are a love of soundness in all we learn or do, and a cheerful acceptance of inevitable limitations.'[10]

'In exchange for the varied pleasures of the fashionable life, the intellectual life can offer you but one satisfaction, for all its promises are reducible simply to this, that you shall come at last, after infinite labour, into contact with some great reality; that you shall know and do in such sort that you will feel yourself on firm ground, and be recognised—probably not much applauded, but yet recognised—as a fellow-labourer by other knowers and doers. Before you come to this, most of your present accomplishments will be abandoned by yourself as unsatisfactory and insufficient, but one or two of them will be turned to better account, and will give you, after many years, a tranquil self-respect, and, what is still rarer and better, a very deep and earnest reverence for the greatness which is above you. Severed from the vanities of the illusory, you will live with the realities of knowledge as one who has quitted the painted scenery of the theatre to listen by the eternal ocean or gaze at the granite hills.'[11]

'Reading, with me, incites to reflection instantly. I cannot separate the origination of ideas from the reception of ideas. The consequence is, as I read I always begin to think in various directions, and that makes my reading slow.'[12]

'When a particular object has to be attained, reading cannot be too special. There is an enormous waste of intelligence through a neglect of this fact, but otherwise reading should "come by nature." When I look through the list of The Best Hundred Books, I cannot help saying to myself, "Here are the most admirable and varied materials for the formation of a prig."'[13]

'Let us not be afraid of using a dictionary. A dictionary? A dozen; at all events, until Dr. Murray's huge undertaking is finished. And even then, for no one dictionary will help us through some authors—say, Chaucer, or Spenser, or Sir Thomas Browne. Let us use our full lexicon, and Latin dictionary, and French dictionary, and Anglo-Saxon dictionary, and etymological dictionary, and dictionaries of antiquity, and biography, and geography, and concordances, anything and everything that will throw light on the meanings and histories of words.'[14]

'To master a book, perhaps the best possible way is to write an essay in refutation of it. You may be bound few things will escape you then. The next best way may perhaps be to edit and annotate it for students, though, if some recent hebdomadal animadversions upon certain Oxford styles of annotation are well founded, this is questionable. The worst way, I should think, would be to review it for a newspaper.'[15]

'Reading, and much reading, is good. But the power of diversifying the matter infinitely in your own mind, and of applying it to every occasion that arises is far better.'[16]

'A person once told me that he never took up a book except with the view of making himself master of some subject which he was studying, and that while he was so engaged he made all his reading converge to that point. In this way he might read parts of many books, but not a single one from "end to end." This I take to be an excellent method of study, but one which implies the command of many books.'[17]

'Never read a book without pencil in hand. If you dislike disfiguring the margins and fly-leaves of your own books, borrow a friend's; but by all means use a pencil, if only to jot down the pages to be re-read. To transcribe striking, beautiful, or important passages is a tremendous aid to the memory; these will live for years, clear and vivid as day, when the book itself has become spectral and shadowy in the night of oblivion. A manuscript volume of such passages, well indexed, will become in time one of the most valuable books in one's library.'[18]

'No man, it appears to me, can tell another what he ought to read. A man's reading, to be of any value, must depend upon his power of association, and that again depends upon his tendencies, his capacities, his surroundings, and his opportunities.'[19]

* * * * *

I am fully convinced that the above passages condense all that is best worth knowing upon the 'Art of Reading.'

Next in importance is what to read. Be very careful about reading books which are recommended, because they are books of the hour. Fools step in and say read this and that without thinking to put themselves in your place. Because a book suits one person, it is only a rare chance that it will suit a friend equally.

Before recommending a book to another with assurance, you must know the book well, and the friend to whom it is recommended you must know much better. Read the book which suggests something responsive and sympathetic. No one can tell you this as well as you can find it for yourself. Practice will teach you to choose a book, as practice has taught you to choose a friend. You will almost be able to choose it in the dark. There are affinities for books as for people, but this does not come at once.

The proper appreciation of the great books of the world is the reward of lifelong study. You must work up to them, and unconsciously you will become trained to find great qualities in what the world has decided is great. Novel reading is not a part of the intellectual life, it is a part of the fashionable life.

Lamb says that Bridget Elia 'was tumbled early, by accident or design, into a spacious library of good old English reading, without much selection or prohibition, and browsed at will upon that fair and wholesome pasturage.' And he adds, 'Had I twenty girls they should be brought up exactly in this fashion.'

Ruskin says, 'there need be no choosing at all. Keep the modern magazine and novel out of your girl's way; turn her loose into the old library every wet day, and let her alone. She will find out what is good for her.'

Mr. Ruskin notwithstanding, there will ever be a large public who will read nothing unless it has a story in it.

Nearly all readers of books may be divided into two classes, those who read as students towards some definite end, and those who read for amusement. The latter class are greatly in the majority, and I have no hesitation in saying that a love of fiction will always predominate over a love of research, even in its light form. The student class, among whom are many critics, usually fail to understand the position of the fiction lovers, with the result that the fiction readers and fiction itself get a great many jibes and taunts. To open this question would involve a long argument, and would bring about no good. All experience goes to prove that a very large section of the public, not being students, loves to read the books of the hour, and great pleasure may be got therefrom. The smaller section, trained to different habits, and regarding books in a more serious light, put their collection of books to different purposes, and, I know, get great pleasure therefrom. The two classes can run parallel together, and one class should not try to exterminate the other.[20] In country houses the books in billiard-rooms and in the bedrooms should appropriately be fiction. Not many guests at a house-party are in the frame of mind to take up serious books, nor are there the opportunities given for application which such would require. I think where the general house library is (as is very often the case) not a living room, there is then much more reason for separating fiction and light literature, and placing them in a very accessible position. It will often be found advisable, as fiction accumulates, to weed out and decide what volumes shall be bound and what rejected or placed in the servants' library. Shelves should therefore be reserved for books which are thus going through a period of probation.[21]

A fiction library may be made very interesting if it is so arranged as to represent the history of France or of England, or any country. From the boundless stores of fiction writers—in fact, from Scott alone almost—a sequence of volumes may be arranged which, if read in proper order, would make a very excellent romance history. Almost every interesting episode of history has had its story woven into romance. Thus there are, I believe, about eighteen historical romances relating to the Monmouth rebellion alone.

