MY DEAR SIR,
When the poetical Epistle of Dr. Ferriar, under the popular title of "The Bibliomania," was announced for publication, I honestly confess that, in common with many of my book-loving acquaintance, a strong sensation of fear and of hope possessed me: of fear, that I might have been accused, however indirectly, of having contributed towards the increase of this Mania; and of hope, that the true object of book-collecting, and literary pursuits, might have been fully and fairly developed. The perusal of this elegant epistle dissipated alike my fears and my hopes; for, instead of caustic verses, and satirical notes,3 I found a smooth, melodious, and persuasive panegyric; unmixed, however, with any rules for the choice of books, or the regulation of study.
3 There are, nevertheless, some satirical allusions which one could have wished had been suppressed. For instance:
He turns where Pybus rears his atlas-head,
Or Madoc's mass conceals its veins of lead;
What has Mr. Pybus's gorgeous book in praise of the late Russian Emperor Paul I. (which some have called the chef-d'œuvre of Bensley's press*) to do with Mr. Southey's fine Poem of Madoc? — in which, if there are "veins of lead," there are not a few "of silver and gold." Of the extraordinary talents of Mr. Southey, the indefatigable student in ancient lore, and especially in all that regards Spanish Literature and Old English Romances, this is not the place to make mention. His "Remains of Henry Kirk White," the sweetest specimen of modern biography, has sunk into every heart, and received an eulogy from every tongue. Yet is his own life
"The more endearing song."
Dr. Ferriar's next satirical verses are levelled at Mr. Thomas Hope.
"The lettered fop now takes a larger scope,
With classic furniture, design'd by Hope.
(Hope, whom upholsterers eye with mute despair,
The doughty pedant of an elbow chair.")
It has appeared to me that Mr. Hope's magnificent volume on "Household Furniture" has been generally misunderstood, and, in a few instances, criticised upon false principles. — The first question is, does the subject admit of illustration? and if so, has Mr. Hope illustrated it properly? I believe there is no canon of criticism which forbids the treating of such a subject; and, while we are amused with archæological discussions on Roman tiles and tesselated pavements, there seems to be no absurdity in making the decorations of our sitting rooms, including something more than the floor we walk upon, a subject at least of temperate and classical disquisition. Suppose we had found such a treatise in the volumes of Gronovius and Montfaucon? (and are there not a few, apparently, as unimportant and confined in these rich volumes of the Treasures of Antiquity?) or suppose something similar to Mr. Hope's work had been found among the ruins of Herculaneum? Or, lastly, let us suppose the author had printed it only as a private book, to be circulated as a present! In each of these instances, should we have heard the harsh censures which have been thrown out against it? On the contrary, is it not very probable that a wish might have been expressed that "so valuable a work ought to be made public."
Upon what principle, a priori, are we to ridicule and condemn it? I know of none. We admit Vitruvius, Inigo Jones, Gibbs, and Chambers, into our libraries: and why not Mr. Hope's book? Is decoration to be confined only to the exterior? and, if so, are works, which treat of these only, to be read and applauded? Is the delicate bas-relief, and beautifully carved column, to be thrust from the cabinet and drawing room, to perish on the outside of a smoke-dried portico? Or, is not that the most deserving of commendation which produces the most numerous and pleasing associations of ideas? I recollect, when in company with the excellent Dr. Jenner,
——[clarum et venerabile nomen
Gentibus, et multum nostræ quod proderat urbi]
and a half dozen more friends, we visited the splendid apartments in Duchess Street, Portland Place, we were not only struck with the appropriate arrangement of every thing, but, on our leaving them, and coming out into the dull foggy atmosphere of London, we acknowledged that the effect produced upon our minds was something like that which might have arisen had we been regaling ourselves on the silken couches, and within the illuminated chambers, of some of the enchanted palaces described in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. I suspect that those who have criticised Mr. Hope's work with asperity have never seen his house.
These sentiments are not the result of partiality or prejudice, for I am wholly unacquainted with Mr. Hope. They are delivered with zeal, but with deference. It is quite consolatory to find a gentleman of large fortune, of respectable ancestry, and of classical attainments, devoting a great portion of that leisure time which hangs like a leaden weight upon the generality of fashionable people, to the service of the Fine Arts, and in the patronage of merit and ingenuity. How much the world will again be indebted to Mr. Hope's taste and liberality may be anticipated from the "Costume of the Ancients," a work which has recently been published under his particular superintendence.
* This book is beautifully executed, undoubtedly, but being little more than a thin folio pamphlet devoid of typographical embellishment — it has been thought by some hardly fair to say this of a press which brought out so many works characterized by magnitude and various elegance. B.B.
To say that I was not gratified by the perusal of it would be a confession contrary to the truth; but to say how ardently I anticipated an amplification of the subject, how eagerly I looked forward to a number of curious, apposite, and amusing anecdotes, and found them not therein, is an avowal of which I need not fear the rashness, when the known talents of the detector of Stern's plagiarisms4 are considered. I will not, however, disguise to you that I read it with uniform delight, and that I rose from the perusal with a keener appetite for
"The small, rare volume, black with tarnished gold."
Dr. Ferriar's Ep. v. 138.
4 In the fourth volume of the Transactions of the Manchester Literary Society, part iv., p. 45-87, will be found a most ingenious and amusing Essay, entitled "Comments on Sterne," which excited a good deal of interest at the time of its publication. This discovery may be considered, in some measure, as the result of the Bibliomania. In my edition of Sir Thomas More's Utopia, a suggestion is thrown out that even Burton may have been an imitator of Boisatuau: see vol. II. 143.
Whoever undertakes to write down the follies which grow out of an excessive attachment to any particular pursuit, be that pursuit horses,5 hawks, dogs, guns, snuff boxes,6 old china, coins, or rusty armour, may be thought to have little consulted the best means of ensuring success for his labours, when he adopts the dull vehicle of Prose for the commnication of his ideas not considering that from Poetry ten thousand bright scintillations are struck off, which please and convince while they attract and astonish. Thus when Pope talks of allotting for
"Pembroke7 Statues, dirty Gods and Coins;
Rare monkish manuscripts for Hearne8 alone;
when he says that
For Locke or Milton13 'tis in vain to look;
These shelves admit not any modern book;
he not only seems to illustrate the propriety of the foregoing remark, by shewing the immense superiority of verse to prose, in ridiculing reigning absurdities, but he seems to have had a pretty strong foresight of the Bibliomania which rages at the present day. However, as the ancients tell us that a Poet cannot be a manufactured creature, and as I have not the smallest pretensions to the "rhyming art," [although in former times14 I did venture to dabble with it] I must of necessity have recourse to Prose; and, at the same time, to your candour and forbearance in perusing the pages which ensue.
5 It may be taken for granted that the first book in this country which excited a passion for the Sports of the field was Dame Juliana Berners, or Barnes's, work, on Hunting and Hawking, printed at St. Alban's, in the year 1486; of which Lord Spencer's copy is, I believe, the only perfect one known. It was formerly the Poet Mason's, and is mentioned in the quarto edition of Hoccleve's Poems, p. 19, 1786. See too Bibl. Mason. Pt. iv. No. 153. Whether the forementioned worthy lady was really the author of the work has been questioned. Her book was reprinted by Wynkyn de Worde in 1497, with an additional Treatise on Fishing. The following specimen, from this latter edition, ascertains the general usage of the French language with our huntsmen in the 15th century.
Where so ever ye fare by frith or by fell,
My dear child, take heed how Trystram do you tell.
How many manner beasts of Venery there were:
Listen to your dame and she shall you lere.
Four manner beasts of Venery there are.
The first of them is the Hart; the second is the Hare;
The Horse is one of them; the Wolf; and not one mo.
And where that ye come in plain or in place
I shall tell you which be beasts of enchace.
One of them is the Buck; another is the Doe;
The Fox; and the Marteron, and the wild Roe;
And ye shall see, my dear child, other beastes all:
Where so ye them find Rascal ye shall them call.
How to speke of the haare how all shall be wrought:
When she shall with houndes be founden and sought.
The fyrst worde to the hoūdis that the hunter shall out pit
Is at the kenell doore whan he openeth it.
That all maye hym here: he shall say "Arere!"
For his houndes would come to hastily.
That is the firste worde my sone of Venery.
And when he hath couplyed his houndes echoon
And is forth wyth theym to the felde goon,
And whan he hath of caste his couples at wyll
Thenne he shall speke and saye his houndes tyll
"Hors de couple avant, sa avant!" twyse soo:
And then "So ho, so ho!" thryes, and no moo.
And then say "Sacy avaunt, so how," I thou praye, etc. The following are a few more specimens —"Ha cy touz cy est yll—Venez ares sa how sa—La douce la eit a venuz—Ho ho ore, swet a lay, douce a luy—So how, so how, venez acoupler!!!"
Whoever wishes to see these subjects brought down to later times, and handled with considerable dexterity, may consult the last numbers of the Censura Literaria, with the signature J.H. affixed to them. Those who are anxious to procure the rare books mentioned in these bibliographical treatises, may be pretty safely taxed with being infected by the Bibliomania. What apology my friend Mr. Haslewood, the author of them, has to offer in extenuation of the mischief committed, it is his business, and not mine, to consider; and what the public will say to his curious forthcoming reprint of the ancient edition of Wynkyn De Worde on Hunting, Hawking, and Fishing, 1497 (with wood cuts), I will not pretend to divine!
In regard to Hawking, I believe the enterprising Colonel Thornton in the only gentleman of the present day who keeps up this custom of "good old times."
The Sultans of the East seem not to have been insensible to the charms of Falconry, if we are to judge from the evidence of Tippoo Saib having a work of this kind in his library; which is thus described from the Catalogue of it just published in a fine quarto volume, of which only 250 copies are printed.
"Shābbār Nāmeh, 4to. a Treatise on Falcony; containing Instructions for selecting the best species of Hawks, and the method of teaching them; describing their different qualities; also the disorders they are subject to, and method of cure. Author unknown."— Oriental Library of Tippoo Saib, 1809, p. 96.
6 Of Snuff boxes every one knows what a collection the great Frederick, King of Prussia, had — many of them studded with precious stones, and decorated with enamelled portraits. Dr. C. of G—— has been represented to be the most successful rival of Frederick, in this "line of collection," as it is called; some of his boxes are of uncommon curiosity. It may gratify a Bibliographer to find that there are other Manias besides that of the book; and that even physicians are not exempt from these diseases.
Of Old China, Coins, and Rusty Armour, the names of hundreds present themselves in these departments; but to the more commonly-known ones of Rawle and Grose, let me add that of the late Mr. John White, of Newgate-Street; a catalogue of whose curiosities [including some very uncommon books] was published in the year 1788, in three parts, 8vo. Dr. Burney tells us that Mr. White "was in possession of a valuable collection of ancient rarities, as well as natural productions, of the most curious and extraordinary kind; no one of which however was more remarkable than the obliging manner in which he allowed them to be viewed and examined by his friends."—History of Music, vol. II. 539, note.
7 The reader will find an animated eulogy on this great nobleman in Walpole's Anecdotes of Painters, vol. iv. 227: part of which was transcribed by Joseph Warton for his Variorum edition of Pope's Works, and thence copied into the recent edition of the same by the Rev. W.L. Bowles. But Pembroke deserved a more particular notice. Exclusively of his fine statues, and architectural decorations, the Earl contrived to procure a number of curious and rare books; and the testimonies of Maittaire [who speaks indeed of him with a sort of rapture!] and Palmer shew that the productions of Jenson and Caxton were no strangers to his library. Annales Typographici, vol. I. 13. edit. 1719. History of Printing, p. v. "There is nothing that so surely proves the pre-eminence of virtue more than the universal admiration of mankind, and the respect paid it even by persons in opposite interests; and more than this, it is a sparkling gem which even time does not destroy: it is hung up in the Temple of Fame, and respected for ever." Continuation of Granger, vol. I. 37, &c. "He raised, continues Mr. Noble, a collection of Antiques that were unrivalled by any subject. His learning made him a fit companion for the literati. Wilton will ever be a monument of his extensive knowledge; and the princely presents it contains, of the high estimation in which he was held by foreign potentates, as well as by the many monarchs he saw and served at home. He lived rather as a primitive christian; in his behaviour, meek: in his dress, plain: rather retired, conversing but little." Burnet, in the History of his own Times, has spoken of the Earl with spirit and propriety.
8 In the recent Variorum Edition of Pope's Works, all that is annexed to Hearne's name, as above introduced by the Poet, is, "well known as an Antiquarian."
Alas, Poor Hearne!
thy merits, which are now fully appreciated, deserve an ampler notice! In spite of Gibbon's unmerciful critique [Posthumous Works, vol. II. 711.], the productions of this modest, erudite, and indefatigable antiquary are rising in price proportionably to their worth. If he had only edited the Collectanea and Itinerary of his favourite Leland, he would have stood on high ground in the department of literature and antiquities; but his other and numerous works place him on a much loftier eminence. Of these, the present is not the place to make mention; suffice it to say that, for copies of his works, on Large Paper, which the author used to advertise as selling for 7s. or 10s., or about which placards, to the same effect, used to be stuck on the walls of the colleges — these very copies are now sometimes sold for more than the like number of guineas! It is amusing to observe that the lapse of a few years only has caused such a rise in the article of Hearne; and that the Peter Langtoft on large paper, which at Rowe Mores's sale [Bibl. Mores. No. 2191.] was purchased for £1. 2s. produced at a late sale, [A.D. 1808] £37! A complete list of Hearne's Pieces will be found at the end of his Life, printed with Leland's, &c., at the Clarendon Press, in 1772, 8vo. Of these the "Acta Apostolorum, Gr. Lat;" and "Aluredi Beverlacensis Annales," are, I believe, the scarcest. It is wonderful to think how this amiable and excellent man persevered "through evil report and good report," in illustrating the antiquities of his country. To the very last he appears to have been molested; and among his persecutors, the learned editor of Josephus and Dionysius Halicarnasseus, Dr. Hudson, must be ranked, to the disgrace of himself and the party which he espoused. "Hearne was buried in the church yard of St. Peter's (at Oxford) in the East, where is erected over his remains, a tomb, with an inscription written by himself,
Here lyeth the Body of
Thomas Hearne, M.A.
Who studied and preserved
He dyed June 10, 1735.
Aged 57 years.
Deut. xxxii: 7.
Remember the days of old;
consider the years
of many generations;
ask thy Father
and he will shew thee;
and they will tell thee.
Job. viii. 8, 9, 10.
Enquire I pray thee."
Life of Hearne, p. 34.
9 Of Dr. Mead and his Library a particular account is given in the following pages.
10 For this distinguished character consult Nichols's Anecdotes of Bowyer, 550, note*; which, however, relates entirely to his ordinary habits and modes of life. His magnificent collection of Natural Curiosities and MSS. is now in the British Museum.
11 The annals of the Aldine Press have had ample justice done to them in the beautiful and accurate work published by Renouard, under the title of "Annales de L'Imprimerie des Alde," in two vols., 8vo. 1804. One is rather surprised at not finding any reference to this masterly piece of bibliography in the last edition of Mr. Roscoe's Leo X., where there is a pleasing account of the establishment of the Aldine Press.
12 I do not recollect having seen any book bound by this binder. Of Padaloup, De Rome, and Baumgarten, where is the fine collection that does not boast of a few specimens? We will speak "anon" of the Roger Paynes, Kalthoebers, Herrings, Stagemiers, and in Macklays of the day!
