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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Books, books again, and books once more!
These are our theme, which some miscall
Mere madness, setting little store
By copies either short or tall.
But you, O slaves of shelf and stall!
We rather write for you that hold
Patched folios dear, and prize “the small,
Rare volume, black with tarnished gold.”
— A. D.
The pages in this volume on illuminated and other MSS. (with the exception of some anecdotes about Bussy Rabutin and Julie de Rambouillet) have been contributed by the Rev. W. J. Loftie, who has also written on early printed books (pp. 94–95). The pages on the Biblioklept (pp. 46–56) are reprinted, with the Editor’s kind permission, from the Saturday Review; and a few remarks on the moral lessons of bookstalls are taken from an essay in the same journal.
Mr. Ingram Bywater, Fellow of Exeter College, and lately sub-Librarian of the Bodleian, has very kindly read through the proofs of chapters I., II., and III., and suggested some alterations.
Thanks are also due to Mr. T. R. Buchanan, Fellow of All Souls College, for two plates from his “Book-bindings in All Souls Library” (printed for private circulation), which he has been good enough to lend me. The plates are beautifully drawn and coloured by Dr. J. J. Wild. Messrs. George Bell & Sons, Messrs. Bradbury, Agnew, & Co., and Messrs. Chatto & Windus, must be thanked for the use of some of the woodcuts which illustrate the concluding chapter.
“All men,” says Dr. Dibdin, “like to be their own librarians.” A writer on the library has no business to lay down the law as to the books that even the most inexperienced amateurs should try to collect. There are books which no lover of literature can afford to be without; classics, ancient and modern, on which the world has pronounced its verdict. These works, in whatever shape we may be able to possess them, are the necessary foundations of even the smallest collections. Homer, Dante and Milton Shakespeare and Sophocles, Aristophanes and Moliere, Thucydides, Tacitus, and Gibbon, Swift and Scott, — these every lover of letters will desire to possess in the original languages or in translations. The list of such classics is short indeed, and when we go beyond it, the tastes of men begin to differ very widely. An assortment of broadsheet ballads and scrap-books, bought in boyhood, was the nucleus of Scott’s library, rich in the works of poets and magicians, of alchemists, and anecdotists. A childish liking for coloured prints of stage characters, may be the germ of a theatrical collection like those of Douce, and Malone, and Cousin. People who are studying any past period of human history, or any old phase or expression of human genius, will eagerly collect little contemporary volumes which seem trash to other amateurs. For example, to a student of Moliere, it is a happy chance to come across “La Carte du Royaume des Pretieuses” — (The map of the kingdom of the “Precieuses”) — written the year before the comedian brought out his famous play “Les Precieuses Ridicules.” This geographical tract appeared in the very “Recueil des Pieces Choisies,” whose authors Magdelon, in the play, was expecting to entertain, when Mascarille made his appearance. There is a faculty which Horace Walpole named “serendipity,” — the luck of falling on just the literary document which one wants at the moment. All collectors of out of the way books know the pleasure of the exercise of serendipity, but they enjoy it in different ways. One man will go home hugging a volume of sermons, another with a bulky collection of catalogues, which would have distended the pockets even of the wide great-coat made for the purpose, that Charles Nodier used to wear when he went a book-hunting. Others are captivated by black letter, others by the plays of such obscurities as Nabbes and Glapthorne. But however various the tastes of collectors of books, they are all agreed on one point, — the love of printed paper. Even an Elzevir man can sympathise with Charles Lamb’s attachment to “that folio Beaumont and Fletcher which he dragged home late at night from Barker’s in Covent Garden.” But it is another thing when Lamb says, “I do not care for a first folio of Shakespeare.” A bibliophile who could say this could say anything.
No, there are, in every period of taste, books which, apart from their literary value, all collectors admit to possess, if not for themselves, then for others of the brotherhood, a peculiar preciousness. These books are esteemed for curiosity, for beauty of type, paper, binding, and illustrations, for some connection they may have with famous people of the past, or for their rarity. It is about these books, the method of preserving them, their enemies, the places in which to hunt for them, that the following pages are to treat. It is a subject more closely connected with the taste for curiosities than with art, strictly so called. We are to be occupied, not so much with literature as with books, not so much with criticism as with bibliography, the quaint duenna of literature, a study apparently dry, but not without its humours. And here an apology must be made for the frequent allusions and anecdotes derived from French writers. These are as unavoidable, almost, as the use of French terms of the sport in tennis and in fencing. In bibliography, in the care for books AS books, the French are still the teachers of Europe, as they were in tennis and are in fencing. Thus, Richard de Bury, Chancellor of Edward III., writes in his “Philobiblon:” “Oh God of Gods in Zion! what a rushing river of joy gladdens my heart as often as I have a chance of going to Paris! There the days seem always short; there are the goodly collections on the delicate fragrant book-shelves.” Since Dante wrote of —
“L’onor di quell’ arte
Ch’ allumare e chiamata in Parisi,”
“the art that is called illuminating in Paris,” and all the other arts of writing, printing, binding books, have been most skilfully practised by France. She improved on the lessons given by Germany and Italy in these crafts. Twenty books about books are written in Paris for one that is published in England. In our country Dibdin is out of date (the second edition of his “Bibliomania” was published in 1811), and Mr. Hill Burton’s humorous “Book-hunter” is out of print. Meanwhile, in France, writers grave and gay, from the gigantic industry of Brunet to Nodier’s quaint fancy, and Janin’s wit, and the always entertaining bibliophile Jacob (Paul Lacroix), have written, or are writing, on books, manuscripts, engravings, editions, and bindings. In England, therefore, rare French books are eagerly sought, and may be found in all the booksellers’ catalogues. On the continent there is no such care for our curious or beautiful editions, old or new. Here a hint may be given to the collector. If he “picks up” a rare French book, at a low price, he would act prudently in having it bound in France by a good craftsman. Its value, when “the wicked day of destiny” comes, and the collection is broken up, will thus be made secure. For the French do not suffer our English bindings gladly; while we have no narrow prejudice against the works of Lortic and Cape, but the reverse. For these reasons then, and also because every writer is obliged to make the closest acquaintance with books in the direction where his own studies lie, the writings of French authorities are frequently cited in the following pages.
This apology must be followed by a brief defence of the taste and passion of book-collecting, and of the class of men known invidiously as book-worms and book-hunters. They and their simple pleasures are the butts of a cheap and shrewish set of critics, who cannot endure in others a taste which is absent in themselves. Important new books have actually been condemned of late years because they were printed on good paper, and a valuable historical treatise was attacked by reviewers quite angrily because its outward array was not mean and forbidding. Of course, critics who take this view of new books have no patience with persons who care for “margins,” and “condition,” and early copies of old books. We cannot hope to convert the adversary, but it is not necessary to be disturbed by his clamour. People are happier for the possession of a taste as long as they possess it, and it does not, like the demons of Scripture, possess them. The wise collector gets instruction and pleasure from his pursuit, and it may well be that, in the long run, he and his family do not lose money. The amusement may chance to prove a very fair investment.
As to this question of making money by collecting, Mr. Hill Burton speaks very distinctly in “The Book-hunter:” “Where money is the object let a man speculate or become a miser . . . Let not the collector ever, unless in some urgent and necessary circumstances, part with any of his treasures. Let him not even have recourse to that practice called barter, which political philosophers tell us is the universal resource of mankind preparatory to the invention of money. Let him confine all his transactions in the market to purchasing only. No good comes of gentlemen-amateurs buying and selling.” There is room for difference of opinion here, but there seems to be most reason on the side of Mr. Hill Burton. It is one thing for the collector to be able to reflect that the money he expends on books is not lost, and that his family may find themselves richer, not poorer, because he indulged his taste. It is quite another thing to buy books as a speculator buys shares, meaning to sell again at a profit as soon as occasion offers. It is necessary also to warn the beginner against indulging extravagant hopes. He must buy experience with his books, and many of his first purchases are likely to disappoint him. He will pay dearly for the wrong “Caesar” of 1635, the one WITHOUT errors in pagination; and this is only a common example of the beginner’s blunders. Collecting is like other forms of sport; the aim is not certain at first, the amateur is nervous, and, as in angling, is apt to “strike” (a bargain) too hurriedly.
I often think that the pleasure of collecting is like that of sport. People talk of “book-hunting,” and the old Latin motto says that “one never wearies of the chase in this forest.” But the analogy to angling seems even stronger. A collector walks in the London or Paris streets, as he does by Tweed or Spey. Many a lordly mart of books he passes, like Mr. Quaritch’s, Mr. Toovey’s, or M. Fontaine’s, or the shining store of M.M. Morgand et Fatout, in the Passage des Panoramas. Here I always feel like Brassicanus in the king of Hungary’s collection, “non in Bibliotheca, sed in gremio Jovis;” “not in a library, but in paradise.” It is not given to every one to cast angle in these preserves. They are kept for dukes and millionaires. Surely the old Duke of Roxburghe was the happiest of mortals, for to him both the chief bookshops and auction rooms, and the famous salmon streams of Floors, were equally open, and he revelled in the prime of book-collecting and of angling. But there are little tributary streets, with humbler stalls, shy pools, as it were, where the humbler fisher of books may hope to raise an Elzevir, or an old French play, a first edition of Shelley, or a Restoration comedy. It is usually a case of hope unfulfilled; but the merest nibble of a rare book, say Marston’s poems in the original edition, or Beddoes’s “Love’s Arrow Poisoned,” or Bankes’s “Bay Horse in a Trance,” or the “Mel Heliconicum” of Alexander Ross, or “Les Oeuvres de Clement Marot, de Cahors, Vallet de Chambre du Roy, A Paris, Ches Pierre Gaultier, 1551;” even a chance at something of this sort will kindle the waning excitement, and add a pleasure to a man’s walk in muddy London. Then, suppose you purchase for a couple of shillings the “Histoire des Amours de Henry IV, et autres pieces curieuses, A Leyde, Chez Jean Sambyx (Elzevir), 1664,” it is certainly not unpleasant, on consulting M. Fontaine’s catalogue, to find that he offers the same work at the ransom of 10 pounds. The beginner thinks himself in singular luck, even though he has no idea of vending his collection, and he never reflects that CONDITION— spotless white leaves and broad margins, make the market value of a book.
Setting aside such bare considerations of profit, the sport given by bookstalls is full of variety and charm. In London it may be pursued in most of the cross streets that stretch a dirty net between the British Museum and the Strand. There are other more shy and less frequently poached resorts which the amateur may be allowed to find out for himself. In Paris there is the long sweep of the Quais, where some eighty bouquinistes set their boxes on the walls of the embankment of the Seine. There are few country towns so small but that books, occasionally rare and valuable, may be found lurking in second-hand furniture warehouses. This is one of the advantages of living in an old country. The Colonies are not the home for a collector. I have seen an Australian bibliophile enraptured by the rare chance of buying, in Melbourne, an early work on — the history of Port Jackson! This seems but poor game. But in Europe an amateur has always occupation for his odd moments in town, and is for ever lured on by the radiant apparition of Hope. All collectors tell their anecdotes of wonderful luck, and magnificent discoveries. There is a volume “Voyages Litteraires sur les Quais de Paris” (Paris, Durand, 1857), by M. de Fontaine de Resbecq, which might convert the dullest soul to book-hunting. M. de Resbecq and his friends had the most amazing good fortune. A M. N— found six original plays of Moliere (worth perhaps as many hundreds of pounds), bound up with Garth’s “Dispensary,” an English poem which has long lost its vogue. It is worth while, indeed, to examine all volumes marked “Miscellanea,” “Essays,” and the like, and treasures may possibly lurk, as Snuffy Davy knew, within the battered sheepskin of school books. Books lie in out of the way places. Poggio rescued “Quintilian” from the counter of a wood merchant. The best time for book-hunting in Paris is the early morning. “The take,” as anglers say, is “on” from half-past seven to half-past nine a.m. At these hours the vendors exhibit their fresh wares, and the agents of the more wealthy booksellers come and pick up everything worth having. These agents quite spoil the sport of the amateur. They keep a strict watch on every country dealer’s catalogue, snap up all he has worth selling, and sell it over again, charging pounds in place of shillings. But M. de Resbecq vows that he once picked up a copy of the first edition of La Rochefoucauld’s “Maxims” out of a box which two booksellers had just searched. The same collector got together very promptly all the original editions of La Bruyere, and he even found a copy of the Elzevir “Pastissier Francais,” at the humble price of six sous. Now the “ Pastissier Francais,” an ill-printed little cookery-book of the Elzevirs, has lately fetched 600 pounds at a sale. The Antiquary’s story of Snuffy Davy and the “Game of Chess,” is dwarfed by the luck of M. de Resbecq. Not one amateur in a thousand can expect such good fortune. There is, however, a recent instance of a Rugby boy, who picked up, on a stall, a few fluttering leaves hanging together on a flimsy thread. The old woman who kept the stall could hardly be induced to accept the large sum of a shilling for an original quarto of Shakespeare’s “King John.” These stories are told that none may despair. That none may be over confident, an author may recount his own experience. The only odd trouvaille that ever fell to me was a clean copy of “La Journee Chretienne,” with the name of Leon Gambetta, 1844, on its catholic fly-leaf. Rare books grow rarer every day, and often ’tis only Hope that remains at the bottom of the fourpenny boxes. Yet the Paris book-hunters cleave to the game. August is their favourite season; for in August there is least competition. Very few people are, as a rule, in Paris, and these are not tempted to loiter. The bookseller is drowsy, and glad not to have the trouble of chaffering. The English go past, and do not tarry beside a row of dusty boxes of books. The heat threatens the amateur with sunstroke. Then, says M. Octave Uzanne, in a prose ballade of book-hunters — then, calm, glad, heroic, the bouquineurs prowl forth, refreshed with hope. The brown old calf-skin wrinkles in the sun, the leaves crackle, you could poach an egg on the cover of a quarto. The dome of the Institute glitters, the sickly trees seem to wither, their leaves wax red and grey, a faint warm wind is walking the streets. Under his vast umbrella the book-hunter is secure and content; he enjoys the pleasures of the sport unvexed by poachers, and thinks less of the heat than does the deer-stalker on the bare hill-side.
There is plenty of morality, if there are few rare books in the stalls. The decay of affection, the breaking of friendship, the decline of ambition, are all illustrated in these fourpenny collections. The presentation volumes are here which the author gave in the pride of his heart to the poet who was his “Master,” to the critic whom he feared, to the friend with whom he was on terms of mutual admiration. The critic has not even cut the leaves, the poet has brusquely torn three or four apart with his finger and thumb, the friend has grown cold, and has let the poems slip into some corner of his library, whence they were removed on some day of doom and of general clearing out. The sale of the library of a late learned prelate who had Boileau’s hatred of a dull book was a scene to be avoided by his literary friends. The Bishop always gave the works which were offered to him a fair chance. He read till he could read no longer, cutting the pages as he went, and thus his progress could be traced like that of a backwoodsman who “blazes” his way through a primeval forest. The paper-knife generally ceased to do duty before the thirtieth page. The melancholy of the book-hunter is aroused by two questions, “Whence?” and “Whither?” The bibliophile asks about his books the question which the metaphysician asks about his soul. Whence came they? Their value depends a good deal on the answer. If they are stamped with arms, then there is a book (“Armorial du Bibliophile,” by M. Guigard) which tells you who was their original owner. Any one of twenty coats-of-arms on the leather is worth a hundred times the value of the volume which it covers. If there is no such mark, the fancy is left to devise a romance about the first owner, and all the hands through which the book has passed. That Vanini came from a Jesuit college, where it was kept under lock and key. That copy of Agrippa “De Vanitate Scientiarum” is marked, in a crabbed hand and in faded ink, with cynical Latin notes. What pessimist two hundred years ago made his grumbling so permanent? One can only guess, but part of the imaginative joys of the book-hunter lies ‘ in the fruitless conjecture. That other question “Whither?” is graver. Whither are our treasures to be scattered? Will they find kind masters? or, worst fate of books, fall into the hands of women who will sell them to the trunk-maker? Are the leaves to line a box or to curl a maiden’s locks? Are the rarities to become more and more rare, and at last fetch prodigious prices? Some unlucky men are able partly to solve these problems in their own lifetime. They are constrained to sell their libraries — an experience full of bitterness, wrath, and disappointment.
Selling books is nearly as bad as losing friends, than which life has no worse sorrow. A book is a friend whose face is constantly changing. If you read it when you are recovering from an illness, and return to it years after, it is changed surely, with the change in yourself. As a man’s tastes and opinions are developed his books put on a different aspect. He hardly knows the “Poems and Ballads” he used to declaim, and cannot recover the enigmatic charm of “Sordello.” Books change like friends, like ourselves, like everything; but they are most piquant in the contrasts they provoke, when the friend who gave them and wrote them is a success, though we laughed at him; a failure, though we believed in him; altered in any case, and estranged from his old self and old days. The vanished past returns when we look at the pages. The vicissitudes of years are printed and packed in a thin octavo, and the shivering ghosts of desire and hope return to their forbidden home in the heart and fancy. It is as well to have the power of recalling them always at hand, and to be able to take a comprehensive glance at the emotions which were so powerful and full of life, and now are more faded and of less account than the memory of the dreams of childhood. It is because our books are friends that do change, and remind us of change, that we should keep them with us, even at a little inconvenience, and not turn them adrift in the world to find a dusty asylum in cheap bookstalls. We are a part of all that we have read, to parody the saying of Mr. Tennyson’s Ulysses, and we owe some respect, and house-room at least, to the early acquaintances who have begun to bore us, and remind us of the vanity of ambition and the weakness of human purpose. Old school and college books even have a reproachful and salutary power of whispering how much a man knew, and at the cost of how much trouble, that he has absolutely forgotten, and is neither the better nor the worse for it. It will be the same in the case of the books he is eager about now; though, to be sure, he will read with less care, and forget with an ease and readiness only to be acquired by practice.
But we were apologising for book-hunting, not because it teaches moral lessons, as “dauncyng” also does, according to Sir Thomas Elyot, in the “Boke called the Gouvernour,” but because it affords a kind of sportive excitement. Bookstalls are not the only field of the chase. Book catalogues, which reach the collector through the post, give him all the pleasures of the sport at home. He reads the booksellers’ catalogues eagerly, he marks his chosen sport with pencil, he writes by return of post, or he telegraphs to the vendor. Unfortunately he almost always finds that he has been forestalled, probably by some bookseller’s agent. When the catalogue is a French one, it is obvious that Parisians have the pick of the market before our slow letters reach M. Claudin, or M. Labitte. Still the catalogues themselves are a kind of lesson in bibliography. You see from them how prices are ruling, and you can gloat, in fancy, over De Luyne’s edition of Moliere, 1673, two volumes in red morocco, double (“Trautz Bauzonnet”), or some other vanity hopelessly out of reach. In their catalogues, MM. Morgand and Fatout print a facsimile of the frontispiece of this very rare edition. The bust of Moliere occupies the centre, and portraits of the great actor, as Sganarelle and Mascarille (of the “Precieuses Ridicules”), stand on either side. In the second volume are Moliere, and his wife Armande, crowned by the muse Thalia. A catalogue which contains such exact reproductions of rare and authentic portraits, is itself a work of art, and serviceable to the student. When the shop of a bookseller, with a promising catalogue which arrives over night, is not too far distant, bibliophiles have been known to rush to the spot in the grey morning, before the doors open. There are amateurs, however, who prefer to stay comfortably at home, and pity these poor fanatics, shivering in the rain outside a door in Oxford Street or Booksellers’ Row. There is a length to which enthusiasm cannot go, and many collectors draw the line at rising early in the morning. But, when we think of the sport of book-hunting, it is to sales in auction-rooms that the mind naturally turns. Here the rival buyers feel the passion of emulation, and it was in an auction-room that Guibert de Pixerecourt, being outbid, said, in tones of mortal hatred, “I will have the book when your collection is sold after your death.” And he kept his word. The fever of gambling is not absent from the auction-room, and people “bid jealous” as they sometimes “ride jealous” in the hunting-field. Yet, the neophyte, if he strolls by chance into a sale-room, will be surprised at the spectacle. The chamber has the look of a rather seedy “hell.” The crowd round the auctioneer’s box contains many persons so dingy and Semitic, that at Monte Carlo they would be refused admittance; while, in Germany, they would be persecuted by Herr von Treitschke with Christian ardour. Bidding is languid, and valuable books are knocked down for trifling sums. Let the neophyte try his luck, however, and prices will rise wonderfully. The fact is that the sale is a “knock out.” The bidders are professionals, in a league to let the volumes go cheap, and to distribute them afterwards among themselves. Thus an amateur can have a good deal of sport by bidding for a book till it reaches its proper value, and by then leaving in the lurch the professionals who combine to “run him up.” The amusement has its obvious perils, but the presence of gentlemen in an auction-room is a relief to the auctioneer and to the owner of the books. A bidder must be able to command his temper, both that he may be able to keep his head cool when tempted to bid recklessly, and that he may disregard the not very carefully concealed sneers of the professionals.