'Much of love,' said Lord Bowen, 'has only been learned under the instruction of some woman who has herself only learned it from a book. Authoresses, indeed, have not unfrequently betrayed the key to some of their sex's secrets. Were it not for Northanger Abbey and Miss Austen, some of the old mysteries of girlish friendship would have remained untold, and we should never have known or understood the curiosity which may lurk in a refined bosom at seventeen. Man would scarcely have guessed but for Jane Eyre the impression which can be made, it seems, upon a heart by a middle-aged gentleman with the manners of a bear and the composure of a prig. Furthermore, it is through women's novels that we have had brought home to us most adequately what women who have tasted it, or seen it, can best relate, the despicable egotism of a weak man. Anzoleto in Consuelo, Tito in Romola.'[22]

It is important for every one to fix upon a time for everyday study, and remember to read when you have a disposition so to do. Do not think that spare moments not spent in reading are lost. Some spare time must be kept for thinking. If you have 'nerves,' it is no good to read then; read when the mind is quiet and receptive. This will probably be when dressing in the morning, or at night before going to bed. Keep a small bookcase in your dressing-room; in so doing you will learn the art of going to bed well. Read at any time when curiosity is aroused as to any person, place, or subject, and keep reference books at hand to answer questions intelligently. Napoleon read all the new novels in a travelling carriage, and pitched them out of the window as each was finished. Active minds, to read advantageously, should seek a quiet sanctum of their own.

A very admirable suggestion was made a short time since, I think by Dr. Ernest Hart, that it should be more a custom to have bookcases in bedrooms. Many persons, and, I believe, notably Mr. Gladstone, read before going to bed. I think all bedrooms should have a selection of favourite books, and I do not think that novels are nearly so suitable as books of short essays and sketches. Few people would sit up sufficiently long to read a novel through, and many would therefore not begin what they knew they would be unable to finish.


[10] P. G. Hamerton.

[11] P. G. Hamerton.

[12] H. W. Beecher.

[13] James Payn.

[14] Blackwood's Magazine, February, 1896.

[15] Blackwood's Magazine, February, 1896.

[16] Burke.

[17] Thirlwall.

[18] Blackwood's Magazine, February, 1896.

[19] J. S. Blackie.

[20] H. D. Traill.

[21] See Mr. Gladstone's ideas on the subject, in Gladstone in the Evening of his Days, p. 145.

[22] Bowen's lecture on Novel Reading.

Common-place Books.

Very numerous methods have been suggested whereby memory may be assisted and the assimilation of our reading proceed without indigestion. A reader is often pictured with note-book in hand, supposed to be memorising what he is reading. There is no doubt that note-books are very useful, but no note-book or commonplace-book should take the place of the natural memory—and every one has a good memory for something.

Thomas Fuller has wittily said, 'Adventure not all thy learning in one bottom, but divide it between thy memory and thy note-books. . . . . A commonplace-book contains many notions in garrison, whence an owner may draw out an army into the field on competent warning.'

Every one has his and her own way of keeping a commonplace-book. Mr. Sala, I remember, once gave a minute account of his jottings in this way:[23] 'Todd's Index Rerum was, in its day, very little else than an alphabeted book—a forerunner of what stationers now sell in various sizes called Where is it? The simplest form of commonplace-book is a plain quarto MS. book ruled in an ordinary way, and in this entries may be made without being alphabeted. Do not write extracts or notes right across the line, but make your entries thus, having the keyword clear and easy to be seen:—

'PICUS DE MIRANDOLA.—His extraordinary gifts. His being sought after by women. Compare with H. T. Buckle. See also Hallam's Literary History, Part I. chap. iii.'

In the matter of note-books, I am sure that it is best for every one to make notes in the way best suited to his convenience. Many, I think, find that taking notes while reading a book is an undesirable interruption. To such, it may be suggested to have slips of paper about half an inch wide, and four or five inches long, and insert these at the pages which contain anything notable. Then, when the book is finished, go through and transcribe or memorise such passages as are thus marked. I think it a great mistake to attempt too rigid a system in note-books, or too much red tape of any kind, because whenever this is done, the time and thought, which should be given to the matter of the extract helping to fix it upon the memory, is given instead to the secondary matter of keeping your note-books very neat.