13 This is not the reproach of the age we live in; for reprints of Bacon, Locke, and Milton have been published with complete success. It would be ridiculous indeed for a man of sense, and especially a University man, to give £5 or £6 for "Gosson's School of Abuse, against Pipers and Players," or £3. 3s. for a clean copy of "Recreation for Ingenious Head Pieces, or a Pleasant Grove for their Wits to walk in," and grudge the like sum for a dozen handsome octavo volumes of the finest writers of his country.
14 About twelve years ago I was rash enough to publish a small volume of Poems, with my name affixed. They were the productions of my juvenile years; and I need hardly say, at this period, how ashamed I am of their author-ship. The monthly and Analytical Reviews did me the kindness of just tolerating them, and of warning me not to commit any future trespass upon the premises of Parnassus. I struck off 500 copies, and was glad to get rid of half of them as waste paper; the remaining half has been partly destroyed by my own hands, and has partly mouldered away in oblivion amidst the dust of Booksellers' shelves. My only consolation is that the volume is exceedingly rare!
If ever there was a country upon the face of the globe — from the days of Nimrod the beast, to Bagford15 the book-hunter — distinguished for the variety, the justness, and magnanimity of its views; if ever there was a nation which really and unceasingly "felt for another's woe" [I call to witness our Infirmaries, Hospitals, Asylums, and other public and private Institutions of a charitable nature, that, like so many belts of adamant, unite and strengthen us in the great cause of Humanity]; if ever there was a country and a set of human beings pre-eminently distinguished for all the social virtues which soften and animate the soul of man, surely Old England and Englishmen are they! The common cant, it may be urged, of all writers in favour of the country where they chance to live! And what, you will say, has this to do with Book Collectors and Books? — Much, every way: a nation thus glorious is, at this present eventful moment, afflicted not only with the Dog16, but the Book, disease —
Fire in each eye, and paper in each hand
They rave, recite — —
15 "John Bagford, by profession a bookseller, frequently travelled into Holland and other parts, in search of scarce books and valuable prints, and brought a vast number into this kingdom, the greatest part of which were purchased by the Earl of Oxford. He had been in his younger days a shoemaker; and, for the many curiosities wherewith he enriched the famous library of Dr. John Moore, Bishop of Ely, his Lordship got him admitted into the Charter House. He died in 1706, aged 65: after his death Lord Oxford purchased all his collections and papers, for his library: these are now in the Harleian collection in the British Museum. In 1707 were published, in the Philosophical Transactions, his Proposals for a General History of Printing."— Bowyer and Nichols's Origin of Printing, p. 164, 189, note.
It has been my fortune (whether good or bad remains to be proved) not only to transcribe the slender memorial of Printing in the Philosophical Transactions, drawn up by Wanley for Bagford, but to wade through forty-two folio volumes, in which Bagford's materials for a History of Printing are incorporated, in the British Museum: and from these, I think I have furnished myself with a pretty fair idea of the said Bagford. He was the most hungry and rapacious of all book and print collectors; and, in his ravages, spared neither the most delicate nor costly specimens. His eyes and his mouth seem to have been always open to express his astonishment at, sometimes, the most common and contemptible productions; and his paper in the Philosophical Transactions betrays such simplicity and ignorance that one is astonished how my Lord Oxford and the learned Bishop of Ely could have employed so credulous a bibliographical forager. A modern collector and lover of perfect copies will witness, with shuddering, among Bagford's immense collection of Title Pages, in the Museum, the frontispieces of the Complutensian Polyglot, and Chauncy's History of Hertfordshire, torn out to illustrate a History of Printing. His enthusiasm, however, carried him through a great deal of laborious toil; and he supplied, in some measure, by this qualification, the want of other attainments. His whole mind was devoted to book-hunting; and his integrity and diligence probably made his employers overlook his many failings. His hand-writing is scarcely legible, and his orthography is still more wretched; but if he was ignorant, he was humble, zealous, and grateful; and he has certainly done something towards the accomplishment of that desirable object, an accurate General History of Printing. In my edition of Ames's Typographical Antiquities, I shall give an analysis of Bagford's papers, with a specimen or two of his composition.
16 For an eloquent account of this disorder consult the letters of Dr. Mosely inserted in the Morning Herald of last year. I have always been surprised, and a little vexed, that these animated pieces of composition should be relished and praised by every one — but the Faculty!
Let us enquire, therefore, into the origin and tendency of the Bibliomania.
In this enquiry I purpose considering the subject under three points of view: I. The History of the Disease; or an account of the eminent men who have fallen victims to it: II. The Nature, or Symptoms of the Disease: and III. The probable means of its Cure. We are to consider, then,
I. The History of the Disease. In treating of the history of this disease, it will be found to have been attended with this remarkable circumstance; namely, that it has almost uniformly confined its attacks to the male sex, and, among these, to people in the higher and middling classes of society, while the artificer, labourer, and peasant have escaped wholly uninjured. It has raged chiefly in palaces, castles, halls, and gay mansions; and those things which in general are supposed not to be inimical to health, such as cleanliness, spaciousness, and splendour, are only so many inducements towards the introduction and propagation of the Bibliomania! What renders it particularly formidable is that it rages in all seasons of the year, and at all periods of human existence. The emotions of friendship or of love are weakened or subdued as old age advances; but the influence of this passion, or rather disease, admits of no mitigation: "it grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength;" and is oft-times
—— The ruling passion strong in death.17
17 The writings of the Roman philologers seem to bear evidence of this fact. Seneca, when an old man, says that, "if you are fond of books, you will escape the ennui of life; you will neither sigh for evening, disgusted with the occupations of the day — nor will you live dissatisfied with yourself, or unprofitable to others." De Tranquilitate, ch. 3. Cicero has positively told us that "study is the food of youth, and the amusement of old age." Orat. pro Archia. The younger Pliny was a downright Bibliomaniac. "I am quite transported and comforted," says he, "in the midst of my books: they give a zest to the happiest, and assuage the anguish of the bitterest, moments of existence! Therefore, whether distracted by the cares or the losses of my family, or my friends, I fly to my library as the only refuge in distress: here I learn to bear adversity with fortitude." Epist. lib. viii. cap. 19. But consult Cicero De Senectute. All these treatises afford abundant proof of the hopelessness of cure in cases of the Bibliomania.
We will now, my dear Sir, begin "making out the catalogue" of victims to the Bibliomania! The first eminent character who appears to have been infected with this disease was Richard De Bury, one of the tutors of Edward III., and afterwards Bishop of Durham; a man who has been uniformly praised for the variety of his erudition, and the intenseness of his ardour in book-collecting.18 I discover no other notorious example of the fatality of the Bibliomania until the time of Henry VII.; when the monarch himself may be considered as having added to the number. Although our venerable typographer, Caxton, lauds and magnifies, with equal sincerity, the whole line of British Kings, from Edward IV. to Henry VII. [under whose patronage he would seem, in some measure, to have carried on his printing business], yet, of all these monarchs, the latter alone was so unfortunate as to fall a victim to this disease. His library must have been a magnificent one, if we may judge from the splendid specimens of it which now remain.19 It would appear, too, that, about this time, the Bibliomania was increased by the introduction of foreign printed books; and it is not very improbable that a portion of Henry's immense wealth was devoted towards the purchase of vellum copies, which were now beginning to be published by the great typographical triumvirate, Verard, Eustace, and Pigouchet.
18 It may be expected that I should notice a few book-lovers, and probably Bibliomaniacs, previously to the time of Richard De Bury; but so little is known with accuracy of Johannes Scotus Erigena, and his patron Charles the Bald, King of France, or of the book tête-a-têtes they used to have together — so little, also, of Nennius, Bede, and Alfred [although the monasteries at this period, from the evidence of Sir William Dugdale, in the first volume of the Monasticon were "opulently endowed,"— inter alia, I should hope, with magnificent MSS. on vellum, bound in velvet, and embossed with gold and silver], or the illustrious writers in the Norman period, and the fine books which were in the abbey of Croyland — so little is known of book-collectors, previously to the 14th century, that I thought it the most prudent and safe way to begin with the above excellent prelate.
Richard De Bury was the friend and correspondent of Petrarch; and is said by Mons. de Sade, in his Memoires pour la vie de Petrarque, "to have done in England what Petrarch did all his life in France, Italy, and Germany, towards the discovery of MSS. of the best ancient writers, and making copies of them under his own superintendence." His passion for book-collecting was unbounded ["vir ardentis ingenii," says Petrarch of him]; and in order to excite the same ardour in his countrymen, or rather to propagate the disease of the Bibliomania with all his might, he composed a bibliographical work under the title of Philobiblion; concerning the first edition of which, printed at Spires in 1483, Clement (tom. v. 142) has a long gossiping account; and Morhof tells us that it is "rarissima et in paucorum manibus versatur." It was reprinted in Paris in 1500, 4to., by the elder Ascensius, and frequently in the subsequent century, but the best editions of it are those by Goldastus in 1674, 8vo., and Hummius in 1703. Morhof observes that, "however De Bury's work savours of the rudeness of the age, it is rather elegantly written, and many things are well said in it relating to Bibliothecism." Polyhist. Literar. vol. i. 187, edit. 1747.
For further particulars concerning De Bury, read Bale, Wharton, Cave, and Godwin's Episcopal Biography. He left behind him a fine library of MSS. which he bequeathed to Durham, now Trinity, College, Oxford.
It may be worth the antiquary's notice, that, in consequence (I suppose) of this amiable prelate's exertions, "in every convent was a noble library and a great: and every friar, that had state in school, such as they be now, hath an hugh Library." See the curious Sermon of the Archbishop of Armagh, Nov. 8, 1387, in Trevisa's works among the Harleian MSS. No. 1900. Whether these Friars, thus affected with the frensy of book-collecting, ever visited the "old chapelle at the Est End of the church of S. Saink [Berkshire], whither of late time resorted in pilgrimage many folkes for the disease of madness," [see Leland's Itinerary, vol. ii. 29, edit. 1770] I have not been able, after the most diligent investigation, to ascertain.
19 The British Museum contains a great number of books which bear the royal stamp of Henry VII.'s arms. Some of these printed by Verard, upon vellum, are magnificent memorials of a library, the dispersion of which is for ever to be regretted. As Henry VIII. knew nothing of, and cared less for, fine books, it is not very improbable that some of the choicest volumes belonging to the late king were presented to Cardinal Wolsey.
During the reign of Henry VIII., I should suppose that the Earl of Surrey20 and Sir Thomas Wyatt were a little attached to book-collecting; and that Dean Colet21 and his friend Sir Thomas More and Erasmus were downright Bibliomaniacs. There can be little doubt but that neither the great Leland22 nor his Biographer Bale,23 were able to escape the contagion; and that, in the ensuing period, Rogar Ascham became notorious for the Book-disease. He purchased probably, during his travels abroad24 many a fine copy of the Greek and Latin Classics, from which he read to his illustrious pupils, Lady Jane Grey, and Queen Elizabeth: but whether he made use of an Editio Princeps, or a Large paper copy, I have hitherto not been lucky enough to discover. This learned character died in the vigour of life, and in the bloom of reputation: and, as I suspect, in consequence of the Bibliomania— for he was always collecting books, and always studying them. His "Schoolmaster" is a work which can only perish with our language.
20 The Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt were among the first who taught their countrymen to be charmed with the elegance and copiousness of their own language. How effectually they accomplished this laudable object, will be seen from the forthcoming beautiful and complete edition of their works by the Rev. Dr. Nott.*
* It fell to the lot of the printer of this volume, during his apprenticeship to his father, to correct the press of nearly the whole of Dr. Nott's labours, which were completed, after several years of toil, when in the extensive conflagration of the printing-office at Bolt Court, Fleet-street, in 1819, all but two copies were totally destroyed!
21 Colet, More, and Erasmus [considering the latter when he was in England] were here undoubtedly the great literary triumvirate of the early part of the 16th century. The lives of More and Erasmus are generally read and known; but of Dean Colet it may not be so generally known that his ardour for books and for classical literature was keen, and insatiable; that, in the foundation of St. Paul's School, he has left behind a name which entitles him to rank in the foremost of those who have fallen victims to the Bibliomania. How anxiously does he seem to have watched the progress, and pushed the sale, of his friend Erasmus's first edition of the Greek Testament! "Quod scribis de Novo Testamento intelligo. Et libri novæ editionis tuæ hic avide emuntur et passim leguntur!" The entire epistle (which may be seen in Dr. Knight's dry Life of Colet, p. 315) is devoted to an account of Erasmus's publications. "I am really astonished, my dear Erasmus [does he exclaim], at the fruitfulness of your talents; that, without any fixed residence, and with a precarious and limited income, you contrive to publish so many and such excellent works." Adverting to the distracted state of Germany at this period, and to the wish of his friend to live secluded and unmolested, he observes —"As to the tranquil retirement which you sigh for, be assured that you have my sincere wishes for its rendering you as happy and composed as you can wish it. Your age and erudition entitle you to such a retreat. I fondly hope, indeed, that you will choose this country for it, and come and live amongst us, whose disposition you know, and whose friendship you have proved."
There is hardly a more curious picture of the custom of the times, relating to the education of boys, than the Dean's own Statutes for the regulation of St. Paul's School, which he had founded. These shew, too, the popular books then read by the learned. "The children shall come unto the School in the morning at seven of the clock, both winter and summer, and tarry there until eleven; and return against one of the clock, and depart at five, &c. In the school, no time in the year, they shall use tallow candle in no wise, but only wax candle, at the costs of their friends. Also I will they bring no meat nor drink, nor bottle, nor use in the school no breakfasts, nor drinkings, in the time of learning, in no wise, &c. I will they use no cockfightings, nor riding about of victory, nor disputing at Saint Bartholomew, which is but foolish babbling and loss of time." The master is then restricted, under the penalty of 40 shillings, from granting the boys a holiday, or "remedy," [play-day,] as it is here called "except the King, an Archbishop, or a Bishop, present in his own person in the school, desire it." The studies for the lads were, "Erasmus's Copia & Institutum Christiani Hominis (composed at the Dean's request) Lactantius, Prudentius, Juvencus, Proba and Sedulius, and Baptista Mantuanus, and such other as shall be thought convenient and most to purpose unto the true Latin speech: all barbary, all corruption, all Latin adulterate, which ignorant blind fools brought into this world, and with the same hath distained and poisoned the old Latin speech, and the veray Roman tongue, which in the time of Tully and Sallust and Virgil and Terence was used — I say that filthiness, and all such abusion, which the later blind world brought in, which more rather may be called Bloterature that  Literature, I utterly banish and exclude out of this school." Life of Knight's Colet, 362-4.
What was to be expected, but that boys, thus educated, would hereafter fall victims to the Bibliomania?
