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ENEMIES OF BOOKS
_Revised and Enlarged by the Author_
ELLIOT STOCK, 62 PATERNOSTER ROW
Libraries destroyed by Fire.--Alexandrian.--St. Paul's destruction
of MSS., Value of.--Christian books destroyed by Heathens.--Heathen
books destroyed by Christians.--Hebrew books burnt at Cremona.--Arabic
books at Grenada.--Monastic libraries.--Colton library.--Birmingham
riots.--Dr. Priestley's library.--Lord Mansfield's books.--Cowper.
--Strasbourg library bombarded.--Offor Collection burnt.--Dutch
Church library damaged.--Library of Corporation of London.
Heer Hudde's library lost at sea.--Pinelli's library captured
by Corsairs.--MSS. destroyed by Mohammed II--Books damaged by
rain.--Woffenbuttel.--Vapour and Mould.--Brown stains.--Dr.
Dibdin.--Hot water pipes.--Asbestos fire.--Glass doors to bookcases.
GAS AND HEAT.
Effects of Gas on leather.--Necessitates re-binding.--Bookbinders.--Electric
light.--British Museum.--Treatment of books.--Legend of Friars and
DUST AND NEGLECT.
Books should have gilt tops.--Old libraries were neglected.--Instance
of a College library.--Clothes brushed in it.--Abuses in French
libraries.--Derome's account of them.--Boccaccio's story of
library at the Convent of Mount Cassin.
IGNORANCE AND BIGOTRY.
Destruction of Books at the Reformation.--Mazarin library.--Caxton
used to light the fire.--Library at French Protestant Church,
St. Martin's-le-Grand.--Books stolen.--Story of books from Thonock
Hall.--Boke of St. Albans.--Recollet Monks of Antwerp.--Shakespearian
"find."--Black-letter books used in W.C.--Gesta Romanorum.--Lansdowne
collection.--Warburton.--Tradesman and rare book.--Parish Register.--Story
of Bigotry by M. Muller.--Clergymen destroy books.--Patent Office sell
books for waste.
Doraston.--Not so destructive as of yore.--Worm won't eat
parchment.--Pierre Petit's poem.--Hooke's account and image.--Its
natural history neglected.--Various sorts--Attempts to breed
Bookworms.--Greek worm.--Havoc made by worms.--Bodleian and Dr.
Bandinel.--"Dermestes."--Worm won't eat modern paper.--America
comparatively free.--Worm-hole at Philadelphia.
Black-beetle in American libraries.--germanica.--Bug Bible.--Lepisma.
--Codfish.--Skeletons of Rats in Abbey library, Westminster.--Niptus
hololeucos.--Tomicus Typographicus.--House flies injure books.
A good binding gives pleasure.--Deadly effects of the "plough" as used
by binders.--Not confined to bye-gone times.--Instances of injury.--De
Rome, a good binder but a great cropper.--Books "hacked."--Bad
lettering--Treasures in book-covers.--Books washed, sized, and
mended.--"Cases" often Preferable to re-binding.
Bagford the biblioclast.--Illustrations torn from MSS.--Title-pages
torn from books.--Rubens, his engraved titles.--Colophons torn out of
books.--Lincoln Cathedral--Dr. Dibdin's Nosegay.--Theurdanck.--Fragments
of MSS.-Some libraries almost useless.--Pepysian.--Teylerian.--Sir
SERVANTS AND CHILDREN.
Library invaded for the purpose of dusting.--Spring clean.---Dust to be
got rid of.--Ways of doing so.--Carefulness praised.--Bad nature of
certain books--Metal clasps and rivets.--How to dust.--Children
often injure books.--Examples.--Story of boys in a country library.
Anecdote of book-sale in Derbyshire.
The care that should be taken of books.--Enjoyment derived from them.
SERVANT USING A "CAXTON" TO LIGHT THE FIRE --- _Frontispiece_,
PIRATES THROWING LIBRARY OVER-BOARD ---------- page 19
FRIARS AND THEIR ASS-LOAD -------------------- 35
BRUSHING CLOTHES IN A COLLEGE LIBRARY -------- 45
BOOKWORMS ------------------------------------ 73
RATS DESTROYING BOOKS ------------------------ 99
HOUSEHOLD FLY-DAMAGE ------------------------- 102
BOYS RAMPANT IN LIBRARY ---------------------- 141
THE ENEMIES OF BOOKS.
THERE are many of the forces of Nature which tend to injure Books;
but among them all not one has been half so destructive
as Fire. It would be tedious to write out a bare list only
of the numerous libraries and bibliographical treasures which,
in one way or another, have been seized by the Fire-king as his own.
Chance conflagrations, fanatic incendiarism, judicial bonfires,
and even household stoves have, time after time, thinned the treasures
as well as the rubbish of past ages, until, probably, not one
thousandth part of the books that have been are still extant.
This destruction cannot, however, be reckoned as all loss;
for had not the "cleansing fires" removed mountains of rubbish from
our midst, strong destructive measures would have become a necessity
from sheer want of space in which to store so many volumes.
Before the invention of Printing, books were comparatively scarce;
and, knowing as we do, how very difficult it is, even after
the steam-press has been working for half a century, to make
a collection of half a million books, we are forced to receive
with great incredulity the accounts in old writers of the wonderful
extent of ancient libraries.
The historian Gibbon, very incredulous in many things, accepts without
questioning the fables told upon this subject.No doubt the libraries of
MSS. collected generation after generation by the Egyptian Ptolemies
became, in the course of time, the most extensive ever then known; and
were famous throughout the world for the costliness of their ornamentation,
and importance of their untold contents. Two of these were at Alexandria,
the larger of which was in the quarter called Bruchium. These volumes,
like all manuscripts of those early ages, were written on sheets of
parchment, having a wooden roller at each end so that the reader needed
only to unroll a portion at a time. During Caesar's Alexandrian War, B.C.
48, the larger collection was consumed by fire and again burnt by the
Saracens in A.D. 640. An immense loss was inflicted upon mankind thereby;
but when we are told of 700,000, or even 500,000 of such volumes being
destroyed we instinctively feel that such numbers must be a great
exaggeration. Equally incredulous must we be when we read of half a
million volumes being burnt at Carthage some centuries later, and other
Among the earliest records of the wholesale destruction of Books
is that narrated by St. Luke, when, after the preaching of Paul,
many of the Ephesians "which used curious arts brought their books
together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price
of them, and found it 50,000 pieces of silver" (Acts xix, 19).
Doubtless these books of idolatrous divination and alchemy, of
enchantments and witchcraft, were righteously destroyed by those to
whom they had been and might again be spiritually injurious; and
doubtless had they escaped the fire then, not one of them would have
survived to the present time, no MS.of that age being now extant.
Nevertheless, I must confess to a certain amount of mental disquietude
and uneasiness when I think of books worth 50,000 denarii--or, speaking
roughly, say L18,750, of our modern money being made into bonfires.
What curious illustrations of early heathenism, of Devil worship, of
Serpent worship, of Sun worship, and other archaic forms of religion;
of early astrological and chemical lore, derived from the Egyptians,
the Persians, the Greeks; what abundance of superstitious observances
and what is now termed "Folklore"; what riches, too, for the philological
student, did those many books contain, and how famous would the library
now be that could boast of possessing but a few of them.
 The received opinion is that the "pieces of silver" here mentioned
were Roman denarii, which were the silver pieces then commonly used in
Ephesus. If now we weigh a denarius against modern silver, it is
exactly equal to ninepence, and fifty thousand times ninepence gives
L1,875. It is always a difficult matter to arrive at a just estimate of
the relative value of the same coin in different ages; but reckoning
that money then had at least ten times the purchasing value of money
now, we arrive at what was probably about the value of the magical books
burnt, viz.: L18,750.
The ruins of Ephesus bear unimpeachable evidence that the City was very
extensive and had magnificent buildings. It was one of the free cities,
governing itself. Its trade in shrines and idols was very extensive,
being spread through all known lands. There the magical arts were
remarkably prevalent, and notwithstanding the numerous converts made by
the early Christians, the
which magic sentences were written, formed an extensive trade up to the
fourth century. These "writings" were used for divination, as a protection
against the "evil eye," and generally as charms against all evil.They
were carried about the person, so that probably thousands of them were
thrown into the flames by St. Paul's hearers when his glowing words
convinced them of their superstition.
Imagine an open space near the grand Temple of Diana, with fine buildings
around. Slightly raised above the crowd, the Apostle, preaching with
great power and persuasion concerning superstition, holds in thrall the
assembled multitude. On the outskirts of the crowd are numerous bonfires,
upon which Jew and Gentile are throwing into the flames bundle upon bundle
of scrolls, while an Asiarch with his peace-officers looks on with the
conventional stolidity of policemen in all ages and all nations. It must
have been an impressive scene, and many a worse subject has been chosen
for the walls of the Royal Academy.