In book-hunting the nature of the quarry varies with the taste of the collector. One man is for bibles, another for ballads. Some pursue plays, others look for play bills. “He was not,” says Mr. Hill Burton, speaking of Kirkpatrick Sharpe, “he was not a black-letter man, or a tall copyist, or an uncut man, or a rough-edge man, or an early-English dramatist, or an Elzevirian, or a broadsider, or a pasquinader, or an old brown calf man, or a Grangerite, 1 or a tawny moroccoite, or a gilt topper, or a marbled insider, or an editio princeps man.” These nicknames briefly dispose into categories a good many species of collectors. But there are plenty of others. You may be a historical-bindings man, and hunt for books that were bound by the great artists of the past and belonged to illustrious collectors. Or you may be a Jametist, and try to gather up the volumes on which Jamet, the friend of Louis Racine, scribbled his cynical “Marginalia.” Or you may covet the earliest editions of modern poets — Shelley, Keats, or Tennyson, or even Ebenezer Jones. Or the object of your desires may be the books of the French romanticists, who flourished so freely in 1830. Or, being a person of large fortune and landed estate, you may collect country histories. Again, your heart may be set on the books illustrated by Eisen, Cochin, and Gravelot, or Stothard and Blake, in the last century. Or you may be so old-fashioned as to care for Aldine classics, and for the books of the Giunta press. In fact, as many as are the species of rare and beautiful books, so many are the species of collectors. There is one sort of men, modest but not unwise in their generations, who buy up the pretty books published in very limited editions by French booksellers, like MM. Lemerre and Jouaust. Already their reprints of Rochefoucauld’s first edition, of Beaumarchais, of La Fontaine, of the lyrics attributed to Moliere, and other volumes, are exhausted, and fetch high prices in the market. By a singular caprice, the little volumes of Mr. Thackeray’s miscellaneous writings, in yellow paper wrappers (when they are first editions), have become objects of desire, and their old modest price is increased twenty fold. It is not always easy to account for these freaks of fashion; but even in book-collecting there are certain definite laws. “Why do you pay a large price for a dingy, old book,” outsiders ask, “when a clean modern reprint can be procured for two or three shillings?” To this question the collector has several replies, which he, at least, finds satisfactory. In the first place, early editions, published during a great author’s lifetime, and under his supervision, have authentic texts. The changes in them are the changes that Prior or La Bruyere themselves made and approved. You can study, in these old editions, the alterations in their taste, the history of their minds. The case is the same even with contemporary authors. One likes to have Mr. Tennyson’s “Poems, chiefly Lyrical” (London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, Cornhill, 1830). It is fifty years old, this little book of one hundred and fifty-four pages, this first fruit of a stately tree. In half a century the poet has altered much, and withdrawn much, but already, in 1830, he had found his distinctive note, and his “Mariana” is a masterpiece. “Mariana” is in all the collections, but pieces of which the execution is less certain must be sought only in the old volume of 1830. In the same way “The Strayed Reveller, and other poems, by A.” (London: B. Fellowes, Ludgate Street, 1849) contains much that Mr. Matthew Arnold has altered, and this volume, like the suppressed “Empedocles on Etna, and other Poems, by A.” (1852), appeals more to the collector than do the new editions which all the world may possess. There are verses, curious in their way, in Mr. Clough’s “Ambarvalia” (1849), which you will not find in his posthumous edition, but which “repay perusal.” These minutiae of literary history become infinitely more important in the early editions of the great classical writers, and the book-collector may regard his taste as a kind of handmaid of critical science. The preservation of rare books, and the collection of materials for criticism, are the useful functions, then, of book-collecting. But it is not to be denied that the sentimental side of the pursuit gives it most of its charm. Old books are often literary relics, and as dear and sacred to the lover of literature as are relics of another sort to the religious devotee. The amateur likes to see the book in its form as the author knew it. He takes a pious pleasure in the first edition of “Les Precieuses Ridicules,” (M.DC.LX.) just as Moliere saw it, when he was fresh in the business of authorship, and wrote “Mon Dieu, qu’un Autheur est neuf, la premiere fois qu’on l’imprime.” All editions published during a great man’s life have this attraction, and seem to bring us closer to his spirit. Other volumes are relics, as we shall see later, of some famed collector, and there is a certain piety in the care we give to books once dear to Longepierre, or Harley, or d’Hoym, or Buckle, to Madame de Maintenon, or Walpole, to Grolier, or Askew, or De Thou, or Heber. Such copies should be handed down from worthy owners to owners not unworthy; such servants of literature should never have careless masters. A man may prefer to read for pleasure in a good clear reprint. M. Charpentier’s “Montaigne” serves the turn, but it is natural to treasure more “Les Essais de Michel Seigneur de Montaigne,” that were printed by Francoise le Febre, of Lyon, in 1595. It is not a beautiful book; the type is small, and rather blunt, but William Drummond of Hawthornden has written on the title-page his name and his device, Cipresso e Palma. There are a dozen modern editions of Moliere more easily read than the four little volumes of Wetstein (Amsterdam, 1698), but these contain reduced copies of the original illustrations, and here you see Arnolphe and Agnes in their habits as they lived, Moliere and Mdlle. de Brie as the public of Paris beheld them more than two hundred years ago. Suckling’s “Fragmenta Aurea” contain a good deal of dross, and most of the gold has been gathered into Miscellanies, but the original edition of 1646, “after his own copies,” with the portrait of the jolly cavalier who died aetatis suae 28, has its own allurement. Theocritus is more easily read, perhaps, in Wordsworth’s edition, or Ziegler’s; but that which Zacharias Calliergi printed in Rome (1516), with an excommunication from Leo X. against infringement of copyright, will always be a beautiful and desirable book, especially when bound by Derome. The gist of the pious Prince Conti’s strictures on the wickedness of comedy may be read in various literary histories, but it is natural to like his “Traite de la Comedie selon la tradition de l’Eglise, Tiree des Conciles et des saints Peres,” published by Lovys Billaine in 1660, especially when the tract is a clean copy, arrayed in a decorous black morocco.
These are but a few common examples, chosen from a meagre little library, a “twopenny treasure-house,” but they illustrate, on a minute scale, the nature of the collector’s passion, — the character of his innocent pleasures. He occasionally lights on other literary relics of a more personal character than mere first editions. A lucky collector lately bought Shelley’s copy of Ossian, with the poet’s signature on the title-page, in Booksellers’ Row. Another possesses a copy of Foppens’s rare edition of Petrarch’s “Le Sage Resolu contre l’une et l’autre Fortune,” which once belonged to Sir Hudson Lowe, the gaoler of Napoleon, and may have fortified, by its stoical maxims, the soul of one who knew the extremes of either fortune, the captive of St. Helena. But the best example of a book, which is also a relic, is the “Imitatio Christi,” which belonged to J. J. Rousseau. Let M. Tenant de Latour, lately the happy owner of this possession, tell his own story of his treasure: It was in 1827 that M. de Latour was walking on the quai of the Louvre. Among the volumes in a shop, he noticed a shabby little copy of the “Imitatio Christi.” M. de Latour, like other bibliophiles, was not in the habit of examining stray copies of this work, except when they were of the Elzevir size, for the Elzevirs published a famous undated copy of the “Imitatio,” a book which brings considerable prices. However, by some lucky chance, some Socratic daemon whispering, may be, in his ear, he picked up the little dingy volume of the last century. It was of a Paris edition, 1751, but what was the name on the fly-leaf. M. de Latour read a J. J. Rousseau. There was no mistake about it, the good bibliophile knew Rousseau’s handwriting perfectly well; to make still more sure he paid his seventy-five centimes for the book, and walked across the Pont des Arts, to his bookbinder’s, where he had a copy of Rousseau’s works, with a facsimile of his handwriting. As he walked, M. de Latour read in his book, and found notes of Rousseau’s on the margin. The facsimile proved that the inscription was genuine. The happy de Latour now made for the public office in which he was a functionary, and rushed into the bureau of his friend the Marquis de V. The Marquis, a man of great strength of character, recognised the signature of Rousseau with but little display of emotion. M. de Latour now noticed some withered flowers among the sacred pages; but it was reserved for a friend to discover in the faded petals Rousseau’s favourite flower, the periwinkle. Like a true Frenchman, like Rousseau himself in his younger days, M. de Latour had not recognised the periwinkle when he saw it. That night, so excited was M. de Latour, he never closed an eye! What puzzled him was that he could not remember, in all Rousseau’s works, a single allusion to the “Imitatio Christi.” Time went on, the old book was not rebound, but kept piously in a case of Russia leather. M. de Latour did not suppose that “dans ce bas monde it fut permis aux joies du bibliophile d’aller encore plus loin.” He imagined that the delights of the amateur could only go further, in heaven. It chanced, however, one day that he was turning over the “Oeuvres Inedites” of Rousseau, when he found a letter, in which Jean Jacques, writing in 1763, asked Motiers–Travers to send him the “Imitatio Christi.” Now the date 1764 is memorable, in Rousseau’s “Confessions,” for a burst of sentiment over a periwinkle, the first he had noticed particularly since his residence at Les Charmettes, where the flower had been remarked by Madame de Warens. Thus M. Tenant de Latour had recovered the very identical periwinkle, which caused the tear of sensibility to moisten the fine eyes of Jean Jacques Rousseau.
We cannot all be adorers of Rousseau. But M. de Latour was an enthusiast, and this little anecdote of his explains the sentimental side of the bibliophile’s pursuit. Yes, it is SENTIMENT that makes us feel a lively affection for the books that seem to connect us with great poets and students long ago dead. Their hands grasp ours across the ages. I never see the first edition of Homer, that monument of typography and of enthusiasm for letters, printed at Florence (1488) at the expense of young Bernardo and Nerio Nerli, and of their friend Giovanni Acciajuoli, but I feel moved to cry with Heyne, “salvete juvenes, nobiles et generosi; [Greek text].”
Such is our apology for book-collecting. But the best defence of the taste would be a list of the names of great collectors, a “vision of mighty book-hunters.” Let us say nothing of Seth and Noah, for their reputation as amateurs is only based on the authority of the tract De Bibliothecis Antediluvianis. The library of Assurbanipal I pass over, for its volumes were made, as Pliny says, of coctiles laterculi, of baked tiles, which have been deciphered by the late Mr. George Smith. Philosophers as well as immemorial kings, Pharaohs and Ptolemys, are on our side. It was objected to Plato, by persons answering to the cheap scribblers of today, that he, though a sage, gave a hundred minae (360 pounds) for three treatises of Philolaus, while Aristotle paid nearly thrice the sum for a few books that had been in the library of Speusippus. Did not a Latin philosopher go great lengths in a laudable anxiety to purchase an Odyssey “as old as Homer,” and what would not Cicero, that great collector, have given for the Ascraean editio princeps of Hesiod, scratched on mouldy old plates of lead? Perhaps Dr. Schliemann may find an original edition of the “Iliad” at Orchomenos; but of all early copies none seems so attractive as that engraved on the leaden plates which Pausanias saw at Ascra. Then, in modern times, what “great allies” has the collector, what brethren in book-hunting? The names are like the catalogue with which Villon fills his “Ballade des Seigneurs du Temps Jadis.” A collector was “le preux Charlemaigne” and our English Alfred. The Kings of Hungary, as Mathias Corvinus; the Kings of France, and their queens, and their mistresses, and their lords, were all amateurs. So was our Henry VIII., and James I., who “wished he could be chained to a shelf in the Bodleian.” The middle age gives us Richard de Bury, among ecclesiastics, and the Renaissance boasts Sir Thomas More, with that “pretty fardle of books, in the small type of Aldus,” which he carried for a freight to the people of Utopia. Men of the world, like Bussy Rabutin, queens like our Elizabeth; popes like Innocent X.; financiers like Colbert (who made the Grand Turk send him Levant morocco for bindings); men of letters like Scott and Southey, Janin and Nodier, and Paul Lacroix; warriors like Junot and Prince Eugene; these are only leaders of companies in the great army of lovers of books, in which it is honourable enough to be a private soldier.
1 This is the technical name for people who “illustrate” books with engravings from other works. The practice became popular when Granger published his “Biographical History of England.”
The Library which is to be spoken of in these pages, is all unlike the halls which a Spencer or a Huth fills with treasure beyond price. The age of great libraries has gone by, and where a collector of the old school survives, he is usually a man of enormous wealth, who might, if he pleased, be distinguished in parliament, in society, on the turf itself, or in any of the pursuits where unlimited supplies of money are strictly necessary. The old amateurs, whom La Bruyere was wont to sneer at, were not satisfied unless they possessed many thousands of books. For a collector like Cardinal Mazarin, Naude bought up the whole stock of many a bookseller, and left great towns as bare of printed paper as if a tornado had passed, and blown the leaves away. In our modern times, as the industrious Bibliophile Jacob, says, the fashion of book-collecting has changed; “from the vast hall that it was, the library of the amateur has shrunk to a closet, to a mere book-case. Nothing but a neat article of furniture is needed now, where a great gallery or a long suite of rooms was once required. The book has become, as it were, a jewel, and is kept in a kind of jewel-case.” It is not quantity of pages, nor lofty piles of ordinary binding, nor theological folios and classic quartos, that the modern amateur desires. He is content with but a few books of distinction and elegance, masterpieces of printing and binding, or relics of famous old collectors, of statesmen, philosophers, beautiful dead ladies; or, again, he buys illustrated books, or first editions of the modern classics. No one, not the Duc d’Aumale, or M. James Rothschild himself, with his 100 books worth 40,000 pounds, can possess very many copies of books which are inevitably rare. Thus the adviser who would offer suggestions to the amateur, need scarcely write, like Naude and the old authorities, about the size and due position of the library. He need hardly warn the builder to make the salle face the east, “because the eastern winds, being warm and dry of their nature, greatly temper the air, fortify the senses, make subtle the humours, purify the spirits, preserve a healthy disposition of the whole body, and, to say all in one word, are most wholesome and salubrious.” The east wind, like the fashion of book-collecting, has altered in character a good deal since the days when Naude was librarian to Cardinal Mazarin. One might as well repeat the learned Isidorus his counsels about the panels of green marble (that refreshes the eye), and Boethius his censures on library walls of ivory and glass, as fall back on the ancient ideas of librarians dead and gone.
The amateur, then, is the person we have in our eye, and especially the bibliophile who has but lately been bitten with this pleasant mania of collecting. We would teach him how to arrange and keep his books orderly and in good case, and would tell him what to buy and what to avoid. By the LIBRARY we do not understand a study where no one goes, and where the master of the house keeps his boots, an assortment of walking-sticks, the “Waverley Novels,” “Pearson on the Creed,” “Hume’s Essays,” and a collection of sermons. In, alas! too many English homes, the Library is no more than this, and each generation passes without adding a book, except now and then a Bradshaw or a railway novel, to the collection on the shelves. The success, perhaps, of circulating libraries, or, it may be, the Aryan tendencies of our race, “which does not read, and lives in the open air,” have made books the rarest of possessions in many houses. There are relics of the age before circulating libraries, there are fragments of the lettered store of some scholarly great-grandfather, and these, with a few odd numbers of magazines, a few primers and manuals, some sermons and novels, make up the ordinary library of an English household. But the amateur, whom we have in our thoughts, can never be satisfied with these commonplace supplies. He has a taste for books more or less rare, and for books neatly bound; in short, for books, in the fabrication of which ART has not been absent. He loves to have his study, like Montaigne’s, remote from the interruption of servants, wife, and children; a kind of shrine, where he may be at home with himself, with the illustrious dead, and with the genius of literature. The room may look east, west, or south, provided that it be dry, warm, light, and airy. Among the many enemies of books the first great foe is DAMP, and we must describe the necessary precautions to be taken against this peril. We will suppose that the amateur keeps his ordinary working books, modern tomes, and all that serve him as literary tools, on open shelves. These may reach the roof, if he has books to fill them, and it is only necessary to see that the back of the bookcases are slightly removed from contact with the walls. The more precious and beautifully bound treasures will naturally be stored in a case with closely-fitting glass-doors. 2 The shelves should be lined with velvet or chamois leather, that the delicate edges of the books may not suffer from contact with the wood. A leather lining, fitted to the back of the case, will also help to keep out humidity. Most writers recommend that the bookcases should be made of wood close in the grain, such as well-seasoned oak; or, for smaller tabernacles of literature, of mahogany, satin-wood lined with cedar, ebony, and so forth. These close-grained woods are less easily penetrated by insects, and it is fancied that book-worms dislike the aromatic scents of cedar, sandal wood, and Russia leather. There was once a bibliophile who said that a man could only love one book at a time, and the darling of the moment he used to carry about in a charming leather case. Others, men of few books, preserve them in long boxes with glass fronts, which may be removed from place to place as readily as the household gods of Laban. But the amateur who not only worships but reads books, needs larger receptacles; and in the open oak cases for modern authors, and for books with common modern papers and bindings, in the closed armoire for books of rarity and price, he will find, we think, the most useful mode of arranging his treasures. His shelves will decline in height from the lowest, where huge folios stand at case, to the top ranges, while Elzevirs repose on a level with the eye. It is well that each upper shelf should have a leather fringe to keep the dust away.
As to the shape of the bookcases, and the furniture, and ornaments of the library, every amateur will please himself. Perhaps the satin-wood or mahogany tabernacles of rare books are best made after the model of what furniture-dealers indifferently call the “Queen Anne” or the “Chippendale” style. There is a pleasant quaintness in the carved architectural ornaments of the top, and the inlaid flowers of marquetry go well with the pretty florid editions of the last century, the books that were illustrated by Stothard and Gravelot. Ebony suits theological tomes very well, especially when they are bound in white vellum. As to furniture, people who can afford it will imitate the arrangements of Lucullus, in Mr. Hill Burton’s charming volume “The Book-hunter” (Blackwood, Edinburgh, 1862). — “Everything is of perfect finish, — the mahogany-railed gallery, the tiny ladders, the broad winged lecterns, with leathern cushions on the edges to keep the wood from grazing the rich bindings, the books themselves, each shelf uniform with its facings, or rather backings, like well-dressed lines at a review.” The late Sir William Stirling–Maxwell, a famous bibliophile, invented a very nice library chair. It is most comfortable to sit on; and, as the top of the back is broad and flat, it can be used as a ladder of two high steps, when one wants to reach a book on a lofty shelf. A kind of square revolving bookcase, an American invention, manufactured by Messrs. Trubner, is useful to the working man of letters. Made in oak, stained green, it is not unsightly. As to ornaments, every man to his taste. You may have a “pallid bust of Pallas” above your classical collection, or fill the niches in a shrine of old French light literature, pastoral and comedy, with delicate shepherdesses in Chelsea china. On such matters a modest writer, like Mr. Jingle when Mr. Pickwick ordered dinner, “will not presume to dictate.”
Next to damp, dust and dirt are the chief enemies of books. At short intervals, books and shelves ought to be dusted by the amateur himself. Even Dr. Johnson, who was careless of his person, and of volumes lent to him, was careful about the cleanliness of his own books. Boswell found him one day with big gloves on his hands beating the dust out of his library, as was his custom. There is nothing so hideous as a dirty thumb-mark on a white page. These marks are commonly made, not because the reader has unwashed hands, but because the dust which settles on the top edge of books falls in, and is smudged when they are opened. Gilt-top edges should be smoothed with a handkerchief, and a small brush should be kept for brushing the tops of books with rough edges, before they are opened. But it were well that all books had the top edge gilt. There is no better preservative against dust. Dust not only dirties books, it seems to supply what Mr. Spencer would call a fitting environment for book-worms. The works of book-worms speak for themselves, and are manifest to all. How many a rare and valuable volume is spoiled by neat round holes drilled through cover and leaves! But as to the nature of your worm, authorities differ greatly. The ancients knew this plague, of which Lucian speaks. Mr. Blades mentions a white book-worm, slain by the librarian of the Bodleian. In Byzantium the black sort prevailed. Evenus, the grammarian, wrote an epigram against the black book-worm (“Anthol. Pal.,” ix. 251):—
Pest of the Muses, devourer of pages, in crannies that lurkest,
Fruits of the Muses to taint, labour of learning to spoil;
Wherefore, oh black-fleshed worm! wert thou born for the evil thou workest?
Wherefore thine own foul form shap’st thou with envious toil?
The learned Mentzelius says he hath heard the book-worm crow like a cock unto his mate, and “I knew not,” says he, “whether some local fowl was clamouring or whether there was but a beating in mine ears. Even at that moment, all uncertain as I was, I perceived, in the paper whereon I was writing, a little insect that ceased not to carol like very chanticleer, until, taking a magnifying glass, I assiduously observed him. He is about the bigness of a mite, and carries a grey crest, and the head low, bowed over the bosom; as to his crowing noise, it comes of his clashing his wings against each other with an incessant din.” Thus far Mentzelius, and more to the same purpose, as may be read in the “Memoirs of famous Foreign Academies” (Dijon, 1755–59, 13 vol. in quarto). But, in our times, the learned Mr. Blades having a desire to exhibit book-worms in the body to the Caxtonians at the Caxton celebration, could find few men that had so much as seen a book-worm, much less heard him utter his native wood-notes wild. Yet, in his “Enemies of Books,” he describes some rare encounters with the worm. Dirty books, damp books, dusty books, and books that the owner never opens, are most exposed to the enemy; and “the worm, the proud worm, is the conqueror still,” as a didactic poet sings, in an ode on man’s mortality. As we have quoted Mentzelius, it may not be amiss to give D’Alembert’s theory of book-worms: “I believe,” he says, “that a little beetle lays her eggs in books in August, thence is hatched a mite, like the cheese-mite, which devours books merely because it is compelled to gnaw its way out into the air.” Book-worms like the paste which binders employ, but D’Alembert adds that they cannot endure absinthe. Mr. Blades finds too that they disdain to devour our adulterate modern paper.
“Say, shall I sing of rats,” asked Grainger, when reading to Johnson his epic, the “Sugar-cane.” “No,” said the Doctor; and though rats are the foe of the bibliophile, at least as much as of the sugar-planter, we do not propose to sing of them. M. Fertiault has done so already in “Les Sonnets d’un Bibliophile,” where the reader must be pleased with the beautiful etchings of rats devouring an illuminated MS., and battening on morocco bindings stamped with the bees of De Thou. It is unnecessary and it would be undignified, to give hints on rat-catching, but the amateur must not forget that these animals have a passion for bindings.