[23] 'Periodically I am addressed by two constant and somewhat exigeant classes of correspondents: the young gentlemen who wish me to give them a list of the works requisite to form a journalist's library; and, next, the esteemed individuals of both sexes and all ages who want me to tell them how to keep a commonplace-book. I have replied to both these questions over and over again; and to give yet another list of the books which I think would be useful to professional writers for the press would be to outrage the patience of my non-professional patrons. The recipe for keeping a commonplace-book may, however, it is to be hoped, be repeated without giving offence to any one. Here it is; and pray observe that I have had it printed in small type, in order that the susceptibilities of readers who want to be amused and do not require to be instructed may not be wounded:—Procure a blank book, strongly bound, big or little, according to the largeness or smallness of your handwriting. Let the book have an index. It will be better if the paper of the book were ruled. When in the course of your reading you come on a passage which strikes you as worthy of being common-placed, copy it legibly in your commonplace-book. Say that the passage is the following, from Bacon's Natural History: "So the beard is younger than the hair of the head, and doth, for the most part, wax hoary later." At the end of this passage inscribe a circle or an ellipse, a square or a lozenge, just as you choose to do; and in the inscribed space write with red ink (better still with carmine) the figure 1. Then index the passage under letter B. "Beard younger than hair of head. 1." If you wish to be very careful in your common-placing, you may double index the passage by turning to letter H, and indicating the passage as "Head, hair of, older than beard." And so you may continue to transcribe consecutively all the passages which strike you in the course of your reading: never omitting to number the passage and to index it as soon as numbered. That is the system adopted by the Distressed Compiler, and he has made constant use of it for nearly forty years.'—G. A. SALA.

Reference Books.

I have been very often asked for a book which will 'tell one everything.' There is no such book, and there never could be such a book. Omniscience may be a foible of men, but it is not so of books. Knowledge, as Johnson said, is of two kinds, you may know a thing yourself, and you may know where to find it.[24] Now the amount which you may actually know yourself must, at its best, be limited, but what you may know of the sources of information may, with proper training, become almost boundless. And here come the value and use of reference books—the working of one book in connexion with another—and applying your own intelligence to both. By this means we get as near to that omniscient volume which tells everything as ever we shall get, and although the single volume or work which tells everything does not exist, there is a vast number of reference books in existence, a knowledge and proper use of which is essential to every intelligent person. Necessary as I believe reference books to be, they can easily be made to be contributory to idleness, and too mechanical a use should not be made of them. Very admirable reference books come to us from America, where great industry is shown, and funds for publishing them never seem to be short. The French, too, are excellent at reference books, but the inferior way in which they are printed makes them tiresome to refer to. Larousse's Grand Dictionnaire is a miracle.

A good atlas is essential as a reference book, and maps of the locality where we live. A good map of old London is very useful in studying Pepys' Diary for instance. A good verbal dictionary is essential. Sometimes several should be in use: thus, Halliwell's Archaic Dictionary and Nares' Glossary are useful in studying Shakespeare. Richardson's Dictionary embodies all the good points of Johnson's Dictionary, and is very excellent for quotations. Poetical Concordances and Dictionaries of Quotations, both prose and poetry, are useful, though very rarely does one find the quotation required in any professed book of quotations. A good Biographical Dictionary is a joy; such is Lippincott's, an American work. A good Classical Dictionary is also necessary, and may be supplemented by Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography. It would be interesting to see how far it would be possible to collect an ideal reference library, and this, I think, has never been carefully done. It must be borne in mind that reference books are not all books arranged alphabetically (though the man who first wrote an alphabeted book should be Canonised). Reference books consist of such works as Rawlinson's Historical Works, Wilkinson's History of the Ancient Egyptians, and Fergusson's History of Architecture. All such books are reference books, and many thousands more. I think it will be found a good plan in the library to keep reference books (viz., those which are likely to be in frequent use) in a separate case—perhaps a revolving case—and in no library should this section be neglected. Mr. Walter Wren, the well-known coach, once lectured on 'What is Education?' and in his lecture he made the following remarks:—

'I think the first thing that made me a teacher was my noticing, when a boy, how men and women read books and papers, and knew no more about them when they had read them than they did before. . . . . Lots of people seem to know nothing, and to want to know nothing; at any rate, they never show any wish to learn anything. I was once in a room where not one person could say where Droitwich was; once, at a dinner of fourteen, where only one besides myself knew in what county Salisbury was. I have asked, I believe, over a hundred times where Stilton is, and have been told twice—this when Stilton cheese was handed. I mention this to show the peculiar conservative mental apathy of Englishmen.'

'A reader should be familiar with the best method by which the original investigation of any topic may be carried on. When he has found it, he appreciates, perhaps for the first time, for what purpose books are for, and how to use them. . . . . No person has any claim to be a scholar until he can conduct such an original investigation with ease and pleasure.' The foregoing was the advice of a well-known American librarian.


[24] Those who read everything acquire something, and especially they acquire, as the Bishop of Oxford (Dr. Wilberforce), once said, the invaluable power of knowing where, when they wanted first-hand information, they could most easily obtain it. That is the knowledge of the lawyer; and the knowledge of the lawyer, if he is competent, gradually becomes of the kind which qualifies him to be a judge.—Spectator, January 2nd, 1897.

Boudoir Libraries.

Women have their own way of loving books. They are very rarely students, and more rarely still do they amass really great libraries, though many of the famous women of history have done so. Yet a woman likes to have her own books, and she likes, too, to have them separate from her husband's or her brothers', or the general family collection. Most women like tiny editions fitted into tiny cases.[25] Colour is much more to a woman than to a man, and in the binding of her books she will very often be very happily inspired. I think that it is in De Maistre's Journey Round my Room that he says, 'It is certain that colours exercise an influence over us to the extent of rendering us gay or sad, according to their shades.' Charming tiny bookcases are now sold in various woods and in all sizes, and these have the advantage of being easily moved from place to place. A very pretty effect can be produced by a book-screen, but this, to be of service for taking books, must be placed in a room larger than most boudoirs. In choosing bindings for small books do not be surprised if, when bound, your books are not as flexible as they should be. The easy opening of a book, and this particularly applies to small books, depends very much upon the thickness of the paper used, and small books printed on thick paper will never open well. Much blame is often heaped upon binders in this direction which is by no means their fault. Roan, parchment, vellum, morocco, and buckram are all suitable for boudoir bindings. Very pretty effects are produced by binding a series of small books in vellum with green lettering-pieces, and green edges instead of gilded edges. White backs, with pink or blue lettering-pieces, are also very dainty; and a pretty effect of another kind is produced by dark brown polished calf, with round backs, raised bands, and yellow edges.