Books in those early times, whether orthodox or heterodox, appear to have
had a precarious existence. The heathens at each fresh outbreak of
persecution burnt all the Christian writings they could find, and the
Christians, when they got the upper hand, retaliated with interest upon
the pagan literature. The Mohammedan reason for destroying books--"If
they contain what is in the Koran they are superfluous, and if they contain
anything opposed to it they are immoral," seems, indeed, _mutatis mutandis_,
to have been the general rule for all such devastators.
The Invention of Printing made the entire destruction of any author's
works much more difficult, so quickly and so extensively did books
spread through all lands. On the other hand, as books multiplied, so
did destruction go hand in hand with production, and soon were printed
books doomed to suffer in the same penal fires, that up to then had been
fed on MSS. only.
At Cremona, in 1569, 12,000 books printed in Hebrew were publicly burnt as
heretical, simply on account of their language; and Cardinal Ximenes, at
the capture of Granada, treated 5,000 copies of the Koran in the same way.
At the time of the Reformation in England a great destruction of books
took place. The antiquarian Bale, writing in 1587, thus speaks of the
shameful fate of the Monastic libraries:--
"A greate nombre of them whyche purchased those superstycyouse mansyons
(_Monasteries_) reserved of those librarye bookes some to serve
their jakes, some to scoure theyr candelstyckes, and some to rubbe
theyr bootes. Some they solde to the grossers and sope sellers,
and some they sent over see to yeS booke bynders, not in small nombre,
but at tymes whole shyppes full, to yeS, wonderynge of foren nacyons.
Yea yeS. Universytees of thys realme are not alle clere in thys
detestable fact. But cursed is that bellye whyche seketh to be
fedde with suche ungodlye gaynes, and so depelye shameth hys
natural conterye. I knowe a merchant manne, whych shall at thys
tyme be namelesse, that boughte yeS contentes of two noble
lybraryes for forty shyllynges pryce: a shame it is to be spoken.
Thys stuffe hathe heoccupyed in yeS stede of greye paper, by yeS,
space of more than these ten yeares, and yet he bathe store ynoughe
for as manye years to come. A prodygyous example is thys, and to be
abhorred of all men whyche love theyr nacyon as they shoulde do.
The monkes kepte them undre dust, yeS, ydle-headed prestes regarded
them not, theyr latter owners have most shamefully abused them,
and yeS covetouse merchantes have solde them away into foren
nacyons for moneye."
How the imagination recoils at the idea of Caxton's translation of
the Metamorphoses of Ovid, or perhaps his "Lyf of therle of Oxenforde,"
together with many another book from our first presses, not a fragment
of which do we now possess, being used for baking "pyes."
At the Great Fire of London in 1666, the number of books burnt was
enormous. Not only in private houses and Corporate and Church libraries
were priceless collections reduced to cinders, but an immense stock of
books removed from Paternoster Row by the Stationers for safety was burnt
to ashes in the vaults of St. Paul's Cathedral.
Coming nearer to our own day, how thankful we ought to be for the
preservation of the Cotton Library. Great was the consternation in the
literary world of 1731 when they heard of the fire at Ashburnham House,
Westminster, where, at that time, the Cotton MSS. were deposited. By
great exertions the fire was conquered, but not before many MSS. had
been quite destroyed and many others injured. Much skill was shown in
the partial restoration of these books, charred almost beyond recognition;
they were carefully separated leaf by leaf, soaked in a chemical solution,
and then pressed flat between sheets of transparent paper. A curious heap
of scorched leaves, previous to any treatment, and looking like a monster
wasps' nest, may be seen in a glass case in the MS. department of the
British Museum, showing the condition to which many other volumes had been
Just a hundred years ago the mob, in the "Birmingham Riots," burnt the
valuable library of Dr. Priestley, and in the "Gordon Riots" were burnt
the literary and other collections of Lord Mansfield, the celebrated judge,
he who had the courage first to decide that the Slave who reached the
English shore was thenceforward a free man. The loss of the latter library
drew from the poet Cowper two short and weak poems. The poet first deplores
the destruction of the valuable printed books, and then the irretrievable
loss to history by the burning of his Lordship's many personal manuscripts
and contemporary documents.
"Their pages mangled, burnt and torn,
The loss was his alone;
But ages yet to come shall mourn
The burning of his own."
The second poem commences with the following doggerel:--
"When Wit and Genius meet their doom
In all-devouring Flame,
They tell us of the Fate of Rome
And bid us fear the same."
The much finer and more extensive library of Dr. Priestley was left
unnoticed and unlamented by the orthodox poet, who probably felt
a complacent satisfaction at the destruction of heterodox books,
the owner being an Unitarian Minister.
The magnificent library of Strasbourg was burnt by the shells
of the German Army in 1870. Then disappeared for ever,
together with other unique documents, the original records of
the famous law-suits between Gutenberg, one of the first Printers,
and his partners, upon the right understanding of which depends
the claim of Gutenberg to the invention of the Art. The flames raged
between high brick walls, roaring louder than a blast furnace.
Seldom, indeed, have Mars and Pluto had so dainty a sacrifice
offered at their shrines; for over all the din of battle,
and the reverberation of monster artillery, the burning
leaves of the first printed Bible and many another priceless
volume were wafted into the sky, the ashes floating for miles
on the heated air, and carrying to the astonished countryman
the first news of the devastation of his Capital.
When the Offor Collection was put to the hammer by Messrs Sotheby
and Wilkinson, the well-known auctioneers of Wellington Street,
and when about three days of the sale had been gone through, a Fire
occurred in the adjoining house, and, gaining possession of the Sale Rooms,
made a speedy end of the unique Bunyan and other rarities then on show.
I was allowed to see the Ruins on the following day, and by means
of a ladder and some scrambling managed to enter the Sale Room
where parts of the floor still remained. It was a fearful sight
those scorched rows of Volumes still on the shelves; and curious was it
to notice how the flames, burning off the backs of the books first,
had then run up behind the shelves, and so attacked the fore-edge
of the volumes standing upon them, leaving the majority with a
perfectly untouched oval centre of white paper and plain print,
while the whole surrounding parts were but a mass of black cinders.
The salvage was sold in one lot for a small sum, and the purchaser,
after a good deal of sorting and mending and binding placed about 1,000
volumes for sale at Messrs. Puttick and Simpson's in the following year.
So, too, when the curious old Library which was in a gallery
of the Dutch Church, Austin Friars, was nearly destroyed
in the fire which devastated the Church in 1862, the books
which escaped were sadly injured. Not long before I had spent
some hours there hunting for English Fifteenth-century Books,
and shall never forget the state of dirt in which I came away.
Without anyone to care for them, the books had remained untouched for
many a decade-damp dust, half an inch thick, having settled upon them!
Then came the fire, and while the roof was all ablaze streams
of hot water, like a boiling deluge, washed down upon them. The wonder
was they were not turned into a muddy pulp. After all was over, the
whole of the library, no portion of which could legally be given away,
was _lent for ever_ to the Corporation of London. Scorched and sodden,
the salvage came into the hands of Mr. Overall, their indefatigable
librarian. In a hired attic, he hung up the volumes that would bear it
over strings like clothes, to dry, and there for weeks and weeks were the
stained, distorted volumes, often without covers, often in single leaves,
carefully tended and dry-nursed. Washing, sizing, pressing,
and binding effected wonders, and no one who to-day looks upon
the attractive little alcove in the Guildhall Library labelled
of handsomely-lettered backs, could imagine that not long ago this,
the most curious portion of the City's literary collections,
was in a state when a five-pound note would have seemed more than
full value for the lot.
NEXT to Fire we must rank Water in its two forms, liquid and vapour,
as the greatest destroyer of books. Thousands of volumes
have been actually drowned at Sea, and no more heard of them
than of the Sailors to whose charge they were committed.
D'Israeli narrates that, about the year 1700, Heer Hudde,
an opulent burgomaster of Middleburgh, travelled for 30 years
disguised as a mandarin, throughout the length and breadth
of the Celestial Empire. Everywhere he collected books,
and his extensive literary treasures were at length safely
shipped for transmission to Europe, but, to the irreparable loss
of his native country, they never reached their destination,
the vessel having foundered in a storm.
In 1785 died the famous Maffei Pinelli, whose library was celebrated
throughout the world. It had been collected by the Pinelli family for
many generations and comprised an extraordinary number of Greek, Latin,
and Italian works, many of them first editions, beautifully illuminated,
together with numerous MSS. dating from the 11th to the 16th century.
The whole library was sold by the Executors to Mr. Edwards, bookseller,
of Pall Mall, who placed the volumes in three vessels for transport from
Venice to London. Pursued by Corsairs, one of the vessels was captured,
but the pirate, disgusted at not finding any treasure, threw all the
books into the sea. The other two vessels escaped and delivered their
freight safely, and in 1789-90 the books which had been so near
destruction were sold at the great room in Conduit Street, for more
These pirates were more excusable than Mohammed II who, upon the capture
of Constantinople in the 15th century, after giving up the devoted city
to be sacked by his licentious soldiers, ordered the books in all the
churches as well as the great library of the Emperor Constantine,
containing 120,000 Manuscripts, to be thrown into the sea.