22 The history of this great men, and of his literary labours, is most interesting. He was a pupil of William Lilly, the first head-master of St. Paul's School; and, by the kindness and liberality of a Mr. Myles, he afterwards received the advantage of a College education, and was supplied with money in order to travel abroad, and make such collections as he should deem necessary for the great work which even then seemed to dawn upon his young and ardent mind. Leland endeavoured to requite the kindness of his benefactor by an elegant copy of Latin verses, in which he warmly expatiates on the generosity of his patron, and acknowledges that his acquaintance with the Almæ Matres [for he was of both Universities] was entirely the result of such beneficence. While he resided on the continent, he was admitted into the society of the most eminent Greek and Latin Scholars, and could probably number among his correspondents the illustrious names of Budæus, Erasmus, the Stephani, Faber and Turnebus. Here, too, he cultivated his natural taste for poetry; and from inspecting the fine books which the Italian and French presses had produced, as well as fired by the love of Grecian learning, which had fled, on the sacking of Constantinople, to take shelter in the academic bowers of the Medici, he seems to have matured his plans for carrying into effect the great work which had now taken full possession of his mind. He returned to England, resolved to institute an inquiry into the state of the Libraries, Antiquities, Records and Writings then in existence. Having entered into holy orders, and obtained preferment at the express interposition of the King, (Henry VIII.), he was appointed his Antiquary and Library Keeper, and a royal commission was issued in which Leland was directed to search after "England's Antiquities, and peruse the libraries of all Cathedrals, Abbies, Priories, Colleges, etc., as also all the places wherein Records, Writings, and Secrets of Antiquity were reposited." "Before Leland's time," says Hearne, in the Preface to the Itinerary, "all the literary monuments of Antiquity were totally disregarded; and Students of Germany, apprised of this culpable indifference, were suffered to enter our libraries unmolested, and to cut out of the books deposited there whatever passages they thought proper — which they afterwards published as relics of the ancient literature of their own country."
Leland was occupied, without intermission, in this immense undertaking, for the space of six years; and, on its completion, he hastened to the metropolis to lay at the feet of his Sovereign the result of his researches. This was presented to Henry under the title of A New Year's Gift; and was first published by Bale in 1549, 8vo. "Being inflamed," says the author, "with a love to see thoroughly all those parts of your opulent and ample realm, in so much that all my other occupations intermitted, I have so travelled in your dominions, both by the sea coasts and the middle parts, sparing neither labour nor costs, by the space of six years past, that there is neither cape nor bay, haven, creek, or pier, river, or confluence of rivers, breeches, wastes, lakes, moors, fenny waters, mountains, vallies, heaths, forests, chases, woods, cities, burghes, castles, principal manor places, monasteries and colleges, but I have seen them; and noted, in so doing, a whole world of things very memorable." Leland moreover tells his Majesty — that "By his laborious journey and costly enterprise, he had conserved many good authors, the which otherwise had been like to have perished; of the which, part remained in the royal palaces, part also in his own custody, &c."
As Leland was engaged six years in this literary tour, so he was occupied for a no less period of time in digesting and arranging the prodigious number of MSS. he had collected. But he sunk beneath the immensity of the task! The want of amanuenses, and of other attentions and comforts, seems to have deeply affected him; in this melancholy state, he wrote to Archbishop Cranmer a Latin epistle, in verse, of which the following is the commencement — very forcibly describing his situation and anguish of mind.
Est congesta mihi domi supellex
Ingens, aurea, nobilis, venusta
Qua totus studeo Britanniarum
Vero reddere gloriam nitori.
Sed fortuna meis noverca cœptis
Jam felicibus invidet maligna.
Quare, ne pereant brevi vel hora
Multarum mihi noctium labores
Cranmere, eximium decus piorum!
Implorare tuam benignitatem
The result was that Leland lost his senses; and, after lingering two years in a state of total derangement, he died on the 18th of April, 1552. "Prôh tristes rerum humanarum vices! prôh viri optimi deplorandam infelicissimamque sortem!" exclaims Dr. Smith, in his preface to Camden's Life, 1691, 4to.
The precious and voluminous MSS. of Leland were doomed to suffer a fate scarcely less pitiable than that of their owner. After being pilfered by some, and garbled by others, they served to replenish the pages of Stow, Lambard, Camden, Burton, Dugdale, and many other antiquaries and historians. Polydore Virgil, who had stolen from them pretty freely, had the insolence to abuse Leland's memory — calling him "a vain glorious man;" but what shall we say to this flippant egotist? who, according to Caius's testimony [De Antiq. Cantab. head. lib. 1.] "to prevent a discovery of the many errors of his own History of England, collected and burnt a greater number of ancient histories and manuscripts than would have loaded a waggon." The imperfect remains of Leland's MSS. are now deposited in the Bodleian Library, and in the British Museum.
Upon the whole, it must be acknowledged that Leland is a melancholy, as well as illustrious, example of the influence of the Bibliomania!
23 In spite of Bale's coarseness, positiveness, and severity, he has done much towards the cause of learning; and, perhaps, towards the propagation of the disease under discussion. His regard for Leland does him great honour; and although his plays are miserably dull, notwithstanding the high prices which the original editions of them bear, (vide ex. gr. Cat. Steevens, No. 1221; which was sold for £12 12s. See also the reprints in the Harleian Miscellany) the lover of literary antiquities must not forget that his "Scriptores Britanniæ" are yet quoted with satisfaction by some of the most respectable writers of the day. That he wanted delicacy of feeling, and impartiality of investigation, must be admitted; but a certain rough honesty and prompt benevolence which he had about him compensated for a multitude of offences. The abhorrence with which he speaks of the dilapidation of some of our old libraries must endear his memory to every honest bibliographer: "Never (says he) had we been offended for the loss of our Libraries, being so many in number, and in so desolate places for the more part, if the chief monuments and most notable works of our excellent writers had been reserved. If there had been in every shire of England, but one solempne Library, to the preservation of those noble works, and preferment of good learning in our posterity, it had been yet somewhat. But to destroy all without consideration, is, and will be, unto England for ever, a most horrible infamy among the grave seniors of other nations. A great number of them which purchased those superstitious mansions, reserved of those library-books, some to serve the jakes, some to scour their candlesticks, and some to rub their boots: some they sold to the grocers and soap-sellers; some they sent over sea to the book-binders, not in small number, but at times whole ships full, to the wondering of the foreign nations. Yea, the Universities of this realm are not all clear of this detestable fact. But cursed is that belly which seeketh to be fed with such ungodly gain, and shameth his natural country. I know a merchant man, which shall at this time be nameless, that bought the contents of two noble libraries for forty shillings price; a shame it is to be spoken! This stuff hath he occupied in the stead of grey paper, by the space of more than ten years, and yet he hath store enough for as many year to come!" Bale's Preface to Leland's "Laboryouse journey, &c." Emprented at London by John Bale. Anno M.D. xlix. 8vo.
After this, who shall doubt the story of the Alexandrian Library supplying the hot baths of Alexandria with fuel for six months! See Gibbon on the latter subject; vol. ix. 440.
24 Ascham's English letter, written when he was abroad, will be found at the end of Bennet's edition of his works, in 4to. They are curious and amusing. What relates to the Bibliomania I here select from similar specimens. "Oct. 4. At afternoon I went about the town [of Bruxelles]. I went to the frier Carmelites house, and heard their even song: after, I desired to see the Library. A frier was sent to me, and led me into it. There was not one good book but Lyra. The friar was learned, spoke Latin readily, entered into Greek, having a very good wit, and a greater desire to learning. He was gentle and honest, &c." p. 370-1. "Oct. 20. to Spira: a good city. Here I first saw Sturmius de periodis. I also found here Ajax, Electra, and Antigone Sophocles, excellently, by my good judgment, translated into verse, and fair printed this summer by Gryphius. Your stationers do ill, that at least do 'not provide you the register of all books, especially of old authors, &c.'" p. 372. Again: "Hieronimus Wolfius, that translated Demosthenes and Isocrates, is in this town. I am well acquainted with him, and have brought him twice to my Lord's to dinner. He looks very simple. He telleth me that one Borrheus, that hath written well upon Aristot. priorum, &c., even now is printing goodly commentaries upon Aristotle's Rhetoric. But Sturmius will obscure them all." p. 381.
It is impossible to read these extracts without being convinced that Roger Ascham was a book-hunter, and infected with the Bibliomania!
If we are to judge from the beautiful Missal lying open before Lady Jane Grey, in Mr. Copley's elegant picture now exhibiting at the British Institution, it would seem rational to infer that this amiable and learned female was slightly attacked by the disease. It is to be taken for granted that Queen Elizabeth was not exempt from it; and that her great Secretary,25 Cecil, sympathised with her! In regard to Elizabeth, her Prayer-Book26 is quite evidence sufficient for me that she found the Bibliomania irresistible! During her reign, how vast and how frightful were the ravages of the Book-madness! If we are to credit Laneham's celebrated Letter, it had extended far into the country, and infected some of the worthy inhabitants of Coventry; for one "Captain Cox,27 by profession a mason, and that right skilful," had "as fair a library of sciences, and as many goodly monuments both in Prose and Poetry, and at afternoon could talk as much without book, as any Innholder betwixt Brentford and Bagshot, what degree soever he be!"
25 It is a question which requires more time for the solution than I am able to spare, whether Cecil's name stands more frequently at the head of a Dedication, in a printed book, or of State Papers and other political documents in MS. He was a wonderful man; but a little infected — as I suspect — with the book-disease.
—— Famous Cicill, treasurer of the land,
Whose wisedom, counsell, skill of Princes state
The world admires ——
The house itselfe doth shewe the owners wit,
And may for bewtie, state, and every thing,
Compared be with most within the land.
Tale of Two Swannes, 1590. 4to.
I have never yet been able to ascertain whether the owner's attachment towards vellum, or large paper, Copies was the more vehement!
26 Perhaps this conclusion is too precipitate. But whoever looks at Elizabeth's portrait, on her bended knees, struck off on the reverse of the title page to her prayer book (first printed in 1565) may suppose that the Queen thought the addition of her own portrait would be no mean decoration to the work. Every page is adorned with borders, engraved on wood, of the most spirited execution: representing, amongst other subjects, "The Dance of Death." My copy is the reprint of 1608 — in high preservation. I have no doubt that there was a presentation copy printed upon vellum; but in what cabinet does this precious gem now slumber?
27 Laneham gives a splendid list of Romances and Old Ballads possessed by this said Captain Cox; and tells us, moreover, that "he had them all at his fingers ends." Among the ballads we find "Broom broom on Hil; So Wo is me begon twlly lo; Over a Whinny Meg; Hey ding a ding; Bony lass upon Green; My bony on gave me a bek; By a bank as I lay; and two more he had fair wrapt up in parchment, and bound with a whip cord." Edit. 1784, p. 36-7-8. Ritson, in his Historical Essay on Scottish Song, speaks of some of these, with a zest, as if he longed to untie the "whip-cord" packet.
While the country was thus giving proofs of the prevalence of this disorder, the two Harringtons (especially the younger)28 and the illustrious Spenser29 were unfortunately seized with it in the metropolis.
28 Sir John Harrington, knt. Sir John, and his father John Harrington, were very considerable literary characters in the 16th century; and whoever has been fortunate enough to read through Mr. Park's new edition of the Nugæ Antiquæ, 1804, 8vo., will meet with numerous instances in which the son displays considerable bibliographical knowledge — especially in Italian literature; Harrington and Spenser seem to have been the Matthias and Roscoe of the day. I make no doubt but that the former was as thoroughly acquainted with the vera edizione of the Giuntæ edition of Boccaccio's Decamerone, 1527, 4to., as either Haym, Orlandi, or Bandini. Paterson, with all his skill, was mistaken in this article when he catalogued Croft's books. See Bibl. Crofts. No. 3976: his true edition was knocked down for 6s.!!!
29 Spenser's general acquaintance with Italian literature has received the best illustration in Mr. Todd's Variorum edition of the poet's works; where the reader will find, in the notes, a constant succession of anecdotes of, and references to, the state of anterior and contemporaneous literature, foreign and domestic.
In the seventeenth century, from the death of Elizabeth to the commencement of Anne's reign, it seems to have made considerable havoc; yet, such was our blindness to it that we scrupled not to engage in overtures for the purchase of Isaac Vossius's30 fine library, enriched with many treasures from the Queen of Sweden's, which this versatile genius scrupled not to pillage without confession or apology. During this century our great reasoners and philosophers began to be in motion; and, like the fumes of tobacco, which drive the concealed and clotted insects from the interior to the extremity of the leaves, the infectious particles of the Bibliomania set a thousand busy brains a-thinking, and produced ten thousand capricious works, which, over-shadowed by the majestic remains of Bacon, Locke, and Boyle, perished for want of air, and warmth, and moisture.
30 "The story is extant, and written in very choice French." Consult Chauffepié's Supplement to Bayle's Dictionary, vol. iv. p. 621. note Q. Vossius's library was magnificent and extensive. The University of Leyden offered not less than 36,000 florins for it. Idem. p. 631.
The reign of Queen Anne was not exempt from the influence of this disease; for during this period, Maittaire31 began to lay the foundation of his extensive library, and to publish some bibliographical works which may be thought to have rather increased, than diminished, its force. Meanwhile, Harley32 Earl of Oxford watched its progress with an anxious eye; and although he might have learnt experience from the fatal examples of R. Smith,33 and T. Baker,34 and the more recent ones of Thomas Rawlinson,35 Bridges,36 and Collins,37 yet he seemed resolved to brave and to baffle it; but, like his predecessors, he was suddenly crushed within the gripe of the demon, and fell one of the most splendid of his victims. Even the unrivalled medical skill of Mead38 could save neither his friend nor himself. The Doctor survived his Lordship about twelve years; dying of the complaint called the Bibliomania! He left behind an illustrious character; sufficient to flatter and soothe those who may tread in his footsteps, and fall victims to a similar disorder.
31 Of Michael Maittaire I have given a brief sketch in my Introduction to the Greek and Latin Classics, vol. I, 148. Mr. Beloe, in the 3rd vol. of his Anecdotes of Literature, p. ix., has described his merits with justice. The principal value of Maittaire's Annales Typographici consists in a great deal of curious matter detailed in the notes; but the absence of the "lucidus ordo" renders the perusal of these fatiguing and dissatisfactory. The author brought a full and well-informed mind to the task he undertook — but he wanted taste and precision in the arrangement of his materials. The eye wanders over a vast indigested mass; and information, when it is to be acquired with excessive toil, is, comparatively, seldom acquired. Panzer has adopted an infinitely better plan, on the model of Orlandi; and, if his materials had been printed with the same beauty with which they appear to have been composed, and his annals had descended to as late a period as those of Maittaire, his work must have made us, eventually, forget that of his predecessor. The bibliographer is, no doubt, aware that of Maittaire's first volume there are two editions. Why the author did not reprint, in the second edition (1733), the facsimile of the epigram and epistle of Lascar prefixed to the edition of the Anthology 1496, and the disquisition concerning the ancient editions of Quintilian (both of which were in the first edition of 1719), is absolutely inexplicable. Maittaire was sharply attacked for this absurdity, in the "Catalogus Auctorum," of the "Annus Tertius Sæcularis Inv. Art. Topog." Harlem, 1741, 8vo. p. 11. "Rara certe Librum augendi methodus (exclaims the author)! Satis patet auctorem hoc eo fecisse consilio, ut et primæ et secundæ Libri sive editioni pretium suum constaret, et una æque ac altera Lectoribus necessaria esset."
The catalogue of Maittaire's library [1748, 2 parts, 8vo.], which affords ample proof of the Bibliomania of its collector, is exceedingly scarce. A good copy of it, even unpriced, is worth a guinea: it was originally sold for 4 shillings; and was drawn up by Maittaire himself.
32 In a periodical publication called "The Director," to which I contributed under the article of "Bibliographiana" (and of which the printer of this work, Mr. William Savage, is now the sole publisher), there was rather a minute analysis of the famous library of Harley, Earl of Oxford: a library which seems not only to have revived, but eclipsed, the splendour of the Roman one formed by Lucullus. The following is an abridgement of this analysis:
|1.||Divinity: Greek, Latin, French and Italian— about||2000|
|2.||History and Antiquities||4000|
|3.||Books of Prints, Sculpture, and Drawings —
Twenty Thousand Drawings and Prints.