Reference books, such as verbal dictionaries, dictionaries of quotations, a classical dictionary, an atlas, or a biographical dictionary, should always be to hand; and even when these are in the large library, duplicates should be kept in the boudoir.

In a very charming book, already referred to, called The Story of my House, there is certain practical advice which seems to be the result of much experience and excellent taste on the part of the writer.

'With regard to the bookcases themselves, their height should depend upon that of the ceilings, and the number of one's volumes. For classification and reference it is more convenient to have numerous small cases of similar or nearly similar size, and the same general style of construction, than a few large cases in which everything is engulphed. With small or medium-sized receptacles, each one may contain volumes relating to certain departments or different languages, as the case may be; by this means a volume and its kindred may be readily found.'

'The style and colour of the bindings, also, may subserve a similar purpose; as, for instance, the poets in yellow or orange, books on nature in olive, the philosophers in blue, the French classics in red, &c. Unless methodically arranged, even with a very small library, a volume is often difficult to turn to when desired for immediate consultation, requiring tedious search, especially if the volumes are arranged upon the shelves with respect to size and outward symmetry. This may be avoided by the use of small bookcases and a definite style of binding.'

I think here that the boudoir library should have its own catalogue, and every bookshelf marked or numbered. Every boudoir library should have a catalogue.

'In a room ten and a half to eleven feet high, five feet is a desirable height for the bookcases. Besides the drawers at the base, this will afford space for four rows of books, to include octavos, duodecimos, and smaller volumes. The shelves should, of course, be shifting. . . . . By leaving the top of the bookcase twelve to thirteen inches wide, ample space will be allowed for additional small books, porcelain, and bric-a-brac. It must be borne in mind that tall bookcases, in addition to the inaccessibility of the volumes in the upper shelves, have little, if any, space for pictures on the walls above them.'

It may be appropriate here to remind readers of an essay in Addison's Spectator upon my Lady's Library.

'Some months ago, my Friend, Sir Roger, being in the Country, enclosed a Letter to me, directed to a certain Lady, whom I shall here call by the name of Leonora, and as it contained Matters of Consequence, desired me to deliver it to her with my own Hand. Accordingly, I waited upon her Ladyship early in the Morning, and was desired by her Woman to walk into her Lady's Library till such time as she was in Readiness to receive me. The very Sound of a Lady's Library gave me a great Curiosity to see it; and as it was some time before the Lady came to me, I had an Opportunity of turning over a great many of her Books, which were ranged together in very beautiful Order. At the end of the Folios (which were finely bound and gilt) were great Jars of China, placed one above another in a very noble piece of Architecture. The Quartos were separated from the Octavos by a Pile of smaller Vessels, which rose in a delightful Pyramid. The Octavos were bounded by Tea Dishes of all Shapes, Colours, and Sizes, which were so disposed on a wooden Frame that they looked like one continued Pillar indented with the finest Strokes of Sculpture, and stained with the greatest Variety of Dyes. That Part of the Library which was designed for the Reception of Plays and Pamphlets and other loose Papers, was enclosed in a kind of Square, consisting of one of the prettiest Grotesque Works that ever I saw, and made up of Scaramouches, Lions, Monkies, Mandarines, Trees, Shells, and a thousand other odd Figures in China Ware. In the midst of the Room was a little Japan Table, with a Quire of gilt Paper upon it, and on the Paper a Silver Snuff-box, made in the Shape of a little Book. I found there were several other Counterfeit Books upon the upper Shelves, which were carved in Wood, and served only to fill up the Number, like Fagots in the muster of a Regiment. I was wonderfully pleased with such a mixt kind of Furniture, as seemed very suitable both to the Lady and the Scholar, and did not know at first whether I should fancy myself in a Grotto, or in a Library.'


[25] Napoleon was a great lover of small books. 'An insatiate reader while on his travels, Napoleon complained, when at Warsaw, in 1807, and when at Bayonne, in 1808, that his librarian at Paris did not keep him well supplied with books. "The Emperor," wrote the secretary to Barbier, "wants a portable library of a thousand volumes in 12mo., printed in good type without margin, and composed as nearly as possible of forty volumes on religion, forty of epics, forty of plays, sixty of poetry, a hundred of novels, sixty of history, the remainder, to make up the thousand, of historical memoirs. The religious works are to be the Old and New Testament, the Koran, a selection of the works of the Fathers of the Church, works respecting the Aryans, Calvinists, of Mythology, &c. The epics are to be Homer, Lucan, Tasso, Telemachus, The Henriade, &c." Machiavelli, Fielding, Richardson, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Corneille, Racine, and Rousseau were also among the authors mentioned.'


As far as I am aware there are only four bookbinders in London who may be trusted not to mutilate a book, and there are only two who have any sense of design and harmony of colour. In sending a book to be bound, if you value the book, you cannot be too careful or minute in giving instructions as to your wishes.

I think the best way to assist by advice is to picture a number of everyday instances of people requiring books to be bound, and to take such familiar cases instancing well-known books and show how each case can best be dealt with.

First of all, the right leather to use for binding is morocco. This is best; more durable, and a better choice of colour is given you. Half-morocco is good, but see that you get a good wide strip of morocco, and that it is not all cloth sides with a very narrow spine of leather. Valuable books should never be cut down. In many cases the top edges may be gilded which is a preservative from dust, but there are many other cases where instructions should be given to 'gild on the rough,' the three other sides should be left alone.