In the shape of rain, water has frequently caused irreparable injury.
Positive wet is fortunately of rare occurrence in a library,
but is very destructive when it does come, and, if long continued,
the substance of the paper succumbs to the unhealthy influence and
rots and rots until all fibre disappears, and the paper is reduced
to a white decay which crumbles into powder when handled.
Few old libraries in England are now so thoroughly neglected
as they were thirty years ago. The state of many of our Collegiate
and Cathedral libraries was at that time simply appalling.
I could mention many instances, one especially, where a window having
been left broken for a long time, the ivy had pushed through and crept
over a row of books, each of which was worth hundreds of pounds.
In rainy weather the water was conducted, as by a pipe, along the tops
of the books and soaked through the whole.
In another and smaller collection, the rain came straight on to a
book-case through a sky-light, saturating continually the top shelf
containing Caxtons and other early English books, one of which,
although rotten, was sold soon after by permission of the Charity
Commissioners for L200.
Germany, too, the very birth-place of Printing, allows similar destruction
to go on unchecked, if the following letter, which appeared about a Year
ago (1879) in the _Academy_ has any truth in it:--
"For some time past the condition of the library at Wolfenbuttel has
been most disgraceful. The building is in so unsafe a condition that
portions of the walls and ceilings have fallen in, and the many
treasures in Books and MSS. contained in it are exposed to damp and
decay. An appeal has been issued that this valuable collection may not
be allowed to perish for want of funds, and that it may also be now at
length removed to Brunswick, since Wolfenbuttel is entirely deserted as
an intellectual centre. No false sentimentality regarding the memory
of its former custodians, Leibnitz and Lessing, should hinder this project.
Lessing himself would have been the first to urge that the library and
its utility should be considered above all things."
The collection of books at Wolfenbuttel is simply magnificent,
and I cannot but hope the above report was exaggerated.
Were these books to be injured for the want of a small sum spent
on the roof, it would be a lasting disgrace to the nation.
There are so many genuine book-lovers in Fatherland that
the commission of such a crime would seem incredible, did not
bibliographical history teem with similar desecrations.
 This was written in 1879, since which time a new building
has been erected.
Water in the form of vapour is a great enemy of books, the damp
attacking both outside and inside. Outside it fosters the growth
of a white mould or fungus which vegetates upon the edges of the leaves,
upon the sides and in the joints of the binding. It is easily wiped off,
but not without leaving a plain mark, where the mould-spots have been.
Under the microscope a mould-spot is seen to be a miniature forest
of lovely trees, covered with a beautiful white foliage, upas trees
whose roots are embedded in the leather and destroy its texture.
Inside the book, damp encourages the growth of those ugly brown
spots which so often disfigure prints and "livres de luxe."
Especially it attacks books printed in the early part of this century,
when paper-makers had just discovered that they could bleach
their rags, and perfectly white paper, well pressed after printing,
had become the fashion. This paper from the inefficient means used
to neutralise the bleach, carried the seeds of decay in itself,
and when exposed to any damp soon became discoloured with brown stains.
Dr. Dibdin's extravagant bibliographical works are mostly so injured;
and although the Doctor's bibliography is very incorrect, and his
spun-out inanities and wearisome affectations often annoy one,
yet his books are so beautifully illustrated, and he is so full
of personal anecdote and chit chat, that it grieves the heart to see
"foxey" stains common in his most superb works.
In a perfectly dry and warm library these spots would probably
remain undeveloped, but many endowed as well as private libraries are not
in daily use, and are often injured from a false idea that a hard frost
and prolonged cold do no injury to a library so long as the weather is dry.
The fact is that books should never be allowed to get really cold,
for when a thaw comes and the weather sets in warm, the air, laden with
damp, penetrates the inmost recesses, and working its way between the
volumes and even between the leaves, deposits upon their cold surface its
moisture. The best preventative of this is a warm atmosphere during the
frost, sudden heating when the frost has gone being useless.
Our worst enemies are sometimes our real friends, and perhaps the best
way of keeping libraries entirely free from damp is to circulate our
enemy in the shape of hot water through pipes laid under the floor.
The facilities now offered for heating such pipes from the outside
are so great, the expense comparatively so small, and the direct gain
in the expulsion of damp so decided, that where it can be accomplished
without much trouble it is well worth the doing.
At the same time no system of heating should be allowed to supersede
the open grate, which supplies a ventilation to the room as useful
to the health of the books as to the health of the occupier. A coal fire
is objectionable on many grounds. It is dangerous, dirty and dusty.
On the other hand an asbestos fire, where the lumps are judiciously laid,
gives all the warmth and ventilation of a common fire without any of
its annoyances; and to any one who loves to be independent of servants,
and to know that, however deeply he may sleep over his "copy," his fire
will not fail to keep awake, an asbestos stove is invaluable.
It is a mistake also to imagine that keeping the best bound volumes in
a glass doored book-case is a preservative. The damp air will certainly
penetrate, and as the absence of ventilation will assist the formation of
mould, the books will be worse off than if they had been placed in open
shelves. If security be desirable, by all means abolish the glass and
place ornamental brass wire-work in its stead. Like the writers of old
Cookery Books who stamped special receipts with the testimony of personal
experience, I can say "probatum est."
GAS AND HEAT.
WHAT a valuable servant is Gas, and how dreadfully we should cry out
were it to be banished from our homes; and yet no one who loves his
books should allow a single jet in his library, unless, indeed he can
afford a "sun light," which is the form in which it is used in some
public libraries, where the whole of the fumes are carried at once
into the open air.
Unfortunately, I can speak from experience of the dire effect of gas
in a confined space. Some years ago when placing the shelves round
the small room, which, by a euphemism, is called my library, I took
the precaution of making two self-acting ventilators which communicated
directly with the outer air just under the ceiling. For economy of
space as well as of temper (for lamps of all kinds are sore trials),
I had a gasalier of three lights over the table. The effect was to
cause great heat in the upper regions, and in the course of a year or
two the leather valance which hung from the window, as well as the
fringe which dropped half-an-inch from each shelf to keep out the dust,
was just like tinder, and in some parts actually fell to the ground by
its own weight; while the backs of the books upon the top shelves were
perished, and crumbled away when touched, being reduced to the consistency
of Scotch snuff. This was, of course, due to the sulphur in the gas
fumes, which attack russia quickest, while calf and morocco suffer not
quite so much. I remember having a book some years ago from the top
shelf in the library of the London Institution, where gas is used, and
the whole of the back fell off in my hands, although the volume in other
respects seemed quite uninjured. Thousands more were in a similar plight.
As the paper of the volumes is uninjured, it might be objected that,
after all, gas is not so much the enemy of the book itself as of its
covering; but then, re-binding always leaves a book smaller, and often
deprives it of leaves at the beginning or end, which the binder's wisdom
has thought useless. Oh! the havoc I have seen committed by binders.
You may assume your most impressive aspect--you may write down your
instructions as if you were making your last will and testament--you may
swear you will not pay if your books are ploughed--'tis all in vain--the
creed of a binder is very short, and comprised in a single article,
and that article is the one vile word "Shavings." But not now will I
follow this depressing subject; binders, as enemies of books, deserve,
and shall have, a whole chapter to themselves.
It is much easier to decry gas than to find a remedy.
Sun lights require especial arrangements, and are very expensive
on account of the quantity of gas consumed. The library
illumination of the future promises to be the electric light.
If only steady and moderate in price, it would be a great
boon to public libraries, and perhaps the day is not far
distant when it will replace gas, even in private houses.
That will, indeed, be a day of jubilee to the literary labourer.
The injury done by gas is so generally acknowledged by the heads
of our national libraries, that it is strictly excluded from
their domains, although the danger from explosion and fire,
even if the results of combustion were innocuous, would be
sufficient cause for its banishment.
The electric light has been in use for some months in the Reading Room
of the British Museum, and is a great boon to the readers.
The light is not quite equally diffused, and you must choose particular
positions if you want to work happily. There is a great objection, too,
in the humming fizz which accompanies the action of the electricity.
There is a still greater objection when small pieces of hot
chalk fall on your bald head, an annoyance which has been lately
(1880) entirely removed by placing a receptacle beneath each burner.
You require also to become accustomed to the whiteness of the light
before you can altogether forget it. But with all its faults it
confers a great boon upon students, enabling them not only to work
three hours longer in the winter-time, but restoring to them
the use of foggy and dark days, in which formerly no book-work
at all could be pursued.
 1887. The system in use is still "Siemens," but, owing to long
experience and improvements, is not now open to the above objections.
Heat alone, without any noxious fumes, is, if continuous, very injurious
to books, and, without gas, bindings may be utterly destroyed by
desiccation, the leather losing all its natural oils by long exposure to
much heat. It is, therefore, a great pity to place books high up in a room
where heat of any kind is as it must rise to the top, and if sufficient to
be of comfort to the readers below, is certain to be hot enough above to
injure the bindings.