The book-collector must avoid gas, which deposits a filthy coat of oil that catches dust. Mr. Blades found that three jets of gas in a small room soon reduced the leather on his book-shelves to a powder of the consistency of snuff, and made the backs of books come away in his hand. Shaded lamps give the best and most suitable light for the library. As to the risks which books run at the hands of the owner himself, we surely need not repeat the advice of Richard de Bury. Living in an age when tubs (if not unknown as M. Michelet declares) were far from being common, the old collector inveighed against the dirty hands of readers, and against their habit of marking their place in a book with filthy straws, or setting down a beer pot in the middle of the volume to keep the pages open. But the amateur, however refined himself, must beware of men who love not fly leaves neither regard margins, but write notes over the latter, and light their pipes with the former. After seeing the wreck of a book which these persons have been busy with, one appreciates the fine Greek hyperbole. The Greeks did not speak of “thumbing” but of “walking up and down” on a volume ([Greek text]). To such fellows it matters not that they make a book dirty and greasy, cutting the pages with their fingers, and holding the boards over the fire till they crack. All these slatternly practices, though they destroy a book as surely as the flames of Caesar’s soldiers at Alexandria, seem fine manly acts to the grobians who use them. What says Jules Janin, who has written “Contre l’indifference des Philistins,” “il faut a l’homme sage et studieux un tome honorable et digne de sa louange.” The amateur, and all decent men, will beware of lending books to such rude workers; and this consideration brings us to these great foes of books, the borrowers and robbers. The lending of books, and of other property, has been defended by some great authorities; thus Panurge himself says, “it would prove much more easy in nature to have fish entertained in the air, and bullocks fed in the bottom of the ocean, than to support or tolerate a rascally rabble of people that will not lend.” Pirckheimer, too, for whom Albert Durer designed a book-plate, was a lender, and took for his device Sibi et Amicis; and Jo. Grolierii et amicorum, was the motto of the renowned Grolier, whom mistaken writers vainly but frequently report to have been a bookbinder. But as Mr. Leicester Warren says, in his “Study of Book-plates” (Pearson, 1880), “Christian Charles de Savigny leaves all the rest behind, exclaiming non mihi sed aliis.” But the majority of amateurs have chosen wiser, though more churlish devices, as “the ungodly borroweth and payeth not again,” or “go to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” David Garrick engraved on his book-plate, beside a bust of Shakspeare, these words of Menage, “La premiere chose qu’on doit faire, quand on a emprunte’ un livre, c’est de le lire, afin de pouvoir le rendre plutot.” But the borrower is so minded that the last thing he thinks of is to read a borrowed book, and the penultimate subject of his reflections is its restoration. Menage (Menagiana, Paris, 1729, vol. i. p. 265), mentions, as if it were a notable misdeed, this of Angelo Politian’s, “he borrowed a ‘Lucretius’ from Pomponius Laetus, and kept it for four years.” Four years! in the sight of the borrower it is but a moment. Menage reports that a friend kept his “Pausanias” for three years, whereas four months was long enough.
“At quarto saltem mense redire decet.”
There is no satisfaction in lending a book; for it is rarely that borrowers, while they deface your volumes, gather honey for new stores, as De Quincey did, and Coleridge, and even Dr. Johnson, who “greased and dogs-eared such volumes as were confided to his tender mercies, with the same indifference wherewith he singed his own wigs.” But there is a race of mortals more annoying to a conscientious man than borrowers. These are the spontaneous lenders, who insist that you shall borrow their tomes. For my own part, when I am oppressed with the charity of such, I lock their books up in a drawer, and behold them not again till the day of their return. There is no security against borrowers, unless a man like Guibert de Pixerecourt steadfastly refuses to lend. The device of Pixerecourt was un livre est un ami qui ne change jamais. But he knew that our books change when they have been borrowed, like our friends when they have been married; when “a lady borrows them,” as the fairy queen says in the ballad of “Tamlane.”
“But had I kenn’d, Tamlane,” she says,
“A lady wad borrowed thee,
I wad ta’en out thy twa gray een,
Put in twa een o’ tree!
“Had I but kenn’d, Tamlane,” she says,
“Before ye came frae hame,
I wad ta’en out your heart o’ flesh,
Put in a heart o’ stane!”
Above the lintel of his library door, Pixerecourt had this couplet carved —
“Tel est le triste sort de tout livre prete,
Souvent il est perdu, toujours il est gate.”
M. Paul Lacroix says he would not have lent a book to his own daughter. Once Lacroix asked for the loan of a work of little value. Pixerecourt frowned, and led his friend beneath the doorway, pointing to the motto. “Yes,” said M. Lacroix, “but I thought that verse applied to every one but me.” So Pixerecourt made him a present of the volume.
We cannot all imitate this “immense” but unamiable amateur. Therefore, bibliophiles have consoled themselves with the inventions of book-plates, quaint representations, perhaps heraldic, perhaps fanciful, of their claims to the possession of their own dear volumes. Mr. Leicester Warren and M. Poulet Malassis have written the history of these slender works of art, and each bibliophile may have his own engraved, and may formulate his own anathemas on people who borrow and restore not again. The process is futile, but may comfort the heart, like the curses against thieves which the Greeks were wont to scratch on leaden tablets, and deposit in the temple of Demeter. Each amateur can exercise his own taste in the design of a book-plate; and for such as love and collect rare editions of “Homer,” I venture to suggest this motto, which may move the heart of the borrower to send back an Aldine copy of the epic —
“Send him back carefully, for you can if you like, that all unharmed he may return to his own place.”
Mr. William Blades, in his pleasant volume, “The Enemies of Books” (Trubner), makes no account of the book-thief or biblioklept. “If they injure the owners,” says Mr. Blades, with real tolerance, “they do no harm to the books themselves, by merely transferring them from one set of book-shelves to another.” This sentence has naturally caused us to reflect on the ethical character of the biblioklept. He is not always a bad man. In old times, when language had its delicacies, and moralists were not devoid of sensibility, the French did not say “un voleur de livres,” but “un chipeur de livres;” as the papers call lady shoplifters “kleptomaniacs.” There are distinctions. M. Jules Janin mentions a great Parisian bookseller who had an amiable weakness. He was a bibliokleptomaniac. His first motion when he saw a book within reach was to put it in his pocket. Every one knew his habit, and when a volume was lost at a sale the auctioneer duly announced it, and knocked it down to the enthusiast, who regularly paid the price. When he went to a private view of books about to be sold, the officials at the door would ask him, as he was going out, if he did not happen to have an Elzevir Horace or an Aldine Ovid in his pocket. Then he would search those receptacles and exclaim, “Yes, yes, here it is; so much obliged to you; I am so absent.” M. Janin mentions an English noble, a “Sir Fitzgerald,” who had the same tastes, but who unluckily fell into the hands of the police. Yet M. Janin has a tenderness for the book-stealer, who, after all, is a lover of books. The moral position of the malefactor is so delicate and difficult that we shall attempt to treat of it in the severe, though rococo, manner of Aristotle’s “Ethics.” Here follows an extract from the lost Aristotelian treatise “Concerning Books”:—
“Among the contemplative virtues we reckon the love of books. Now this virtue, like courage or liberality, has its mean, its excess, and its defect. The defect is indifference, and the man who is defective as to the love of books has no name in common parlance. Therefore, we may call him the Robustious Philistine. This man will cut the leaves of his own or his friend’s volumes with the butter-knife at breakfast. Also he is just the person wilfully to mistake the double sense of the term ‘fly-leaves,’ and to stick the ‘fly-leaves’ of his volumes full of fly-hooks. He also loves dogs’-ears, and marks his place with his pipe when he shuts a book in a hurry; or he will set the leg of his chair on a page to keep it open. He praises those who tear off margins for pipe-lights, and he makes cigarettes with the tissue-paper that covers engravings. When his books are bound, he sees that the margin is cut to the quick. He tells you too, that ‘HE buys books to read them.’ But he does not say why he thinks it needful to spoil them. Also he will drag off bindings — or should we perhaps call this crime [Greek text], or brutality, rather than mere vice? for vice is essentially human, but to tear off bindings is bestial. Thus they still speak of a certain monster who lived during the French Revolution, and who, having purchased volumes attired in morocco, and stamped with the devices of the oligarchs, would rip off the leather or vellum, and throw them into the fire or out of the window, saying that ‘now he could read with unwashed hands at his ease.’ Such a person, then, is the man indifferent to books, and he sins by way of defect, being deficient in the contemplative virtue of book-loving. As to the man who is exactly in the right mean, we call him the book-lover. His happiness consists not in reading, which is an active virtue, but in the contemplation of bindings, and illustrations, and title-pages. Thus his felicity partakes of the nature of the bliss we attribute to the gods, for that also is contemplative, and we call the book-lover ‘happy,’ and even ‘blessed,’ but within the limits of mortal happiness. But, just as in the matter of absence of fear there is a mean which we call courage, and a defect which we call cowardice, and an excess which is known as foolhardiness; so it is in the case of the love of books. As to the mean, we have seen that it is the virtue of the true book-lover, while the defect constitutes the sin of the Robustious Philistine. But the extreme is found in covetousness, and the covetous man who is in the extreme state of book-loving, is the biblioklept, or book-stealer. Now his vice shows itself, not in contemplation (for of contemplation there can be no excess), but in action. For books are procured, as we say, by purchase, or by barter, and these are voluntary exchanges, both the seller and the buyer being willing to deal. But books are, again, procured in another way, by involuntary contract — that is, when the owner of the book is unwilling to part with it, but he whose own the book is not is determined to take it. The book-stealer is such a man as this, and he possesses himself of books with which the owner does not intend to part, by virtue of a series of involuntary contracts. Again, the question may be raised, whether is the Robustious Philistine who despises books, or the biblioklept who adores them out of measure and excessively, the worse citizen? Now, if we are to look to the consequences of actions only (as the followers of Bentham advise), clearly the Robustious Philistine is the worse citizen, for he mangles, and dirties, and destroys books which it is the interest of the State to preserve. But the biblioklept treasures and adorns the books he has acquired; and when he dies, or goes to prison, the State receives the benefit at his sale. Thus Libri, who was the greatest of biblioklepts, rescued many of the books he stole from dirt and misuse, and had them bound royally in purple and gold. Also, it may be argued that books naturally belong to him who can appreciate them; and if good books are in a dull or indifferent man’s keeping, this is the sort of slavery which we call “unnatural” in our POLITICS, and which is not to be endured. Shall we say, then, that the Robustious Philistine is the worse citizen, while the Biblioklept is the worse man? But this is perhaps matter for a separate disquisition.”
This fragment of the lost Aristotelian treatise “Concerning Books,” shows what a difficulty the Stagirite had in determining the precise nature of the moral offence of the biblioklept. Indeed, both as a collector and as an intuitive moralist, Aristotle must have found it rather difficult to condemn the book-thief. He, doubtless, went on to draw distinctions between the man who steals books to sell them again for mere pecuniary profit (which he would call “chrematistic,” or “unnatural,” book-stealing), and the man who steals them because he feels that he is their proper and natural possessor. The same distinction is taken by Jules Janin, who was a more constant student of Horace than of Aristotle. In his imaginary dialogue of bibliophiles, Janin introduces a character who announces the death of M. Libri. The tolerant person who brings the sad news proposes “to cast a few flowers on the melancholy tomb. He was a bibliophile, after all. What do you say to it? Many a good fellow has stolen books, and died in grace at the last.” “Yes,” replies the president of the club, “but the good fellows did not sell the books they stole . . . Cest une grande honte, une grande misere.” This Libri was an Inspector–General of French Libraries under Louis Philippe. When he was tried, in 1848, it was calculated that the sum of his known thefts amounted to 20,000 pounds. Many of his robberies escaped notice at the time. It is not long since Lord Ashburnham, according to a French journal, “Le Livre,” found in his collection some fragments of a Pentateuch. These relics had been in the possession of the Lyons Library, whence Libri stole them in 1847. The late Lord Ashburnham bought them, without the faintest idea of Libri’s dishonesty; and when, after eleven years, the present peer discovered the proper owners of his treasure, he immediately restored the Pentateuch to the Lyons Library.
Many eminent characters have been biblioklepts. When Innocent X. was still Monsignor Pamphilio, he stole a book — so says Tallemant des Reaux — from Du Monstier, the painter. The amusing thing is that Du Monstier himself was a book-thief. He used to tell how he had lifted a book, of which he had long been in search, from a stall on the Pont–Neuf; “but,” says Tallemant (whom Janin does not seem to have consulted), “there are many people who don’t think it thieving to steal a book unless you sell it afterwards.” But Du Monstier took a less liberal view where his own books were concerned. The Cardinal Barberini came to Paris as legate, and brought in his suite Monsignor Pamphilio, who afterwards became Innocent X. The Cardinal paid a visit to Du Monstier in his studio, where Monsignor Pamphilio spied, on a table, “L’Histoire du Concile de Trent” — the good edition, the London one. “What a pity,” thought the young ecclesiastic, “that such a man should be, by some accident, the possessor of so valuable a book.” With these sentiments Monsignor Pamphilio slipped the work under his soutane. But little Du Monstier observed him, and said furiously to the Cardinal, that a holy man should not bring thieves and robbers in his company. With these words, and with others of a violent and libellous character, he recovered the “History of the Council of Trent,” and kicked out the future Pope. Amelot de la Houssaie traces to this incident the hatred borne by Innocent X. to the Crown and the people of France. Another Pope, while only a cardinal, stole a book from Menage — so M. Janin reports — but we have not been able to discover Menage’s own account of the larceny. The anecdotist is not so truthful that cardinals need flush a deeper scarlet, like the roses in Bion’s “Lament for Adonis,” on account of a scandal resting on the authority of Menage. Among Royal persons, Catherine de Medici, according to Brantome, was a biblioklept. “The Marshal Strozzi had a very fine library, and after his death the Queen–Mother seized it, promising some day to pay the value to his son, who never got a farthing of the money.” The Ptolemies, too, were thieves on a large scale. A department of the Alexandrian Library was called “The Books from the Ships,” and was filled with rare volumes stolen from passengers in vessels that touched at the port. True, the owners were given copies of their ancient MSS., but the exchange, as Aristotle says, was an “involuntary” one, and not distinct from robbery.
The great pattern of biblioklepts, a man who carried his passion to the most regrettable excesses, was a Spanish priest, Don Vincente, of the convent of Pobla, in Aragon. When the Spanish revolution despoiled the convent libraries, Don Vincente established himself at Barcelona, under the pillars of Los Encantes, where are the stalls of the merchants of bric-a-brac and the seats of them that sell books. In a gloomy den the Don stored up treasures which he hated to sell. Once he was present at an auction where he was out-bid in the competition for a rare, perhaps a unique, volume. Three nights after that, the people of Barcelona were awakened by cries of “Fire!” The house and shop of the man who had bought “Ordinacions per los gloriosos reys de Arago” were blazing. When the fire was extinguished, the body of the owner of the house was found, with a pipe in his blackened hand, and some money beside him. Every one said, “He must have set the house on fire with a spark from his pipe.” Time went on, and week by week the police found the bodies of slain men, now in the street, now in a ditch, now in the river. There were young men and old, all had been harmless and inoffensive in their lives, and — all had been bibliophiles. A dagger in an invisible hand had reached their hearts but the assassin had spared their purses, money, and rings. An organised search was made in the city, and the shop of Don Vincente was examined. There, in a hidden recess, the police discovered the copy of “Ordinacions per los gloriosis reys de Arago,” which ought by rights to have been burned with the house of its purchaser. Don Vincente was asked how he got the book. He replied in a quiet voice, demanded that his collection should be made over to the Barcelona Library, and then confessed a long array of crimes. He had strangled his rival, stolen the “Ordinacions,” and burned the house. The slain men were people who had bought from him books which he really could not bear to part with. At his trial his counsel tried to prove that his confession was false, and that he might have got his books by honest means. It was objected that there was in the world only one book printed by Lambert Palmart in 1482, and that the prisoner must have stolen this, the only copy, from the library where it was treasured. The defendant’s counsel proved that there was another copy in the Louvre; that, therefore, there might be more, and that the defendant’s might have been honestly procured. Here Don Vincente, previously callous, uttered an hysterical cry. Said the Alcalde:— “At last, Vincente, you begin to understand the enormity of your offence?” “Ah, Senor Alcalde, my error was clumsy indeed. If you only knew how miserable I am!” “If human justice prove inflexible, there is another justice whose pity is inexhaustible. Repentance is never too late.” “Ah, Senor Alcalde, but my copy was not unique!” With the story of this impenitent thief we may close the roll of biblioklepts, though Dibdin pretends that Garrick was of the company, and stole Alleyne’s books at Dulwich.
There is a thievish nature more hateful than even the biblioklept. The Book–Ghoul is he who combines the larceny of the biblioklept with the abominable wickedness of breaking up and mutilating the volumes from which he steals. He is a collector of title-pages, frontispieces, illustrations, and book-plates. He prowls furtively among public and private libraries, inserting wetted threads, which slowly eat away the illustrations he covets; and he broods, like the obscene demon of Arabian superstitions, over the fragments of the mighty dead. His disgusting tastes vary. He prepares books for the American market. Christmas books are sold in the States stuffed with pictures cut out of honest volumes. Here is a quotation from an American paper:—
“Another style of Christmas book which deserves to be mentioned, though it is out of the reach of any but the very rich, is the historical or literary work enriched with inserted plates. There has never, to our knowledge, been anything offered in America so supremely excellent as the $5000 book on Washington, we think — exhibited by Boston last year, but not a few fine specimens of books of this class are at present offered to purchasers. Scribner has a beautiful copy of Forster’s ‘Life of Dickens,’ enlarged from three volumes octavo to nine volumes quarto, by taking to pieces, remounting, and inlaying. It contains some eight hundred engravings, portraits, views, playbills, title-pages, catalogues, proof illustrations from Dickens’s works, a set of the Onwhyn plates, rare engravings by Cruikshank and ‘Phiz,’ and autograph letters. Though this volume does not compare with Harvey’s Dickens, offered for $1750 two years ago, it is an excellent specimen of books of this sort, and the veriest tyro in bibliographical affairs knows how scarce are becoming the early editions of Dickens’s works and the plates illustrating them. 4 Anything about Dickens in the beginning of his career is a sound investment from a business point of view. Another work of the same sort, valued at $240, is Lady Trevelyan’s edition of Macaulay, illustrated with portraits, many of them very rare. Even cheaper, all things considered, is an extra-illustrated copy of the ‘Histoire de la Gravure,’ which, besides its seventy-three reproductions of old engravings, is enriched with two hundred fine specimens of the early engravers, many of the impressions being in first and second states. At $155 such a book is really a bargain, especially for any one who is forming a collection of engravings. Another delightful work is the library edition of Bray’s ‘Evelyn,’ illustrated with some two hundred and fifty portraits and views, and valued at $175; and still another is Boydell’s ‘Milton,’ with plates after Westall, and further illustrations in the shape of twenty-eight portraits of the painter and one hundred and eighty-one plates, and many of them before letter. The price of this book is $325.”
But few book-ghouls are worse than the moral ghoul. He defaces, with a pen, the passages, in some precious volume, which do not meet his idea of moral propriety. I have a Pine’s “Horace,” with the engravings from gems, which has fallen into the hands of a moral ghoul. Not only has he obliterated the verses which hurt his delicate sense, but he has actually scraped away portions of the classical figures, and “the breasts of the nymphs in the brake.” The soul of Tartuffe had entered into the body of a sinner of the last century. The antiquarian ghoul steals title-pages and colophons. The aesthetic ghoul cuts illuminated initials out of manuscripts. The petty, trivial, and almost idiotic ghoul of our own days, sponges the fly-leaves and boards of books for the purpose of cribbing the book-plates. An old “Complaint of a Book-plate,” in dread of the wet sponge of the enemy, has been discovered by Mr. Austin Dobson:— 5
THE BOOK-PLATE’S PETITION.
By a Gentleman of the Temple.
While cynic CHARLES still trimm’d the vane
‘Twixt Querouaille and Castlemaine,
In days that shocked JOHN EVELYN,
My First Possessor fix’d me in.
In days of Dutchmen and of frost,
The narrow sea with JAMES I cross’d,
Returning when once more began
The Age of Saturn and of ANNE.
I am a part of all the past;
I knew the GEORGES, first and last;
I have been oft where else was none
Save the great wig of ADDISON;
And seen on shelves beneath me grope
The little eager form of POPE.
I lost the Third that own’d me when
French NOAILLES fled at Dettingen;
The year JAMES WOLFE surpris’d Quebec,
The Fourth in hunting broke his neck;
The day that WILLIAM HOGARTH dy’d,
The Fifth one found me in Cheapside.
This was a Scholar, one of those
Whose Greek is sounder than their hose;
He lov’d old Books and nappy ale,
So liv’d at Streatham, next to THRALE.
’Twas there this stain of grease I boast
Was made by Dr. JOHNSON’S toast.
(He did it, as I think, for Spite;
My Master call’d him Jacobite!)
And now that I so long today
Have rested post discrimina,
Safe in the brass-wir’d book-case where
I watch’d the Vicar’s whit’ning hair,
Must I these travell’d bones inter
In some Collector’s sepulchre!
Must I be torn from hence and thrown
With frontispiece and colophon!
With vagrant E’s, and I’s, and O’s,
The spoil of plunder’d Folios!
With scraps and snippets that to ME
Are naught but kitchen company!
Nay, rather, FRIEND, this favour grant me:
Tear me at once; but don’t transplant me.
CHELTENHAM, Sept. 31, 1792.
The conceited ghoul writes his notes across our fair white margins, in pencil, or in more baneful ink. Or he spills his ink bottle at large over the pages, as Andre Chenier’s friend served his copy of Malherbe. It is scarcely necessary to warn the amateur against the society of book-ghouls, who are generally snuffy and foul in appearance, and by no means so insinuating as that fair lady-ghoul, Amina, of the Arabian Nights.
Another enemy of books must be mentioned with the delicacy that befits the topic. Almost all women are the inveterate foes, not of novels, of course, nor peerages and popular volumes of history, but of books worthy of the name. It is true that Isabelle d’Este, and Madame de Pompadour, and Madame de Maintenon, were collectors; and, doubtless, there are other brilliant exceptions to a general rule. But, broadly speaking, women detest the books which the collector desires and admires. First, they don’t understand them; second, they are jealous of their mysterious charms; third, books cost money; and it really is a hard thing for a lady to see money expended on what seems a dingy old binding, or yellow paper scored with crabbed characters. Thus ladies wage a skirmishing war against booksellers’ catalogues, and history speaks of husbands who have had to practise the guile of smugglers when they conveyed a new purchase across their own frontier. Thus many married men are reduced to collecting Elzevirs, which go readily into the pocket, for you cannot smuggle a folio volume easily. This inveterate dislike of books often produces a very deplorable result when an old collector dies. His “womankind,” as the Antiquary called them, sell all his treasures for the price of waste-paper, to the nearest country bookseller. It is a melancholy duty which forces one to introduce such topics into a volume on “Art at Home.” But this little work will not have been written in vain if it persuades ladies who inherit books not to sell them hastily, without taking good and disinterested opinion as to their value. They often dispose of treasures worth thousands, for a ten pound note, and take pride in the bargain. Here, let history mention with due honour the paragon of her sex and the pattern to all wives of book-collecting men — Madame Fertiault. It is thus that she addresses her lord in a charming triolet (“Les Amoureux du Livre,” p. xxxv):—
“Le livre a ton esprit . . . tant mieux!
Moi, j’ai ton coeur, et sans partage.