Ten Thousand Portraits.
|4.||Philosophy, Chemistry, Medicine, &c.||2500|
|5.||Geography, Chronology, General History||600|
|6.||Voyages and Travels||800|
|8.||Sculpture and Architecture||900|
|9.||Greek and Latin Classics||2400|
|10.||Books printed upon vellum||220|
|11.||English Poetry, Romances, &c.||1000|
|12.||French and Spanish do.||700|
|14.||Trade and Commerce||300|
|16.||Pamphlets —Four Hundred Thousand!|
Mr. Gough says, these books "filled thirteen handsome chambers, and two long galleries." Osborne the bookseller purchased them for £13,000: a sum little more than two thirds of the price of the binding, as paid by Lord Oxford. The bookseller was accused of injustice and parsimony; but the low prices which he afterwards affixed to the articles, and the tardiness of their sale, are sufficient refutations of this charge. Osborne opened his shop for the inspection of the books on Tuesday the 14th of February, 1744; for fear "of the curiosity of the spectators, before the sale, producing disorder in the disposition of the books." The dispersion of the Harleian Collection is a blot in the literary annals of our country: had there then been such a Speaker, and such a spirit in the House of Commons, as we now possess, the volumes of Harley would have been reposing with the marbles of Townley!
33 "Bibliotheca Smithiana: sive Catalogus Librorum in quavis facultate insigniorum, quos in usum suum et Bibliothecæ ornamentum multo ære sibi comparavit vir clarissimus doctissimusque D. Richardus Smith, &c., Londini, 1682," 4to. I recommend the collector of curious and valuable catalogues to lay hold upon the present one (of which a more particular description will be given in another work) whenever it comes in his way. The address "To the Reader," in which we are told that "this so much celebrated, so often desired, so long expected, library is now exposed to sale," gives a very interesting account of the owner. Inter alia, we are informed that Mr. Smith "was as constantly known every day to walk his rounds through the shops, as to sit down to his meals, &c.;" and that "while others were forming arms, and new-modelling kingdoms, his great ambition was to become master of a good book."
The catalogue itself justifies every thing said in commendation of the collector of the library. The arrangement is good; the books, in almost all departments of literature, foreign and domestic, valuable and curious; and among the English ones I have found some of the rarest Caxtons to refer to in my edition of Ames. What would Mr. Bindley, or Mr. Malone, or Mr. Douce, give to have the creaming of such a collection of "Bundles of Stitcht Books and Pamphlets," as extends from page 370 to 395 of this catalogue! But alas! while the Bibliographer exults in, or hopes for, the possession of such treasures, the physiologist discovers therein fresh causes of disease, and the philanthropist mourns over the ravages of the Bibliomania!
34 Consult Masters's "Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the late Rev. Thomas Baker," Camb. 1864, 8vo. Let any person examine the catalogue of Forty-two folio volumes of "MS. collections by Mr. Baker," (as given at the end of this piece of biography) and reconcile himself, if he can, to the supposition that the said Mr. Baker did not fall a victim to the Book-disease! For some cause, I do not now recollect what, Baker took his name off the books of St. John's College, Cambridge, to which he belonged; but such was his attachment to the place, and more especially to the library, that he spent a great portion of the ensuing twenty years of his life within the precincts of the same: frequently comforted and refreshed, no doubt, by the sight of the magnificent large paper copies of Walton and Castell, and of Cranmer's Bible upon vellum!
35 This Thomas Rawlinson, who is introduced in the Tatler under the name Tom Folio, was a very extraordinary character, and most desperately addicted to book-hunting. Because his own house was not large enough, he hired London House, in Aldersgate Street, for the reception of his library; and here he used to regale himself with the sight and the scent of innumerable black letter volumes, arranged in "sable garb," and stowed perhaps "three deep," from the bottom to the top of his house. He died in 1725; and Catalogues of his books for sale continued, for nine succeeding years, to meet the public eye. The following is a list of all the parts which I have ever met with; taken from copies in Mr. Heber's possession.
Part 1. A Catalogue of choice and valuable Books in most Faculties and Languages: being the sixth part of the collection made by Thos. Rawlinson, Esq., &c., to be sold on Thursday, the 2d day of March, 1726; beginning every evening at 5 of the clock, by Charles Davis, Bookseller. Qui non credit, eras credat. Ex Autog. T.R.
2. Bibliotheca Rawlinsoniana; sive Delectus Librorum in omni ferè Linguâ et Facultate præstantium — to be sold on Wednesday 26th April, 1726 by Charles Davis, Bookseller. 2600 Numbers.
3. The Same: January 1727-8. By Thomas Ballard, Bookseller, 3520 Numbers.
4. The Same: March, 1727-8. By the same. 3840 Numbers.
5. The Same: October, 1728. By the same. 3200 Numbers.
6. The Same: November, 1728. By the same. 3520 Numbers.
7. The Same: April, 1729. By the same. 4161 Numbers.
8. The Same: November, 1729. By the same. 2700 Numbers.
9. The Same: [Of Rawlinson's Manuscripts] By the same. March 1733-4. 800 Numbers.
10. Picturæ Rawlinsonianæ. April, 1734. 117 Articles.
At the end, it would seem that a catalogue of his prints, and MSS. missing in the last sale, were to be published the ensuing winter.
N.B. The black-letter books are catalogued in the Gothic letter.
36 "Bibliothecæ Bridgesianæ Catalogus: or, A Catalogue of the Entire Library of John Bridges, late of Lincoln's Inn, Esq., &c., which will begin to be sold, by Auction, on Monday the seventh day of February, 1725-6, at his chambers in Lincoln's Inn, No. 6."
From a priced copy of this sale catalogue, in my possession, once belonging to Nourse, the bookseller in the Strand, I find that the following was the produce of the sale:
|The Amount of the books||£3730||0||0|
|Prints and books of Prints||394||17||6|
|Total Amount of the Sale||£4124||17||6|
Two different catalogues of this valuable collection of books were printed. The one was analysed, or a catalogue raisonné; to which was prefixed a print of a Grecian portico, &c., with ornaments and statues: the other (expressly for the sale) was an indigested and extremely confused one — to which was prefixed a print, designed and engraved by A. Motte, of an oak felled, with a number of men cutting down and carrying away its branches; illustrative of the following Greek motto inscribed on a scroll above —Δρυὸς πεσοὺσης πᾶς ἀνὴρ ξυλευεταὶ: "An affecting memento (says Mr. Nichols, very justly, in his Anecdotes of Bowyer, p. 557) to the collectors of great libraries, who cannot, or do not, leave them to some public accessible repository."
37 In the year 1730-1, there was sold by auction, at St. Paul's Coffee-house, in St. Paul's Church-yard (beginning every evening at five o'clock), the library of the celebrated Free-Thinker,
"Containing a collection of several thousand volumes in Greek, Latin, English, French, and Spanish; in divinity, history, antiquity, philosophy, husbandry, and all polite literature: and especially many curious travels and voyages; and many rare and valuable pamphlets." This collection, which is divided into two parts (the first containing 3451 articles, the second 3442), is well worthy of being consulted by the theologian, who is writing upon any controverted point of divinity: there are articles in it of the rarest occurrence. The singular character of its owner and of his works is well known: he was at once the friend and the opponent of Locke and Clarke, who were both anxious for the conversion of a character of such strong, but misguided, talents. The former, on his death-bed, wrote Collins a letter to be delivered to him, after his decease, which was full of affection and good advice.
38 It is almost impossible to dwell on the memory of this great man without emotions of delight — whether we consider him as an eminent physician, a friend to literature, or a collector of books, pictures, and coins. Benevolence, magnanimity, and erudition were the striking features of his character: his house was the general receptacle of men of genius and talent, and of every thing beautiful, precious, or rare. His curiosities, whether books, or coins, or pictures, were freely laid open to the public; and the enterprising student, and experienced antiquary, alike found amusement and a courteous reception. He was known to all foreigners of intellectual distinction, and corresponded both with the artisan and the potentate. The great patron of literature, and the leader of his profession (which he practised with a success unknown before), it was hardly possible for unbefriended merit, if properly introduced to him, to depart unrewarded. The clergy, and in general, all men of learning, received his advice gratuitously: and his doors were open every morning to the most indigent, whom he frequently assisted with money. Although his income, from his professional practice, was very considerable, he died by no means a rich man — so large were the sums which he devoted to the encouragement of literature and the fine arts!
The sale of Dr. Mead's books commenced on the 18th of November, 1754, and again on the 7th of April, 1755: lasting together 57 days. The sale of the prints and drawings continued 14 nights. The gems, bronzes, busts, and antiquities, 8 days.
|His books produced||£5496||15||0|
|Prints and drawings||1908||14||0|
|Coins and medals||1977||17||0|
|Amount of all the sales||£16,047||12||0|
It would be difficult to mention, within a moderate compass, all the rare and curious articles which his library contained — but the following are too conspicuous to be passed over. The Spira Virgil of 1470, Pfintzing's Tewrkdrancs, 1527, Brandt's Stultifera Navis, 1498, and the Aldine Petrarch of 1501, all upon vellum. The large paper Olivet's Cicero was purchased by Dr. Askew for £14 14s. and was sold again at his sale for £36 15s. The King of France bought the editio princeps of Pliny Senr. for £11 11s.; and Mr. Willock, a bookseller, bought the magnificently illuminated Pliny by Jenson of 1472, for £18 18s.: of which Maittaire has said so many fine things. The French books, and all the works upon the Fine Arts, were of the first rarity, and value, and bound in a sumptuous manner. Winstanley's Prospects of Audley End brought £50. An amusing account of some of the pictures will be found in Mr. Beloe's "Anecdotes of Literature and Scarce Books," vol. i. 166. 71. But consult also Nichol's Anecdotes of Bowyer, p. 225, &c. Of the catalogue of Dr. Mead's books there were only six copies printed on large paper. See Bibl. Lort, no. 1149.
The years 1755-6 were singularly remarkable for the mortality excited by the Bibliomania; and the well known names of Folkes,39 and Rawlinson,40 might have supplied a modern Holbein a hint for the introduction of a new subject in the "Dance of Death." The close of George the Second's reign witnessed another instance of the fatality of this disease. Henley41 "bawled till he was hoarse" against the cruelty of its attack; while his library has informed posterity how severely and how mortally he suffered from it.
39 "A Catalogue of the entire and valuable library of Martin Folkes, Esq., President of the Royal Society, and member of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, lately deceased; which will be sold by auction by Samuel Baker, at his house, in York Street, Covent Garden. To begin on Monday, February 2, 1756, and to continue for forty days successively (Sundays excepted). Catalogues to be had at most of the considerable places in Europe, and all the booksellers of Great Britain and Ireland, Price Sixpence."
This collection was an exceedingly fine one; enriched with many books of the choicest description, which Mr. Folkes had acquired in his travels in Italy and Germany. The works on natural history, coins, medals, and inscriptions, and on the fine arts in general, formed the most valuable department — those in the Greek, Latin and English classics, were comparatively of inferior importance. It is a great pity the catalogue was not better digested; or the books classed according to the nature of their contents.
The following prices, for some of the more rare and interesting articles, will amuse a bibliographer of the present day. The chronicles of Fabian, Hall, and Grafton, did not altogether bring quite £2: though the copies are described as perfect and fair. There seems to have been a fine set of Sir Wm. Dugdale's Works (Nos. 3074-81) in 13 vols. which, collectively, produced about 30 guineas.
In Spanish literature, the history of South America, By Don Juan and Ant. di Ulloa, Madr. fol. in 5 vols., was sold for £5: a fine large paper copy of the description of the Monastery of St. Lorenzo, and the Escorial, Madr. 1657, brought £1 2s.: de Lastanosa's Spanish Medals, Huesca, fol. 1645, £2 2s.
In English, the first edition of Shakespeare, 1623, which is now what a French bibliographer would say "presque introuvable," produced the sum of £3 3s.; and Fuller's Worthies, 18s.!
Fine Arts, Antiquities, and Voyages. Sandrart's works, in 9 folio volumes (of which a fine perfect copy is now rarely to be met with, and of very great value) were sold for £13 13s. only: Desgodetz Roman edifices, Paris, 1682, £4 10s.: Galleria Giustiniano, 2 vols., fol. £13 13s. Le Brun's Voyages in Muscovy, &c., in large paper, £4 4s. De Rossi's Raccolta de Statue, &c. Rom. 1704, £6 10s. Medailles du Regne de Louis le Grand, de l'imp. Roy. 1. p. fol. 1702, £5 15s. 6d.
The works on Natural History brought still higher prices; but the whole, from the present depreciation of specie, and increased rarity of the articles, would now bring thrice the sums then given.
Of the Greek and Latin Classics, the Pliny of 1469 and 1472 were sold to Dr. Askew for £11 11s. and £7 17s. 6d. At the Doctor's sale they brought £43 and £23: although the first was lately sold (A.D. 1805) among some duplicates of books belonging to the British Museum, at a much lower price: the copy was, in fact, neither large nor beautiful. Those in the Hunter and Cracherode collections are greatly superior, and would each bring more than double the price.
From a priced copy of the sale catalogue, in my possession, I find that the amount of the sale, consisting of 5126 articles, was £3091 5s.
The Prints and Drawings of Mr. Folkes occupied a sale of 8 days; and his pictures, gems, coins, and mathematical instruments, of five days.
Mr. Martin Folkes may justly be ranked among the most useful, as well as splendid, literary characters of which this country can boast. He appears to have imbibed, at a very early age, an extreme passion for science and literature; and to have distinguished himself so much at the University of Cambridge, under the able tuition of Dr. Laughton, that, in his 23rd year, he was admitted a Fellow of the Royal Society. About two years afterwards he was chosen one of the council, and rose, in gradual succession, to the chair of the presidentship, which he filled with a credit and celebrity that has since never been surpassed. On this occasion he was told by Dr. Jurin, the Secretary, who dedicated to him the 34th vol. of the Transactions, that "the greatest man that ever lived (Sir Isaac Newton) singled him out to fill the chair, and to preside in the society, when he himself was so frequently prevented by indisposition: and that it was sufficient to say of him that he was Sir Isaac's friend."
Within a few years after this, he was elected President of the Society of Antiquaries. Two situations, the filling of which may be considered as the ne plus ultra of literary distinction. Mr. Folkes travelled abroad, with his family, about two years and a half, visiting the cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice — where he was noticed by almost every person of rank and reputation, and whence he brought away many a valuable article to enrich his own collection. He was born in the year 1690, and died of a second stroke of the palsy, under which he languished for three years, in 1754. Dr. Birch has drawn a very just and interesting character of this eminent man, which may be found in Nichol's Anecdotes of Bowyer, 562. 7. Mr. Edwards, the late ornithologist, has described him in a simple, but appropriate, manner. "He seemed," says he, "to have attained to universal knowledge; for, in the many opportunities I have had of being in his company, almost every part of science has happened to be the subject of discourse, all of which he handled as an adept. He was a man of great politeness in his manners, free from all pedantry and pride, and, in every respect, the real unaffected fine gentleman."
40 "Bibliotheca Rawlinsoniana, sive Catalogus Librorum Richardi Rawlinson, LL.D. Qui prostabunt Venales sub hasta, Apud Samuelem Baker. In Vico dicto York Street, Covent Garden Londini, Die Lunæ, 22 Martii mdcclvi."