The surest way to preserve your books in health is to treat them as
you would your own children, who are sure to sicken if confined in an
atmosphere which is impure, too hot, too cold, too damp, or too dry.
It is just the same with the progeny of literature.
If any credence may be given to Monkish legends, books have sometimes
been preserved in this world, only to meet a desiccating fate in the
world to come. The story is probably an invention of the enemy to
throw discredit on the learning and ability of the preaching Friars,
an Order which was at constant war with the illiterate secular Clergy.
It runs thus:--"In the year 1439, two Minorite friars who had all their
lives collected books, died. In accordance with popular belief, they
were at once conducted before the heavenly tribunal to hear their doom,
taking with them two asses laden with books. At Heaven's gate the porter
demanded, `Whence came ye?' The Minorites replied `From a monastery of
St. Francis.' `Oh!' said the porter, `then St. Francis shall be your
judge.' So that saint was summoned, and at sight of the friars and
their burden demanded who they were, and why they had brought so many
books with them. `We are Minorites,' they humbly replied, `and we have
brought these few books with us as a solatium in the new Jerusalem.'
`And you, when on earth, practised the good they teach?' sternly
demanded the saint, who read their characters at a glance. Their
faltering reply was sufficient, and the blessed saint at once passed
judgment as follows:--`Insomuch as, seduced by a foolish vanity, and
against your vows of poverty, you have amassed this multitude of books
and thereby and therefor have neglected the duties and broken the rules
of your Order, you are now sentenced to read your books for ever and ever
in the fires of Hell.' Immediately, a roaring noise filled the air, and
a flaming chasm opened in which friars, and asses and books were suddenly
DUST AND NEGLECT.
DUST upon Books to any extent points to neglect, and neglect
means more or less slow Decay.
A well-gilt top to a book is a great preventive against damage by dust,
while to leave books with rough tops and unprotected is sure to produce
stains and dirty margins.
In olden times, when few persons had private collections of books,
the collegiate and corporate libraries were of great use to students.
The librarians' duties were then no sinecure, and there
was little opportunity for dust to find a resting-place.
The Nineteenth Century and the Steam Press ushered in a new era.
By degrees the libraries which were unendowed fell behind the age,
and were consequently neglected. No new works found their way in,
and the obsolete old books were left uncared for and unvisited.
I have seen many old libraries, the doors of which remained unopened
from week's end to week's end; where you inhaled the dust of paper-decay
with every breath, and could not take up a book without sneezing;
where old boxes, full of older literature, served as preserves
for the bookworm, without even an autumn "battue" to thin the breed.
Occasionally these libraries were (I speak of thirty years ago)
put even to vile uses, such as would have shocked all ideas
of propriety could our ancestors have foreseen their fate.
I recall vividly a bright summer morning many years ago, when,
in search of Caxtons, I entered the inner quadrangle of a certain
wealthy College in one of our learned Universities. The buildings
around were charming in their grey tones and shady nooks. They had a
noble history, too, and their scholarly sons were (and are) not unworthy
successors of their ancestral renown. The sun shone warmly, and most of
the casements were open. From one came curling a whiff of tobacco;
from another the hum of conversation; from a third the tones of a piano.
A couple of undergraduates sauntered on the shady side, arm in arm,
with broken caps and torn gowns--proud insignia of their last term.
The grey stone walls were covered with ivy, except where an old dial
with its antiquated Latin inscription kept count of the sun's ascent.
The chapel on one side, only distinguishable from the "rooms"
by the shape of its windows, seemed to keep watch over the morality
of the foundation, just as the dining-hall opposite, from whence
issued a white-aproned cook, did of its worldly prosperity. As you trod
the level pavement, you passed comfortable--nay, dainty--apartments, where
lace curtains at the windows, antimacassars on the chairs, the silver
biscuit-box and the thin-stemmed wine-glass moderated academic toils.
Gilt-backed books on gilded shelf or table caught the eye,
and as you turned your glance from the luxurious interiors
to the well-shorn lawn in the Quad., with its classic fountain
also gilded by sunbeams, the mental vision saw plainly written
over the whole "The Union of Luxury and Learning."
Surely here, thought I, if anywhere, the old world literature
will be valued and nursed with gracious care; so with a pleasing
sense of the general congruity of all around me, I enquired
for the rooms of the librarian. Nobody seemed to be quite sure
of his name, or upon whom the bibliographical mantle had descended.
His post, it seemed, was honorary and a sinecure, being imposed,
as a rule, upon the youngest "Fellow." No one cared for the appointment,
and as a matter of course the keys of office had but distant acquaintance
with the lock. At last I was rewarded with success, and politely, but
mutely, conducted by the librarian into his kingdom of dust and silence.
The dark portraits of past benefactors looked after us from
their dusty old frames in dim astonishment as we passed,
evidently wondering whether we meant "work"; book-decay--that peculiar
flavour which haunts certain libraries--was heavy in the air, the floor
was dusty, making the sunbeams as we passed bright with atoms; the
shelves were dusty, the "stands" in the middle were thick with dust,
the old leather table in the bow window, and the chairs on either side,
were very dusty. Replying to a question, my conductor thought
there was a manuscript catalogue of the Library somewhere,
but thought, also, that it was not easy to find any books by it,
and he knew not at the minute where to put his hand upon it.
The Library, he said, was of little use now, as the Fellows
had their own books and very seldom required 17th and 18th
century editions, and no new books had been added to the collection
for a long time.
We passed down a few steps into an inner library where
piles of early folios were wasting away on the ground.
Beneath an old ebony table were two long carved oak chests.
I lifted the lid of one, and at the top was a once-white
surplice covered with dust, and beneath was a mass of tracts--
Commonwealth quartos, unbound--a prey to worms and decay.
All was neglect. The outer door of this room, which was open, was nearly
on a level with the Quadrangle; some coats, and trousers, and boots were
upon the ebony table, and a "gyp" was brushing away at them just within
the door--in wet weather he performed these functions entirely within
the library--as innocent of the incongruity of his position as my guide
himself. Oh! Richard of Bury, I sighed, for a sharp stone from your
sling to pierce with indignant sarcasm the mental armour of these College
Happily, things are altered now, and the disgrace of such neglect no longer
hangs on the College. Let us hope, in these days of revived respect
for antiquity, no other College library is in a similar plight.
Not Englishmen alone are guilty, however, of such unloving treatment
of their bibliographical treasures. The following is translated
from an interesting work just published in Paris, and shows how,
even at this very time, and in the centre of the literary activity
of France, books meet their fate.
 Le luxe des Livres par L. Derome. 8vo, Paris, 1879.
M. Derome loquitur:--
"Let us now enter the communal library of some large provincial town.
The interior has a lamentable appearance; dust and disorder have made
it their home. It has a librarian, but he has the consideration
of a porter only, and goes but once a week to see the state of
the books committed to his care; they are in a bad state, piled in
heaps and perishing in corners for want of attention and binding.
At this present time (1879) more than one public library in Paris
could be mentioned in which thousands of books are received annually,
all of which will have disappeared in the course of 50 years or so
for want of binding; there are rare books, impossible to replace,
falling to pieces because no care is given to them, that is to say,
they are left unbound, a prey to dust and the worm, and cannot be
touched without dismemberment."
All history shows that this neglect belongs not to any
particular age or nation. I extract the following story from
Edmond Werdet's Histoire du Livre."
 "Histoire du Livre en France," par E. Werdet. 8vo, Paris, 1851.
"The Poet Boccaccio, when travelling in Apulia, was anxious to visit
the celebrated Convent of Mount Cassin, especially to see its library,
of which he had heard much. He accosted, with great courtesy,
one of the monks whose countenance attracted him, and begged him
to have the kindness to show him the library. `See for yourself,'
said the monk, brusquely, pointing at the same time to an old
stone staircase, broken with age. Boccaccio hastily mounted
in great joy at the prospect of a grand bibliographical treat.
Soon he reached the room, which was without key or even door
as protection to its treasures. What was his astonishment to see
that the grass growing in the window-sills actually darkened the room,
and that all the books and seats were an inch thick in dust.
In utter astonishment he lifted one book after another. All were
manuscripts of extreme antiquity, but all were dreadfully dilapidated.
Many had lost whole sections which had been violently extracted,
and in many all the blank margins of the vellum had been cut away.
In fact, the mutilation was thorough.
"Grieved at seeing the work and the wisdom of so many illustrious men
fallen into the hands of custodians so unworthy, Boccaccio descended
with tears in his eyes. In the cloisters he met another monk,
and enquired of him how the MSS. had become so mutilated.
`Oh!' he replied, `we are obliged, you know, to earn a few sous
for our needs, so we cut away the blank margins of the manuscripts
for writing upon, and make of them small books of devotion,
which we sell to women and children."
As a postscript to this story, Mr. Timmins, of Birmingham,
informs me that the treasures of the Monte Cassino Library are
better cared for now than in Boccaccio's days, the worthy prior
being proud of his valuable MSS. and very willing to show them.