I will first take the case of the 'Cambridge' Shakespeare, the hand-made paper edition, already spoken of, where each play has been issued in a separate volume, and in all forty thin volumes. Now the first question to settle is: Shall I have each of the forty volumes bound separately, or shall I bind the forty in twenty double volumes? or another question may arise in your mind, Shall I keep the book in its neat linen cover as published, and get another small paper copy, and bind that instead? Such questions must be settled—each one for himself. All I will say now is that the large paper forty volume edition when bound in twenty double volumes makes a very ideal copy of a great English classic; so, presuming that it is to be bound, you must choose the style of binding. It should rest between half-morocco and whole morocco, the latter costing about double the former. I think half-morocco is right for the book in most cases, whole morocco being unnecessarily expensive. Then comes colour, which must largely be referred to your own taste—olive-green, brown, dark red, and light apple green, would all be appropriate colours to choose from. The binder should have a book of colours and shades ready for you to select one from. Be sure and see that you have a coarse-grained levant morocco, which is much handsomer than the less good hard fine-grained morocco; of course it should be a polished or crushed levant binding, though when you see the pattern piece of leather it will be rough and unpolished. At any rate select a colour which, when polished, will work 'clean.' Do not select anything very light in morocco, it will probably not work 'clean,' but come out spotted even when new.

You will now select 'end papers.' These, I am sorry to say, are mostly very ugly, though there have recently been made some beautiful cloudy coloured papers, which now and then, and apparently by accident, are very beautiful, and they are also rather expensive. Some of the Japanese papers have pretty and very unobtrusive marblings worked upon them, and occasionally, too, a brocade paper looks well; but for a classic, the plainer the better, and very often a monotint end paper, or even a plain white, looks exceedingly well. In the matter of end and side papers, it is as well to know that these can very easily be altered even after the book is finished. The revival of flat backs has been the cause of some disputing. I think myself that the pleasure with which the trained eye regards the flat back is sufficient excuse for it. As far as technique goes, the flat back is, I believe, just as lasting and as flexible as the round. Much must however be determined by the size and shape of the book as to whether a flat back is adopted or not. The Shakespeare which is now under consideration, when bound in double volumes, would, I think, look well with a flat back, and with flat raised bands between the panels; whereas, when bound in forty single volumes, it would be better to have a round back.

As to decoration and finish, the most lamentable errors of taste are often committed. Over-adornment is a curse. A person sees an attractive pattern lying in a shop, and wants all his or her books bound like it, without for a moment considering the anachronisms and impossible combinations that will thereby be perpetrated. It is the same with clothes. A man sees another man with a fine coat, and he straightway thinks he, too, will have a coat of that same make and pattern. Never does it occur to him to gauge the stature or character of the man who was first wearing the coat. There is yet a good deal of the monkey and the ape left in us. We seem to do our best to stifle our individuality, and reduce our souls to one sad dead level of accursed and wicked imitation. Some day we shall have our eyes opened, and then see that a man may break the whole of the Ten Commandments at once, and yet he shall be saved if he be not vulgar, and it is both senseless and vulgar to copy old bindings on to modern books. The only decoration which the copy of Shakespeare could require is a gilt line, or double gilt lines, round the panels of the back. The full gilt back is fortunately becoming extinct. It may well die.

Decoration of books should only be carried out when we are sure we have an appropriate design, and when we are sure that the book is worth it.

There are now some other details to be looked after. I refuse to class them as minor details, because towards the making of the perfect book everything right is essential.

(1) The Shakespeare, being a book printed on paper of good quality, should have the top edge gilt, but the other sides should be left untouched or very slightly trimmed. (2) There should be one or two markers in each volume, and the colour of these markers should harmonise with the colour of the binding. (3) The lettering should be chosen yourself. There should be a principal title stamped boldly and deeply, and subordinate lettering stamped lower down and in smaller type. Thus SHAKESPEARE'S WORKS or SHAKESPEARE merely in the top panel, with the editor's name underneath, and then below should be lettered the plays contained in each volume, and below that, at the foot, the date of publication. (4) Three weeks to a month at least should be allowed for the binding of such a work. (5) A folded copy in quires of a book is always preferable to a cloth-bound copy. (6) If a binder should ever suggest either a padded binding, a russia leather binding, or a tree calf binding, you may instantly leave his premises, for he cannot understand his business.

It will be understood that the rules which apply to the binding of this Shakespeare equally apply to most other books. I propose, however, to take such instances as I think present difficulties not already met, and see how they can be overcome.

A second instance shall be the new edition of Pepys' Diary. The fact that this, and many other books, are published volume by volume makes it somewhat difficult to know whether to bind them at once or not to do so. In the case of the new edition of Pepys' Diary, as neither the binding of the large or small paper is unsightly, it should be left until complete, one good reason for this being that, if it be bound volume by volume as published, the binder will require a pattern volume each time, and your pattern volume will be lying about his workshop each time a volume is published. To register a pattern is by no means advisable in the case of a really well-bound series of books. It may do well enough for scientific and other journals, when great nicety of detail is not so much required. In the case of well-bound volumes, a pattern should accompany the order. A book like Murray's Dictionary, volumes of which are slow in completing themselves, the parts of the volumes, current and incomplete, should either be tied up in paper, and kept together, or they should be placed between two pieces of millboard on the shelf where they will finally be placed.