This valuable library must have contained about 20,000 volumes; for the number of Articles amounted to 9405. On examining a priced catalogue of it, which now lies before me, I have not found any higher sum offered for a work than £4 1s. for a collection of fine prints, by Aldegrave (No. 9405). The Greek and Latin classics, of which there were few Editiones Principes, or on large paper, brought the usual sums given at that period. The old English black-lettered books, which were pretty thickly scattered throughout the collection, were sold for exceedingly low prices — if the copies were perfect. Witness the following:
|The Newe Testament in English, 1530||0||2||9|
|The Ymage of both Churches, after the Revelation of St. John, by Bale, 1550||0||1||6|
|The boke called the Pype or Tonne of Perfection, by Richard Whytforde, 1532||0||1||9|
|The Visions of Pierce Plowman, 1561||0||2||0|
|The Creede of Pierce Plowman, 1553||0||1||6|
|The Bookes of Moses, in English, 1530||0||3||9|
|Bale's Actes of Englishe Votaryes, 1550||0||1||3|
|The Boke of Chivalrie, by Caxton||0||11||0|
|The Boke of St. Albans, by W. de Worde||1||1||0|
These are only very few of the rare articles in English literature, of the whole of which (perhaps upwards of 200 in number) I believe, the 'Boke of St. Albans,' brought the highest sum. Hence it will be seen that this was not the age of curious research into the productions of our ancestors. Shakspeare had not then appeared in a proper Variorum edition. Theobald, and Pope, and Warburton, had not investigated the black-letter lore of ancient English writers, for the illustration of their favourite author. This was reserved for Farmer, for Steevens, for Malone, for Chalmers, Reed and Douce: and it is expressly to these latter gentlemen (for Johnson and Hanmer were very sparing, or very shy, of the black letter), that we are indebted for the present spirit of research into the works of our ancestors.
The sale of the books lasted 50 days. There was a second sale of pamphlets, books of prints, &c., in the following year, which lasted 10 days; and this was immediately succeeded by a sale of the Doctor's single prints and drawings, which continued 8 days.
41 This gentleman's library, not so remarkable for the black letter as for whimsical publications, was sold by auction, by Samuel Paterson, [the earliest sale in which I find this well known book-auctioneer engaged] in June, 1759, and the three ensuing evenings. The title of the Sale Catalogue is as follows:
"A Catalogue of the original MSS. and manuscript collections of the late Reverend Mr. John Henley, A.M., Independent Minister of the Oratory, &c., in which are included sundry collections of the late Mons. des Maizeaux, the learned editor of Bayle, &c., Mr. Lowndes, author of the Report for the Amendment of Silver Coins, &c., Dr. Patrick Blair, Physician at Boston, and F.R.S. &c., together with original letters and papers of State, addressed to Henry d'Avenant, Esq., her Britannic Majesty's Envoy at Francfort, from 1703 to 1708 inclusive."
Few libraries have contained more curious and remarkable publications than did this. The following articles, given as notable specimens, remind us somewhat of Addison's Memoranda for the Spectator, which the waiter at the coffee-house picked up and read aloud for the amusement of the company.
No. 166. God's Manifestation by a Star to the Dutch. A mortifying Fast Diet at Court. On the Birth Day of the first and oldest young gentleman. All corrupt: none good: no not one.
No. 168. General Thumbissimo. The Spring reversed, or the Flanderkin's Opera and Dutch Pickle Herrings. The Creolean Fillip, or Royal Mishap. A Martial Telescope, &c., England's Passion Sunday, and April Changelings.
No. 170. Speech upon Speech. A Telescope for Tournay. No Battle, but worse, and the True Meaning of it. An Army Beaten and interred.
No. 174. Signs when the P. will come. Was Captain Sw —— n a Prisoner on Parole, to be catechised? David's Opinion of like Times. The Seeds of the plot may rise, though the leaves fall. A Perspective, from the Blair of Athol, the Pretender's Popery. Murder! Fire! Where! Where!
No. 178. Taking Carlisle, catching an eel by the tail. Address of a Bishop, Dean and Clergy. Swearing to the P——r, &c., Anathema denounced against those Parents, Masters, and Magistrates, that do not punish the Sin at Stokesley. A Speech, &c. A parallel between the Rebels to K. Charles I. and those to his Successor. Jane Cameron looked killing at Falkirk.
No. 179. Let stocks be knighted, write, Sir Banks, &c. the Ramhead Month. A Proof that the Writers against Popery fear it will be established in this Kingdom. A Scheme, wisely blabbed to root and branch the Highlanders. Let St. Patrick have fair play, &c.
Of Orator Henley I have not been able to collect any biographical details more interesting than those which are to be found in Warburton's notes to Pope's Dunciad.
We are now, my dear Sir, descending rapidly to our own times; and, in a manner sufficiently rough, have traced the History of the Bibliomania to the commencement of the present illustrious reign: when we discover, among its victims, a General, who had probably faced many a cannon, and stormed many a rampart, uninjured. The name of Dormer42 will remind you of the small but choice library which affords such a melancholy proof of its owners' fate; while the more splendid examples of Smith43 and West44 serve to shew the increased ravages of a disease, which seemed to threaten the lives of all, into whose ears (like those of "Visto,") some demon had "whispered" the sound of "taste." These three striking instances of the fatality of the Bibliomania occurred — the first in the year 1764; and the latter in 1773. The following year witnessed the sale of the Fletewode45 library; so that nothing but despair and havoc appeared to move in the train of this pestiferous malady. In the year 1775 died the famous Dr. Anthony Askew, another illustrious victim to the Bibliomania. Those who recollect the zeal and scholarship of this great book-collector, and the precious gems with which his library46 was stored from the cabinets of De Boze and Gaignat, as well as of Mead and Folkes, cannot but sigh with grief of heart on the thought of such a victim! How ardently, and how kindly [as I remember to have heard his friend Dr. Burges say], would Askew unfold his glittering stores — open the magnificent folio, or the shining duodecimo, upon vellum, embossed and fast held together with golden knobs and silver clasps! How carefully would he unroll the curious MS. — decipher the half effaced characters — and then, casting an eye of ecstacy over the shelves upon which similar treasures were lodged, exult in the glittering prospect before him! But death — who, as Horace tells us, raps equally at the palaces of kings and cottages of peasants, made no scruple to exercise the knocker of the Doctor's door, and sent, as his avant-courier, this deplorable mania! It appeared; and even Askew, with all his skill in medicine and books, fell lifeless before it — bewailed, as he was beloved and respected!
42 "A Catalogue of the genuine and elegant Library of the late Sir C.C. Dormer, collected by Lieutenant-General James Dormer, which will be sold, &c., by Samuel Baker, at his house in York Street, Covent Garden; to begin on Monday, February the 20th, 1764, and to continue the nineteen following evenings." At the end of the catalogue we are told that the books were "in general of the best editions, and in the finest condition, many of them in large paper, bound in morocco, gilt leaves, &c."
This was a very choice collection of books, consisting almost entirely of Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish and French. The number of articles did not exceed 3082, and of volumes, probably not 7000. The catalogue is neatly printed, and copies of it on large paper are exceedingly scarce. Among the most curious and valuable articles were those numbered 599, 604, 2249, 2590; from no. 2680, to the end, was a choice collection of Italian and Spanish books.
43 In the year 1755 was published at Venice, printed by J.B. Pasquali, a catalogue of the books of Joseph Smith, Esq., Consul at Venice.
The catalogue was published under the following Latin title: "Bibliotheca Smitheana, seu Catalogus Librorum D. Josephi Smithii, Angli, per Cognomina Authorum dispositus, Venetiis, typis Jo. Baptistæ Pasquali, M,DCCLV.;" in quarto; with the arms of Consul Smith. The title page is succeeded by a Latin preface of Pasquali, and an alphabetical list of 43 pages of the authors mentioned in the catalogue: then follow the books arranged alphabetically, without any regard to size, language, or subject. These occupy 519 pages, marked with the Roman numerals; after which are 66 pages, numbered in the same manner, of "addenda et corrigenda." The most valuable part of the volume is "The Prefaces and Epistles prefixed to those works in the Library which were printed in the 15th century:" these occupy 348 pages. A Catalogue, (in three pages) of the Names of the illustrious Men mentioned in these prefaces, &c., closes the book.
It would be superfluous to mention to bibliographers the rare articles contained in this collection, which are so generally known and so justly appreciated. They consist chiefly of early editions of Italian, Greek, and Latin classics; and of many copies of both printed upon vellum. The library, so rich in these articles, was, however, defective in English Literature and Antiquities. There was scarcely any thing of Shakspeare or Dugdale.
On the death of Mr. Smith in 1772, his collection was sold in 1773, 8vo., by Baker and Leigh; and the books were announced to the public, as being "in the finest preservation, and consisting of the very best and scarcest editions of the Latin, Italian, and French authors, from the invention of printing; with manuscripts and missals, upon vellum, finely illuminated." A glance upon the prices for which most of these fine books were sold made Mr. Cuthell exclaim, in my hearing, that "they were given away." On these occasions, one cannot help now and then wishing, with father Evander,
"O mihi præteritos referat si Jupiter annos!"
On comparing Pasquali's, with the sale, catalogue, it will be obvious that a great number of rare and valuable articles was disposed of before the books came to public auction. Indeed it is known that his present Majesty enriched his magnificent collection with many of the Consul's first editions, and vellum copies, during the life of the latter. The sale continued thirteen days only; and on the last day were sold all the English books in the black-letter. Some of these are rather curious.
Of Consul Smith I am unable to present the lover of virtu with any particulars more acceptable than the following. Pasquali (whose Latin preface is curious enough — abounding with as many interrogatories as Hamlet's soliloquies) has told us that "as the Consul himself was distinguished for his politeness, talents, and prudence, so was his house for splendid and elegant decorations. You might there view, says he, the most beautifully painted pictures, and exquisite ornaments, whether gems, vases, or engravings. In short, the whole furniture was so brilliant and classical that you admired at once the magnificence and judgment of the owner." He tells us, a little further, that he had frequently solicited the Consul to print a catalogue of his books; which proposition his modesty at first induced him to reject; but, afterwards, his liberality, to comply with. He then observes that, "in the compilation of the catalogue, he has studied brevity as much as it was consistent with perspicuity; and that he was once desirous of stating the value and price of the books, but was dissuaded from it by the advice of the more experienced, and by the singular modesty of the Collector."
It must be confessed that Pasquali has executed his task well, and that the catalogue ranks among the most valuable, as well as rare, books of the kind.
44 "Bibliotheca Westiana; A catalogue of the curious and truly valuable library of the late James West, Esq., President of the Royal Society, deceased, &c. Including the works of Caxton, Lettou, Machlinia, the anonymous St. Albans Schoolmaste, Wynkyn de Worde, Pynson, and the rest of the old English typographers. Digested by Samuel Paterson," 1773, 8vo.
These volumes extend from No. 148 to 200, from 915 to 992, from 1201 to 1330, and from No. 1401 to 1480.
In the whole, 560 articles; probably about 1200 volumes; some of them exceedingly scarce and valuable.
There were about 700 volumes in these departments. The catalogues of English books, from that of Maunsell, in 1595, to the latest before Mr. West's time, were very complete. The treatises on education and translations of the ancient classics comprehended a curious and uncommon collection. The Greek and Latin classics were rather select than rare.
This interesting part of the collection comprehended about 355 articles, or probably about 750 volumes: and if the singularly rare and curious books which may be found under these heads alone were now concentrated in one library, the owner of them might safely demand 4000 guineas for such a treasure.
Two hundred and forty articles, or about 560 volumes.
Probably not more than 100 volumes.
This comprehended a great number of curious and valuable productions, relating both to foreign and domestic transactions.
A great number of curious and scarce articles may be found under these heads.
To the English antiquary, few departments of literature are more interesting that these. Mr. West seems to have paid particular attention to them, and to have enriched his library with many articles of this description, of the rarest occurrence. The lovers of Caxton, Fabian, Hardyng, Hall, Grafton, and Holinshed, may be highly gratified by inspecting the various editions of these old chroniclers. I entreat the diligent bibliographer to examine the first eight articles of page 209 of the catalogue. Alas, when will all these again come under the hammer at one sale?!
Even to a veteran, like the late Mr. Gough, such a collection as may be found from p. 217 to p. 239 of this catalogue, would be considered a first-rate acquisition. I am aware that the gothic wainscot, and stained glass windows, of Enfield Study enshrined a still more exquisite topographical collection! But we are improved since the days of Mr. West; and every body knows to whom these improvements are, in a great measure, to be attributed. When I call to mind the author of 'British Topography' and 'Sepulchral Monuments,' I am not insensible to the taste, diligence, and erudition of the "par nobile fratrum," who have gratified us with the 'Environs of London,' 'Roman Remains,' and the first two volumes of 'Magna Britannia!'
The preceding is to be considered as a very general, and therefore superficial, analysis of the catalogue of Mr. West's library; copies of it, with the sums for which the books were sold, are now found with difficulty, and bring a considerable price. I never saw or heard of one on large paper!
45 "A catalogue of rare books and tracts in various languages and faculties; including the Ancient Conventual Library of Missenden-Abbey, in Buckinghamshire; together with some choice remains of that of the late eminent Serjeant at law, William Fletewode, Esq., Recorder of London, in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth; among which are several specimens of the earliest Typography, foreign and English, including Caxton, Wynkyn de Worde, Pynson, and others; a fine collection of English Poetry, some scarce old law-books, a great number of old English plays, several choice MSS. upon vellum, and other subjects of literary curiosity. Also several of the best editions of the Classics, and modern English and French books. To begin December 5, 1774, and the 17 following evenings, precisely at half an hour after five."
I am in possession of a priced Catalogue of this collection, which once belonged to Herbert, and which contains all the purchasers' names, as well as the sums given. The purchasers were principally Herbert, Garrick, Dodd, Elmsley, T. Payne, Richardson, Chapman, Wagstaff, Bindley, and Gough. The following is a specimen of some curious and interesting articles contained in this celebrated library, and of the prices for which they once sold!
|172.||Bale's brefe Chronycle relating to Syr Johan Oldecastell, 1544. The Life off the 70th Archbishopp off Canterbury presentleye sittinge, 1574, &c. Life of Hen. Hills, Printer to O. Cromwell, with the Relation of what passed between him and the Taylor's Wife in Black Friars, 1688, &c.||0||7||9|
|Purchased by Mores.|
|361 to 367.||Upwards of thirty scarce Theological Tracts, in Latin and English||1||5||0|
|746 to 784.||A fine collection of early English Translations, in black letter, with some good foreign editions of the classics. Not exceeding, in the whole||10||10||0|
|837, 838.||Two copies of the first edition of Bacon's Essays, 1597!||0||0||6|
|The reader will just glance at No. 970, in the catalogue, en passant, to|
|1082.||(£1 2s.) and 1091 (12s.); but more particularly to|
|1173.||Caxton's Boke of Tulle of olde age, &c. 1481. Purchased by the late Mr. T. Payne||8||8||0|
|1174.||Caxton's Boke which is sayd or called Cathon, &c. 1483.||5||0||0|
|Purchased by Alchorn.|
|1256.||Caxton's Doctrinal of Sapyence, 1489||6||6||0|
|Purchased by Alchorn.|
|1257.||Caxton's Cordyal, 1479||6||12||6|
|1258.||Wynkyn de Worde's Ocharde of Syon, &c. 1519||1||13||0|
I will, however, only add that there were upwards of 150 articles of Old Plays, mostly in quarto. See page 73. Of Antiquities, Chronicles, and Topography, it would be difficult to pitch upon the rarest volumes. The collection, including very few MSS., contained 3641 articles, or probably nearly 7000 volumes. The Catalogue is uncommon.