It will interest many readers to know that there is now a complete
printing office, lithographic as well as typographic, at full work
in one large room of the Monastery, where their wonderful MS.
of Dante has been already reprinted, and where other fac-simile
works are now in progress.
IGNORANCE AND BIGOTRY.
IGNORANCE, though not in the same category as fire and water,
is a great destroyer of books. At the Reformation so strong was
the antagonism of the people generally to anything like the old
idolatry of the Romish Church, that they destroyed by thousands books,
secular as well as sacred, if they contained but illuminated letters.
Unable to read, they saw no difference between romance and a psalter,
between King Arthur and King David; and so the paper books with all
their artistic ornaments went to the bakers to heat their ovens,
and the parchment manuscripts, however beautifully illuminated,
to the binders and boot makers.
There is another kind of ignorance which has often worked destruction,
as shown by the following anecdote, which is extracted from a letter
written in 1862 by M. Philarete Chasles to Mr. B. Beedham, of Kimbolton:--
"Ten years ago, when turning out an old closet in the Mazarin Library,
of which I am librarian, I discovered at the bottom, under a lot
of old rags and rubbish, a large volume. It had no cover nor
title-page, and had been used to light the fires of the librarians.
This shows how great was the negligence towards our literary treasure
before the Revolution; for the pariah volume, which, 60 years before,
had been placed in the Invalides, and which had certainly formed
part of the original Mazarin collections, turned out to be a fine
and genuine Caxton."
I saw this identical volume in the Mazarin Library in April, 1880.
It is a noble copy of the First Edition of the "Golden Legend,"
1483, but of course very imperfect.
Among the millions of events in this world which cross and re-cross one
another, remarkable coincidences must often occur; and a case exactly
similar to that at the Mazarin Library, happened about the same time in
London, at the French Protestant Church, St. Martin's-le-Grand. Many years
ago I discovered there, in a dirty pigeon hole close to the grate in the
vestry, a fearfully mutilated copy of Caxton's edition of the Canterbury
Tales, with woodcuts. Like the book at Paris, it had long been used,
leaf by leaf, in utter ignorance of its value, to light the vestry fire.
Originally worth at least L800, it was then worth half, and, of course,
I energetically drew the attention of the minister in charge to it, as well
as to another grand Folio by Rood and Hunte, 1480. Some years elapsed,
and then the Ecclesiastical Commissioners took the foundation in hand,
but when at last Trustees were appointed, and the valuable library was
re-arranged and catalogued, this "Caxton," together with the fine copy
of "Latterbury" from the first Oxford Press, had disappeared entirely.
Whatever ignorance may have been displayed in the mutilation, quite another
word should be applied to the disappearance.
The following anecdote is so _apropos_, that although it has lately
appeared in No. 1 of _The Antiquary_, I cannot resist the temptation
of re-printing it, as a warning to inheritors of old libraries.
The account was copied by me years ago from a letter written
in 1847, by the Rev. C. F. Newmarsh, Rector of Pelham, to the
Rev. S. R. Maitland, Librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury,
and is as follows:--
"In June, 1844, a pedlar called at a cottage in Blyton and asked an
old widow, named Naylor, whether she had any rags to sell. She answered,
No! but offered him some old paper, and took from a shelf the `Boke
of St. Albans' and others, weighing 9 lbs., for which she received 9_d_.
The pedlar carried them through Gainsborough tied up in string, past a
chemist's shop, who, being used to buy old paper to wrap his drugs in,
called the man in, and, struck by the appearance of the `Boke,' gave
him 3_s_. for the lot. Not being able to read the Colophon, he took it
to an equally ignorant stationer, and offered it to him for a guinea,
at which price he declined it, but proposed that it should be exposed
in his window as a means of eliciting some information about it.
It was accordingly placed there with this label, `Very old curious work.'
A collector of books went in and offered half-a-crown for it,
which excited the suspicion of the vendor. Soon after Mr. Bird, Vicar
of Gainsborough, went in and asked the price, wishing to possess a very
early specimen of printing, but not knowing the value of the book.
While he was examining it, Stark, a very intelligent bookseller, came in,
to whom Mr. Bird at once ceded the right of pre-emption. Stark betrayed
such visible anxiety that the vendor, Smith, declined setting a price.
Soon after Sir C. Anderson, of Lea (author of Ancient Models), came
in and took away the book to collate, but brought it back in the morning
having found it imperfect in the middle, and offered L5 for it.
Sir Charles had no book of reference to guide him to its value.
But in the meantime, Stark had employed a friend to obtain for him
the refusal of it, and had undertaken to give for it a little more than
any sum Sir Charles might offer. On finding that at least L5 could be
got for it, Smith went to the chemist and gave him two guineas, and then
sold it to Stark's agent for seven guineas. Stark took it to London,
and sold it at once to the Rt. Hon. Thos. Grenville for seventy
pounds or guineas.
"I have now shortly to state how it came that a book without covers
of such extreme age was preserved. About fifty years since, the
library of Thonock Hall, in the parish of Gainsborough, the seat of
the Hickman family, underwent great repairs, the books being sorted
over by a most ignorant person, whose selection seems to have been
determined by the coat. All books without covers were thrown into a
great heap, and condemned to all the purposes which Leland laments
in the sack of the conventual libraries by the visitors.
But they found favour in the eyes of a literate gardener,
who begged leave to take what he liked home. He selected a large
quantity of Sermons preached before the House of Commons,
local pamphlets, tracts from 1680 to 1710, opera books, etc.
He made a list of them, which I found afterwards in the cottage.
In the list, No. 43 was `Cotarmouris,' or the Boke of St. Albans. The
old fellow was something of a herald, and drew in his books what he held
to be his coat. After his death, all that could be stuffed into a large
chest were put away in a garret; but a few favourites, and the `Boke'
among them remained on the kitchen shelves for years, till his son's widow
grew so `stalled' of dusting them that she determined to sell them.
Had she been in poverty, I should have urged the buyer, Stark,
the duty of giving her a small sum out of his great gains."
Such chances as this do not fall to a man's lot twice; but Edmond
Werdet relates a story very similar indeed, and where also the "plums"
fell into the lap of a London dealer.
In 1775, the Recollet Monks of Antwerp, wishing to make a reform, examined
their library, and determined to get rid of about 1,500 volumes--some
manuscript and some printed, but all of which they considered as old
rubbish of no value.
At first they were thrown into the gardener's rooms; but, after some
months, they decided in their wisdom to give the whole refuse to the
gardener as a recognition of his long services.
This man, wiser in his generation than these simple fathers,
took the lot to M. Vanderberg, an amateur and man of education.
M. Vanderberg took a cursory view, and then offered to buy them
by weight at sixpence per pound. The bargain was at once concluded,
and M. Vanderberg had the books.
Shortly after, Mr. Stark, a well-known London bookseller,
being in Antwerp, called on M. Vanderberg, and was shown the books.
He at once offered 14,000 francs for them, which was accepted.
Imagine the surprise and chagrin of the poor monks when they heard of it!
They knew they had no remedy, and so dumbfounded were they
by their own ignorance, that they humbly requested M. Vanderberg
to relieve their minds by returning some portion of his large gains.
He gave them 1,200 francs.
The great Shakespearian and other discoveries, which were found in a
garret at Lamport Hall in 1867 by Mr. Edmonds, are too well-known and
too recent to need description. In this case mere chance seems to have
led to the preservation of works, the very existence of which set the
ears of all lovers of Shakespeare a-tingling.
In the summer of 1877, a gentleman with whom I was well acquainted
took lodgings in Preston Street, Brighton. The morning
after his arrival, he found in the w.c. some leaves of an old
black-letter book. He asked permission to retain them,
and enquired if there were any more where they came from.
Two or three other fragments were found, and the landlady stated
that her father, who was fond of antiquities, had at one time
a chest full of old black-letter books; that, upon his death,
they were preserved till she was tired of seeing them, and then,
supposing them of no value, she had used them for waste;
that for two years and a-half they had served for various
household purposes, but she had just come to the end of them.
The fragments preserved, and now in my possession, are a goodly
portion of one of the most rare books from the press of Wynkyn
de Worde, Caxton's successor. The title is a curious woodcut
with the words "Gesta Romanorum" engraved in an odd-shaped
black letter. It has also numerous rude wood-cuts throughout.
It was from this very work that Shakespeare in all probability
derived the story of the three caskets which in "The Merchant
of Venice" forms so integral a portion of the plot. Only think of
that cloaca being supplied daily with such dainty bibliographical
In the Lansdowne Collection at the British Museum is a volume
containing three manuscript dramas of Queen Elizabeth's time, and on
a fly-leaf is a list of fifty-eight plays, with this note at the foot,
in the handwriting of the well-known antiquary, Warburton:
"After I had been many years collecting these Manuscript Playes,
through my own carelessness and the ignorance of my servant,
they was unluckely burned or put under pye bottoms."