Puis-je desirer davantage?
Le livre a ton esprit . . . tant mieux!
Heureuse de te voir joyeux,
Je t’en voudrais . . . tout un etage.
Le livre a ton esprit . . . tant mieux!
Moi, j’ai ton coeur, et sans partage.”
Books rule thy mind, so let it be!
Thy heart is mine, and mine alone.
What more can I require of thee?
Books rule thy mind, so let it be!
Contented when thy bliss I see,
I wish a world of books thine own.
Books rule thy mind, so let it be!
Thy heart is mine, and mine alone.
There is one method of preserving books, which, alas, only tempts the borrower, the stealer, the rat, and the book-worm; but which is absolutely necessary as a defence against dust and neglect. This is binding. The bookbinder’s art too often destroys books when the artist is careless, but it is the only mode of preventing our volumes from falling to pieces, and from being some day disregarded as waste-paper. A well-bound book, especially a book from a famous collection, has its price, even if its literary contents be of trifling value. A leather coat fashioned by Derome, or Le Gascon, or Duseuil, will win respect and careful handling for one specimen of an edition whereof all the others have perished. Nothing is so slatternly as the aspect of a book merely stitched, in the French fashion, when the threads begin to stretch, and the paper covers to curl and be torn. Worse consequences follow, whole sheets are lost, the volume becomes worthless, and the owner must often be at the expense of purchasing another copy, if he can, for the edition may now be out of print. Thus binding of some sort not only adds a grace to the library, presenting to the eye the cheerful gilded rows of our volumes, but is a positive economy. In the case of our cloth-covered English works, the need of binding is not so immediately obvious. But our publishers have a taste for clothing their editions in tender tones of colour, stamped, often, with landscapes printed in gold, in white, or what not. Covers like this, may or may not please the eye while they are new and clean, but they soon become dirty and hideous. When a book is covered in cloth of a good dark tint it may be allowed to remain unbound, but the primrose and lilac hues soon call out for the aid of the binder.
Much has been written of late about book-binding. In a later part of this manual we shall have something to say about historical examples of the art, and the performances of the great masters. At present one must begin by giving the practical rule, that a book should be bound in harmony with its character and its value. The bibliophile, if he could give the rein to his passions, would bind every book he cares to possess in a full coat of morocco, or (if it did not age so fast) of Russia leather. But to do this is beyond the power of most of us. Only works of great rarity or value should be full bound in morocco. If we have the luck to light on a Shakespeare quarto, on some masterpiece of Aldus Manutius, by all means let us entrust it to the most competent binder, and instruct him to do justice to the volume. Let old English books, as More’s “Utopia,” have a cover of stamped and blazoned calf. Let the binder clothe an early Rabelais or Marot in the style favoured by Grolier, in leather tooled with geometrical patterns. Let a Moliere or Corneille be bound in the graceful contemporary style of Le Gascon, where the lace-like pattern of the gilding resembles the Venetian point-lace, for which La Fontaine liked to ruin himself. Let a binding, a la fanfare, in the style of Thouvenin, denote a novelist of the last century, let panelled Russia leather array a folio of Shakespeare, and let English works of a hundred years ago be clothed in the sturdy fashion of Roger Payne. Again, the bibliophile may prefer to have the leather stamped with his arms and crest, like de Thou, Henri III., D’Hoym, Madame du Barry, and most of the collectors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Yet there are books of great price which one would hesitate to bind in new covers. An Aldine or an Elzevir, in its old vellum or paper wrapper, with uncut leaves, should be left just as it came from the presses of the great printers. In this condition it is a far more interesting relic. But a morocco case may be made for the book, and lettered properly on the back, so that the volume, though really unbound, may take its place with the bound books on the shelves. A copy of any of Shelley’s poems, in the original wrappers, should I venture to think be treated thus, and so should the original editions of Keats’s and of Mr. Tennyson’s works. A collector, who is also an author, will perhaps like to have copies of his own works in morocco, for their coats will give them a chance of surviving the storms of time. But most other books, not of the highest rarity and interest, will be sufficiently clothed in half-bindings, that is, with leather backs and corners, while the rest of the cover is of cloth or paper, or whatever other substance seems most appropriate. An Oxford tutor used to give half-binding as an example of what Aristotle calls [Greek text], or “shabbiness,” and when we recommend such coverings for books it is as a counsel of expediency, not of perfection. But we cannot all be millionaires; and, let it be remembered, the really wise amateur will never be extravagant, nor let his taste lead him into “the ignoble melancholy of pecuniary embarrassment.” Let the example of Charles Nodier be our warning; nay, let us remember that while Nodier could get out of debt by selling his collection, OURS will probably not fetch anything like what we gave for it. In half-bindings there is a good deal of room for the exercise of the collector’s taste. M. Octave Uzanne, in a tract called “Les Caprices d’un Bibliophile,” gives some hints on this topic, which may be taken or let alone. M. Uzanne has noticed the monotony, and the want of meaning and suggestion in ordinary half-bindings. The paper or cloth which covers the greater part of the surface of half-bound books is usually inartistic and even ugly. He proposes to use old scraps of brocade, embroidery, Venice velvet, or what not; and doubtless a covering made of some dead fair lady’s train goes well with a romance by Crebillon, and engravings by Marillier. “Voici un cartonnage Pompadour de notre invention,” says M. Uzanne, with pride; but he observes that it needs a strong will to make a bookbinder execute such orders. For another class of books, which our honest English shelves reject with disgust, M. Uzanne proposes a binding of the skin of the boa constrictor; undoubtedly appropriate and “admonishing.” The leathers of China and Japan, with their strange tints and gilded devices may be used for books of fantasy, like “Gaspard de la Nuit,” or the “Opium Eater,” or Poe’s poems, or the verses of Gerard de Nerval. Here, in short, is an almost unexplored field for the taste of the bibliophile, who, with some expenditure of time, and not much of money, may make half-binding an art, and give modern books a peculiar and appropriate raiment.
M. Ambrose Firmin Didot has left some notes on a more serious topic, — the colours to be chosen when books are full-bound in morocco. Thus he would have the “Iliad” clothed in red, the “Odyssey” in blue, because the old Greek rhapsodists wore a scarlet cloak when they recited the Wrath of Achilles, a blue one when they chanted of the Return of Odysseus. The writings of the great dignitaries of the Church, M. Didot would array in violet; scarlet goes well with the productions of cardinals; philosophers have their sober suit of black morocco, poets like Panard may be dressed in rose colour. A collector of this sort would like, were it possible, to attire Goldsmith’s poems in a “coat of Tyrian bloom, satin grain.” As an antithesis to these extravagant fancies, we may add that for ordinary books no binding is cheaper, neater, and more durable, than a coat of buckram.
The conditions of a well bound book may be tersely enumerated. The binding should unite solidity and elegance. The book should open easily, and remain open at any page you please. It should never be necessary, in reading, to squeeze back the covers; and no book, however expensively bound, has been properly treated, if it does not open with ease. It is a mistake to send recently printed books to the binder, especially books which contain engravings. The printing ink dries slowly, and, in the process called “beating,” the text is often transferred to the opposite page. M. Rouveyre recommends that one or two years should pass before the binding of a newly printed book. The owner will, of course, implore the binder to, spare the margins; and, almost equally of course, the binder, durus arator, will cut them down with his abominable plough. One is almost tempted to say that margins should always be left untouched, for if once the binder begins to clip he is unable to resist the seductive joy, and cuts the paper to the quick, even into the printed matter. Mr. Blades tells a very sad story of a nobleman who handed over some Caxtons to a provincial binder, and received them back MINUS 500 pounds worth of margin. Margins make a book worth perhaps 400 pounds, while their absence reduces the same volume to the box marked “all these at fourpence.” Intonsis capillis, with locks unshorn, as Motteley the old dealer used to say, an Elzevir in its paper wrapper may be worth more than the same tome in morocco, stamped with Longepierre’s fleece of gold. But these things are indifferent to bookbinders, new and old. There lies on the table, as I write, “Les Provinciales, ou Les Lettres Ecrites par Louis de Montalte a un Provincial de ses amis, & aux R.R. P.P. Jesuites. A Cologne, Ches PIERRE de la VALLEE, M.DC.LVIII.” It is the Elzevir edition, or what passes for such; but the binder has cut down the margin so that the words “Les Provinciales” almost touch the top of the page. Often the wretch — he lived, judging by his style, in Derome’s time, before the Revolution — has sliced into the head-titles of the pages. Thus the book, with its old red morocco cover and gilded flowers on the back, is no proper companion for “Les Pensees de M. PASCAL (Wolfganck, 1672),” which some sober Dutchman has left with a fair allowance of margin, an inch “taller” in its vellum coat than its neighbour in morocco. Here once more, is “LES FASCHEUX, Comedie de I. B. P. MOLIERE, Representee sur Le Theatre du Palais Royal. A Paris, Chez GABRIEL QUINET, au Palais, dans la Galerie des Prisonniers, a l’Ange Gabriel, M.DCLXIII. Avec privilege du Roy.” What a crowd of pleasant memories the bibliophile, and he only, finds in these dry words of the title. Quinet, the bookseller, lived “au Palais,” in that pretty old arcade where Corneille cast the scene of his comedy, “La Galerie du Palais.” In the Geneva edition of Corneille, 1774, you can see Gravelot’s engraving of the place; it is a print full of exquisite charm (engraved by Le Mure in 1762). Here is the long arcade, in shape exactly like the galleries of the Bodleian Library at Oxford. The bookseller’s booth is arched over, and is open at front and side. Dorimant and Cleante are looking out; one leans on the books on the window-sill, the other lounges at the door, and they watch the pretty Hippolyte who is chaffering with the lace-seller at the opposite shop. “Ce visage vaut mieux que toutes vos chansons,” says Dorimant to the bookseller. So they loitered, and bought books, and flirted in their lace ruffles, and ribbons, and flowing locks, and wide canons, when Moliere was young, and when this little old book was new, and lying on the shelves of honest Quinet in the Palace Gallery. The very title-page, and pagination, not of this second edition, but of the first of “Les Fascheux,” had their own fortunes, for the dedication to Fouquet was perforce withdrawn. That favourite entertained La Valliere and the King with the comedy at his house of Vaux, and then instantly fell from power and favour, and, losing his place and his freedom, naturally lost the flattery of a dedication. But retombons a nos coches, as Montaigne says. This pleasant little copy of the play, which is a kind of relic of Moliere and his old world, has been ruthlessly bound up with a treatise, “Des Pierres Precieuses,” published by Didot in 1776. Now the play is naturally a larger book than the treatise on precious stones, so the binder has cut down the margins to the size of those of the work on amethysts and rubies. As the Italian tyrant chained the dead and the living together, as Procrustes maimed his victims on his cruel bed, so a hard-hearted French binder has tied up, and mutilated, and spoiled the old play, which otherwise would have had considerable value as well as interest.
We have tried to teach the beginner how to keep his books neat and clean; what men and monsters he should avoid; how he should guard himself against borrowers, book-worms, damp, and dirt. But we are sometimes compelled to buy books already dirty and dingy, foxed, or spotted with red, worn by greasy hands, stained with ink spots, or covered with MS. notes. The art of man has found a remedy for these defects. I have never myself tried to wash a book, and this care is best left to professional hands. But the French and English writers give various recipes for cleaning old books, which the amateur may try on any old rubbish out of the fourpenny box of a bookstall, till he finds that he can trust his own manipulations. There are “fat stains” on books, as thumb marks, traces of oil (the midnight oil), flakes of old pasty crust left in old Shakespeares, and candle drippings. There are “thin stains,” as of mud, scaling-wax, ink, dust, and damp. To clean a book you first carefully unbind it, take off the old covers, cut the old stitching, and separate sheet from sheet. Then take a page with “fat stains” of any kind of grease (except finger-marks), pass a hot flat iron over it, and press on it a clean piece of blotting paper till the paper sucks up the grease. Then charge a camel-hair brush with heated turpentine, and pass it over the places that were stained. If the paper loses its colour press softly over it a delicate handkerchief, soaked in heated spirits of wine. Finger-marks you will cover with clean soap, leave this on for some hours, and then rub with a sponge filled with hot water. Afterwards dip in weak acid and water, and then soak the page in a bath of clean water. Ink-stained pages you will first dip in a strong solution of oxalic acid and then in hydrochloric acid mixed in six times its quantity of water. Then bathe in clean water and allow to dry slowly.
Some English recipes may also be given. “Grease or wax spots,” says Hannett, in “Bibliopegia,” “may be removed by washing the part with ether, chloroform, or benzine, and placing it between pieces of white blotting paper, then pass a hot iron over it.” “Chlorine water,” says the same writer, removes ink stains, and bleaches the paper at the same time. Of chloride of lime, “a piece the size of a nut” (a cocoa nut or a hazel nut?) in a pint of water, may be applied with a camel’s hair pencil, and plenty of patience. To polish old bindings, “take the yolk of an egg, beat it up with a fork, apply it with a sponge, having first cleaned the leather with a dry flannel.” The following, says a writer in “Notes and Queries,” with perfect truth, is “an easier if not a better method; purchase some bookbinder’s varnish,” and use it as you did the rudimentary omelette of the former recipe. Vellum covers may be cleaned with soap and water, or in bad cases by a weak solution of salts of lemon.
Lastly, the collector should acquire such books as Lowndes’s “Bibliography,” Brunet’s “Manuel,” and as many priced catalogues as he can secure. The catalogues of Mr. Quaritch, Mr. Bohn, M. Fontaine, M.M. Morgand et Fatout, are excellent guides to a knowledge of the market value of books. Other special works, as Renouard’s for Aldines, Willems’s for Elzevirs, and Cohen’s for French engravings, will be mentioned in their proper place. Dibdin’s books are inaccurate and long-winded, but may occasionally be dipped into with pleasure.
2 Mr. William Blades, in his “Enemies of Books” (Trubner, 1880), decries glass-doors, — “the absence of ventilation will assist the formation of mould.” But M. Rouveyre bids us open the doors on sunny days, that the air may be renewed, and, close them in the evening hours, lest moths should enter and lay their eggs among the treasures. And, with all deference to Mr. Blades, glass-doors do seem to be useful in excluding dust.
4 No wonder the books are scarce, if they are being hacked to pieces by Grangerites.
5 These lines appeared in “Notes and Queries,” Jan. 8, 1881.
The easiest way to bring order into the chaos of desirable books, is, doubtless, to begin historically with manuscripts. Almost every age that has left any literary remains, has bequeathed to us relics which are cherished by collectors. We may leave the clay books of the Chaldeans out of the account. These tomes resemble nothing so much as sticks of chocolate, and, however useful they may be to the student, the clay MSS. of Assurbanipal are not coveted by the collector. He finds his earliest objects of desire in illuminated manuscripts. The art of decorating manuscripts is as old as Egypt; but we need not linger over the beautiful papyri, which are silent books to all but a few Egyptologists. Greece, out of all her tomes, has left us but a few ill-written papyri. Roman and early Byzantine art are represented by a “Virgil,” and fragments of an “Iliad”; the drawings in the latter have been reproduced in a splendid volume (Milan 1819), and shew Greek art passing into barbarism. The illumination of MSS. was a favourite art in the later empire, and is said to have been practised by Boethius. The iconoclasts of the Eastern empire destroyed the books which contained representations of saints and of the persons of the Trinity, and the monk Lazarus, a famous artist, was cruelly tortured for his skill in illuminating sacred works. The art was decaying in Western Europe when Charlemagne sought for painters of MSS. in England and Ireland, where the monks, in their monasteries, had developed a style with original qualities. The library of Corpus Christi at Cambridge, contains some of the earliest and most beautiful of extant English MSS. These parchments, stained purple or violet, and inscribed with characters of gold; are too often beyond the reach of the amateur for whom we write. The MSS. which he can hope to acquire are neither very early nor very sumptuous, and, as a rule, MSS. of secular books are apt to be out of his reach.
Yet a collection of MSS. has this great advantage over a collection of printed books, that every item in it is absolutely unique, no two MSS. being ever really the same. This circumstance alone would entitle a good collection of MSS. to very high consideration on the part of book-collectors. But, in addition to the great expense of such a collection, there is another and even more serious drawback. It is sometimes impossible, and is often extremely difficult, to tell whether a MS. is perfect or not.
This difficulty can only be got over by an amount of learning on the part of the collector to which, unfortunately, he is too often a stranger. On the other hand, the advantages of collecting MSS. are sometimes very great.
In addition to the pleasure — a pleasure at once literary and artistic — which the study of illuminated MSS. affords, there is the certainty that, as years go on, the value of such a collection increases in a proportion altogether marvellous.
I will take two examples to prove this point. Some years ago an eminent collector gave the price of 30 pounds for a small French book of Hours, painted in grisaille. It was in a country town that he met with this treasure, for a treasure he considered the book, in spite of its being of the very latest school of illumination. When his collection was dispersed a few years ago this one book fetched 260 pounds.
In the celebrated Perkins sale, in 1873, a magnificent early MS., part of which was written in gold on a purple ground, and which was dated in the catalogue “ninth or tenth century,” but was in reality of the end of the tenth or beginning of the eleventh, was sold for 565 pounds to a dealer. It found its way into Mr. Bragge’s collection, at what price I do not know, and was resold, three years later, for 780 pounds.
Any person desirous of making a collection of illuminated MSS., should study seriously for some time at the British Museum, or some such place, until he is thoroughly acquainted (1) with the styles of writing in use in the Middle Ages, so that he can at a glance make a fairly accurate estimate of the age of the book submitted to him; and (2) with the proper means of collating the several kinds of service-books, which, in nine cases out of ten, were those chosen for illumination.
A knowledge of the styles of writing can be acquired at second hand in a book lately published by Mr. Charles Trice Martin, F.S.A., being a new edition of “Astle’s Progress of Writing.” Still better, of course, is the actual inspection and comparison of books to which a date can be with some degree of certainty assigned.
It is very common for the age of a book to be misstated in the catalogues of sales, for the simple reason that the older the writing, the plainer, in all probability, it is. Let the student compare writing of the twelfth century with that of the sixteenth, and he will be able to judge at once of the truth of this assertion. I had once the good fortune to “pick up” a small Testament of the early part of the twelfth century, if not older, which was catalogued as belonging to the fifteenth, a date which would have made it of very moderate value.
With regard to the second point, the collation of MSS., I fear there is no royal road to knowing whether a book is perfect or imperfect. In some cases the catchwords remain at the foot of the pages. It is then of course easy to see if a page is lost, but where no such clue is given the student’s only chance is to be fully acquainted with what a book OUGHT to contain. He can only do this when he has a knowledge of the different kinds of service-books which were in use, and of their most usual contents.
I am indebted to a paper, read by the late Sir William Tite at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries, for the collation of “Books of Hours,” but there are many kinds of MSS. besides these, and it is well to know something of them. The Horae, or Books of Hours, were the latest development of the service-books used at an earlier period. They cannot, in fact, be strictly called service-books, being intended only for private devotion. But in the thirteenth century and before it, Psalters were in use for this purpose, and the collation of a Psalter is in truth more important than that of a Book of Hours. It will be well for a student, therefore, to begin with Psalters, as he can then get up the Hours in their elementary form. I subjoin a bibliographical account of both kinds of MSS. In the famous Exhibition at the Burlington Club in 1874, a number of volumes was arranged to show how persistent one type of the age could be. The form of the decorations, and the arrangement of the figures in borders, once invented, was fixed for generations. In a Psalter of the thirteenth century there was, under the month of January in the calendar, a picture of a grotesque little figure warming himself at a stove. The hearth below, the chimney-pot above, on which a stork was feeding her brood, with the intermediate chimney shaft used as a border, looked like a scientific preparation from the interior anatomy of a house of the period. In one of the latest of the MSS. exhibited on that occasion was the self-same design again. The little man was no longer a grotesque, and the picture had all the high finish and completeness in drawing that we might expect in the workmanship of a contemporary of Van Eyck. There was a full series of intermediate books, showing the gradual growth of the picture.
With regard to chronology, it may be roughly asserted that the earliest books which occur are Psalters of the thirteenth century. Next to them come Bibles, of which an enormous issue took place before the middle of the fourteenth century. These are followed by an endless series of books of Hours, which, as the sixteenth century is reached, appear in several vernacular languages. Those in English, being both very rare and of great importance in liturgical history, are of a value altogether out of proportion to the beauty of their illuminations. Side by side with this succession are the Evangelistina, which, like the example mentioned above, are of the highest merit, beauty, and value; followed by sermons and homilies, and the Breviary, which itself shows signs of growth as the years go on. The real Missal, with which all illuminated books used to be confounded, is of rare occurrence, but I have given a collation of it also. Besides these devotional or religious books, I must mention chronicles and romances, and the semi-religious and moral allegories, such as the “Pelerinage de l’Ame,” which is said to have given Bunyan the machinery of the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Chaucer’s and Gower’s poetry exists in many MSS., as does the “Polychronicon” of Higden; but, as a rule, the mediaeval chronicles are of single origin, and were not copied. To collate MSS. of these kinds is quite impossible, unless by carefully reading them, and seeing that the pages run on without break.
I should advise the young collector who wishes to make sure of success not to be too catholic in his tastes at first, but to confine his attention to a single period and a single school. I should also advise him to make from time to time a careful catalogue of what he buys, and to preserve it even after he has weeded out certain items. He will then be able to make a clear comparative estimate of the importance and value of his collection, and by studying one species at a time, to become thoroughly conversant with what it can teach him. When he has, so to speak, burnt his fingers once or twice, he will find himself able to distinguish at sight what no amount of teaching by word of mouth or by writing could ever possibly impart to any advantage.
One thing I should like if possible to impress very strongly upon the reader. That is the fact that a MS. which is not absolutely perfect, if it is in a genuine state, is of much more value than one which has been made perfect by the skill of a modern restorer. The more skilful he is, that is to say the better he can forge the style of the original, the more worthless he renders the volume.