46 I am now arrived, pursuing my chronological arrangement, at a very important period in the annals of book-sales. The name and collection of Dr. Askew are so well known in the bibliographical world that the reader need not be detained with laboured commendations on either: in the present place, however, it would be a cruel disappointment not to say a word or two by way of preface or prologue.
Dr. Anthony Askew had eminently distinguished himself by a refined taste, a sound knowledge, and an indefatigable research relating to every thing connected with Grecian and Roman literature. It was to be expected, even during his life, as he was possessed of sufficient means to gratify himself with what was rare, curious, and beautiful in literature and the fine arts, that the public would, one day, be benefited by such pursuits: especially as he had expressed a wish that his treasures might be unreservedly submitted to sale, after his decease. In this wish the Doctor was not singular. Many eminent collectors had indulged it before him: and, to my knowledge, many modern ones still indulge it. Accordingly on the death of Dr. Askew, in 1774, appeared, in the ensuing year, a catalogue of his books for sale, by Messrs. Baker and Leigh, under the following title:
"Bibliotheca Askeviana, sive Catalogus Librorum Rarissimorum Antonii Askew, M.D., quorum Auctio fiet apud S. Baker et G. Leigh, in Vico dicto York Street, Covent Garden, Londini. Die Lunæ, 13 Februarii, MDCCLXXV, et in undeviginti sequentes dies." A few copies were struck off on large paper.
We are told by the compiler of the catalogue that it was thought unnecessary to say much with respect to this Library of the late Dr. Anthony Askew, as the Collector and Collection were so well known in almost all parts of Europe. Afterwards it is observed that "The books in general are in very fine condition, many of them bound in morocco, and Russia leather, with gilt leaves." "To give a particular account," continues the Compiler, "of the many scarce editions of books in this Catalogue would be almost endless, therefore the first editions of the Classics, and some extremely rare books are chiefly noticed. The catalogue, without any doubt, contains the best, rarest, and most valuable collection of Greek and Latin Books that were ever sold in England." This account is not overcharged. The collection, in regard to Greek and Roman literature, was unique in its day.
The late worthy and learned Mr. M. Cracherode, whose library now forms one of the most splendid acquisitions of the British Museum, and whose bequest of it will immortalize his memory, was also among the "Emptores literarii" at this renowned sale. He had enriched his collection with many Exemplar Askevianum; and, in his latter days, used to elevate his hands and eyes, and exclaim against the prices now offered for Editiones Principes!
The fact is, Dr. Askew's sale has been considered a sort of æra in bibliography. Since that period, rare and curious books in Greek and Latin literature have been greedily sought after, and obtained at most extravagant prices. It is very well for a veteran in bibliography, as was Mr. Cracherode, or as are Mr. Wodhull and Dr. Gosset, whose collections were formed in the days of Gaignat, Askew, Duke de la Valliere, and Lamoignon — it is very well for such gentlemen to declaim against modern prices! But what is to be done? Books grow scarcer every day, and the love of literature, and of possessing rare and interesting works, increases in an equal ratio. Hungry bibliographers meet, at sales, with well furnished purses, and are resolved upon sumptuous fare. Thus the hammer vibrates, after a bidding of Forty pounds, where formerly it used regularly to fall at Four!
But we lose sight of Dr. Askew's rare editions, and large paper copies. The following, gentle Reader, is but an imperfect specimen!
|168.||Chaucer's Works, by Pynson, no date||7||17||6|
|172.||Cicero of Old Age, by Caxton, 1481||13||13||0|
|518.||Gilles' (Nicole) Annales, &c. de France. Paris, fol. 1520. 2 tom. sur velin||31||10||6|
|647.||Æginetæ (Pauli) Præcepta Salubria. Paris, quarto, 1510. On vellum||11||0||0|
|666.||Æsopi Fabulæ. Edit. Prin. circ. 1480||6||6||0|
|684.||Boccacio, la Teseide Ferar. 1475. Prima Edizione||85||0||0|
|1433.||Catullus Tibullus, et Propertius, Aldi. 8vo. 1502. In Membrana||17||10||0|
|This copy was purchased by the late Mr. M.C. Cracherode, and is now, with his library, in the British Museum. It is a beautiful book, but cannot be compared with Lord Spencer's Aldine vellum Virgil, of the same size.|
|1576.||Durandi Rationale, &c. 1459. In Membrana||61||0||0|
|The beginning of the 1st chapter was wanting. Lord Spencer has a perfect copy of this rare book on spotless vellum!|
|2656.||Platonis Opera, apud Aldum. 2 vol. fol. 1513. Edit. Prin. On vellum||55||13||0|
|Purchased by the late Dr. W. Hunter; and is at this moment, in his Museum at Glasgow. The reader who has not seen them can have no idea of the beauty of these vellum leaves. The ink is of the finest lustre, and the whole typographical arrangement may be considered a master-piece of printing. Lord Oxford told Dr. Mead that he gave 100 guineas for this very copy.|
After this melancholy event, one would have thought that future Virtuosi would have barricadoed their doors, and fumigated their chambers, to keep out such a pest — but how few are they who profit by experience, even when dearly obtained! The subsequent history of the disease is a striking proof of the truth of this remark; for the madness of book-collecting rather increased — and the work of death still went on. In the year 1776 died John Ratcliffe47 another, and a very singular, instance of the fatality of the Bibliomania. If he had contented himself with his former occupation, and frequented the butter and cheese, instead of the book, market — if he could have fancied himself in a brown peruke, and Russian apron, instead of an embroidered waistcoat, velvet breeches, and flowing perriwig, he might, perhaps, have enjoyed greater longevity; but, infatuated by the Caxtons and Wynkyn De Wordes of Fletewode and of West, he fell into the snare; and the more he struggled to disentangle himself, the more certainly did he become a prey to the disease.
47 Bibliotheca Ratcliffiana; or, "A Catalogue of the elegant and truly valuable Library of John Ratcliffe, Esq. late of Bermondsey, deceased. The whole collected with great judgment and expense, during the last thirty years of his life: comprehending a large and most choice collection of the rare old English black-letter, in fine preservation, and in elegant bindings, printed by Caxton, Lettou, Machlinia, the anonymous St. Albans Schoolmaster, Wynkyn de Worde, Pynson, Berthelet, Grafton, Day, Newberie, Marshe, Jugge, Whytchurch, Wyer, Rastell, Coplande, and the rest of the Old English Typographers: several missals and MSS., and two Pedigrees on vellum, finely illuminated." The title page then sets forth a specimen of these black-lettered gems; among which our eyes are dazzled with a galaxy of Caxtons, Wynkyn de Wordes, Pynsons, &c. &c. The sale took place on March 27, 1776.
If ever there was a unique collection, this was one — the very essence of Old Divinity, Poetry, Romances, and Chronicles! The articles were only 1675 in number, but their intrinsic value amply compensated for their paucity.
The following is but an inadequate specimen.
|1315.||Horace's Arte of Poetrie, Pistles and Satyres, by Drant. 1567, first English edition||0||16||6|
|1321.||The Sheparde's Calender, 1579. Whetstone's Castle of Delight, 1576||1||2||0|
|1392.||The Pastyme of the People, printed by Rastell. Curious wood cuts. A copy of this book is not now to be procured. I have known £40 offered for it, and rejected with disdain||7||7||0|
|1403.||Barclay's Shyp of Folys, printed by Pynson, 1508, first edit. fine copy||2||10||0|
|1426.||The Doctrinal of Sapyence, printed by Caxton, 1489||8||8||0|
|1427.||The Boke, called Cathon, ditto, 1483. Purchased by Dr. Hunter, and now in his Museum||5||5||0|
|1428.||The Polytyque Boke, named Tullius de Senectute, in Englishe, by Caxton, 1481. Purchased for his Majesty||14||0||0|
|1429.||The Game of Chesse Playe. 1474||16||0||0|
|1665.||The Boke of Jason, printed by Caxton||5||10||0|
|1669.||The Polychronicon of Ranulph Higden, printed by Caxton, 1482. Purchased by Dr. Hunter||5||15||6|
|1670.||Legenda Aurea, or the Golden Legende 1483||9||15||0|
|1674.||Mr. Ratcliffe's MS. Catalogues of the rare old black letter, and other curious and uncommon books, 4 vols.||7||15||0|
|This would have been the most delicious article to my palate. If the present owner of it were disposed to part with it, I could not find it in my heart to refuse him compound interest for his money. As is the wooden frame-work to the bricklayer in the construction of his arch, so might Mr. Ratcliffe's MS. Catalogues be to me in the compilation of a certain magnum opus!|
The memory of such a man ought to be dear to the "black-lettered dogs" of the present day; for he had [mirabile dictu!] upwards of Thirty Caxtons!
If I might hazard a comparison between Mr. James West's and Mr. John Ratcliffe's collections, I should say that the former was more extensive, the latter more curious: Mr. West's, like a magnificent champagne, executed by the hand of Claude or Both, and enclosing mountains, and meadows, and streams, presented to the eye of the beholder a scene at once extensive, luxuriant, and fruitful: Mr. Ratcliffe's, like one of those delicious pieces of scenery, touched by the pencil of Rysdael or Hobbima, exhibited to the beholder's eye a spot equally interesting, but less varied and extensive. The sweeping foliage and rich pasture of the former could not, perhaps, afford greater gratification than did the thatched cottage, abrupt declivities, and gushing streams of the latter. To change the metaphor — Mr. West's was a magnificent repository, Mr. Ratcliffe's a choice cabinet of gems.
Thirty years have been considered by Addison (somewhere in his Spectator) as a pretty accurate period for the passing away of one generation and the coming on of another. We have brought down our researches to within a similar period of the present times; but, as Addison has not made out the proofs of such assertion, and as many of the relatives and friends of those who have fallen victims to the Bibliomania, since the days of Ratcliffe, may yet be alive; moreover, as it is the part of humanity not to tear open wounds which have been just closed, or awaken painful sensibilities which have been well nigh laid to rest; so, my dear Sir, in giving you a further account of this fatal disorder, I deem it the most prudent method not to expatiate upon the subsequent examples of its mortality. We can only mourn over such names as Beauclerk, Crofts, Pearson, Lort, Mason, Farmer, Steevens, Woodhouse, Brand, and Reed! and fondly hope that the list may not be increased by those of living characters!
We are, in the second place, to describe the Symptoms of the Disease.
The ingenious Peignot, in the first volume of his 'Dictionnaire Bibliologie,' p. 51, defines the Bibliomania48 to be "a passion for possessing books; not so much to be instructed by them, as to gratify the eye by looking on them. He who is affected by this mania knows books only by their titles and dates, and is rather seduced by the exterior than interior"! This is, perhaps, too general and vague a definition to be of much benefit in the knowledge, and consequent prevention, of the disease: let us, therefore, describe it more certainly and intelligibly.
48 There is a short, but smart and interesting, article on this head in Mr. D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature, vol. 1. 10. "Bruyere has touched on this mania with humour; of such a collector (one who is fond of superb bindings only) says he, as soon as I enter his house, I am ready to faint on the stair-case from a strong smell of morocco leather. In vain he shows me fine editions, gold leaves, Etruscan bindings, &c. — naming them one after another, as if he were showing a gallery of pictures!" Lucian has composed a biting invective against an ignorant possessor of a vast library. "One who opens his eyes, with an hideous stare, at an old book, and, after turning over the pages, chiefly admires the date of its publication."
Symptoms of this disease are instantly known by a passion for I. Large Paper Copies: II. Uncut Copies: III. Illustrated Copies: IV. Unique Copies: V. Copies printed upon Vellum: VI. First Editions: VII. True Editions: VIII. A general desire for the Black Letter. We will describe these symptoms more particularly.
I. Large Paper Copies. These are a certain set or limited number of the work printed in a superior manner, both in regard to ink and press work, on paper of a larger size, and better quality, than the ordinary copies. Their price is enhanced in proportion to their beauty and rarity. In the note below49 are specified a few works which have been published in this manner, that the sober collector may avoid approaching them.
49 1. Lord Bacon's Essays, 1798, 8vo., of which it is said only five copies were struck off on royal folio. In Lord Spencer's and the Cracherode, collection I have seen a copy of this exquisitely printed book; the text of which, surrounded by such an amplitude of margin, in the language of Ernesti [see his Critique on Havercamp's Sallust] "natut velut cymba in oceano."
2. Twenty Plays of Shakespeare published by Steevens from the old quarto editions, 1766, 8vo. 6 vols. Of this edition there were only twelve copies struck off on large paper. See Bibl. Steevens, No. 1312.
3. Dodsley's Collection of Old Plays, 1780, 8vo., 12 vols. only six copies printed on large paper. See Bibl. Woodhouse, No. 198.
4. The Grenville Homer. Græce, 1800. 4to. 4 vols. Fifty copies with plates were struck off on large paper, in royal quarto. A copy of this kind was purchased at a sale in 1804, for £99 15s.
5. Sandford's Genealogical History, etc. 1707, fol. Mr. Arch of Cornhill purchased a copy of this work on large paper, at the late sale of Baron Smyth's books, for £46. If the largest paper of Clarke's Cæsar be excepted, this is the highest priced single volume on large paper, that I just now recollect.
6. Hearne's Works on large paper.
Something relating to Hearne will be found in the note at page 7 ante. Here it will be only necessary to observe that the Hernëan rage for Large Paper is quite of recent growth, but it promises to be giant-like. When the duplicates of a part of Mr. Woodhull's library, in 1803, were sold, there was a fine set of copies of this kind; but the prices, comparatively with those now offered, were extremely moderate. Mr. Otridge, the bookseller, told me an amusing story of his going down to Liverpool, many years ago, and accidentally purchasing from the library of the late Sir Thomas Hanmer, a magnificent set of Large Paper Hearnes for about 40 Guineas. Many of these are now in the choice library of his Grace the Duke of Grafton. The copies were catalogued as small paper. Was there ever a more provoking blunder?!
This50 symptom of the Bibliomania is, at the present day, both general and violent, and threatens to extend still more widely. Even modern publications are not exempt from its calamitous influence; and when Mr. Miller, the bookseller, told me with what eagerness the large paper copies of Lord Valentia's Travels were bespoke, and Mr. Evans shewed me that every similar copy of his new edition of "Burnett's History of his own Times" was disposed of, I could not help elevating my eyes and hands, in token of commiseration at the prevalence of this Symptom of the Bibliomania!
50 Analogous to Large Paper Copies are tall Copies; that is, copies of the work published on the ordinary size paper and not much cut down by the binder. The want of margin is a serious grievance complained of by book-collectors; and when there is a contest of margin-measuring, with books never professedly published on large paper, the anxiety of each party to have the largest copy is better conceived than described! How carefully, and how adroitly, are the golden and silver rules then exercised!