Some of these "Playes" are preserved in print, but others are quite
unknown and perished for ever when used as "pye-bottoms."
Mr. W. B. Rye, late Keeper of the Printed Books at our great
National Library, thus writes:--
"On the subject of ignorance you should some day, when at the
British Museum, look at Lydgate's translation of Boccaccio's `Fall
of Princes,' printed by Pynson in 1494. It is `liber rarissimus.'
This copy when perfect had been very fine and quite uncut.
On one fine summer afternoon in 1874 it was brought to me by a
tradesman living at Lamberhurst. Many of the leaves had been cut
into squares, and the whole had been rescued from a tobacconist's shop,
where the pieces were being used to wrap up tobacco and snuff.
The owner wanted to buy a new silk gown for his wife, and was delighted
with three guineas for this purpose. You will notice how cleverly the
British Museum binder has joined the leaves, making it, although still
imperfect, a fine book."
Referring to the carelessness exhibited by some custodians
of Parish Registers,
Mr. Noble, who has had great experience in such matters, writes:--
"A few months ago I wanted a search made of the time of Charles I in
one of the most interesting registers in a large town (which shall be
nameless) in England. I wrote to the custodian of it, and asked him
kindly to do the search for me, and if he was unable to read the names
to get some one who understood the writing of that date to decipher the
entries for me. I did not have a reply for a fortnight, but one morning
the postman brought me a very large unregistered book-packet, which I
found to be the original Parish Registers! He, however, addressed a note
with it stating that he thought it best to send me the document itself to
look at, and begged me to be good enough to return the Register to him as
soon as done with. He evidently wished to serve me--his ignorance of
responsibility without doubt proving his kindly disposition, and on that
account alone I forbear to name him; but I can assure you I was heartily
glad to have a letter from him in due time announcing that the precious
documents were once more locked up in the parish chest. Certainly, I
think such as he to be `Enemies of books.' Don't you?"
Bigotry has also many sins to answer for. The late M. Muller,
of Amsterdam, a bookseller of European fame, wrote to me as follows
a few weeks before his death:--
"Of course, we also, in Holland, have many Enemies of books, and if I
were happy enough to have your spirit and style I would try and write a
companion volume to yours. Now I think the best thing I can do is to give
you somewhat of my experience. You say that the discovery of printing has
made the destruction of anybody's books difficult. At this I am bound to
say that the Inquisition did succeed most successfully, by burning
heretical books, in destroying numerous volumes invaluable for their
wholesome contents. Indeed, I beg to state to you the amazing fact that
here in Holland exists an Ultramontane Society called `Old Paper,' which
is under the sanction of the six Catholic Bishops of the Netherlands, and
is spread over the whole kingdom. The openly-avowed object of this Society
is to buy up and to destroy as waste paper all the Protestant and Liberal
Catholic newspapers, pamphlets and books, the price of which is offered to
the Pope as `Deniers de St. Pierre.' Of course, this Society is very
little known among Protestants, and many have denied even its existence;
but I have been fortunate enough to obtain a printed circular issued by
one of the Bishops containing statistics of the astounding mass of paper
thus collected, producing in one district alone the sum of L1,200 in three
months. I need not tell you that this work is strongly promoted by the
Catholic clergy. You can have no idea of the difficulty we now have in
procuring certain books published but 30, 40, or 50 years ago of an
ephemeral character. Historical and theological books are very rare;
novels and poetry of that period are absolutely not to be found; medical
and law books are more common. I am bound to say that in no country have
more books been printed and more destroyed than in Holland. W. MULLER."
The policy of buying up all objectionable literature seems to me,
I confess, very short-sighted, and in most cases would lead to a greatly
increased reprint; it certainly would in these latitudes.
From the Church of Rome to the Church of England is no great leap,
and Mr. Smith, the Brighton bookseller, gives evidence thus:--
"It may be worth your while to note that the clergy of the last two
centuries ought to be included in your list (of Biblioclasts). I
have had painful experience of the fact in the following manner.
Numbers of volumes in their libraries have had a few leaves removed,
and in many others whole sections torn out. I suppose it served
their purpose thus to use the wisdom of greater men and that they thus
economised their own time by tearing out portions to suit their purpose.
The hardship to the trade is this: their books are purchased in good
faith as perfect, and when resold the buyer is quick to claim damage
if found defective, while the seller has no redress."
Among the careless destroyers of books still at work should be
classed Government officials. Cart-loads of interesting documents,
bound and unbound, have been sold at various times as waste-paper,
when modern red-tape thought them but rubbish. Some of them have been
rescued and resold at high prices, but some have been lost for ever.
 Nell Gwyn's private Housekeeping Book was among them,
containing most curious particulars of what was necessary in
the time of Charles I for a princely household. Fortunately it
was among the rescued, and is now in a private library.
In 1854 a very interesting series of blue books was commenced
by the authorities of the Patent Office, of course paid for out
of the national purse. Beginning with the year 1617 the particulars
of every important patent were printed from the original specifications
and fac-simile drawings made, where necessary, for the elucidation
of the text. A very moderate price was charged for each,
only indeed the prime cost of production. The general public,
of course, cared little for such literature, but those interested
in the origin and progress of any particular art, cared much,
and many sets of Patents were purchased by those engaged in research.
But the great bulk of the stock was, to some extent, inconvenient,
and so when a removal to other offices, in 1879, became necessary,
the question arose as to what could be done with them. These blue-books,
which had cost the nation many thousands of pounds, were positively sold
to the paper mills as wastepaper, and nearly 100 tons weight were carted
away at about L3 per ton. It is difficult to believe, although
positively true, that so great an act of vandalism could have been
perpetrated, even in a Government office. It is true that no demand
existed for some of them, but it is equally true that in numerous cases,
especially in the early specifications of the steam engine and
printing machine, the want of them has caused great disappointment.
To add a climax to the story, many of the "pulped" specifications
have had to be reprinted more than once since their destruction.
THERE is a sort of busy worm
That will the fairest books deform,
By gnawing holes throughout them;
Alike, through every leaf they go,
Yet of its merits naught they know,
Nor care they aught about them.
Their tasteless tooth will tear and taint
The Poet, Patriot, Sage or Saint,
Not sparing wit nor learning.
Now, if you'd know the reason why,
The best of reasons I'll supply;
'Tis bread to the poor vermin.
Of pepper, snuff, or 'bacca smoke,
And Russia-calf they make a joke.
Yet, why should sons of science
These puny rankling reptiles dread?
'Tis but to let their books be read,
And bid the worms defiance."
A most destructive Enemy of books has been the bookworm.
I say "has been," because, fortunately, his ravages in all civilised
countries have been greatly restricted during the last fifty years.
This is due partly to the increased reverence for antiquity which has
been universally developed--more still to the feeling of cupidity,
which has caused all owners to take care of volumes which year
by year have become more valuable--and, to some considerable extent,
to the falling off in the production of edible books.
The monks, who were the chief makers as well as the custodians of books,
through the long ages we call "dark," because so little is known of them,
had no fear of the bookworm before their eyes, for, ravenous as he is
and was, he loves not parchment, and at that time paper was not.
Whether at a still earlier period he attacked the papyrus, the paper of
the Egyptians, I know not--probably he did, as it was a purely vegetable
substance; and if so, it is quite possible that the worm of to-day,
in such evil repute with us, is the lineal descendant of ravenous ancestors
who plagued the sacred Priests of On in the time of Joseph's Pharaoh,
by destroying their title deeds and their books of Science.
Rare things and precious, as manuscripts were before the invention
of typography, are well preserved, but when the printing press was
invented and paper books were multiplied in the earth; when libraries
increased and readers were many, then familiarity bred contempt; books
were packed in out-of-the-way places and neglected, and the oft-quoted,
though seldom seen, bookworm became an acknowledged tenant of the library,
and the mortal enemy of the bibliophile.
Anathemas have been hurled against this pest in nearly every
European language, old and new, and classical scholars of bye-gone
centuries have thrown their spondees and dactyls at him.
Pierre Petit, in 1683, devoted a long Latin poem to his
dis-praise, and Parnell's charming Ode is well known.
Hear the poet lament:--
"Pene tu mihi passerem Catulli,
Pene tu mihi Lesbiam abstulisti."
"Quid dicam innumeros bene eruditos
Quorum tu monumenta tu labores
Isti pessimo ventre devorasti?"
while Petit, who was evidently moved by strong personal feelings against
the "invisum pecus," as he calls him, addresses his little enemy as
"Bestia audax" and "Pestis chartarum."
But, as a portrait commonly precedes a biography, the curious reader may
wish to be told what this "Bestia audax," who so greatly ruffles the
tempers of our eclectics, is like.
Here, at starting, is a serious chameleon-like difficulty,
for the bookworm offers to us, if we are guided by their words,
as many varieties of size and shape as there are beholders.
Sylvester, in his "Laws of Verse," with more words than wit, described
him as "a microscopic creature wriggling on the learned page, which,
when discovered, stiffens out into the resemblance of a streak of dirt."