Printing seems to have superseded the art of the illuminator more promptly and completely in England than on the Continent. The dames galantes of Brantome’s memoirs took pleasure in illuminated Books of Hours, suited to the nature of their devotions. As late as the time of Louis XIV., Bussy Rabutin had a volume of the same kind, illuminated with portraits of “saints,” of his own canonisation. The most famous of these modern examples of costly MSS. was “La Guirlande de Julie,” a collection of madrigals by various courtly hands, presented to the illustrious Julie, daughter of the Marquise de Rambouillet, most distinguished of the Precieuses, and wife of the Duc de Montausier, the supposed original of Moliere’s Alceste. The MS. was copied on vellum by Nicholas Jarry, the great calligraph of his time. The flowers on the margin were painted by Robert. Not long ago a French amateur was so lucky as to discover the MS. book of prayers of Julie’s noble mother, the Marquise de Rambouillet. The Marquise wrote these prayers for her own devotions, and Jarry, the illuminator, declared that he found them most edifying, and delightful to study. The manuscript is written on vellum by the famous Jarry, contains a portrait of the fair Julie herself, and is bound in morocco by Le Gascon. The happy collector who possesses the volume now, heard vaguely that a manuscript of some interest was being exposed for sale at a trifling price in the shop of a country bookseller. The description of the book, casual as it was, made mention of the monogram on the cover. This was enough for the amateur. He rushed to a railway station, travelled some three hundred miles, reached the country town, hastened to the bookseller’s shop, and found that the book had been withdrawn by its owner. Happily the possessor, unconscious of his bliss, was at home. The amateur sought him out, paid the small sum demanded, and returned to Paris in triumph. Thus, even in the region of manuscript-collecting, there are extraordinary prizes for the intelligent collector.
If the manuscript is of English or French writing of the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, or fifteenth centuries, it is probably either — (1) a Bible, (2) a Psalter, (3) a book of Hours, or (4), but rarely, a Missal. It is not worth while to give the collation of a gradual, or a hymnal, or a processional, or a breviary, or any of the fifty different kinds of service-books which are occasionally met with, but which are never twice the same.
To collate one of them, the reader must go carefully through the book, seeing that the catch-words, if there are any, answer to the head lines; and if there are “signatures,” that is, if the foot of the leaves of a sheet of parchment has any mark for enabling the binder to “gather” them correctly, going through them, and seeing that each signed leaf has its corresponding “blank.”
1. To collate a Bible, it will be necessary first to go through the catch-words, if any, and signatures, as above; then to notice the contents. The first page should contain the Epistle of St. Jerome to the reader. It will be observed that there is nothing of the nature of a title-page, but I have often seen title-pages supplied by some ignorant imitator in the last century, with the idea that the book was imperfect without one. The books of the Bible follow in order — but the order not only differs from ours, but differs in different copies. The Apocryphal books are always included. The New Testament usually follows on the Old without any break; and the book concludes with an index of the Hebrew names and their signification in Latin, intended to help preachers to the figurative meaning of the biblical types and parables. The last line of the Bible itself usually contains a colophon, in which sometimes the name of the writer is given, sometimes the length of time it has taken him to write, and sometimes merely the “Explicit. Laus Deo,” which has found its way into many modern books. This colophon, which comes as a rule immediately before the index, often contains curious notes, hexameters giving the names of all the books, biographical or local memoranda, and should always be looked for by the collector. One such line occurs to me. It is in a Bible written in Italy in the thirteenth century —
“Qui scripsit scribat. Vergilius spe domini vivat.”
Vergilius was, no doubt, in this case the scribe. The Latin and the writing are often equally crabbed. In the Bodleian there is a Bible with this colophon —
“Finito libro referemus gratias Christo m.cc.lxv. indict. viij.
Ego Lafracus de Pacis de Cmoa scriptor scripsi.”
This was also written in Italy. English colophons are often very quaint — “Qui scripsit hunc librum fiat collocatus in Paradisum,” is an example. The following gives us the name of one Master Gerard, who, in the fourteenth century, thus poetically described his ownership:—
“Si Ge ponatur — et rar simul associatur —
Et dus reddatur — cui pertinet ita vocatur.”
In a Bible written in England, in the British Museum, there is a long colophon, in which, after the name of the writer — “hunc librum scripsit Wills de Hales,” — there is a prayer for Ralph of Nebham, who had called Hales to the writing of the book, followed by a date —“Fes. fuit liber anno M.cc.i. quarto ab incarnatione domini.” In this Bible the books of the New Testament were in the following order:— the Evangelists, the Acts, the Epistles of S. Peter, S. James, and S. John, the Epistles of S. Paul, and the Apocalypse. In a Bible at Brussels I found the colophon after the index:— “Hic expliciunt interpretationes Hebrayorum nominum Do gris qui potens est p. sup. omia.” Some of these Bibles are of marvellously small dimensions. The smallest I ever saw was at Ghent, but it was very imperfect. I have one in which there are thirteen lines of writing in an inch of the column. The order of the books of the New Testament in Bibles of the thirteenth century is usually according to one or other of the three following arrangements:—
(1.) The Evangelists, Romans to Hebrews, Acts, Epistles of S. Peter, S. James, and S. John, Apocalypse.
(2.) The Evangelists, Acts, Epistles of S. Peter, S. James, and S. John, Epistles of S. Paul, Apocalypse. This is the most common.
(3.) The Evangelists, Acts, Epistles of S. Peter, S. James, and S. John, Apocalypse, and Epistles of S. Paul.
On the fly leaves of these old Bibles there are often very curious inscriptions. In one I have this:— “Haec biblia emi Haquinas prior monasterii Hatharbiensis de dono domini regis Norwegie.” Who was this King of Norway who, in 1310, gave the Prior of Hatherby money to buy a Bible, which was probably written at Canterbury? And who was Haquinas? His name has a Norwegian sound, and reminds us of St. Thomas of that surname. In another manuscript I have seen
Nascitur, abluitur, patitur, descendit at ima
Surgit et ascendit, veniens discernere cuncta.”
In another this:—
Abluo, fumo, cibo, piget, ordinat, uxor et ungit.”
I will conclude these notes on MS. Bibles with the following colophon from a copy written in Italy in the fifteenth century:—
“Finito libro vivamus semper in Christo —
Si semper in Christo carebimus ultimo leto.
Explicit Deo gratias; Amen. Stephanus de
Tantaldis scripsit in pergamo.”
2. The “Psalter” of the thirteenth century is usually to be considered a forerunner of the “Book of Hours.” It always contains, and usually commences with, a Calendar, in which are written against certain days the “obits” of benefactors and others, so that a well-filled Psalter often becomes a historical document of high value and importance. The first page of the psalms is ornamented with a huge B, which often fills the whole page, and contains a representation of David and Goliath ingeniously fitted to the shape of the letter. At the end are usually to be found the hymns of the Three Children, and others from the Bible together with the Te Deum; and sometimes, in late examples, a litany. In some psalters the calendar is at the end. These Psalters, and the Bibles described above, are very frequently of English work; more frequently, that is, than the books of Hours and Missals. The study of the Scriptures was evidently more popular in England than in the other countries of Europe during the Middle Ages; and the early success of the Reformers here, must in part, no doubt, be attributed to the wide circulation of the Bible even before it had been translated from the Latin. I need hardly, perhaps, observe that even fragments of a Psalter, a Testament, or a Bible in English, are so precious as to be practically invaluable.
3. We are indebted to Sir W. Tite for the following collation of a Flemish “Book of Hours”:—
Gospels of the Nativity and the Resurrection.
Preliminary Prayers (inserted occasionally).
Horae — (Nocturns and Matins).
The seven penitential Psalms
Hours of the Cross.
Hours of the Holy Spirit.
Office of the Dead.
The Fifteen Joys of B. V. M.
The seven requests to our Lord.
Prayers and Suffrages to various Saints.
Several prayers, petitions, and devotions.
This is an unusually full example, but the calendar, the hours, the seven psalms, and the litany, are in almost all the MSS. The buyer must look carefully to see that no miniatures have been cut out; but it is only by counting the leaves in their gatherings that he can make sure. This is often impossible without breaking the binding.
The most valuable “Horae” are those written in England. Some are of the English use (Sarum or York, or whatever it may happen to be), but were written abroad, especially in Normandy, for the English market. These are also valuable, even when imperfect. Look for the page before the commencement of the Hours (No. 4 in the list above), and at the end will be found a line in red, — “Incipit Horae secundum usum Sarum,” or otherwise, as the case may be.
4. Missals do not often occur, and are not only very valuable but very difficult to collate, unless furnished with catch-words or signatures. But no Missal is complete without the Canon of the Mass, usually in the middle of the book, and if there are any illuminations throughout the volume, there will be a full page Crucifixion, facing the Canon. Missals of large size and completeness contain — (1) a Calendar; (2) “the proper of the Season;” (3) the ordinary and Canon of the Mass; (4) the Communal of Saints; (5) the proper of Saints and special occasions; (6) the lessons, epistles, and gospels; with (7) some hymns, “proses,” and canticles. This is Sir W. Tite’s list; but, as he remarks, MS. Missals seldom contain so much. The collector will look for the Canon, which is invariable.
Breviaries run to an immense length, and are seldom illuminated. It would be impossible to give them any kind of collation, and the same may be said of many other kinds of old service-books, and of the chronicles, poems, romances, and herbals, in which mediaeval literature abounded, and which the collector must judge as best he can.
The name of “missal” is commonly and falsely given to all old service-books by the booksellers, but the collector will easily distinguish one when he sees it, from the notes I have given. In a Sarum Missal, at Alnwick, there is a colophon quoted by my lamented friend Dr. Rock in his “Textile Fabrics.” It is appropriate both to the labours of the old scribes and also to those of their modern readers:—
“Librum Scribendo — Jon Whas Monachus laborabat —
Et mane Surgendo — multum corpus macerabat.”
It is one of the charms of manuscripts that they illustrate, in their minute way, all the art, and even the social condition, of the period in which they were produced. Apostles, saints, and prophets wear the contemporary costume, and Jonah, when thrown to the hungry whale, wears doublet and trunk hose. The ornaments illustrate the architectural taste of the day. The backgrounds change from diapered patterns to landscapes, as the modern way of looking at nature penetrates the monasteries and reaches the scriptorium where the illuminator sits and refreshes his eyes with the sight of the slender trees and blue distant hills. Printed books have not such resources. They can only show varieties of type, quaint frontispieces, printers’ devices, and fleurons at the heads of chapters. These attractions, and even the engravings of a later day, seem meagre enough compared with the allurements of manuscripts. Yet printed books must almost always make the greater part of a collection, and it may be well to give some rules as to the features that distinguish the productions of the early press. But no amount of “rules” is worth six months’ practical experience in bibliography. That experience the amateur, if he is wise, will obtain in a public library, like the British Museum or the Bodleian. Nowhere else is he likely to see much of the earliest of printed books, which very seldom come into the market.
Those of the first German press are so rare that practically they never reach the hands of the ordinary collector. Among them are the famous Psalters printed by Fust and Schoffer, the earliest of which is dated 1457; and the bible known as the Mazarine Bible. Two copies of this last were in the Perkins sale. I well remember the excitement on that occasion. The first copy put up was the best, being printed upon vellum. The bidding commenced at 1000 pounds, and very speedily rose to 2200 pounds, at which point there was a long pause; it then rose in hundreds with very little delay to 3400 pounds, at which it was knocked down to a bookseller. The second copy was on paper, and there were those present who said it was better than the other, which had a suspicion attaching to it of having been “restored” with a facsimile leaf. The first bid was again 1000 pounds, which the buyer of the previous copy made guineas, and the bidding speedily went up to 2660 pounds, at which price the first bidder paused. A third bidder had stepped in at 1960 pounds, and now, amid breathless excitement, bid 10 pounds more. This he had to do twice before the book was knocked down to him at 2690 pounds.
A scene like this has really very little to do with book-collecting. The beginner must labour hard to distinguish different kinds of printing; he must be able to recognise at a glance even fragments from the press of Caxton. His eye must be accustomed to all the tricks of the trade and others, so that he may tell a facsimile in a moment, or detect a forgery.
But now let us return to the distinctive marks of early printed books. The first is, says M. Rouveyre, —
1. The absence of a separate title-page. It was not till 1476–1480 that the titles of books were printed on separate pages. The next mark is —
2. The absence of capital letters at the beginnings of divisions. For example, in an Aldine Iliad, the fifth book begins thus —
It was intended that the open space, occupied by the small epsilon (ἕ), should be filled up with a coloured and gilded initial letter by the illuminator. Copies thus decorated are not very common, but the Aldine “Homer” of Francis I., rescued by M. Didot from a rubbish heap in an English cellar, had its due illuminations. In the earliest books the guide to the illuminator, the small printed letter, does not appear, and he often puts in the wrong initial.
3. Irregularity and rudeness of type is a “note” of the primitive printing press, which very early disappeared. Nothing in the history of printing is so remarkable as the beauty of almost its first efforts. Other notes are —
4. The absence of figures at the top of the pages, and of signatures at the foot. The thickness and solidity of the paper, the absence of the printer’s name, of the date, and of the name of the town where the press stood, and the abundance of crabbed abbreviations, are all marks, more or less trustworthy, of the antiquity of books. It must not be supposed that all books published, let us say before 1500, are rare, or deserve the notice of the collector. More than 18,000 works, it has been calculated, left the press before the end of the fifteenth century. All of these cannot possibly be of interest, and many of them that are “rare,” are rare precisely because they are uninteresting. They have not been preserved because they were thought not worth preserving. This is a great cause of rarity; but we must not hastily conclude that because a book found no favour in its own age, therefore it has no claim on our attention. A London bookseller tells me that he bought the “remainder” of Keats’s “Endymion” for fourpence a copy! The first edition of “Endymion” is now rare and valued. In trying to mend the binding of an old “Odyssey” lately, I extracted from the vellum covers parts of two copies of a very scarce and curious French dictionary of slang, “Le Jargon, ou Langage de l’Argot Reforme.” This treatise may have been valueless, almost, when it appeared, but now it is serviceable to the philologist, and to all who care to try to interpret the slang ballades of the poet Villon. An old pamphlet, an old satire, may hold the key to some historical problem, or throw light on the past of manners and customs. Still, of the earliest printed books, collectors prefer such rare and beautiful ones as the oldest printed Bibles: German, English, — as Taverner’s and the Bishop’s, — or Hebrew and Greek, or the first editions of the ancient classics, which may contain the readings of MSS. now lost or destroyed. Talking of early Bibles, let us admire the luck and prudence of a certain Mr. Sandford. He always longed for the first Hebrew Bible, but would offer no fancy price, being convinced that the book would one day fall in his way. His foreboding was fulfilled, and he picked up his treasure for ten shillings in a shop in the Strand. The taste for incunabula, or very early printed books, slumbered in the latter half of the sixteenth, and all the seventeenth century. It revived with the third jubilee of printing in 1740, and since then has refined itself, and only craves books very early, very important, or works from the press of Caxton, the St. Albans Schoolmaster, or other famous old artists. Enough has been said to show the beginner, always enthusiastic, that all old books are not precious. For further information, the “Biography and Typography of William Caxton,” by Mr. Blades (Trubner, London, 1877), may be consulted with profit.
Following the categories into which M. Brunet classifies desirable books in his invaluable manual, we now come to books printed on vellum, and on peculiar papers. At the origin of printing, examples of many books, probably presentation copies, were printed on vellum. There is a vellum copy of the celebrated Florentine first edition of Homer; but it is truly sad to think that the twin volumes, Iliad and Odyssey, have been separated, and pine in distant libraries. Early printed books on vellum often have beautifully illuminated capitals. Dibdin mentions in “Bibliomania” (London, 1811), p. 90, that a M. Van Praet was compiling a catalogue of works printed on vellum, and had collected more than 2000 articles. When hard things are said about Henry VIII., let us remember that this monarch had a few copies of his book against Luther printed on vellum. The Duke of Marlborough’s library possessed twenty-five books on vellum, all printed before 1496. The chapter-house at Padua has a “Catullus” of 1472 on vellum; let Mr. Robinson Ellis think wistfully of that treasure. The notable Count M’Carthy of Toulouse had a wonderful library of books in membranis, including a book much coveted for its rarity, oddity, and the beauty of its illustrations, the “Hypnerotomachia” of Poliphilus (Venice, 1499). Vellum was the favourite “vanity” of Junot, Napoleon’s general. For reasons connected with its manufacture, and best not inquired into, the Italian vellum enjoyed the greatest reputation for smooth and silky whiteness. Dibdin calls “our modern books on vellum little short of downright wretched.” But the editor of this series could, I think, show examples that would have made Dibdin change his opinion.
Many comparatively expensive papers, large in format, are used in choice editions of books. Whatman papers, Dutch papers, Chinese papers, and even papier verge, have all their admirers. The amateur will soon learn to distinguish these materials. As to books printed on coloured paper — green, blue, yellow, rhubarb-coloured, and the like, they are an offence to the eyes and to the taste. Yet even these have their admirers and collectors, and the great Aldus himself occasionally used azure paper. Under the head of “large paper,” perhaps “uncut copies” should be mentioned. Most owners of books have had the edges of the volumes gilded or marbled by the binders. Thus part of the margin is lost, an offence to the eye of the bibliomaniac, while copies untouched by the binder’s shears are rare, and therefore prized. The inconvenience of uncut copies is, that one cannot easily turn over the leaves. But, in the present state of the fashion, a really rare uncut Elzevir may be worth hundreds of pounds, while a cropped example scarcely fetches as many shillings. A set of Shakespeare’s quartoes, uncut, would be worth more than a respectable landed estate in Connemara. For these reasons the amateur will do well to have new books of price bound “uncut.” It is always easy to have the leaves pared away; but not even the fabled fountain at Argos, in which Hera yearly renewed her maidenhood, could restore margins once clipped away. So much for books which are chiefly precious for the quantity and quality of the material on which they are printed. Even this rather foolish weakness of the amateur would not be useless if it made our publishers more careful to employ a sound clean hand-made paper, instead of drugged trash, for their more valuable new productions. Indeed, a taste for hand-made paper is coming in, and is part of the revolt against the passion for everything machine-made, which ruined art and handiwork in the years between 1840 and 1870.
The third of M. Brunet’s categories of books of prose, includes livres de luxe, and illustrated literature. Every Christmas brings us livres de luxe in plenty, books which are no books, but have gilt and magenta covers, and great staring illustrations. These are regarded as drawing-room ornaments by people who never read. It is scarcely necessary to warn the collector against these gaudy baits of unregulated Christmas generosity. All ages have not produced quite such garish livres de luxe as ours. But, on the whole, a book brought out merely for the sake of display, is generally a book ill “got up,” and not worth reading. Moreover, it is generally a folio, or quarto, so large that he who tries to read it must support it on a kind of scaffolding. In the class of illustrated books two sorts are at present most in demand. The ancient woodcuts and engravings, often the work of artists like Holbein and Durer, can never lose their interest. Among old illustrated books, the most famous, and one of the rarest, is the “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,” “wherein all human matters are proved to be no more than a dream.” This is an allegorical romance, published in 1499, for Francesco Colonna, by Aldus Manucius. Poliam Frater Franciscus Columna peramavit. “Brother Francesco Colonna dearly loved Polia,” is the inscription and device of this romance. Poor Francesco, of the order of preachers, disguised in this strange work his passion for a lady of uncertain name. Here is a translation of the passage in which the lady describes the beginning of his affection. “I was standing, as is the manner of women young and fair, at the window, or rather on the balcony, of my palace. My yellow hair, the charm of maidens, was floating round my shining shoulders. My locks were steeped in unguents that made them glitter like threads of gold, and they were slowly drying in the rays of the burning sun. A handmaid, happy in her task, was drawing a comb through my tresses, and surely these of Andromeda seemed not more lovely to Perseus, nor to Lucius the locks of Photis. 6 On a sudden, Poliphilus beheld me, and could not withdraw from me his glances of fire, and even in that moment a ray of the sun of love was kindled in his heart.”
The fragment is itself a picture from the world of the Renaissance. We watch the blonde, learned lady, dreaming of Perseus, and Lucius, Greek lovers of old time, while the sun gilds her yellow hair, and the young monk, passing below, sees and loves, and “falls into the deep waters of desire.” The lover is no less learned than the lady, and there is a great deal of amorous archaeology in his account of his voyage to Cythera. As to the designs in wood, quaint in their vigorous effort to be classical, they have been attributed to Mantegna, to Bellini, and other artists. Jean Cousin is said to have executed the imitations, in the Paris editions of 1546, 1556, and 1561.
The “Hypnerotomachia” seems to deserve notice, because it is the very type of the books that are dear to collectors, as distinct from the books that, in any shape, are for ever valuable to the world. A cheap Tauchnitz copy of the Iliad and Odyssey, or a Globe Shakespeare, are, from the point of view of literature, worth a wilderness of “Hypnerotomachiae.” But a clean copy of the “Hypnerotomachia,” especially on VELLUM, is one of the jewels of bibliography. It has all the right qualities; it is very rare, it is very beautiful as a work of art, it is curious and even bizarre, it is the record of a strange time, and a strange passion; it is a relic, lastly, of its printer, the great and good Aldus Manutius.
Next to the old woodcuts and engravings, executed in times when artists were versatile and did not disdain even to draw a book-plate (as Durer did for Pirckheimer), the designs of the French “little masters,” are at present in most demand. The book illustrations of the seventeenth century are curious enough, and invaluable as authorities on manners and costume. But the attitudes of the figures are too often stiff and ungainly; while the composition is frequently left to chance. England could show nothing much better than Ogilby’s translations of Homer, illustrated with big florid engravings in sham antique style. The years between 1730 and 1820, saw the French “little masters” in their perfection. The dress of the middle of the eighteenth century, of the age of Watteau, was precisely suited to the gay and graceful pencils of Gravelot, Moreau, Eisen, Boucher, Cochin, Marillier, and Choffard. To understand their merits, and the limits of their art, it is enough to glance through a series of the designs for Voltaire, Corneille, or Moliere. The drawings of society are almost invariably dainty and pleasing, the serious scenes of tragedy leave the spectator quite unmoved. Thus it is but natural that these artists should have shone most in the illustration of airy trifles like Dorat’s “Baisers,” or tales like Manon Lescaut, or in designing tailpieces for translations of the Greek idyllic poets, such as Moschus and Bion. In some of his illustrations of books, especially, perhaps, in the designs for “La Physiologie de Gout” (Jouaust, Paris, 1879), M. Lalauze has shown himself the worthy rival of Eisen and Cochin. Perhaps it is unnecessary to add that the beauty and value of all such engravings depends almost entirely on their “state.” The earlier proofs are much more brilliant than those drawn later, and etchings on fine papers are justly preferred. For example, M. Lalauze’s engravings on “Whatman paper,” have a beauty which could scarcely be guessed by people who have only seen specimens on “papier verge.” Every collector of the old French vignettes, should possess himself of the “Guide de l’amateur,” by M. Henry Cohen (Rouquette, Paris, 1880). Among English illustrated books, various tastes prefer the imaginative works of William Blake, the etchings of Cruikshank, and the woodcuts of Bewick. The whole of the last chapter of this sketch is devoted, by Mr. Austin Dobson, to the topic of English illustrated books. Here it may be said, in passing, that an early copy of William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence,” written, illustrated, printed, coloured, and boarded by the author’s own hand, is one of the most charming objects that a bibliophile can hope to possess. The verses of Blake, in a framework of birds, and flowers, and plumes, all softly and magically tinted, seem like some book out of King Oberon’s library in fairyland, rather than the productions of a mortal press. The pictures in Blake’s “prophetic books,” and even his illustrations to “Job,” show an imagination more heavily weighted by the technical difficulties of drawing.