II. Uncut Copies. Of all the symptoms of the Bibliomania, this is probably the most extraordinary. It may be defined as a passion to possess books of which the edges have never been sheared by the binder's tools. And here, my dear Sir, I find myself walking upon doubtful ground — your uncut Hearnes rise up in "rough majesty" before me, and almost "push me from my stool." Indeed, when I look around in my book-lined tub, I cannot but be conscious that this symptom of the disorder has reached my own threshold; but when it is known that a few of my bibliographical books are left with the edges uncut merely to please my friends (as one must sometimes study their tastes and appetites as well as one's own), I trust that no very serious conclusions will be drawn about the probable fatality of my own case. As to uncut copies, although their inconvenience [an uncut lexicon to wit!] and deformity must be acknowledged, and although a rational man can want for nothing better than a book once well bound, yet we find that the extraordinary passion for collecting them not only obtains with full force, but is attended with very serious consequences to those "qui n'ont point des pistoles" (to borrow the language of Clement; vol. vi. p. 36). I dare say an uncut first Shakspeare, as well as an uncut first Homer51 would produce a little annuity!
51 "Un superbe exemplaire de cette édition princeps a été vendu, chez M. de Cotte, en 1804, la somme de 3601 livres; mais il faut ajouter que cet exemplaire très-precieux est de la plus belle conservation; on dirait qu'il sort dessous presse. De plus, il est peut-être l'unique dont les marges n'ont pas été rognées ni coupées!"
Peignot's Curiosités Bibliographiques, lxv-vi.
III. Illustrated Copies. A passion for books illustrated or adorned with numerous prints, representing characters or circumstances mentioned in the work, is a very general and violent symptom of the Bibliomania, which has been known chiefly within the last half century. The origin, or first appearance, of this symptom has been traced by some to the publication of Granger's "Biographical History of England;" but whoever will be at the pains of reading the preface of this work will see that Granger sheltered himself under the authorities of Evelyn, Ashmole, and others; and that he alone is not to be considered as responsible for all the mischief which this passion for collecting prints has occasioned. Granger, however, was the first who introduced it in the form of a treatise, and surely "in an evil hour" was this treatise published — although its amiable author must be acquitted of "malice prepense." His History of England52 seems to have sounded the tocsin for a general rummage after, and slaughter of, old prints: venerable philosophers and veteran heroes, who had long reposed in unmolested dignity within the magnificent folio volumes which recorded their achievements, were instantly dragged from their peaceful abodes to be inlaid by the side of some spruce, modern engraving, within an Illustrated Granger! Nor did the madness stop here. Illustration was the order of the day; and Shakspeare53 and Clarendon54 became the next objects of its attack. From these it has glanced off in a variety of directions, to adorn the pages of humbler wights; and the passion, or rather this symptom of the Bibliomania,55 yet rages with undiminished force. If judiciously56 treated, it is, of all the symptoms, the least liable to mischief. To possess a series of well executed portraits of illustrious men, at different periods of their lives, from blooming boyhood to phlegmatic old age, is sufficiently amusing57; but to possess every portrait, bad, indifferent, and unlike, betrays such a dangerous and alarming symptom as to render the case almost incurable!
52 It was first published in two quarto volumes, 1766; and went through several editions in octavo. The last is, I believe, of the date of 1804; to which three additional volumes were published by William Noble, in 1806; the whole seven volumes form what is called an excellent library work.
53 About two or three years ago there was an extraordinary set of prints disposed of, for the illustration of Shakspeare, collected by a gentleman in Cornwall, with considerable taste and judgment. Lord Spencer's beautiful octavo illustrated Shakespeare, bequeathed to him by the late Mr. Steevens, has been enriched, since it came into the library of its present noble possessor, with many a rare and many a beauteous specimen of the graphic art.
54 I have heard of an illustrated Clarendon (which was recently in the metropolis), that has been valued at 5000 Guineas! "a good round sum!"
55 One of the most striking and splendid instances of the present rage for illustration may be seen in Mr. Miller's own copy of the Historical Work of Mr. Fox, in two volumes, imperial quarto. Exclusively of a great variety of Portraits, it is enriched with the original drawing of Mr. Fox's bust from which the print, attached to the publication, is taken; and has also many original notes and letters by its illustrious author. Mr. Walter Scott's edition of Dryden has also received, by the same publisher, a similar illustration. It is on large paper, and most splendidly bound in blue morocco, containing upwards of 650 portraits.
56 The fine copy of Granger, illustrated by the late Mr. Bull, is now in the library of the Marquis of Bute, at Lutton. It extends to 37 atlas folio volumes, and is a repository of almost every rare and beautiful print, which the diligence of its late, and the skill, taste, and connoisseurship of its present, noble owner have brought together.
57 In the Memoirs of Mr. Thomas Hollis there is a series of the portraits of Milton (not executed in the best manner) done in this way; and a like series of Pope's portraits accompanies the recent edition of the poet's works by the Rev. W.L. Bowles.
There is another mode of illustrating copies by which this symptom of the Bibliomania may be known: it consists in bringing together, from different works, [by means of the scissors, or otherwise by transcription] every page or paragraph which has any connection with the character or subject under discussion. This is a useful and entertaining mode of illustrating a favourite author; and copies of works of this nature, when executed by skilful58 hands, should be preserved in public repositories. I almost ridiculed the idea of an Illustrated Chatterton, in this way, till I saw Mr. Haslewood's copy, in twenty-one volumes, which rivetted me to my seat!
58 Numerous are the instances of the peculiar use and value of copies of this kind, especially to those who are engaged in publication, of a similar nature. Oldys's interleaved Langbaine is re-echoed in almost every recent work connected with the belles-lettres of our country. Oldys himself was unrivalled in this method of illustration; if, besides his Langbaine, his copy of 'Fuller's Worthies' [once Mrs. Steevens's, now Mr. Malone's, See Bibl. Steevens, no. 1799] be alone considered! This Oldys was the oddest mortal that ever scribbled for bread. Grose, in his Olio, gives an amusing account of his having "a number of small parchment bags inscribed with the names of the persons whose lives he intended to write; into which he put every circumstance and anecdote he could collect, and thence drew up his history." See Noble's College of Arms, p. 420.
Of illustrated copies in this way, the Suidas of Kuster, belonging to the famous D'Orville, is a memorable instance. This is now in the Bodleian library. I should suppose that one Narcissus Luttrell, in Charles the Second's reign, had a number of like illustrated copies. His collection of contemporaneous literature must have been immense, as we may conclude from the account of it in Mr. Walter Scott's Preface to his recent edition of Dryden's works. Luckily for this brilliant poet and editor, a part of Luttrell's collection had found its way into the libraries of Mr. Bindley and Mr. Heber, and thence was doomed to shine, with renewed lustre, by the side of the poetry of Dryden.
IV. Unique Copies. A passion for a book which has any peculiarity about it, by either, or both, of the foregoing methods of illustration — or which is remarkable for its size, beauty, and condition — is indicative of a rage for unique copies, and is unquestionably a strong prevailing symptom of the Bibliomania. Let me therefore urge every sober and cautious collector not to be fascinated by the terms "Matchless, and Unique;" which, "in slim Italicks" (to copy Dr. Ferriar's happy expression) are studiously introduced into Bookseller's catalogues to lead the unwary astray. Such a Collector may fancy himself proof against the temptation; and will, in consequence, call only to look at this unique book, or set of books; but, when he views the morocco binding, silk water-tabby lining, blazing gilt edges — when he turns over the white and spotless leaves — gazes on the amplitude of margin — on a rare and lovely print introduced — and is charmed with the soft and coaxing manner in which, by the skill of Herring or Mackinlay,59 "leaf succeeds to leaf"— he can no longer bear up against the temptation — and, confessing himself vanquished, purchases, and retreats — exclaiming with Virgil's shepherd —
Ut vidi, ut perii — ut me malus abstulit error!
59 At page 8, note — the reader has been led to expect a few remarks upon the luxuriancy of modern book-binding. Mr. Roscoe, in his Lorenzo de Medici, vol. ii., p. 79., edit. 8vo., has defended the art with so much skill that nothing further need be said in commendation of it. Admitting every degree of merit to our present fashionable binders, and frankly allowing them the superiority over De Rome, Padaloup, and the old school of binding, I cannot but wish to see revived those beautiful portraits, arabesque borders, and sharp angular ornaments, that are often found on the outsides of books bound in the 16th century, with calf leather, upon oaken boards. These brilliant decorations almost make us forget the ivory crucifix, guarded with silver doors, which is frequently introduced in the interior of the sides of the binding. Few things are more gratifying to a genuine collector than a fine copy of a book in its original binding!
V. Copies printed on vellum. A desire for works printed in this manner is an equally strong and general symptom of the Bibliomania; but as these works are rarely to be obtained of modern60 date, the collector is obliged to have recourse to specimens, executed three centuries ago, in the printing-offices of Aldus, Verard, and the Juntæ. Although the Bibliothéque Imperiale, at Paris, and the library of Count Macarty, at Toulouse, are said to contain the greatest number of books printed upon vellum, yet, those who have been fortunate enough to see copies of this kind in the libraries of his Majesty, the Duke of Marlborough, Earl Spencer, Mr. Johnes, and the late Mr. Cracherode (now in the British Museum), need not travel on the Continent for the sake of being convinced of their exquisite beauty and splendour. Mr. Edward's unique copy (he will forgive the epithet) of the first Livy, upon vellum, is a Library of itself! — and the recent discovery of a vellum copy of Wynkyn De Worde's reprint of Juliana Barnes's book,61 complete in every respect, [to say nothing of his Majesty's similar copy of Caxton's Doctrinal of Sapience, 1489, in the finest preservation] are, to be sure, sufficient demonstrations of the prevalence of this symptom of the Bibliomania in the times of our forefathers; so that it cannot be said, as some have asserted, to have appeared entirely within the last half century.
60 The modern books, printed upon vellum, have in general not succeeded; whether from the art of preparing the vellum, or of printing upon it, being lost I will not presume to determine. The reader may be amused with the following prices for which a few works, executed in this manner, were sold in the year 1804:
|250.||Virgilii Opera, 1789, 4to.||33||12||0|
|251.||Somervile's Chase, 1796, 4to.||15||4||6|
|252.||Poems by Goldsmith and Parnell, 1795, 4to.||15||15||0|
|253.||The Gardens, by Abbé Delille, 1798, 4to.||14||3||6|
|254.||Castle of Otranto, printed by Bodoni, 1791, 4to.||13||2||6|
|260.||La Guirlande Julie, 1784, 8vo.||37||17||6|
|263.||Economy of Human Life, 1795, 8vo.||15||15||0|
See "Catalogue of a most splendid and valuable Collection of Books, Superb Missals, &c.," sold by Mr. Christie, on April 24, 1804. But the reader should procure the Catalogue of Mr. Paris's Books, sold in the year 1790, which, for the number of articles, is unrivalled. The eye is struck, in every page, with the most sumptuous copies on vellum, and large paper.
VI. First Editions. From the time of Ancillon62 to Askew, there has been a very strong desire expressed for the possession of original or first published editions of works, as they are in general superintended and corrected by the author himself; and, like the first impressions of prints, are considered more valuable. Whoever is possessed with a passion for collecting books of this kind may unquestionably be said to exhibit a strong symptom of the Bibliomania; but such a case is not quite hopeless, nor is it deserving of severe treatment or censure. All bibliographers have dwelt on the importance of these editions, for the sake of collation with subsequent ones, and detecting, as is frequently the case, the carelessness displayed by future63 editors. Of such importance is the first edition of Shakspeare64 considered, that a fac-simile reprint of it has been published with success. In regard to the Greek and Latin Classics, the possession of these original editions is of the first consequence to editors who are anxious to republish the legitimate text of an author. Wakefield, I believe always regretted that the first edition of Lucretius had not been earlier inspected by him. When he began his edition, the Editio Princeps was not (as I have understood) in the library of Earl Spencer — the storehouse of almost every thing that is exquisite and rare in ancient classical literature!
62 There is a curious and amusing article in Bayle [English edition, vol. i., 672, &c.] about the elder Ancillon, who frankly confessed that he "was troubled with the Bibliomania, or disease of buying books." Mr. D'Israeli says "that he always purchased first editions, and never waited for second ones,"— but I find it, in the English Bayle, note D, "he chose the best editions." The manner in which Ancillon's library was pillaged by the Ecclesiastics of Metz (where it was considered as the most valuable curiosity in the town) is thus told by Bayle; "Ancillon was obliged to leave Metz: a company of Ecclesiastics, of all orders, came from every part, to lay hands on this fine and copious library, which had been collected with the utmost care during forty years. They took away a great number of the books together, and gave a little money, as they went out, to a young girl, of twelve or thirteen years of age, who looked after them, that they might have it to say they had paid for them. Thus Ancillon saw that valuable collection dispersed, in which, as he was wont to say, his chief pleasure and even his heart was placed!"— Edit. 1734.
63 An instance of this kind may be adduced from the first edition of Fabian, printed in 1516; of which Messrs. Longman, and Co., have now engaged a very able editor to collate the text with that of the subsequent editions. "The antiquary," says the late Mr. Brand, "is desired to consult the edition of Fabian, printed by Pynson, in 1516, because there are others, and I remember to have seen one in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, with a continuation to the end of Queen Mary, 1559, in which the language is much modernised." Shakespeare, edit. 1803, vol. xviii. p. 85-6.
64 A singular story is "extant" about the purchase of the late Duke of Roxburgh's fine copy of the first edition of Shakespeare. A friend was bidding for him in the sale-room: his Grace had retired to a distance, to view the issue of the contest. Twenty guineas and more were offered, from various quarters, for the book: a slip of paper was handed to the Duke, in which he was requested to inform his friend whether he was "to go on bidding"— His Grace took his pencil, and wrote underneath, by way of reply —
—— lay on Macduff!
And d —— d be he who first cries, 'Hold, enough!'
Such a spirit was irresistible, and bore down all opposition. His Grace retired triumphant, with the book under his arm.
It must not, however, be forgotten that if first editions are, in some instances, of great importance, they are in many respects superfluous, and an incumbrance to the shelves of a collector; inasmuch as the labours of subsequent editors have corrected their errors, and superseded, by a great fund of additional matter, the necessity of consulting them. Thus, not to mention other instances (which present themselves while noticing the present one), all the fine things which Colomiés and Remannus have said about the rarity of La Croix du Maine's Bibliotheque, published in 1584, are now unnecessary to be attended to, since the ample and excellent edition of this work by De La Monnoye and Juvigny, in six quarto volumes, 1772, has appeared. Nor will any one be tempted to hunt for Gesner's Bibliotheca of 1545-8, whatever may be its rarity, who has attended to Morhof's and Vogt's recommendation of the last and best edition of 1583.
VII. True Editions. Some copies of a work are struck off with deviations from the usually received ones, and, though these deviations have neither sense nor beauty to recommend them, [and indeed are principally defects] yet copies of this description are eagerly sought after by collectors of a certain class! This particular pursuit may therefore be called another, or the seventh, symptom of the Bibliomania. The note below 65 will furnish the reader with a few anecdotes relating to it.
65 Cæsar. Lug. Bat. 1635, 12mo. Printed by Elzevir.
In the Bibliotheca Revickzkiana we are informed that the true Elzevir edition is known by having the plate of a Buffalo's head at the beginning of the preface, and body of the work: also by having the page numbered 153, which ought to have been numbered 149. A further account is given in my Introduction to the Classics, vol. i., 228.
Horace: Londini, 1733, 8vo., 2 vols. Published by Pine.
The true edition is distinguished by having at page 108, vol ii, the incorrect reading 'Post Est.'— for 'Potest.'
Virgil. Lug. Bat. 1636, 12mo. Printed by Elzevir.
The true edition is known by having at plate 1, before the Bucolics, the following Latin passage printed in red ink. "Ego vero frequentes a te litteras accipi"— Consult De Bure, No. 2684.
Idem. Birmingh. 1763, 4to. Printed by Baskerville.