A third instance shall be an old book which requires repairing or restoring. We will suppose that it is an old copy of Clarissa Harlowe, which you have picked up on a country book-stall. Now the binding is probably very much broken, and, being very dry, is getting rapidly worse. It is time, therefore, that it went into hospital, and at the bookbinder's hospital very clever operations are performed. To restore a binding, paste is rubbed over the leather, and, after it is dry, it is washed over with a thin solution of glue size. Again, when dry, the volume is varnished and afterwards rubbed over with a cloth upon which a few drops of sweet oil have been dropped. Here is one operation just in outline. There are very many others, which I can only refer to. If there are ink marks on any of the volumes of your Clarissa, which you wish removed, this can probably be done so that no trace is left. Similarly many grease-spots can be effectually removed. If a page is torn, it can be repaired, or if a piece of it is missing, it can be facsimiled, and the whole of the inside of the volume can be washed throughout. Never destroy an old binding if you can help it, and never obliterate marks of ownership, for it is interesting to trace the owners of a book. If a bookplate is in your Clarissa, and you wish your own to appear, transplant the former one to the end cover, and put your own in the front if you wish. Never have such a book as we are now discussing cut down. A book has recently been written and published by Mr. C. G. Leland on Mending and Repairing, in which the author recommends the amateur to repair his own books. I believe Mr. Leland is an expert hand at many arts and crafts, but I do not think that every amateur should attempt experiments in repairing his own books unless he means to give a great deal of time to it, which very few would, I think, care to do.

The following remarks, taken from a review, I think by Mr. A. Lang, are valuable:—'The binder is often very mischievous. He not only "cuts down" books, impairing their shapeliness and ruining them for sale, nay, even cutting off lines, but he is apt to lose fly-leaves, with imprints, and rare autographs. What he rejects may have a merely fanciful or sentimental interest, still that interest can be expressed in terms of currency. An eighth of an inch in margin may represent a large sum of money, and it is just as easy not to cut down the volume. Old bookplates ought to be kept, on new bindings of old books. They are the pedigree of a volume. The ancient covers, if discarded, should be examined. They are often packed with fragments of old manuscripts, deeds, woodcuts, or engravings. The ages have handed books on to us; it is our duty to hand them on to coming generations, clean, sound, uninjured.'

The fourth case shall be paper-bound novels, English and French editions, and Tauchnitz copies. I have no hesitation in saying that the best material is Buckram. It has the merit of being good—that is to say, durable, cheap, artistic, and not harsh to handle, as many linens are. There are some half-a-dozen good colours in Buckram, and these, when relieved by lettering-pieces of some contrasting colour, can be made most decorative and economical. I believe buckram is in every way a most excellent material for binding, and for students who buy and use German and French text-books published in paper, this material is excellent for their libraries as well.

Here may be added a few words as to Pamphlets and Magazines. It has been recommended that Pamphlets be kept in boxes, which may be placed upon the shelves as books, but this will not be found either convenient or secure. The best way is to bind Pamphlets in volumes according to size, or if very numerous, according to date or subject, and let them each be entered separately in the catalogue. In the cataloguing of private libraries it is sometimes thought that certain sections, such as pamphlets and magazines, are not worth entering, but the only safe rule is that, if it is worth keeping, it is worth cataloguing. Single pamphlets should be bound in limp roan, and volumes of pamphlets in buckram or half-calf, with full lettering on the back.

Magazines, when they are kept complete, should, of course, be bound up in their volumes, either yearly or half-yearly; but it often happens that a magazine is bought for a single article, and many of these accumulating, it is quite easy for such articles as are of special interest to be taken from the remainder, and treated as pamphlets. In the case of magazines and scientific periodicals of importance, it is well to keep the covers and bind them at the end of each volume. Music should be bound in limp roan in preference to limp calf, because the latter would sooner show scratches and marks, particularly as a large surface is exposed.

If you want your pamphlets and novels to look nice, beware of your binder using what he calls his odd pieces, generally monsters of ugliness.

Family papers, autograph letters, and MS. matter of all kinds should be placed in the hands of an expert, with instructions to calendar them, viz., catalogue them, giving a precis of the contents of each one. They should then be mounted and bound up in volumes, with abstract of contents in front of the volume. It will be well to consider the advisability of having typed copies made of the whole wherever unpublished records exist.

Much, very much, more might be written about practical details in bookbinding, but nothing is so valuable as experience, and a few mistakes will be the best teacher. Remember that morocco is the best material, whether it be half or whole morocco, pigskin is second, calf is third, vellum is fourth, roan is fifth, buckram is sixth, though it may frequently take the place of calf.

Book Hobbies.

It has been remarked that only an auctioneer admires all schools of literature. I think it is certain that the way to get most enjoyment from books is to specialise a little. Mr. Pepys, it will be remembered, collected Black Letter Ballads, Penny Merriments, Penny Witticisms, Penny Compliments, and Penny Godlinesses, and what Pepys paid a penny for are now worth much gold. Lord Crawford is, I believe, one of the most enthusiastic among present day collectors, and I am told that he spends many hours in arranging and cataloguing his extensive and curious collection. As far as I can gather from the printed catalogues which have been issued of Lord Crawford's library, he is rivalling Pepys in his collection of ballads. Other subjects which he has taken up are proclamations and Papal bulls. I cannot omit saying that if Lord Crawford's example were followed by a few more rich men, they would find therein very amusing hobbies. The catalogues of the Ballads and the Proclamations in the Library at Haigh Hall have been compiled by Lord Crawford's own hand, and there are no better catalogues of a private collection in existence. The late Lord Braybrooke collected County histories, and got together a most valuable and interesting collection. But, judging from his own account of his collection,[26] it was too general to be very interesting. There is hardly a more useful or profitable book hobby than the collecting of Topographical books, but each one should confine himself to one County, or at most two, and even with discrimination in buying, a single County collection soon becomes extensive. What should be aimed at in such a collection is the putting together whatever will illustrate the archaeology, general history, folk lore, dialect, and natural history, of a district or County, and wherever there is a Church and a Manor, there is a history. Each parish history is the unit of the history of the nation, and any one investigating the parochial history of a single parish will find much national history written in between the lines. With regard to topographical and genealogical books, I may say that the prices of these are rapidly rising, and will continue to rise, owing largely to the increasing competition in America for these books.