The next class of rare books is composed of works from the famous presses of the Aldi and the Elzevirs. Other presses have, perhaps, done work as good, but Estienne, the Giunta, and Plantin, are comparatively neglected, while the taste for the performances of Baskerville and Foulis is not very eager. A safe judgment about Aldines and Elzevirs is the gift of years and of long experience. In this place it is only possible to say a few words on a wide subject. The founder of the Aldine press, Aldus Pius Manutius, was born about 1450, and died at Venice in 1514. He was a man of careful and profound learning, and was deeply interested in Greek studies, then encouraged by the arrival in Italy of many educated Greeks and Cretans. Only four Greek authors had as yet been printed in Italy, when (1495) Aldus established his press at Venice. Theocritus, Homer, AEsop, and Isocrates, probably in very limited editions, were in the hands of students. The purpose of Aldus was to put Greek and Latin works, beautifully printed in a convenient shape, within the reach of all the world. His reform was the introduction of books at once cheap, studiously correct, and convenient in actual use. It was in 1498 that he first adopted the small octavo size, and in his “Virgil” of 1501, he introduced the type called Aldine or Italic. The letters were united as in writing, and the type is said to have been cut by Francesco da Bologna, better known as Francia, in imitation of the hand of Petrarch. For full information about Aldus and his descendants and successors, the work of M. Firmin Didot, (“Alde Manuce et l’Hellenisme a Venise: Paris 1875),” and the Aldine annals of Renouard, must be consulted. These two works are necessary to the collector, who will otherwise be deceived by the misleading assertions of the booksellers. As a rule, the volumes published in the lifetime of Aldus Manutius are the most esteemed, and of these the Aristotle, the first Homer, the Virgil, and the Ovid, are perhaps most in demand. The earlier Aldines are consulted almost as studiously as MSS. by modern editors of the classics.
Just as the house of Aldus waned and expired, that of the great Dutch printers, the Elzevirs, began obscurely enough at Leyden in 1583. The Elzevirs were not, like Aldus, ripe scholars and men of devotion to learning. Aldus laboured for the love of noble studies; the Elzevirs were acute, and too often “smart” men of business. The founder of the family was Louis (born at Louvain, 1540, died 1617). But it was in the second and third generations that Bonaventura and Abraham Elzevir began to publish at Leyden, their editions in small duodecimo. Like Aldus, these Elzevirs aimed at producing books at once handy, cheap, correct, and beautiful in execution. Their adventure was a complete success. The Elzevirs did not, like Aldus, surround themselves with the most learned scholars of their time. Their famous literary adviser, Heinsius, was full of literary jealousies, and kept students of his own calibre at a distance. The classical editions of the Elzevirs, beautiful, but too small in type for modern eyes, are anything but exquisitely correct. Their editions of the contemporary. French authors, now classics themselves, are lovely examples of skill in practical enterprise. The Elzevirs treated the French authors much as American publishers treat Englishmen. They stole right and left, but no one complained much in these times of slack copyright; and, at all events, the piratic larcenous publications of the Dutch printers were pretty, and so far satisfactory. They themselves, in turn, were the victims of fraudulent and untradesmanlike imitations. It is for this, among other reasons, that the collector of Elzevirs must make M. Willems’s book (“Les Elzevier,” Brussels and Paris, 1880) his constant study. Differences so minute that they escape the unpractised eye, denote editions of most various value. In Elzevirs a line’s breadth of margin is often worth a hundred pounds, and a misprint is quoted at no less a sum. The fantastic caprice of bibliophiles has revelled in the bibliography of these Dutch editions. They are at present very scarce in England, where a change in fashion some years ago had made them common enough. No Elzevir is valuable unless it be clean and large in the margins. When these conditions are satisfied the question of rarity comes in, and Remy Belleau’s Macaronic poem, or “Le Pastissier Francais,” may rise to the price of four or five hundred pounds. A Rabelais, Moliere, or Corneille, of a “good” edition, is now more in request than the once adored “Imitatio Christi” (dateless), or the “Virgil”’ of 1646, which is full of gross errors of the press, but is esteemed for red characters in the letter to Augustus, and another passage at page 92. The ordinary marks of the Elzevirs were the sphere, the old hermit, the Athena, the eagle, and the burning faggot. But all little old books marked with spheres are not Elzevirs, as many booksellers suppose. Other printers also stole the designs for the tops of chapters, the Aegipan, the Siren, the head of Medusa, the crossed sceptres, and the rest. In some cases the Elzevirs published their books, especially when they were piracies, anonymously. When they published for the Jansenists, they allowed their clients to put fantastic pseudonyms on the title pages. But, except in four cases, they had only two pseudonyms used on the titles of books published by and for themselves. These disguises are “Jean Sambix” for Jean and Daniel Elzevir, at Leyden, and for the Elzevirs of Amsterdam, “Jacques le Jeune.” The last of the great representatives of the house, Daniel, died at Amsterdam, 1680. Abraham, an unworthy scion, struggled on at Leyden till 1712. The family still prospers, but no longer prints, in Holland. It is common to add duodecimos of Foppens, Wolfgang, and other printers, to the collections of the Elzevirs. The books of Wolfgang have the sign of the fox robbing a wild bee’s nest, with the motto Quaerendo.
Curious and singular books are the next in our classification. The category is too large. The books that be “curious” (not in the booksellers’ sense of “prurient” and “disgusting,”) are innumerable. All suppressed and condemned books, from “Les Fleurs du Mal” to Vanini’s “Amphitheatrum,” or the English translation of Bruno’s “Spaccia della Bestia Trionfante,” are more or less rare, and more or less curious. Wild books, like William Postel’s “Three Marvellous Triumphs of Women,” are “curious.” Freakish books, like macaronic poetry, written in a medley of languages, are curious. Books from private presses are singular. The old English poets and satirists turned out many a book curious to the last degree, and priced at a fantastic value. Such are “Jordan’s Jewels of Ingenuity,” “Micro-cynicon, six Snarling Satyres” (1599), and the “Treatize made of a Galaunt,” printed by Wynkyn de Worde, and found pasted into the fly-leaf, on the oak-board binding of an imperfect volume of Pynson’s “Statutes.” All our early English poems and miscellanies are curious; and, as relics of delightful singers, are most charming possessions. Such are the “Songes and Sonnettes of Surrey” (1557), the “Paradyce of daynty Deuices” (1576), the “Small Handful of Fragrant Flowers,” and “The Handful of Dainty Delights, gathered out of the lovely Garden of Sacred Scripture, fit for any worshipful Gentlewoman to smell unto,” (1584). “The Teares of Ireland” (1642), are said, though one would not expect it, to be “extremely rare,” and, therefore, precious. But there is no end to the list of such desirable rarities. If we add to them all books coveted as early editions, and, therefore, as relics of great writers, Bunyan, Shakespeare, Milton, Sterne, Walton, and the rest, we might easily fill a book with remarks on this topic alone. The collection of such editions is the most respectable, the most useful, and, alas, the most expensive of the amateur’s pursuits. It is curious enough that the early editions of Swift, Scott, and Byron, are little sought for, if not wholly neglected; while early copies of Shelley, Tennyson, and Keats, have a great price set on their heads. The quartoes of Shakespeare, like first editions of Racine, are out of the reach of any but very opulent purchasers, or unusually lucky, fortunate book-hunters. Before leaving the topic of books which derive their value from the taste and fantasy of collectors, it must be remarked that, in this matter, the fashion of the world changes. Dr. Dibdin lamented, seventy years ago, the waning respect paid to certain editions of the classics. He would find that things have become worse now, and modern German editions, on execrable paper, have supplanted his old favourites. Fifty years ago, M. Brunet expressed his contempt for the designs of Boucher; now they are at the top of the fashion. The study of old booksellers’ catalogues is full of instruction as to the changes of caprice. The collection of Dr. Rawlinson was sold in 1756. “The Vision of Pierce Plowman” (1561), and the “Creede of Pierce Plowman” (1553), brought between them no more than three shillings and sixpence. Eleven shillings were paid for the “Boke of Chivalrie” by Caxton. The “Boke of St. Albans,” by Wynkyn de Worde, cost 1 pounds: 1s., and this was the highest sum paid for any one of two hundred rare pieces of early English literature. In 1764, a copy of the “Hypnerotomachia” was sold for two shillings, “A Pettie Pallace of Pettie his Pleasures,” (ah, what a thought for the amateur!) went for three shillings, while “Palmerin of England” (1602), attained no more than the paltry sum of fourteen shillings. When Osborne sold the Harley collection, the scarcest old English books fetched but three or four shillings. If the wandering Jew had been a collector in the last century he might have turned a pretty profit by selling his old English books in this age of ours. In old French, too, Ahasuerus would have done a good stroke of business, for the prices brought by old Villons, Romances of the Rose, “Les Marguerites de Marguerite,” and so forth, at the M’Carthy sale, were truly pitiable. A hundred years hence the original editions of Thackeray, or of Miss Greenaway’s Christmas books, or “Modern Painters,” may be the ruling passion, and Aldines and Elzevirs, black letter and French vignettes may all be despised. A book which is commonplace in our century is curious in the next, and disregarded in that which follows. Old books of a heretical character were treasures once, rare unholy possessions. Now we have seen so many heretics that the world is indifferent to the audacities of Bruno, and the veiled impieties of Vanini.
The last of our categories of books much sought by the collector includes all volumes valued for their ancient bindings, for the mark and stamp of famous amateurs. The French, who have supplied the world with so many eminent binders, — as Eve, Padeloup, Duseuil, Le Gascon, Derome, Simier, Bozerian, Thouvenin, Trautz–Bauzonnet, and Lortic — are the chief patrons of books in historical bindings. In England an historical binding, a book of Laud’s, or James’s, or Garrick’s, or even of Queen Elizabeth’s, does not seem to derive much added charm from its associations. But, in France, peculiar bindings are now the objects most in demand among collectors. The series of books thus rendered precious begins with those of Maioli and of Grolier (1479–1565), remarkable for their mottoes and the geometrical patterns on the covers. Then comes De Thou (who had three sets of arms), with his blazon, the bees stamped on the morocco. The volumes of Marguerite of Angouleme are sprinkled with golden daisies. Diane de Poictiers had her crescents and her bow, and the initial of her royal lover was intertwined with her own. The three daughters of Louis XV. had each their favourite colour, and their books wear liveries of citron, red, and olive morocco. The Abbe Cotin, the original of Moliere’s Trissotin, stamped his books with intertwined C’s. Henri III. preferred religious emblems, and sepulchral mottoes — skulls, crossbones, tears, and the insignia of the Passion. Mort m’est vie is a favourite device of the effeminate and voluptuous prince. Moliere himself was a collector, il n’es pas de bouquin qui s’echappe de ses mains, — “never an old book escapes him,” says the author of “La Guerre Comique,” the last of the pamphlets which flew from side to side in the great literary squabble about “L’Ecole des Femmes.” M. Soulie has found a rough catalogue of Moliere’s library, but the books, except a little Elzevir, have disappeared. 7 Madame de Maintenon was fond of bindings. Mr. Toovey possesses a copy of a devotional work in red morocco, tooled and gilt, which she presented to a friendly abbess. The books at Saint–Cyr were stamped with a crowned cross, besprent with fleurs-delys. The books of the later collectors — Longepierre, the translator of Bion and Moschus; D’Hoym the diplomatist; McCarthy, and La Valliere, are all valued at a rate which seems fair game for satire.
Among the most interesting bibliophiles of the eighteenth century is Madame Du Barry. In 1771, this notorious beauty could scarcely read or write. She had rooms, however, in the Chateau de Versailles, thanks to the kindness of a monarch who admired those native qualities which education may polish, but which it can never confer. At Versailles, Madame Du Barry heard of the literary genius of Madame de Pompadour. The Pompadour was a person of taste. Her large library of some four thousand works of the lightest sort of light literature was bound by Biziaux. Mr. Toovey possesses the Brantome of this dame galante. Madame herself had published etchings by her own fair hands; and to hear of these things excited the emulation of Madame Du Barry. She might not be CLEVER, but she could have a library like another, if libraries were in fashion. One day Madame Du Barry astonished the Court by announcing that her collection of books would presently arrive at Versailles. Meantime she took counsel with a bookseller, who bought up examples of all the cheap “remainders,” as they are called in the trade, that he could lay his hands upon. The whole assortment, about one thousand volumes in all, was hastily bound in rose morocco, elegantly gilt, and stamped with the arms of the noble house of Du Barry. The bill which Madame Du Barry owed her enterprising agent is still in existence. The thousand volumes cost about three francs each; the binding (extremely cheap) came to nearly as much. The amusing thing is that the bookseller, in the catalogue which he sent with the improvised library, marked the books which Madame Du Barry possessed BEFORE her large order was so punctually executed. There were two “Memoires de Du Barry,” an old newspaper, two or three plays, and “L’Historie Amoureuse de Pierre le Long.” Louis XV. observed with pride that, though Madame Pompadour had possessed a larger library, that of Madame Du Barry was the better selected. Thanks to her new collection, the lady learned to read with fluency, but she never overcame the difficulties of spelling.
A lady collector who loved books not very well perhaps, but certainly not wisely, was the unhappy Marie Antoinette. The controversy in France about the private character of the Queen has been as acrimonious as the Scotch discussion about Mary Stuart. Evidence, good and bad, letters as apocryphal as the letters of the famous “casket,” have been produced on both sides. A few years ago, under the empire, M. Louis Lacour found a manuscript catalogue of the books in the Queen’s boudoir. They were all novels of the flimsiest sort, — “L’Amitie Dangereuse,” “Les Suites d’un Moment d’Erreur,” and even the stories of Louvet and of Retif de la Bretonne. These volumes all bore the letters “C. T.” (Chateau de Trianon), and during the Revolution they were scattered among the various public libraries of Paris. The Queen’s more important library was at the Tuileries, but at Versailles she had only three books, as the commissioners of the Convention found, when they made an inventory of the property of la femme Capet. Among the three was the “Gerusalemme Liberata,” printed, with eighty exquisite designs by Cochin, at the expense of “Monsieur,” afterwards Louis XVIII. Books with the arms of Marie Antoinette are very rare in private collections; in sales they are as much sought after as those of Madame Du Barry.
With these illustrations of the kind of interest that belongs to books of old collectors, we may close this chapter. The reader has before him a list, with examples, of the kinds of books at present most in vogue among amateurs. He must judge for himself whether he will follow the fashion, by aid either of a long purse or of patient research, or whether he will find out new paths for himself. A scholar is rarely a rich man. He cannot compete with plutocrats who buy by deputy. But, if he pursues the works he really needs, he may make a valuable collection. He cannot go far wrong while he brings together the books that he finds most congenial to his own taste and most useful to his own studies. Here, then, in the words of the old “sentiment,” I bid him farewell, and wish “success to his inclinations, provided they are virtuous.” There is a set of collectors, alas! whose inclinations are not virtuous. The most famous of them, a Frenchman, observed that his own collection of bad books was unique. That of an English rival, he admitted, was respectable, — “mais milord se livre a des autres preoccupations!” He thought a collector’s whole heart should be with his treasures.
En bouquinant se trouve grand soulas.
Soubent m’en vay musant, a petis pas,
Au long des quais, pour flairer maint bieux livre.
Des Elzevier la Sphere me rend yure,
Et la Sirene aussi m’esmeut. Grand cas
Fais-je d’Estienne, Aide, ou Dolet. Mais Ias!
Le vieux Caxton ne se rencontre pas,
Plus qu’ agneau d’or parmi jetons de cuivre,
Pour tout plaisir que l’on goute icy-bas
La Grace a Dieu. Mieux vaut, sans altercas,
Chasser bouquin: Nul mal n’en peult s’ensuivre.
Dr sus au livre: il est le grand appas.
Clair est le ciel. Amis, qui veut me suivre
Modern English book-illustration — to which the present chapter is restricted — has no long or doubtful history, since to find its first beginnings, it is needless to go farther back than the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Not that “illustrated” books of a certain class were by any means unknown before that period. On the contrary, for many years previously, literature had boasted its “sculptures” of be-wigged and be-laurelled “worthies,” its “prospects” and “land-skips,” its phenomenal monsters and its “curious antiques.” But, despite the couplet in the “Dunciad” respecting books where
“ . . . the pictures for the page atone,
And Quarles is saved by beauties not his own;” —
illustrations, in which the designer attempted the actual delineation of scenes or occurrences in the text, were certainly not common when Pope wrote, nor were they for some time afterwards either very numerous or very noteworthy. There are Hogarth’s engravings to “Hudibras” and “Don Quixote;” there are the designs of his crony Frank Hayman to Theobald’s “Shakespeare,” to Milton, to Pope, to Cervantes; there are Pine’s “Horace” and Sturt’s “Prayer–Book” (in both of which text and ornament were alike engraved); there are the historical and topographical drawings of Sandby, Wale, and others; and yet — notwithstanding all these — it is with Bewick’s cuts to Gay’s “Fables” in 1779, and Stothard’s plates to Harrison’s “Novelist’s Magazine” in 1780, that book-illustration by imaginative compositions really begins to flourish in England. Those little masterpieces of the Newcastle artist brought about a revival of wood-engraving which continues to this day; but engraving upon metal, as a means of decorating books, practically came to an end with the “Annuals” of thirty years ago. It will therefore be well to speak first of illustrations upon copper and steel.
Stothard, Blake, and Flaxman are the names that come freshest to memory in this connection. For a period of fifty years Stothard stands preeminent in illustrated literature. Measuring time by poets, he may be said to have lent something of his fancy and amenity to most of the writers from Cowper to Rogers. As a draughtsman he is undoubtedly weak: his figures are often limp and invertebrate, and his type of beauty insipid. Still, regarded as groups, the majority of his designs are exquisite, and he possessed one all-pervading and unEnglish quality — the quality of grace. This is his dominant note. Nothing can be more seductive than the suave flow of his line, his feeling for costume, his gentle and chastened humour. Many of his women and children are models of purity and innocence. But he works at ease only within the limits of his special powers; he is happier in the pastoral and domestic than the heroic and supernatural, and his style is better fitted to the formal salutations of “Clarissa” and “Sir Charles Grandison,” than the rough horse-play of “Peregrine Pickle.” Where Rowlandson would have revelled, Stothard would be awkward and constrained; where Blake would give us a new sensation, Stothard would be poor and mechanical. Nevertheless the gifts he possessed were thoroughly recognised in his own day, and brought him, if not riches, at least competence and honour. It is said that more than three thousand of his drawings have been engraved, and they are scattered through a hundred publications. Those to the “Pilgrim’s Progress” and the poems of Rogers are commonly spoken of as his best, though he never excelled some of the old-fashioned plates (with their pretty borders in the style of Gravelot and the Frenchmen) to Richardson’s novels, and such forgotten “classics” as “Joe Thompson”, “Jessamy,” “Betsy Thoughtless,” and one or two others in Harrison’s very miscellaneous collection.
Stothard was fortunate in his engravers. Besides James Heath, his best interpreter, Schiavonetti, Sharp, Finden, the Cookes, Bartolozzi, most of the fashionable translators into copper were busily employed upon his inventions. Among the rest was an artist of powers far greater than his own, although scarcely so happy in turning them to profitable account. The genius of William Blake was not a marketable commodity in the same way as Stothard’s talent. The one caught the trick of the time with his facile elegance; the other scorned to make any concessions, either in conception or execution, to the mere popularity of prettiness.
“Give pensions to the learned pig,
Or the hare playing on a tabor;
Anglus can never see perfection
But in the journeyman’s labour,” —
he wrote in one of those rough-hewn and bitter epigrams of his. Yet the work that was then so lukewarmly received — if, indeed, it can be said to have been received at all — is at present far more sought after than Stothard’s, and the prices now given for the “Songs of Innocence and Experience,” the “Inventions to the Book of Job,” and even “The Grave,” would have brought affluence to the struggling artist, who (as Cromek taunted him) was frequently “reduced so low as to be obliged to live on half a guinea a week.” Not that this was entirely the fault of his contemporaries. Blake was a visionary, and an untuneable man; and, like others who work for the select public of all ages, he could not always escape the consequence that the select public of his own, however willing, were scarcely numerous enough to support him. His most individual works are the “Songs of Innocence,” 1789, and the “Songs of Experience,” 1794. These, afterwards united in one volume, were unique in their method of production; indeed, they do not perhaps strictly come within the category of what is generally understood to be copperplate engraving. The drawings were outlined and the songs written upon the metal with some liquid that resisted the action of acid, and the remainder of the surface of the plate was eaten away with aqua-fortis, leaving the design in bold relief, like a rude stereotype. This was then printed off in the predominant tone — blue, brown, or yellow, as the case might be — and delicately tinted by the artist in a prismatic and ethereal fashion peculiarly his own. Stitched and bound in boards by Mrs. Blake, a certain number of these leaflets — twenty-seven in the case of the first issue — made up a tiny octavo of a wholly exceptional kind. Words indeed fail to exactly describe the flower-like beauty — the fascination of these “fairy missals,” in which, it has been finely said, “the thrilling music of the verse, and the gentle bedazzlement of the lines and colours so intermingle, that the mind hangs in a pleasant uncertainty as to whether it is a picture that is singing, or a song which has newly budded and blossomed into colour and form.” The accompanying woodcut, after one of the illustrations to the “Songs of Innocence,” gives some indication of the general composition, but it can convey no hint of the gorgeous purple, and crimson, and orange of the original.