A particular account of the true edition will be found in the second volume of my 'Introduction to the Classics' p. 337 — too long to be here inserted.
Boccaccio. Il Decamerone, Venet. 1527, 4to.
Consult De Bure, No. 3667: Bandini, vol. ii., 24: (who however is extremely laconic upon this edition, but copious upon the anterior one of 1516) and Haym., vol. iii., p. 8, edit. 1803. Bibl. Paris. No. 408. Clement. (vol. iv., 352,) has abundance of references, as usual, to strengthen his assertion in calling the edition 'fort rare.' The reprint or spurious edition has always struck me as the prettier book of the two.
VIII. Books printed in the Black Letter. Of all symptoms of the Bibliomania, this eighth symptom (and the last which I shall notice) is at present the most powerful and prevailing. Whether it was not imported into this country from Holland, by the subtlety of Schelhorn66 (a knowing writer upon rare and curious books) may be shrewdly suspected. Whatever be its origin, certain it is, my dear Sir, that books printed in the black letter are now coveted with an eagerness unknown to our collectors in the last century. If the spirits of West, Ratcliffe, Farmer and Brand, have as yet held any intercourse with each other, in that place 'from whose bourne no traveller returns,' what must be the surprise of the three former, on being told by the latter, of the prices given for some of the books in his library, as mentioned below!?67
66 His words are as follow: "Ipsa typorum ruditas, ipsa illa atra crassaque literarum facies belle tangit sensus, &c." Was ever the black letter more eloquently described? See his Amœnitates Literariæ, vol. i., p. 5.
|282.||A Boke of Fishing with Hooke and Line, A Boke of Engines and Traps to take Polcats, Buzzards, Rats, Mice, and all other Kinds of Vermine and Beasts whatsoever, with cuts, very rare, 1600||3||3||0|
|454.||A Quip for an upstart Courtier; or, a quaint Dispute between Velvet Breeches and Cloth Breeches, &c. 1620||2||16||0|
|475.||A Checke, or Reproof of Mr. Howlet's untimely screeching in her Majesty's Ear. Black letter. 1581||0||12||0|
|As a striking conclusion, I subjoin the following.|
|6479.||Pappe with an Hatchett, alias, a Fig for my Godsonne, or crake me this Nutt, or, a Countrie Cuffe, that is a sound Box of the Eare for the Idiot Martin, to hold his Peace: seeing the Patch will take no warning; written by one that dares call a Dog a Dog. Rare. Printed by Anoke and Astile||1||8||0|
A perusal of these articles may probably not impress the reader with any lofty notions of the superiority of the black letter; but this symptom of the Bibliomania is, nevertheless, not to be considered as incurable, or wholly unproductive of good. Under a proper spirit of modification it has done, and will continue to do, essential service to the cause of English literature. It guided the taste, and strengthened the judgment, of Tyrwhitt in his researches after Chaucerian lore. It stimulated the studies of Farmer and of Steevens, and enabled them to twine many a beauteous flower round the brow of their beloved Shakespeare. It has since operated, to the same effect, in the labours of Mr. Douce,68 the Porson of old English and French literature; and in the editions of Milton and Spenser, by my amiable and excellent friend Mr. Todd the public have had a specimen of what the Black Letter may perform, when temperately and skilfully exercised.
68 In the criticisms on Mr. Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare and Ancient Manners, it has not, I think, been generally noticed that this work is distinguished; 1. For the singular diffidence and urbanity of criticism, as well as depth of learning, which it evinces: 2. For the happy illustrations, by means of wood cuts: Let any one, for instance, read a laboured disquisition on the punishment of "the boots"— and only glance his eye on the plate representing it [vol. i. p. 34.]: from which will he obtain the clearer notions? 3. For the taste, elegance, and general correctness with which it is printed. The only omission I regret is that Mr. Douce did not give us, at the end, a list of the works alphabetically arranged, with their dates which he consulted in the formation of his own. Such a Bibliotheca Shakspeariana might, however, have been only a fresh stimulus to the increase of the black-letter symptom of the Bibliomania. How Bartholomæus and Batman have risen in price since the publication of Mr. Douce's work, let those who have lately smarted for the increase tell!
I could bring to your recollection other instances; but your own copious reading and exact memory will better furnish you with them. Let me not however omit remarking that the beautiful pages of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and Sir Trestrem, exhibit, in the notes [now and then thickly studded with black letter references], a proof that the author of "The Lay" and "Marmion" has not disdained to enrich his stores of information by such intelligence as black lettered books impart. In short, though this be also a strong and general symptom of the Bibliomania, it is certainly not attended with injurious effects when regulated by prudence and discretion. An undistinguishable voracious appetite, to swallow every thing printed in the black letter can only bring on inconquerable disease, if not death, to the patient!
Having in the two preceding divisions of this letter discoursed somewhat largely upon the History and Symptoms of the Bibliomania, it now remains, according to the original plan, to say a few words upon the Probable Means of its Cure. And, indeed, I am driven to this view of the subject from every laudable motive; for it would be highly censurable to leave any reflecting mind impressed with melancholy emotions concerning the misery and mortality that have been occasioned by the abuse of those pursuits, to which the most soothing and important considerations ought to be attached. Far from me, and my friends, be such a cruel, if not criminal, conduct; let us then, my dear Sir, seriously discourse upon the
III. Probable Means of the cure of the Bibliomania. He will surely be numbered among the philanthropists of his day who has, more successfully than myself, traced and described the ravages of this disease, and fortified the sufferer with the means of its cure. But, as this is a disorder of quite a recent date, and as its characteristics, in consequence, cannot be yet fully known or described, great candour must be allowed to that physician who offers a prescription for so obscure and complicated a case. It is in vain that you search the works [ay, even the best editions] of Hippocrates and Galen for a description of this malady; nor will you find it hinted at in the more philosophical treatises of Sydenham and Heberden. It had, till the medical skill of Dr. Ferriar first noticed it to the public, escaped the observations of all our pathologists. With a trembling hand, and fearful apprehension, therefore, I throw out the following suggestions for the cure, or mitigatiou, of this disorder:
In the first place, the disease of the Bibliomania is materially softened, or rendered mild, by directing our studies to useful and profitable works — whether these be printed upon small or large paper, in the gothic, roman, or italic type; To consider purely the intrinsic excellence, and not the exterior splendour, or adventitious value, of any production, will keep us perhaps wholly free from this disease. Let the midnight lamp be burnt to illuminate the stores of antiquity — whether they be romances, or chronicles, or legends, and whether they be printed by Aldus or by Caxton — if a brighter lustre can thence be thrown upon the pages of modern learning! To trace genius to its source, or to see how she has been influenced or modified, by "the lore of past times" is both a pleasing and profitable pursuit. To see how Shakspeare has here and there plucked a flower, from some old ballad or popular tale, to enrich his own unperishable garland — to follow Spenser and Milton in their delightful labyrinths 'midst the splendour of Italian literature — are studies which stamp a dignity upon our intellectual characters! But, in such a pursuit let us not overlook the wisdom of modern times, nor fancy that what is only ancient can be excellent. We must remember that Bacon, Boyle, Locke, Taylor, Chillingworth, Robertson, Hume, Gibbon, and Paley, are names which always command attention from the wise, and remind us of the improved state of reason and acquired knowledge during the two last centuries.
In the second place, the re-printing of scarce and intrinsically valuable works is another means of preventing the propagation of this disorder. Amidst all our present sufferings under the Bibliomania, it is some consolation to find discerning and spirited booksellers re-publishing the valuable Chronicles of Froissart, Holinshed, and Hall,69 and the collections known by the names of "The Harleïan Miscellany," and "Lord Somer's Tracts." These are noble efforts, and richly deserve the public patronage.
In the third place, the editing of our best ancient authors, whether in prose or poetry,70 is another means of effectually counteracting the progress of the Bibliomania, as it has been described under its several symptoms.
In the fourth place, the erecting of Public Institutions71 is a very powerful antidote against the prevalence of several symptoms of this disease.
In the fifth place, the encouragement of the study of Bibliography,72 in its legitimate sense, and towards its true object, may be numbered among the most efficacious cures for this destructive malady. To place competent Librarians over the several departments of a large public Library, or to submit a library, on a more confined scale, to one diligent, enthusiastic, well informed, well bred, Bibliographer73 or Librarian, [of which in this metropolis we have so many examples] is doing a vast deal towards directing the channels of literature to flow in their proper courses.
69 The re-publication of these chronicles is to be followed by those of Grafton and Fabian. Meanwhile, Hakluyt's Voyages, (projected by Mr. Evans), and Fuller's Worthies (by Messrs. Longman, and Co.) will form admirable acquisitions to these treasures of past times.
70 The recent Variorum editions of Shakspeare, of which some yet prefer that of Steevens, 1793, 15 vols. 8vo. — Mr. Todd's editions of Milton and Spenser; Mr. G. Chalmers' edition of Sir David Lyndsay's works; Mr. Gifford's edition of Massinger; and Mr. Octavius Gilchrist's, of Bishop Corbett's poems, exemplify the good effects of this third means of cure.
71 The Royal, London, Surrey, and Russel Institutions have been the means of concentrating, in divers parts of the metropolis, large libraries of useful books; which, it is to be hoped, will eventually suppress the establishment of what are called Circulating Libraries— vehicles, too often, of insufferable nonsense, and irremediable mischief!
72 "Unne bonne Bibliographie," says Marchand, "soit générale soit particulière, soit profane, soit écclésiastique, soit nationale, provinciale, ou locale, soit simplement personnelle, en un mot de quelque autre genre que ce puisse être, n'est pas un ouvrage aussi facile que beaucoup de gens se le pourroient imaginer; mais, elles ne doivent néanmoins nulelment prévenir contre celle-ci. Telle qu'elle est, elle ne laisse pas d'être bonne, utile, et digne d'être recherchée par les amateurs, de l'Histoire Littéraire." Diction. Historique, vol. i. p. 109.
"Our nation," says Mr. Bridgman, "has been too inattentive to bibliographical criticisms and enquiries; for generally the English reader is obliged to resort to foreign writers to satisfy his mind as to the value of authors. It behoves us to consider that there is not a more useful or a more desirable branch of education than a knowledge of books; which being correctly ascertained and judiciously exercised, will prove the touch-stone of intrinsic merit, and have the effect of saving many spotless pages from prostitution." Legal Bibliography, p. v. vi.
73 Peignot, in his Dictionnaire de Bibliologie, vol. i. 50, has given a very pompous account of what ought to be the talents and duties of a Bibliographer. It would be difficult indeed to find such things united in one person! De Bure, in the eighth volume of his Bibliographie Instructive, has prefixed a "Discourse upon the Science of Bibliography and the duties of a Bibliographer" which is worth consulting: but I know of nothing which better describes, in few words, such a character, than the following: "In eo sit multijuga materiarum librorumque notitia, ut saltem potiores eligat et inquirat: fida et sedula apud exteras gentes procuratio, ut eos arcessat; summa patientia ut rarè venalis expectet: peculium semper præsens et paratum, ne, si quando occurrunt, emendi occasio intercidat; prudens denique auri argentique contemptus, ut pecuniis sponte careat quæ in bibliothecam formandam et nutriendam sunt insumendæ. Si fortè vir literatus eo felicitatis pervenit ut talem thesaurum coaceraverit, nec solus illo invidios fruatur, sed usum cum eruditis qui vigilias suas utilitati publicæ devoverunt, liberaliter communicet; &c."—Bibliotheca Hulsiana, vol. i. Præfat. p. 3, 4.
Thus briefly and guardedly have I thrown out a few suggestions, which may enable us to avoid, or mitigate the severity of, the disease called The Bibliomania. Happy indeed shall I deem myself, if, in the description of its symptoms, and in the recommendation of the means of cure, I may have snatched any one from a premature grave, or lightened the load of years that are yet to cone!
You, my dear Sir, who, in your observations upon society, as well as in your knowledge of ancient times, must have met with numerous instances of the miseries which "flesh is heir to," may be disposed perhaps to confess that, of all species of afflictions, the present one under consideration has the least moral turpitude attached to it. True, it may be so: for, in the examples which have been adduced, there will be found neither Suicides, nor Gamesters, nor Profligates. No woman's heart has been broken from midnight debaucheries: no marriage vow has been violated: no child has been compelled to pine in poverty or neglect: no patrimony has been wasted, and no ancestor's fame tarnished! If men have erred under the influence of this disease, their aberrations have been marked with an excess arising from intellectual fevour, and not from a desire of baser gratifications.
If, therefore, in the wide survey which a philosopher may take of the "Miseries of Human life"74 the prevalence of this disorder may appear to be less mischievous than that of others, and, if some of the most amiable and learned of mortals seemed to have been both unwilling, as well as unable, to avoid its contagion, you will probably feel the less alarmed if symptoms of it should appear within the sequestered abode of Hodnet!75 Recollecting that even in remoter situations its influence has been felt — and that neither the pure atmosphere of Hafod nor of Sledmere76 has completely subdued its power — you will be disposed to exclaim with violence, at the intrusion of Bibliomaniacs —
What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide?
They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide!
By land, by water, they renew the charge,
They stop the chariot, and they board the barge.77
74 In the ingenious and witty work so entitled, I do not recollect whether the disappointment arising from a cropt or a dirty copy has been classed among "The Miseries of Human Life."
75 Hodnet Hall, Shropshire. The country residence of Mr. Heber.
76 Hafod, South Wales, the seat of Thos. Johnes, Esq., M.P., the translator of the Chronicles of Froissart and Monstrelet, and of the Travels of De Broquiere and Joinville. The conflagration of part of his mansion and library, two years ago, which excited such a general sympathy, would have damped any ardour of collection but that of Mr. Johnes — his Library has arisen, Phœnix-like, from the flames!
Sledmere, in Yorkshire, the seat of Sir Mark Masterman Sykes, Bart., M.P. The library of this amiable and tasteful Baronet reflects distinguished credit upon him. It is at once copious and choice.
77 Pope's "Prologue to the Satires," v. 7-10.
Upon the whole, therefore, attending closely to the symptoms of this disorder as they have been described, and practising such means of cure as have been recommended, we may rationally hope that its virulence may abate, and the number of its victims annually diminish. But if the more discerning part of the community anticipate a different result, and the preceding observations appear to have presented but a narrow and partial view of the mischiefs of the Bibliomania, my only consolation is that to advance something upon the subject is better than to preserve a sullen and invincible silence. Let it be the task of more experienced bibliographers to correct and amplify the foregoing outline!
Believe me, My dear Sir,
Very sincerely Yours, &c.
Thomas Frognall Dibdin.
Kensington, May 16, 1809.
On re-considering what has been written, it has struck me that a Synopsis of this disease, after the manner of Burton, as prefixed to his Anatomy of Melancholy, may be useful to some future pathologist. The reader is, accordingly, presented with the following one:
|I. History of; or an account of eminent Book Collectors who have fallen victims to it||12|
|II. Symptoms of;
being a passion for
|1. Large Paper Copies||44|
|2. Uncut Copies||46|
|3. Illustrated Copies||47|
|4. Unique Copies||49|
|5. Vellum Copies||51|
|6. First Editions||52|
|7. True Editions||54|
|8. Black Letter Editions||56|
|III. Cure of||1. Reading useful works||56|
|2. Reprints of scarce and valuable works||ib.|
|3. Editing our best ancient Writers||60|
|4. Erecting of Public Institutions||ib.|
|5. Encouragement of Bibliography||ib.|
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05