The earliest notice is in "Micrographia," by R. Hooke, folio, London, 1665.
This work, which was printed at the expense of the Royal Society of London,
is an account of innumerable things examined by the author under
the microscope, and is most interesting for the frequent accuracy of the
author's observations, and most amusing for his equally frequent blunders.
In his account of the bookworm, his remarks, which are
rather long and very minute, are absurdly blundering.
He calls it "a small white Silver-shining Worm or Moth, which I
found much conversant among books and papers, and is supposed to be
that which corrodes and eats holes thro' the leaves and covers.
Its head appears bigg and blunt, and its body tapers from it
towards the tail, smaller and smaller, being shap'd almost like a
carret. . . . It has two long horns before, which are streight,
and tapering towards the top, curiously ring'd or knobb'd and
brisled much like the marsh weed called Horses tail. . . . The
hinder part is terminated with three tails, in every particular
resembling the two longer horns that grow out of the head.
The legs are scal'd and hair'd. This animal probably feeds upon
the paper and covers of books, and perforates in them several
small round holes, finding perhaps a convenient nourishment
in those husks of hemp and flax, which have passed through so
many scourings, washings, dressings, and dryings as the parts
of old paper necessarily have suffer'd. And, indeed, when I
consider what a heap of sawdust or chips this little creature
(which is one of the teeth of Time) conveys into its intrals,
I cannot chuse but remember and admire the excellent contrivance
of Nature in placing in animals such a fire, as is continually
nourished and supply'd by the materials convey'd into the stomach
and fomented by the bellows of the lungs." The picture or "image,"
which accompanies this description, is wonderful to behold.
Certainly R. Hooke, Fellow of the Royal Society, drew somewhat
upon his imagination here, having apparently evolved both
engraving and description from his inner consciousness.
 Not so! Several correspondents have drawn my attention to
the fact that Hooke is evidently describing the "Lepisma," which,
if not positively injurious, is often found in the warm
places of old houses, especially if a little damp.
He mistook this for the Bookworm.
Entomologists even do not appear to have paid much attention
to the natural history of the "Worm." Kirby, speaking of it,
says, "the larvae of Crambus pinguinalis spins a robe which it
covers with its own excrement, and does no little injury."
Again, "I have often observed the caterpillar of a little moth
that takes its station in damp old books, and there commits
great ravages, and many a black-letter rarity, which in these days
of bibliomania would have been valued at its weight in gold,
has been snatched by these devastators," etc., etc.
As already quoted, Doraston's description is very vague.
To him he is in one verse "a sort of busy worm," and in another "a
puny rankling reptile." Hannett, in his work on book-binding,
gives "Aglossa pinguinalis" as the real name, and Mrs. Gatty,
in her Parables, christens it "Hypothenemus cruditus."
The, Rev. F. T. Havergal, who many years ago had much trouble with
bookworms in the Cathedral Library of Hereford, says they are a kind of
death-watch, with a "hard outer skin, and are dark brown," another sort
"having white bodies with brown spots on their heads." Mr. Holme, in
"Notes and Queries" for 1870, states that the "Anobium paniceum" has done
considerable injury to the Arabic manuscripts brought from Cairo, by
Burckhardt, and now in the University Library, Cambridge. Other writers
say "Acarus eruditus" or "Anobium pertinax" are the correct scientific
Personally, I have come across but few specimens; nevertheless, from what
I have been told by librarians, and judging from analogy, I imagine
the following to be about the truth:--
There are several kinds of caterpillar and grub, which eat into books,
those with legs are the larvae of moths; those without legs, or rather
with rudimentary legs, are grubs and turn to beetles.
It is not known whether any species of caterpillar or grub can live
generation after generation upon books alone, but several sorts of
wood-borers, and others which live upon vegetable refuse, will attack
paper, especially if attracted in the first place by the real wooden
boards in which it was the custom of the old book-binders to clothe
their volumes. In this belief, some country librarians object to opening
the library windows lest the enemy should fly in from the neighbouring
woods, and rear a brood of worms. Anyone, indeed, who has seen a hole
in a filbert, or a piece of wood riddled by dry rot, will recognize a
similarity of appearance in the channels made by these insect enemies.
Among the paper-eating species are:--
1. The "Anobium." Of this beetle there are varieties, viz.:
"A. pertinax," "A. eruditus," and "A. paniceum." In the larval
state they are grubs, just like those found, in nuts; in this stage
they are too much alike to be distinguished from one another.
They feed on old dry wood, and often infest bookcases and shelves.
They eat the wooden boards of old books, and so pass into the paper
where they make long holes quite round, except when they work
in a slanting direction, when the holes appear to be oblong.
They will thus pierce through several volumes in succession,
Peignot, the well-known bibliographer, having found 27 volumes
so pierced in a straight line by one worm, a miracle of gluttony,
the story of which, for myself, I receive "_cum grano salis_."
After a certain time the larva changes into a pupa, and then
emerges as a small brown beetle.
2. "Oecophora."--This larva is similar in size to that of Anobium,
but can be distinguished at once by having legs. It is a caterpillar,
with six legs upon its thorax and eight sucker-like protuberances
on its body, like a silk-worm. It changes into a chrysalis,
and then assumes its perfect shape as a small brown moth.
The species that attacks books is the OEcophora pseudospretella.
It loves damp and warmth, and eats any fibrous material.
This caterpillar is quite unlike any garden species, and, excepting
the legs, is very similar in appearance and size to the Anobium. It is
about half-inch long, with a horny head and strong jaws.
To printers' ink or writing ink he appears to have no great dislike,
though I imagine that the former often disagrees with his health,
unless he is very robust, as in books where the print is pierced
a majority of the worm-holes I have seen are too short in extent
to have provided food enough for the development of the grub.
But, although the ink may be unwholesome, many grubs survive,
and, eating day and night in silence and darkness, work out their
destiny leaving, according to the strength of their constitutions,
a longer or shorter tunnel in the volume.
In December, 1879, Mr. Birdsall, a well-known book-binder of Northampton,
kindly sent me by post a fat little Worm, which had been found by one of
his workmen in an old book while being bound. He bore his journey
extremely well, being very lively when turned out. I placed him in a
box in warmth and quiet, with some small fragments of paper from a
Boethius, printed by Caxton, and a leaf of a seventeenth century book.
He ate a small piece of the leaf, but either from too much fresh air, from
unaccustomed liberty, or from change of food, he gradually weakened, and
died in about three weeks. I was sorry to lose him, as I wished to verify
his name in his perfect state. Mr. Waterhouse, of the Entomological
department of the British Museum, very kindly examined him before death,
and was of opinion he was OEcophora pseudospretella.
In July, 1885, Dr. Garnett, of the British Museum, gave me two worms
which had been found in an old Hebrew Commentary just received from Athens.
They had doubtless had a good shaking on the journey, and one was moribund
when I took charge, and joined his defunct kindred in a few days.
The other seemed hearty and lived with me for nearly eighteen months.
I treated him as well as I knew how; placed him in a small box with the
choice of three sorts of old paper to eat, and very seldom disturbed him.
He evidently resented his confinement, ate very little, moved very little,
and changed in appearance very little, even when dead. This Greek worm,
filled with Hebrew lore, differed in many respects from any other I
have seen. He was longer, thinner, and more delicate looking than any
of his English congeners. He was transparent, like thin ivory, and had
a dark line through his body, which I took to be the intestinal canal. He
resigned his life with extreme procrastination, and died "deeply lamented"
by his keeper, who had long looked forward to his final development.
The difficulty of breeding these worms is probably due to their formation.
When in a state of nature they can by expansion and contraction of
the body working upon the sides of their holes, push their horny jaws
against the opposing mass of paper. But when freed from the restraint,
which indeed to them is life, they CANNOT eat although surrounded
with food, for they have no legs to keep them steady, and their natural,
leverage is wanting.
Considering the numerous old books contained in the British Museum,
the Library there is wonderfully free from the worm.
Mr. Rye, lately the Keeper of the Printed Books there,
writes me "Two or three were discovered in my time, but they
were weakly creatures. One, I remember, was conveyed into
the Natural History Department, and was taken into custody
by Mr. Adam White who pronounced it to be Anobium pertinax.
I never heard of it after."
The reader, who has not had an opportunity of examining old libraries,
can have no idea of the dreadful havoc which these pests are
capable of making.
I have now before me a fine folio volume, printed on very good
unbleached paper, as thick as stout cartridge, in the year 1477,
by Peter Schoeffer, of Mentz. Unfortunately, after a period
of neglect in which it suffered severely from the "worm," it
was about fifty years ago considered worth a new cover, and so
again suffered severely, this time at the hands of the binder.
Thus the original state of the boards is unknown, but the damage
done to the leaves can be accurately described.
The "worms" have attacked each end. On the first leaf are 212
distinct holes, varying in size from a common pin hole to that which
a stout knitting-needle would make, say, <1/16> to <1/23> inch.