Of the “Illustrations to the Book of Job,” 1826, there are excellent reduced facsimiles by the recently-discovered photo-intaglio process, in the new edition of Gilchrist’s “Life.” The originals were engraved by Blake himself in his strong decisive fashion, and they are his best work. A kind of deisidaimonia — a sacred awe — falls upon one in turning over these wonderful productions of the artist’s declining years and failing hand.
“Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the threshold of the new,”
sings Waller; and it is almost possible to believe for a moment that their creator was (as he said) “under the direction of messengers from Heaven.” But his designs for Blair’s “Grave,” 1808, popularised by the burin of Schiavonetti, attracted greater attention at the time of publication; and, being less rare, they are even now perhaps better known than the others. The facsimile here given is from the latter book. The worn old man, the trustful woman, and the guileless child are sleeping peacefully; but the king with his sceptre, and the warrior with his hand on his sword-hilt, lie open-eyed, waiting the summons of the trumpet. One cannot help fancying that the artist’s long vigils among the Abbey tombs, during his apprenticeship to James Basire, must have been present to his mind when he selected this impressive monumental subject.
To one of Blake’s few friends — to the “dear Sculptor of Eternity,” as he wrote to Flaxman from Felpham — the world is indebted for some notable book illustrations. Whether the greatest writers — the Homers, the Shakespeares, the Dantes — can ever be “illustrated” without loss may fairly be questioned. At all events, the showy dexterities of the Dores and Gilberts prove nothing to the contrary. But now and then there comes to the graphic interpretation of a great author an artist either so reverential, or so strongly sympathetic at some given point, that, in default of any relation more narrowly intimate, we at once accept his conceptions as the best attainable. In this class are Flaxman’s outlines to Homer and AEschylus. Flaxman was not a Hellenist as men are Hellenists today. Nevertheless, his Roman studies had saturated him with the spirit of antique beauty, and by his grand knowledge of the nude, his calm, his restraint, he is such an illustrator of Homer as is not likely to arise again. For who — with all our added knowledge of classical antiquity — who, of our modern artists, could hope to rival such thoroughly Greek compositions as the ball-play of Nausicaa in the “Odyssey,” or that lovely group from AEschylus of the tender-hearted, womanly Oceanides, cowering like flowers beaten by the storm under the terrible anger of Zeus? In our day Flaxman’s drawings would have been reproduced by some of the modern facsimile processes, and the gain would have been great. As it is, something is lost by their transference to copper, even though the translators be Piroli and Blake. Blake, in fact, did more than he is usually credited with, for (beside the acknowledged and later “Hesiod,” 1817) he really engraved the whole of the “Odyssey,” Piroli’s plates having been lost on the voyage to England. The name of the Roman artist, nevertheless, appears on the title-page (1793). But Blake was too original to be a successful copyist of other men’s work, and to appreciate the full value of Flaxman’s drawings, they should be studied in the collections at University College, the Royal Academy, and elsewhere. 9
Flaxman and Blake had few imitators. But a host of clever designers, such as Cipriani, Angelica Kauffmann, Westall, Uwins, Smirke, Burney, Corbould, Dodd, and others, vied with the popular Stothard in “embellishing” the endless “Poets,” “novelists,” and “essayists” of our forefathers. Some of these, and most of the recognised artists of the period, lent their aid to that boldly-planned but unhappily-executed “Shakespeare” of Boydell, — “black and ghastly gallery of murky Opies, glum Northcotes, straddling Fuselis,” as Thackeray calls it. They are certainly not enlivening — those cumbrous “atlas” folios of 1803–5, and they helped to ruin the worthy alderman. Even courtly Sir Joshua is clearly ill at ease among the pushing Hamiltons and Mortimers; and, were it not for the whimsical discovery that Westall’s “Ghost of Caesar” strangely resembles Mr. Gladstone, there would be no resting-place for the modern student of these dismal masterpieces. The truth is, Reynolds excepted, there were no contemporary painters strong enough for the task, and the honours of the enterprise belong almost exclusively to Smirke’s “Seven Ages” and one or two plates from the lighter comedies. The great “Bible” of Macklin, a rival and even more incongruous publication, upon which some of the same designers were employed, has fallen into completer oblivion. A rather better fate attended another book of this class, which, although belonging to a later period, may be briefly referred to here. The “Milton” of John Martin has distinct individuality, and some of the needful qualities of imagination. Nevertheless, posterity has practically decided that scenic grandeur and sombre effects alone are not a sufficient pictorial equipment for the varied story of “Paradise Lost.”
It is to Boydell of the Shakespeare gallery that we owe the “Liber Veritatis” of Claude, engraved by Richard Earlom; and indirectly, since rivalry of Claude prompted the attempt, the famous “Liber Studiorum” of Turner. Neither of these, however — which, like the “Rivers of France” and the “Picturesque Views in England and Wales” of the latter artist, are collections of engravings rather than illustrated books — belongs to the present purpose. But Turner’s name may fitly serve to introduce those once familiar “Annuals” and “Keepsakes,” that, beginning in 1823 with Ackermann’s “Forget-me-Not,” enjoyed a popularity of more than thirty years. Their general characteristics have been pleasantly satirised in Thackeray’s account of the elegant miscellany of Bacon the publisher, to which Mr. Arthur Pendennis contributed his pretty poem of “The Church Porch.” His editress, it will be remembered, was the Lady Violet Lebas, and his colleagues the Honourable Percy Popjoy, Lord Dodo, and the gifted Bedwin Sands, whose “Eastern Ghazuls” lent so special a distinction to the volume in watered-silk binding. The talented authors, it is true, were in most cases under the disadvantage of having to write to the plates of the talented artists, a practice which even now is not extinct, though it is scarcely considered favourable to literary merit. And the real “Annuals” were no exception to the rule. As a matter of fact, their general literary merit was not obtrusive, although, of course, they sometimes contained work which afterwards became famous. They are now so completely forgotten and out of date, that one scarcely expects to find that Wordsworth, Coleridge, Macaulay, and Southey, were among the occasional contributors. Lamb’s beautiful “Album verses” appeared in the “Bijou,” Scott’s “Bonnie Dundee” in the “Christmas Box,” and Tennyson’s “St. Agnes’ Eve” in the “Keepsake.” But the plates were, after all, the leading attraction. These, prepared for the most part under the superintendence of the younger Heath, and executed on the steel which by this time had supplanted the old “coppers,” were supplied by, or were “after,” almost every contemporary artist of note. Stothard, now growing old and past his prime, Turner, Etty, Stanfield, Leslie, Roberts, Danby, Maclise, Lawrence, Cattermole, and numbers of others, found profitable labour in this fashionable field until 1856, when the last of the “Annuals” disappeared, driven from the market by the rapid development of wood engraving. About a million, it is roughly estimated, was squandered in producing them.
In connection with the “Annuals” must be mentioned two illustrated books which were in all probability suggested by them — the “Poems” and “Italy” of Rogers. The designs to these are chiefly by Turner and Stothard, although there are a few by Prout and others. Stothard’s have been already referred to; Turner’s are almost universally held to be the most successful of his many vignettes. It has been truly said — in a recent excellent life of this artist 10 — that it would be difficult to find in the whole of his works two really greater than the “Alps at Daybreak,” and the “Datur Hora Quieti,” in the former of these volumes. Almost equally beautiful are the “Valombre Falls” and “Tornaro’s misty brow.” Of the “Italy” set Mr. Ruskin writes:— “They are entirely exquisite; poetical in the highest and purest sense, exemplary and delightful beyond all praise.” To such words it is not possible to add much. But it is pretty clear that the poetical vitality of Rogers was secured by these well-timed illustrations, over which he is admitted by his nephew Mr. Sharpe to have spent about 7000 pounds, and far larger sums have been named by good authorities. The artist received from fifteen to twenty guineas for each of the drawings; the engravers (Goodall, Miller, Wallis, Smith, and others), sixty guineas a plate. The “Poems” and the “Italy,” in the original issues of 1830 and 1834, are still precious to collectors, and are likely to remain so. Turner also illustrated Scott, Milton, Campbell, and Byron; but this series of designs has not received equal commendation from his greatest eulogist, who declares them to be “much more laboured, and more or less artificial and unequal.” Among the numerous imitations directly induced by the Rogers books was the “Lyrics of the Heart,” by Alaric Attila Watts, a forgotten versifier and sometime editor of “Annuals,” but it did not meet with similar success.
Many illustrated works, originating in the perfection and opportunities of engraving on metal, are necessarily unnoticed in this rapid summary. As far, however, as book-illustration is concerned, copper and steel plate engraving may be held to have gone out of fashion with the “Annuals.” It is still, indeed, to be found lingering in that mine of modern art-books — the “Art Journal;” and, not so very long ago, it made a sumptuous and fugitive reappearance in Dore’s “Idylls of the King,” Birket Foster’s “Hood,” and one or two other imposing volumes. But it was badly injured by modern wood-engraving; it has since been crippled for life by photography; and it is more than probable that the present rapid rise of modern etching will give it the coup de grace. 11
By the end of the seventeenth century the art of engraving on wood had fallen into disuse. Writing circa 1770, Horace Walpole goes so far as to say that it “never was executed in any perfection in England;” and, speaking afterwards of Papillon’s “Traite de la Gravure,” 1766, he takes occasion to doubt if that author would ever “persuade the world to return to wooden cuts.” Nevertheless, with Bewick, a few years later, wood-engraving took a fresh departure so conspicuous that it amounts to a revival. In what this consisted it is clearly impossible to show here with any sufficiency of detail; but between the method of the old wood-cutters who reproduced the drawings of Durer, and the method of the Newcastle artist, there are two marked and well-defined differences. One of these is a difference in the preparation of the wood and the tool employed. The old wood-cutters carved their designs with knives and chisels on strips of wood sawn lengthwise — that is to say, upon the PLANK; Bewick used a graver, and worked upon slices of box or pear cut across the grain, — that is to say upon the END of the wood. The other difference, of which Bewick is said to have been the inventor, is less easy to describe. It consisted in the employment of what is technically known as “white line.” In all antecedent wood-cutting the cutter had simply cleared away those portions of the block left bare by the design, so that the design remained in relief to be printed from like type. Using the smooth box block as a uniform surface from which, if covered with printing ink, a uniformly black impression might be obtained, Bewick, by cutting white lines across it at greater or lesser intervals, produced gradations of shade, from the absolute black of the block to the lightest tints. The general result of this method was to give a greater depth of colouring and variety to the engraving, but its advantages may perhaps be best understood by a glance at the background of the “Woodcock” on the following page.
Bewick’s first work of any importance was the Gay’s “Fables” of 1779. In 1784 he did another series of “Select Fables.” Neither of these books, however, can be compared with the “General History of Quadrupeds,” 1790, and the “British Land and Water Birds,” 1797 and 1804. The illustrations to the “Quadrupeds” are in many instances excellent, and large additions were made to them in subsequent issues. But in this collection Bewick laboured to a great extent under the disadvantage of representing animals with which he was familiar only through the medium of stuffed specimens or incorrect drawings. In the “British Birds,” on the contrary, his facilities for study from the life were greater, and his success was consequently more complete. Indeed, it may be safely affirmed that of all the engravers of the present century, none have excelled Bewick for beauty of black and white, for skilful rendering of plumage and foliage, and for fidelity of detail and accessory. The “Woodcock” (here given), the “Partridge,” the “Owl,” the “Yellow–Hammer,” the “Yellow–Bunting,” the “Willow–Wren,” are popular examples of these qualities. But there are a hundred others nearly as good.
Among sundry conventional decorations after the old German fashion in the first edition of the “Quadrupeds,” there are a fair number of those famous tail-pieces which, to a good many people, constitute Bewick’s chief claim to immortality. That it is not easy to imitate them is plain from the failure of Branston’s attempts, and from the inferior character of those by John Thompson in Yarrell’s “Fishes.” The genius of Bewick was, in fact, entirely individual and particular. He had the humour of a Hogarth in little, as well as some of his special characteristics, — notably his faculty of telling a story by suggestive detail. An instance may be taken at random from vol. I. of the “Birds.” A man, whose wig and hat have fallen off, lies asleep with open mouth under some bushes. He is manifestly drunk, and the date “4 June,” on a neighbouring stone, gives us the reason and occasion of his catastrophe. He has been too loyally celebrating the birthday of his majesty King George III. Another of Bewick’s gifts is his wonderful skill in foreshadowing a tragedy. Take as an example, this truly appalling incident from the “Quadrupeds.” The tottering child, whose nurse is seen in the background, has strayed into the meadow, and is pulling at the tail of a vicious-looking colt, with back-turned eye and lifted heel. Down the garden-steps the mother hurries headlong; but she can hardly be in time. And of all this — sufficient, one would say, for a fairly-sized canvas — the artist has managed to give a vivid impression in a block of three inches by two! Then, again, like Hogarth once more, he rejoices in multiplications of dilemma. What, for instance, can be more comically pathetic than the head-piece to the “Contents” in vol. I. of the “Birds”? The old horse has been seized with an invincible fit of stubbornness. The day is both windy and rainy. The rider has broken his stick and lost his hat; but he is too much encumbered with his cackling and excited stock to dare to dismount. Nothing can help him but a Deus ex machina, — of whom there is no sign.
Besides his humour, Bewick has a delightfully rustic side, of which Hogarth gives but little indication. From the starved ewe in the snow nibbling forlornly at a worn-out broom, to the cow which has broken through the rail to reach the running water, there are numberless designs which reveal that faithful lover of the field and hillside, who, as he said, “would rather be herding sheep on Mickle bank top” than remain in London to be made premier of England. He loved the country and the country-life; and he drew them as one who loved them. It is this rural quality which helps to give such a lasting freshness to his quaint and picturesque fancies; and it is this which will continue to preserve their popularity, even if they should cease to be valued for their wealth of whimsical invention.
In referring to these masterpieces of Bewick’s, it must not be forgotten that he had the aid of some clever assistants. His younger brother John was not without talent, as is clear from his work for Somervile’s “Chace,” 1796, and that highly edifying book, the “Blossoms of Morality.” Many of the tail-pieces to the “Water Birds” were designed by Robert Johnson, who also did most of the illustrations to Bewick’s “Fables” of 1818, which were engraved by Temple and Harvey, two other pupils. Another pupil was Charlton Nesbit, an excellent engraver, who was employed upon the “Birds,” and did good work in Ackermann’s “Religious Emblems” of 1808, and the second series of Northcote’s “Fables.” But by far the largest portion of the tail-pieces in the second volume of the “Birds” was engraved by Luke Clennell, a very skilful but unfortunate artist, who ultimately became insane. To him we owe the woodcuts, after Stothard’s charming sketches, to the Rogers volume of 1810, an edition preceding those already mentioned as illustrated with steel-plates, and containing some of the artist’s happiest pictures of children and amorini. Many of these little groups would make admirable designs for gems, if indeed they are not already derived from them, since one at least is an obvious copy of a well-known sardonyx — (“The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche.”) This volume, generally known by the name of the “Firebrand” edition, is highly prized by collectors; and, as intelligent renderings of pen and ink, there is little better than these engravings of Clennell’s. 12 Finally, among others of Bewick’s pupils, must be mentioned William Harvey, who survived to 1866. It has been already stated that he engraved part of the illustrations to Bewick’s “Fables,” but his best known block is the large one of Haydon’s “Death of Dentatus.” Soon after this he relinquished wood-engraving in favour of design, and for a long period was one of the most fertile and popular of book-illustrators. His style, however, is unpleasantly mannered; and it is sufficient to make mention of his masterpiece, the “Arabian Nights” of Lane, the illustrations to which, produced under the supervision of the translator, are said to be so accurate as to give the appropriate turbans for every hour of the day. They show considerable freedom of invention and a large fund of Orientalism.
Harvey came to London in 1817; Clennell had preceded him by some years; and Nesbit lived there for a considerable time. What distinguishes these pupils of Bewick especially is, that they were artists as well as engravers, capable of producing the designs they engraved. The “London School” of engravers, on the contrary, were mostly engravers, who depended upon others for their designs. The foremost of these was Robert Branston, a skilful renderer of human figures and indoor scenes. He worked in rivalry with Bewick and Nesbit; but he excelled neither, while he fell far behind the former. John Thompson, one of the very best of modern English engravers on wood, was Branston’s pupil. His range was of the widest, and he succeeded as well in engraving fishes and birds for Yarrell and Walton’s “Angler,” as in illustrations to Moliere and “Hudibras.” He was, besides, a clever draughtsman, though he worked chiefly from the designs of Thurston and others. One of the most successful of his illustrated books is the “Vicar of Wakefield,” after Mulready, whose simplicity and homely feeling were well suited to Goldsmith’s style. Another excellent engraver of this date is Samuel Williams. There is an edition of Thomson’s “Seasons,” with cuts both drawn and engraved by him, which is well worthy of attention, and (like Thompson and Branston) he was very skilful in reproducing the designs of Cruikshank. Some of his best work in this way is to be found in Clarke’s “Three Courses and a Dessert,” published by Vizetelly in 1830.
From this time forth, however, one hears less of the engraver and more of the artist. The establishment of the “Penny Magazine” in 1832, and the multifarious publications of Charles Knight, gave an extraordinary impetus to wood-engraving. Ten years later came “Punch,” and the “Illustrated London News,” which further increased its popularity. Artists of eminence began to draw on or for the block, as they had drawn, and were still drawing, for the “Annuals.” In 1842–6 was issued the great “Abbotsford” edition of the “Waverley Novels,” which, besides 120 plates, contained nearly 2000 wood-engravings; and with the “Book of British Ballads,” 1843, edited by Mr. S. C. Hall, arose that long series of illustrated Christmas books, which gradually supplanted the “Annuals,” and made familiar the names of Gilbert, Birket Foster, Harrison Weir, John Absolon, and a crowd of others. The poems of Longfellow, Montgomery, Burns, “Barry Cornwall,” Poe, Miss Ingelow, were all successively “illustrated.” Besides these, there were numerous selections, such as Willmott’s “Poets of the Nineteenth Century,” Wills’s “Poets’ Wit and Humour,” and so forth. But the field here grows too wide to be dealt with in detail, and it is impossible to do more than mention a few of the books most prominent for merit or originality. Amongst these there is the “Shakespeare” of Sir John Gilbert. Regarded as an interpretative edition of the great dramatist, this is little more than a brilliant tour de force; but it is nevertheless infinitely superior to the earlier efforts of Kenny Meadows in 1843, and also to the fancy designs of Harvey in Knight’s “Pictorial Shakespeare.” The “Illustrated Tennyson” of 1858 is also a remarkable production. The Laureate, almost more than any other, requires a variety of illustrators; and here, for his idylls, he had Mulready and Millais, and for his romances Rossetti and Holman Hunt. His “Princess” was afterwards illustrated by Maclise, and his “Enoch Arden” by Arthur Hughes; but neither of these can be said to be wholly adequate. The “Lalla Rookh” of John Tenniel, 1860, albeit somewhat stiff and cold, after this artist’s fashion, is a superb collection of carefully studied oriental designs. With these may be classed the illustrations to Aytoun’s “Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers,” by Sir Noel Paton, which have the same finished qualities of composition and the same academic hardness. Several good editions of the “Pilgrim’s Progress” have appeared, — notably those of C. H. Bennett, J. D. Watson, and G. H. Thomas. Other books are Millais’s “Parables of our Lord,” Leighton’s “Romola,” Walker’s “Philip” and “Denis Duval,” the “Don Quixote,” “Dante,” “La Fontaine” and other works of Dore, Dalziel’s “Arabian Nights,” Leighton’s “Lyra Germanica” and “Moral Emblems,” and the “Spiritual Conceits” of W. Harry Rogers. These are some only of the number, which does not include books like Mrs. Hugh Blackburn’s “British Birds,” Wolf’s “Wild Animals,” Wise’s “New Forest,” Linton’s “Lake Country,” Wood’s “Natural History,” and many more. Nor does it take in the various illustrated periodicals which have multiplied so freely since, in 1859, “Once a Week” first began to attract and train such younger draughtsmen as Sandys, Lawless, Pinwell, Houghton, Morten, and Paul Grey, some of whose best work in this way has been revived in the edition of Thornbury’s “Ballads and Songs,” recently published by Chatto and Windus. Ten years later came the “Graphic,” offering still wider opportunities to wood-cut art, and bringing with it a fresh school of artists. Herkomer, Fildes, Small, Green, Barnard, Barnes, Crane, Caldecott, Hopkins, and others, — quos nunc perscribere longum est — have contributed good work to this popular rival of the older, but still vigorous, “Illustrated.” And now again, another promising serial, the “Magazine of Art,” affords a supplementary field to modern refinements and younger energies.