Sir Walter Gilbey has, it is well known, a fine collection of sporting books. There is no sport but what has its literature, and if there is one subject more than another, upon which the English mind is unchanging, it is sport, and this being so, sporting books will always offer a fine field for collectors. As the coaching age recedes farther back, so it will be found that an increasing number of men will want to read about what they no longer can hear viva voce. All out-door subjects are good hobbies. Flower culture and the laying out of grounds, birds and natural history generally are good subjects, but it must be understood that no one can find another a subject, one can only suggest, and that is all I propose to do here. Books offer a very endless variety of hobbies. So I have merely named one or two highways, and there is an endless maze of bypaths which offer delightful hunting grounds. Dr. Johnson, it may be remembered, expressed a very sound commonsense view of this matter to Boswell:

'When I mentioned that I had seen in the King's Library fifty-three editions of my favourite Thomas a Kempis . . . . in eight languages . . . . Johnson said he thought it unnecessary to collect many editions of a book which were all the same except as to paper and print. He would have the original, and all the translations, and all editions having variations in the text. He approved of the famous collection of the editions of Horace by Douglas, and, he added, "Every man should try to collect one book in that manner. . . . ."'


[26] Murray's Magazine, September, 1889.

Old Country Libraries.

The library of Chaucer's Clerk of Oxenford, which represented about the maximum that an ordinary student would possess, consisted of

'A twenty bokes, clothed in black and red, Of Aristotle and his philosophie,'

and these he kept 'at his beddes hed.'

Dr. Jessopp, in one of his learned papers,[27] has pointed out that in the thirteenth century the number of books in the world was, to say the least, small. A library of five hundred volumes would, in those days, have been considered an important collection, and after making all due allowances for ridiculous exaggerations, which have been made by ill-informed writers on the subject, it may safely be said that nobody in the thirteenth century—at any rate in England—would have erected a large and lofty building as a receptacle for books, simply because nobody could have contemplated the possibility of filling it. Here and there amongst the larger and more important monasteries there were undoubtedly collections of books, the custody of which was entrusted to an accredited officer, but the time had not yet come for making libraries well stored with such priceless treasures as Leland, the antiquary, saw at Glastonbury, just before that magnificent foundation was given as a prey to the spoilers. A library, in any such sense as we now understand the term, was not only no essential part of a monastery in those days, but it may almost be said to have been a rarity.

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries we rarely meet with any indications of a literary taste among the laity; the books they purchased were more for ornament than use. But in the fifteenth century we find books mentioned in a manner which would seem to indicate that the laity were enabled to use them with pleasure. In 1395, Alice, Lady West, left to Joan, her son's wife, 'all her books of Latin, English, and French;' and from the memoranda of Sir John Howard, we learn that that worthy knight could read at his leisure 'an Englyshe boke, callyd Dives et Pauper,' for which, and 'a Frenshe boke,' in 1464, he paid thirteen shillings and fourpence. The library of this member of the Howard family was sufficiently extensive to enable him to select therefrom, on the occasion of his going to Scotland, thirteen volumes for his solace and amusement on the voyage.[28] In the Paston Letters will be found a catalogue of the library of one of the members of this fifteenth century family. In the monasteries books were, of course, used and treasured long before they became part of the household goods of rich laymen. The catalogue of the House of the White Canons, at Titchfield, in Hampshire, dated 1400, shows that the books were kept in a small room on shelves, and set against the walls. A closet of this kind was evidently not a working place, but simply a place of storage. By the beginning of the fifteenth century, the larger monasteries had accumulated many hundred volumes, and it began to be customary to provide for the collections separate quarters, rooms constructed for the purpose. The presses in the cloisters were still utilised for books in daily reference.[29] Duke Humphrey was a great book collector and patron of letters, and presented to the University of Oxford many of the illuminated treasures which he had collected. The magnificent collection of Charles V. of France, also a great bibliomaniac, was brought by the Duke of Bedford into England. This library contained 853 volumes of great splendour, and the introduction of these books into England stimulated a spirit of inquiry among the more wealthy laymen. Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, collected a very fine library of early romances, which about 1359, he left to the monks of Bordesley Abbey, in Worcestershire. A list of this library will be found in Todd's Illustrations of Gower and Chaucer.

Mr. J. W. Clark has, with quite wonderful learning, drawn a picture of student-life of the past with such graphic vigour that we can almost reinstate Colet, Casaubon, and Erasmus, and picture them exactly as they worked among their books. In Macaulay's chapter upon The State of England in 1685, are given numerous facts about the difficulty the clergy had in getting books, and the little desire there was among the squires to possess libraries. Few knights of the shire had libraries so good as may now perpetually be found in a servants' hall, or in the back parlour of a small shopkeeper. An esquire passed among his neighbours for a great scholar if Hudibras and Baker's Chronicle, Tarleton's Jests, and the Seven Champions of Christendom, lay in his hall window among the fishing rods and fowling pieces. No circulating library, no book society, then existed, even in the capital; but in the capital those students who could not afford to purchase largely had a resource. The shops of the great booksellers, near St. Paul's Churchyard, were crowded every day and all day long with readers. In the country there was no such accommodation, and every man was under the necessity of buying whatever he wished to read. Macaulay further points out that Cotton seems, from his Angler, to have found room for his whole library in his hall window; and Cotton was a man of letters. In the Life of Dr. John North there is an account of that delightful person's dealings with Mr. Robert Scott, of Little Britain, a very famous bookseller in the seventeenth century.