Not a few of the artists named in the preceding paragraph have also earned distinction in separate branches of the pictorial art, and specially in that of humorous design, — a department which has always been so richly recruited in this country that it deserves more than a passing mention. From the days of Hogarth onwards there has been an almost unbroken series of humorous draughtsmen, who, both on wood and metal, play a distinguished part in our illustrated literature. Rowlandson, one of the earliest, was a caricaturist of inexhaustible facility, and an artist who scarcely did justice to his own powers. He illustrated several books, but he is chiefly remembered in this way by his plates to Combe’s “Three Tours of Dr. Syntax.” Gillray, his contemporary, whose bias was political rather than social, is said to have illustrated “The Deserted Village” in his youth; but he is not famous as a book-illustrator. Another of the early men was Bunbury, whom “quality”-loving Mr. Walpole calls “the second Hogarth, and first imitator who ever fully equalled his original (!);” but whose prints to “Tristram Shandy,” are nevertheless completely forgotten, while, if he be remembered at all, it is by the plate of “The Long Minuet,” and the vulgar “Directions to Bad Horsemen.” With the first years of the century, however, appears the great master of modern humorists, whose long life ended only a few years since, “the veteran George Cruikshank” — as his admirers were wont to style him. He indeed may justly be compared to Hogarth, since, in tragic power and intensity he occasionally comes nearer to him than any artist of our time. It is manifestly impossible to mention here all the more important efforts of this indefatigable worker, from those far-away days when he caricatured “Boney” and championed Queen Caroline, to that final frontispiece for “The Rose and the Lily” — “designed and etched (according to the inscription) by George Cruikshank, age 83;” but the plates to the “Points of Humour,” to Grimm’s “Goblins,” to “Oliver Twist,” “Jack Sheppard,” Maxwell’s “Irish Rebellion,” and the “Table Book,” are sufficiently favourable and varied specimens of his skill with the needle, while the woodcuts to “Three Courses and a Dessert,” one of which is here given, are equally good examples of his work on the block. The “Triumph of Cupid,” which begins the “Table Book,” is an excellent instance of his lavish wealth of fancy, and it contains beside, one — nay more than one — of the many portraits of the artist. He is shown en robe de chambre, smoking (this was before his regenerate days!) in front of a blazing fire, with a pet spaniel on his knee. In the cloud which curls from his lips is a motley procession of sailors, sweeps, jockeys, Greenwich pensioners, Jew clothesmen, flunkies, and others more illustrious, chained to the chariot wheels of Cupid, who, preceded by cherubic acolytes and banner-bearers, winds round the top of the picture towards an altar of Hymen on the table. When, by the aid of a pocket-glass, one has mastered these swarming figures, as well as those in the foreground, it gradually dawns upon one that all the furniture is strangely vitalised. Masks laugh round the border of the tablecloth, the markings of the mantelpiece resolve themselves into rows of madly-racing figures, the tongs leers in a degage and cavalier way at the artist, the shovel and poker grin in sympathy; there are faces in the smoke, in the fire, in the fireplace, — the very fender itself is a ring of fantastic creatures who jubilantly hem in the ashes. And it is not only in the grotesque and fanciful that Cruikshank excels; he is master of the strange, the supernatural, and the terrible. In range of character (the comparison is probably a hackneyed one), both by his gifts and his limitations, he resembles Dickens; and had he illustrated more of that writer’s works the resemblance would probably have been more evident. In “Oliver Twist,” for example, where Dickens is strong, Cruikshank is strong; where Dickens is weak, he is weak too. His Fagin, his Bill Sikes, his Bumble, and their following, are on a level with Dickens’s conceptions; his Monk and Rose Maylie are as poor as the originals. But as the defects of Dickens are overbalanced by his merits, so Cruikshank’s strength is far in excess of his weakness. It is not to his melodramatic heroes or wasp-waisted heroines that we must look for his triumphs; it is to his delineations, from the moralist’s point of view, of vulgarity and vice, — of the “rank life of towns,” with all its squalid tragedy and comedy. Here he finds his strongest ground, and possibly, notwithstanding his powers as a comic artist and caricaturist, his loftiest claim to recollection.
Cruikshank was employed on two only of Dickens’s books — “Oliver Twist” and the “Sketches by Boz.” 13 The great majority of them were illustrated by Hablot K. Browne, an artist who followed the ill-fated Seymour on the “Pickwick Papers.” To “Phiz,” as he is popularly called, we are indebted for our pictorial ideas of Sam Weller, Mrs. Gamp, Captain Cuttle, and most of the author’s characters, down to the “Tale of Two Cities.” “Phiz” also illustrated a great many of Lever’s novels, for which his skill in hunting and other Lever-like scenes especially qualified him.
With the name of Richard Doyle we come to the first of a group of artists whose main work was, or is still, done for the time-honoured miscellany of Mr. Punch. So familiar an object is “Punch” upon our tables, that one is sometimes apt to forget how unfailing, and how good on the whole, is the work we take so complacently as a matter of course. And of this good work, in the earlier days, a large proportion was done by Mr. Doyle. He is still living, although he has long ceased to gladden those sprightly pages. But it was to “Punch” that he contributed his masterpiece, the “Manners and Customs of ye Englyshe,” a series of outlines illustrating social life in 1849, and cleverly commented by a shadowy “Mr. Pips,” a sort of fetch or double of the bustling and garrulous old Caroline diarist. In these captivating pictures the life of thirty years ago is indeed, as the title-page has it, “drawn from ye quick.” We see the Molesworths and Cantilupes of the day parading the Park; we watch Brougham fretting at a hearing in the Lords, or Peel holding forth to the Commons (where the Irish members are already obstructive); we squeeze in at the Haymarket to listen to Jenny Lind, or we run down the river to Greenwich Fair, and visit “Mr. Richardson, his show.” Many years after, in the “Bird’s Eye Views of Society,” which appeared in the early numbers of the “Cornhill Magazine,” Mr. Doyle returned to this attractive theme. But the later designs were more elaborate, and not equally fortunate. They bear the same relationship to Mr. Pips’s pictorial chronicle, as the laboured “Temperance Fairy Tales” of Cruikshank’s old age bear to the little-worked Grimm’s “Goblins” of his youth. So hazardous is the attempt to repeat an old success! Nevertheless, many of the initial letters to the “Bird’s Eye Views” are in the artist’s best and most frolicsome manner. “The Foreign Tour of Brown, Jones, and Robinson” is another of his happy thoughts for “Punch;” and some of his most popular designs are to be found in Thackeray’s “Newcomes,” where his satire and fancy seem thoroughly suited to his text. He has also illustrated Locker’s well-known “London Lyrics,” Ruskin’s “King of the Golden River,” and Hughes’s “Scouring of the White Horse,” from which last the initial at the beginning of this chapter has been borrowed. His latest important effort was the series of drawings called “In Fairy Land,” to which Mr. William Allingham contributed the verses.
In speaking of the “Newcomes,” one is reminded that its illustrious author was himself a “Punch” artist, and would probably have been a designer alone, had it not been decreed “that he should paint in colours which will never crack and never need restoration.” Everyone knows the story of the rejected illustrator of “Pickwick,” whom that and other rebuffs drove permanently to letters. To his death, however, he clung fondly to his pencil. In technique he never attained to certainty or strength, and his genius was too quick and creative — perhaps also too desultory — for finished work, while he was always indifferent to costume and accessory. But many of his sketches for “Vanity Fair,” for “Pendennis,” for “The Virginians,” for “The Rose and the Ring,” the Christmas books, and the posthumously published “Orphan of Pimlico,” have a vigour of impromptu, and a happy suggestiveness which is better than correct drawing. Often the realisation is almost photographic. Look, for example, at the portrait in “Pendennis” of the dilapidated Major as he crawls downstairs in the dawn after the ball at Gaunt House, and then listen to the inimitable context: “That admirable and devoted Major above all, — who had been for hours by Lady Clavering’s side ministering to her and feeding her body with everything that was nice, and her ear with everything that was sweet and flattering — oh! what an object he was! The rings round his eyes were of the colour of bistre; those orbs themselves were like the plovers’ eggs whereof Lady Clavering and Blanche had each tasted; the wrinkles in his old face were furrowed in deep gashes; and a silver stubble, like an elderly morning dew, was glittering on his chin, and alongside the dyed whiskers, now limp and out of curl.” A good deal of this — that fine touch in italics especially — could not possibly be rendered in black and white, and yet how much is indicated, and how thoroughly the whole is felt! One turns to the woodcut from the words, and back again to the words from the woodcut with ever-increasing gratification. Then again, Thackeray’s little initial letters are charmingly arch and playful. They seem to throw a shy side-light upon the text, giving, as it were, an additional and confidential hint of the working of the author’s mind. To those who, with the present writer, love every tiny scratch and quirk and flourish of the Master’s hand, these small but priceless memorials are far beyond the frigid appraising of academics and schools of art.
After Doyle and Thackeray come a couple of well-known artists — John Leech and John Tenniel. The latter still lives (may he long live!) to delight and instruct us. Of the former, whose genial and manly “Pictures of Life and Character” are in every home where good-humoured raillery is prized and appreciated, it is scarcely necessary to speak. Who does not remember the splendid languid swells, the bright-eyed rosy girls (“with no nonsense about them!”) in pork pie hats and crinolines, the superlative “Jeames’s,” the hairy “Mossoos,” the music-grinding Italian desperadoes whom their kind creator hated so? And then the intrepidity of “Mr. Briggs,” the Roman rule of “Paterfamilias,” the vagaries of the “Rising Generation!” There are things in this gallery over which the severest misanthrope must chuckle — they are simply irresistible. Let any one take, say that smallest sketch of the hapless mortal who has turned on the hot water in the bath and cannot turn it off again, and see if he is able to restrain his laughter. In this one gift of producing instant mirth Leech is almost alone. It would be easy to assail his manner and his skill, but for sheer fun, for the invention of downright humorous situation, he is unapproached, except by Cruikshank. He did a few illustrations to Dickens’s Christmas books; but his best-known book-illustrations properly so called are to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the “Comic Histories” of A’Beckett, the “Little Tour in Ireland,” and certain sporting novels by the late Mr. Surtees. Tenniel now confines himself almost exclusively to the weekly cartoons with which his name is popularly associated. But years ago he used to invent the most daintily fanciful initial letters; and many of his admirers prefer the serio-grotesque designs of “Punch’s Pocket–Book,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Through the Looking–Glass,” to the always correctly-drawn but sometimes stiffly-conceived cartoons. What, for example, could be more delightful than the picture, in “Alice in Wonderland,” of the “Mad Tea Party?” Observe the hopelessly distraught expression of the March hare, and the eager incoherence of the hatter! A little further on the pair are trying to squeeze the dormouse into the teapot; and a few pages back the blue caterpillar is discovered smoking his hookah on the top of a mushroom. He was exactly three inches long, says the veracious chronicle, but what a dignity! — what an oriental flexibility of gesture! Speaking of animals, it must not be forgotten that Tenniel is a master in this line. His “British Lion,” in particular, is a most imposing quadruped, and so often in request that it is not necessary to go back to the famous cartoons on the Indian mutiny to seek for examples of that magnificent presence. As a specimen of the artist’s treatment of the lesser felidae, the reader’s attention is invited to this charming little kitten from “Through the Looking–Glass.”
Mr. Tenniel is a link between Leech and the younger school of “Punch” artists, of whom Mr. George du Maurier, Mr. Linley Sambourne, and Mr. Charles Keene are the most illustrious. The first is nearly as popular as Leech, and is certainly a greater favourite with cultivated audiences. He is not so much a humorist as a satirist of the Thackeray type, — unsparing in his denunciation of shams, affectations, and flimsy pretences of all kinds. A master of composition and accomplished draughtsman, he excels in the delineation of “society” — its bishops, its “professional beauties” and “aesthetes,” its nouveaux riches, its distinguished foreigners,- -while now and then (but not too often) he lets us know that if he chose he could be equally happy in depicting the lowest classes. There was a bar-room scene not long ago in “Punch” which gave the clearest evidence of this. Some of those for whom no good thing is good enough complain, it is said, that he lacks variety — that he is too constant to one type of feminine beauty. But any one who will be at the pains to study a group of conventional “society” faces from any of his “At Homes” or “Musical Parties” will speedily discover that they are really very subtly diversified and contrasted. For a case in point, take the decorously sympathetic group round the sensitive German musician, who is “veeping” over one of his own compositions. Or follow the titter running round that amused assembly to whom the tenor warbler is singing “Me-e-e-et me once again,” with such passionate emphasis that the domestic cat mistakes it for a well-known area cry. As for his ladies, it may perhaps be conceded that his type is a little persistent. Still it is a type so refined, so graceful, so attractive altogether, that in the jarring of less well-favoured realities it is an advantage to have it always before our eyes as a standard to which we can appeal. Mr. du Maurier is a fertile book-illustrator, whose hand is frequently seen in the “Cornhill,” and elsewhere. Some of his best work of this kind is in Douglas Jerrold’s “Story of a Feather,” in Thackeray’s “Ballads,” and the large edition of the “Ingoldsby Legends,” to which Leech, Tenniel, and Cruikshank also contributed. One of his prettiest compositions is the group here reproduced from “Punch’s Almanack” for 1877. The talent of his colleague, Mr. Linley Sambourne, may fairly be styled unique. It is difficult to compare it with anything in its way, except some of the happier efforts of the late Mr. Charles Bennett, to which, nevertheless, it is greatly superior in execution. To this clever artist’s invention everything seems to present itself with a train of fantastic accessory so whimsically inexhaustible that it almost overpowers one with its prodigality. Each fresh examination of his designs discloses something overlooked or unexpected. Let the reader study for a moment the famous “Birds of a Feather” of 1875, or that ingenious skit of 1877 upon the rival Grosvenor Gallery and Academy, in which the late President of the latter is shown as the proudest of peacocks, the eyes of whose tail are portraits of Royal Academicians, and whose body-feathers are paint brushes and shillings of admission. Mr. Sambourne is excellent, too, at adaptations of popular pictures, — witness the more than happy parodies of Herrman’s “A Bout d’Arguments,” and “Une Bonne Histoire.” His book-illustrations have been comparatively few, those to Burnand’s laughable burlesque of “Sandford and Merton” being among the best. Rumour asserts that he is at present engaged upon Kingsley’s “Water Babies,” a subject which might almost be supposed to have been created for his pencil. There are indications, it may be added, that Mr. Sambourne’s talents are by no means limited to the domain in which for the present he chooses to exercise them, and it is not impossible that he may hereafter take high rank as a cartoonist. Mr. Charles Keene, a selection from whose sketches has recently been issued under the title of “Our People,” is unrivalled in certain bourgeois, military, and provincial types. No one can draw a volunteer, a monthly nurse, a Scotchman, an “ancient mariner” of the watering-place species, with such absolutely humorous verisimilitude. Personages, too, in whose eyes — to use Mr. Swiveller’s euphemism — “the sun has shone too strongly,” find in Mr. Keene a merciless satirist of their “pleasant vices.” Like Leech, he has also a remarkable power of indicating a landscape background with the fewest possible touches. His book-illustrations have been.mainly confined to magazines and novels. Those in “Once a Week” to a “Good Fight,” the tale subsequently elaborated by Charles Reade into the “Cloister and the Hearth,” present some good specimens of his earlier work. One of these, in which the dwarf of the story is seen climbing up a wall with a lantern at his back, will probably be remembered by many.
After the “Punch” school there are other lesser luminaries. Mr. W. S. Gilbert’s drawings to his own inimitable “Bab Ballads” have a perverse drollery which is quite in keeping with that erratic text. Mr. F. Barnard, whose exceptional talents have not been sufficiently recognised, is a master of certain phases of strongly marked character, and, like Mr. Charles Green, has contributed some excellent sketches to the “Household Edition” of Dickens. Mr. Sullivan of “Fun,” whose grotesque studies of the “British Tradesman” and “Workman” have recently been republished, has abounding vis comica, but he has hitherto done little in the way of illustrating books. For minute pictorial stocktaking and photographic retention of detail, Mr. Sullivan’s artistic memory may almost be compared to the wonderful literary memory of Mr. Sala. Mr. John Proctor, who some years ago (in “Will o’ the Wisp”) seemed likely to rival Tenniel as a cartoonist, has not been very active in this way; while Mr. Matthew Morgan, the clever artist of the “Tomahawk,” has transferred his services to the United States. Of Mr. Bowcher of “Judy,” and various other professedly humorous designers, space permits no further mention.
There remains, however, one popular branch of book-illustration, which has attracted the talents of some of the most skilful and original of modern draughtsmen, i.e. the embellishment of children’s books. From the days when Mulready drew the old “Butterfly’s Ball” and “Peacock at Home” of our youth, to those of the delightfully Blake-like fancies of E. V. B., whose “Child’s Play” has recently been re-published for the delectation of a new generation of admirers, this has always been a popular and profitable employment; but of late years it has been raised to the level of a fine art. Mr. H. S. Marks, Mr. J. D. Watson, Mr. Walter Crane, have produced specimens of nursery literature which, for refinement of colouring and beauty of ornament, cannot easily be surpassed. The equipments of the last named, especially, are of a very high order. He began as a landscapist on wood; he now chiefly devotes himself to the figure; and he seems to have the decorative art at his fingers’ ends as a natural gift. Such work as “King Luckieboy’s Party” was a revelation in the way of toy books, while the “Baby’s Opera” and “Baby’s Bouquet” are petits chefs d’oeuvre, of which the sagacious collector will do well to secure copies, not for his nursery, but his library. Nor can his “Mrs. Mundi at Home” be neglected by the curious in quaint and graceful invention. 14 Another book — the “Under the Window” of Miss Kate Greenaway — comes within the same category. Since Stothard, no one has given us such a clear-eyed, soft-faced, happy-hearted childhood; or so poetically “apprehended” the coy reticences, the simplicities, and the small solemnities of little people. Added to this, the old-world costume in which she usually elects to clothe her characters, lends an arch piquancy of contrast to their innocent rites and ceremonies. Her taste in tinting, too, is very sweet and spring-like; and there is a fresh, pure fragrance about all her pictures as of new-gathered nosegays; or, perhaps, looking to the fashions that she favours, it would be better to say “bow-pots.” But the latest “good genius” of this branch of book-illustrating is Mr. Randolph Caldecott, a designer assuredly of the very first order. There is a spontaneity of fun, an unforced invention about everything he does, that is infinitely entertaining. Other artists draw to amuse us; Mr. Caldecott seems to draw to amuse himself, — and this is his charm. One feels that he must have chuckled inwardly as he puffed the cheeks of his “Jovial Huntsmen;” or sketched that inimitably complacent dog in the “House that Jack Built;” or exhibited the exploits of the immortal “train-band captain” of “famous London town.” This last is his masterpiece. Cowper himself must have rejoiced at it, — and Lady Austen. There are two sketches in this book — they occupy the concluding pages — which are especially fascinating. On one, John Gilpin, in a forlorn and flaccid condition, is helped into the house by the sympathising (and very attractive) Betty; on the other he has donned his slippers, refreshed his inner man with a cordial, and over the heaving shoulder of his “spouse,” who lies dissolved upon his martial bosom, he is taking the spectators into his confidence with a wink worthy of the late Mr. Buckstone. Nothing more genuine, more heartily laughable, than this set of designs has appeared in our day. And Mr. Caldecott has few limitations. Not only does he draw human nature admirably, but he draws animals and landscapes equally well, so one may praise him without reserve. Though not children’s books, mention should here be made of his “Bracebridge Hall,” and “Old Christmas,” the illustrations to which are the nearest approach to that beau-ideal, perfect sympathy between the artist and the author, with which the writer is acquainted. The cut on page 173 is from the former of these works.
Many of the books above mentioned are printed in colours by various processes, and they are not always engraved on wood. But — to close the account of modern wood-engraving — some brief reference must be made to what is styled the “new American School,” as exhibited for the most part in “Scribner’s” and other Transatlantic magazines. Authorities, it is reported, shake their heads over these performances. “C’est magnifique, mais ce nest pas la gravure,” they whisper. Into the matter in dispute, it is perhaps presumptuous for an “atechnic” to adventure himself. But to the outsider it would certainly seem as if the chief ground of complaint is that the new comers do not play the game according to the old rules, and that this (alleged) irregular mode of procedure tends to lessen the status of the engraver as an artist. False or true, this, it may fairly be advanced, has nothing whatever to do with the matter, as far, at least, as the public are concerned. For them the question is, simply and solely — What is the result obtained? The new school, availing themselves largely of the assistance of photography, are able to dispense, in a great measure, with the old tedious method of drawing on the block, and to leave the artist to choose what medium he prefers for his design — be it oil, water-colour, or black and white — concerning themselves only to reproduce its characteristics on the wood. This is, of course, a deviation from the method of Bewick. But would Bewick have adhered to his method in these days? Even in his last hours he was seeking for new processes. What we want is to get nearest to the artist himself with the least amount of interpretation or intermediation on the part of the engraver. Is engraving on copper to be reproduced, we want a facsimile if possible, and not a rendering into something which is supposed to be the orthodox utterance of wood-engraving. Take, for example, the copy of Schiavonetti’s engraving of Blake’s Death’s Door in “Scribner’s Magazine” for June 1880, or the cut from the same source at page 131 of this book. These are faithful line for line transcriptions, as far as wood can give them, of the original copper-plates; and, this being the case, it is not to be wondered at that the public, who, for a few pence can have practical facsimiles of Blake, of Cruikshank, or of Whistler, are loud in their appreciation of the “new American School.” Nor are its successes confined to reproduction in facsimile. Those who look at the exquisite illustrations, in the same periodical, to the “Tile Club at Play,” to Roe’s “Success with Small Fruits,” and Harris’s “Insects Injurious to Vegetation,” — to say nothing of the selected specimens in the recently issued “Portfolios” — will see that the latest comers can hold their own on all fields with any school that has gone before. 15
Besides copperplate and wood, there are many processes which have been and are still employed for book-illustrations, although the brief limits of this chapter make any account of them impossible. Lithography was at one time very popular, and, in books like Roberts’s “Holy Land,” exceedingly effective. The “Etching Club” issued a number of books circa 1841–52; and most of the work of “Phiz” and Cruikshank was done with the needle. It is probable that, as we have already seen, the impetus given to modern etching by Messrs. Hamerton, Seymour Haden, and Whistler, will lead to a specific revival of etching as a means of book-illustration. Already beautiful etchings have for some time appeared in “L’Art,” the “Portfolio,” and the “Etcher;” and at least one book of poems has been entirely illustrated in this way, — the poems of Mr. W. Bell Scott. For reproducing old engravings, maps, drawings, and the like, it is not too much to say that we shall never get anything much closer than the facsimiles of M. Amand–Durand and the Typographic Etching and Autotype Companies. But further improvements will probably have to be made before these can compete commercially with wood-engraving as practised by the “new American School.”
9 The recent Winter Exhibition of the Old Masters (1881) contained a fine display of Flaxman’s drawings, a large number of which belonged to Mr. F. T. Palgrave.
10 By Mr. Cosmo Monkhouse.
11 These words were written before the “Art Journal” had published its programme for 1881. From this it appears that the present editor fully recognises the necessity for calling in the assistance of the needle.
12 The example, here copied on the wood by M. Lacour, is a very successful reproduction of Clennell’s style.
13 He also illustrated the “Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi.” But this was simply “edited” by “Boz.”
14 The reader will observe that this volume is indebted to Mr. Crane for its beautiful frontispiece.
15 Since this paragraph was first written an interesting paper on the illustrations in “Scribner,” from the pen of Mr. J. Comyns Carr, has appeared in “L’Art.”
“Of making many books,” ‘twais said,
“There is no end;” and who thereon
The ever-running ink doth shed
But probes the words of Solomon:
Wherefore we now, for colophon,
From London’s city drear and dark,
In the year Eighteen Eight–One,
Reprint them at the press of Clark.
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