Dr. John North is really a fascinating personality.[30] His soul was 'never so staked down as in an old bookseller's shop, for, having taken orders, he was restless till he had compassed some of that sort of furniture as he thought necessary for his profession.

'I have borne him company,' says his biographer, 'at shops for hours together, and, minding him of the time, he hath made a dozen proffers before he would quit. By this care and industry he made himself master of a very considerable library, wherein the choicest collection was Greek.'

Pepys wished that his name should go down to posterity as a man fond of books. The arrangements for the settlement of his library after death prove this. The numerous references throughout the Diary show that he had a passion for collecting, and showed good judgment in what he got together. Pepys, like Dr. John North, dealt of Robert Scott, who, when sending his distinguished customer four scarce books, the total cost of which was only 1l. 14s., writes, 'Without flattery I love to find a rare book for you.'[31]

R. SCOTT, the bookseller, to Mr. PEPYS.

'June 30th, 1688.

'SIR,—Having at length procured Campion, Hanmer, & Spencer's Hist. of Ireland, fol. (which I think, you formerly desired) I here send itt you, with 2 very scarce bookes besides, viz. Pricaei Defensio Hist. Britt. 4to, and old Harding's Chronicle, as alsoe the Old Ship of Fooles, in old verse, by Alex. Berkley, priest; which last, though nott scarce, yett soe very fayre and perfect, that seldome comes such another; the Priceus you will find deare, yett I never sold it under 10s., and att this tyme you can have it of a person of quality; butt I love to find a rare book for you, and hope shortly to procure for you a perfect Hall's Chronicle.

'I am, Sir, 'Your Servant to command, 'ROBERT SCOTT.'

Campion, Hanmer, & Spencer fol. 0:12:0 Hardings Chronicle, 4to. 0: 6:0 Pricaei Defens. Hist. Britt. 0: 8:0 Shipp of Fooles, fol. 0: 8:0 ——— 1:14:0 ======

The contents of Pepys' famous collections of Manuscripts, Books and rare single-sheet literature are known more or less to students, and are found by them to be of the utmost value. It is amusing to notice how careful Pepys was not to admit into his library any 'risky' books. Little did he think that the key to the diary would be one day discovered. When he bought in the Strand 'an idle, rogueish, French book, L'Escholle des Filles,' he resolved, as already stated, as soon as he had read it, to burn it, 'that it might not stand in the list of books, nor among them, to disgrace them, if it should be found.' He was equally solicitous about Rochester's Poems.

Pepys' books were numbered consecutively throughout the library, and therefore, when rearranged, they needed to be all renumbered. This was done by Pepys himself, his wife, and Deb Willett, who were busy until near midnight 'titleing' the books.

With so many references to Pepys and his book-collecting as we find in the Diary, it is puzzling to read, under date, October 5, 1665, after references to 'Sister Poll,' 'I abroad to the office, and thence to the Duke of Albemarle, all my way reading a book of Mr. Evelyn's translating and sending me as a present, about directions for gathering a library, but the book is above my reach.' Pepys, one would think, had by this time gone far enough in himself gathering a library to understand the little pamphlet by Naudeus, librarian to Cardinal Mazarin, which Evelyn translated, and which was issued in 1661, and which is now very rare. There is a charming letter from Evelyn to Pepys, dated 12th August, 1689, giving very many interesting details of the private libraries of the seventeenth century, and which goes a very long way to modify Macaulay's rather overdrawn picture of the scarcity of books and private libraries in 1685. This letter of Evelyn's might be compared with Addison's picture of 'Tom Folio' in the Tatler.[36] Tom Folio stood for a great book collector, Thomas Rawlinson.

The eighteenth century produced a host of great book collectors. William Oldys, Humphrey Wanley, and Thomas Rawlinson just mentioned. These men were great experts, who infected with enthusiasm many great patrons of letters, such as Charles, Earl of Sunderland, the Earl of Pembroke, Lord Somers, Lord Oxford, Topham Beauclerk, Colonel Stanley, and George Earl Spencer, whose famous Library now at Manchester has been called the finest private library in Europe. In his Life of Sir Walter Scott, Lockhart has inserted a visitor's impression of the library at Abbotsford. 'The visitor might ransack a library, unique, I suppose, in some of its collections, and in all departments interesting and characteristic of the founder. So many of the volumes were enriched with anecdotes or comments in his own hand, that to look over his books was, in some degree, conversing with him.' The catalogue of the Abbotsford library was printed by the Maitland Club in 1838, and is one of the best catalogues of a private collection ever printed.


[27] Nineteenth Century, January, 1884.

[28] Parker, Domestic Architecture.

[29] Putnam, Books and their Makers, vol. i.

[30] See ante, p. 8.

[31] Many interesting references to Pepys' Collections are found in Mr. H. B. Wheatley's Pepys, and the World he Lived in. The following extracts are taken from the same writer's new and final edition of the Diary:—

May 15, 1660.—'After that to a bookseller's and bought for the love of the binding three books: the French Psalms in four parts, Bacon's Organon, and Farnab. Rhetor.'[32]

Dec. 26, 1662.—'Hither come Mr. Battersby; and we falling into a discourse of a new book of drollery in verse called Hudebras,[33] I would needs go find it out, and met with it at the Temple: cost me 2s. 6d.'

July 8, 1664.—'So to Paul's Churchyarde about my books, and to the binder's, and directed the doing of my Chaucer,[34] though they were not full neate enough for me, but pretty well it is; and thence to the clasp-maker's to have it clasped and bossed.'

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