These holes run mostly in lines more or less at right angles with
the covers, a very few being channels along the paper affecting
three or four sheets only. The varied energy of these little pests
is thus represented:--
On folio 1 are 212 holes. On folio 61 are 4 holes.
" 11 " 57 " " 71 " 2 "
" 21 " 48 " " 81 " 2 "
" 31 " 31 " " 87 " 1 "
" 41 " 18 " " 90 " 0 "
" 51 " 6 "
These 90 leaves being stout, are about the thickness of 1 inch.
The volume has 250 leaves, and turning to the end, we find on the last
leaf 81 holes, made by a breed of worms not so ravenous. Thus,
From end | From end.
On folio 1 are 81 holes. | On folio 66 is 1 hole.
" 11 " 40 " | " 69 " 0 "
It is curious to notice how the holes, rapidly at first, and then slowly
and more slowly, disappear. You trace the same hole leaf after leaf,
until suddenly the size becomes in one leaf reduced to half its normal
diameter, and a close examination will show a small abrasion of the paper
in the next leaf exactly where the hole would have come if continued.
In the book quoted it is just as if there had been a race. In the first
ten leaves the weak worms are left behind; in the second ten there are
still forty-eight eaters; these are reduced to thirty-one in the third
ten, and to only eighteen in the fourth ten. On folio 51 only six worms
hold on, and before folio 61 two of them have given in. Before reaching
folio 7, it is a neck and neck race between two sturdy gourmands,
each making a fine large hole, one of them being oval in shape.
At folio 71 they are still neck and neck, and at folio 81 the same.
At folio 87 the oval worm gives in, the round one eating
three more leaves and part way through the fourth.
The leaves of the book are then untouched until we reach
the sixty-ninth from the end, upon which is one worm hole.
After this they go on multiplying to the end of the book.
I have quoted this instance because I have it handy, but many worms
eat much longer holes than any in this volume; some I have seen
running quite through a couple of thick volumes, covers and all.
In the "Schoeffer" book the holes are probably the work of Anobium
pertinax, because the centre is spared and both ends attacked.
Originally, real wooden boards were the covers of the volume,
and here, doubtless, the attack was commenced, which was carried
through each board into the paper of the book.
I remember well my first visit to the Bodleian Library,
in the year 1858, Dr. Bandinel being then the librarian.
He was very kind, and afforded me every facility for examining
the fine collection of "Caxtons," which was the object of my journey.
In looking over a parcel of black-letter fragments, which had been
in a drawer for a long time, I came across a small grub, which,
without a thought, I threw on the floor and trod under foot.
Soon after I found another, a fat, glossy fellow, so long ---,
which I carefully preserved in a little paper box, intending to
observe his habits and development. Seeing Dr. Bandinel near,
I asked him to look at my curiosity. Hardly, however, had I turned
the wriggling little victim out upon the leather-covered table,
when down came the doctor's great thumb-nail upon him,
and an inch-long smear proved the tomb of all my hopes,
while the great bibliographer, wiping his thumb on his coat sleeve,
passed on with the remark, "Oh, yes! they have black heads sometimes."
That was something to know--another fact for the entomologist;
for my little gentleman had a hard, shiny, white head,
and I never heard of a black-headed bookworm before or since.
Perhaps the great abundance of black-letter books in the Bodleian
may account for the variety. At any rate he was an Anobium.
I have been unmercifully "chaffed" for the absurd idea that a paper-eating
worm could be kept a prisoner in a paper box. Oh, these critics!
Your bookworm is a shy, lazy beast, and takes a day or two to recover
his appetite after being "evicted." Moreover, he knew his own dignity
better than to eat the "loaded" glazed shoddy note paper in which
he was incarcerated.
In the case of Caxton's "Lyf of oure ladye," already referred to,
not only are there numerous small holes, but some very large channels
at the bottom of the pages. This is a most unusual occurrence,
and is probably the work of the larva of "Dermestes vulpinus,"
a garden beetle, which is very voracious, and eats any kind
of dry ligneous rubbish.
The scarcity of edible books of the present century has been mentioned.
One result of the extensive adulteration of modern paper is that the worm
will not touch it. His instinct forbids him to eat the china clay,
the bleaches, the plaster of Paris, the sulphate of barytes, the scores
of adulterants now used to mix with the fibre, and, so far, the wise pages
of the old literature are, in the race against Time with the modern
rubbish, heavily handicapped. Thanks to the general interest taken in old
books now-a-days, the worm has hard times of it, and but slight chance
of that quiet neglect which is necessary to his, existence. So much
greater is the reason why some patient entomologist should, while there
is the chance, take upon himself to study the habits of the creature,
as Sir John Lubbock has those of the ant.
I have now before me some leaves of a book, which, being waste,
were used by our economical first printer, Caxton, to make boards,
by pasting them together. Whether the old paste was an attraction,
or whatever the reason may have been, the worm, when he got in there,
did not, as usual, eat straight through everything into the middle
of the book, but worked his way longitudinally, eating great furrows
along the leaves without passing out of the binding; and so furrowed
are these few leaves by long channels that it is difficult to raise
one of them without its falling to pieces.
This is bad enough, but we may be very thankful that in these temperate
climes we have no such enemies as are found in very hot countries,
where a whole library, books, bookshelves, table, chairs, and all,
may be destroyed in one night by a countless army of ants.
Our cousins in the United States, so fortunate in many things,
seem very fortunate in this--their books are not attacked
by the "worm"--at any rate, American writers say so.
True it is that all their black-letter comes from Europe, and,
having cost many dollars, is well looked after; but there they
have thousands of seventeenth and eighteenth century books,
in Roman type, printed in the States on genuine and wholesome paper,
and the worm is not particular, at least in this country,
about the type he eats through, if the paper is good.
Probably, therefore, the custodians of their old libraries could tell
a different tale, which makes it all the more amusing to find in the
excellent "Encyclopaedia of Printing," edited and printed by Ringwalt,
at Philadelphia, not only that the bookworm is a stranger there,
for personally he is unknown to most of us, but that his slightest
ravages are looked upon as both curious and rare. After quoting Dibdin,
with the addition of a few flights of imagination of his own,
Ringwalt states that this "paper-eating moth is supposed to have been
introduced into England in hogsleather binding from Holland." He then
ends with what, to anyone who has seen the ravages of the worm in hundreds
of books, must be charming in its native simplicity. "There is now,"
he states, evidently quoting it as a great curiosity, "there is now,
in a private library in Philadelphia, a book perforated by this insect."
Oh! lucky Philadelphians! who can boast of possessing the oldest library
in the States, but must ask leave of a private collector if they wish
to see the one wormhole in the whole city!
 "American Encyclopaedia of Printing": by Luther Ringwalt.
8vo. Philadelphia, 1871.
BESIDES the worm I do not think there is any insect enemy of books
worth description. The domestic black-beetle, or cockroach,
is far too modern an introduction to our country to have done
much harm, though he will sometimes nibble the binding of books,
especially if they rest upon the floor.
Not so fortunate, however, are our American cousins, for in
the "Library Journal" for September, 1879, Mr. Weston Flint
gives an account of a dreadful little pest which commits
great havoc upon the cloth bindings of the New York libraries.
It is a small black-beetle or cockroach, called by scientists
"Blatta germanica" and by others the "Croton Bug." Unlike our
household pest, whose home is the kitchen, and whose bashfulness
loves secrecy and the dark hours, this misgrown flat species,
of which it would take two to make a medium-sized English
specimen, has gained in impudence what it has lost in size,
fearing neither light nor noise, neither man nor beast.
In the old English Bible of 1551, we read in Psalm xci, 5,
"Thou shalt not nede to be afraied for eny Bugges by night."
This verse falls unheeded on the ear of the Western librarian
who fears his "bugs" both night and day, for they crawl over
everything in broad sunlight, infesting and infecting each corner
and cranny of the bookshelves they choose as their home.
There is a remedy in the powder known as insecticide, which,
however, is very disagreeable upon books and shelves.
It is, nevertheless, very fatal to these pests, and affords
some consolation in the fact that so soon as a "bug" shows
any signs of illness, he is devoured at once by his voracious
brethren with the same relish as if he were made of fresh paste.
There is, too, a small silvery insect (Lepisma) which I have
often seen in the backs of neglected books, but his ravages
are not of much importance.
Nor can we reckon the Codfish as very dangerous to literature, unless,
indeed, he be of the Roman obedience, like that wonderful
Ichthiobibliophage (pardon me, Professor Owen) who, in the year 1626,
swallowed three Puritanical treatises of John Frith, the Protestant
martyr. No wonder, after such a meal, he was soon caught, and became
famous in the annals of literature. The following is the title of a
little book issued upon the occasion: "Vox Piscis, or the Book-Fish
containing Three Treatises, which were found in the belly of a Cod-Fish
in Cambridge Market on Midsummer Eve, AD 1626." Lowndes says (see
under "Tracey,") "great was the consternation at Cambridge upon the
publication of this work."
Rats and mice, however, are occasionally very destructive,
as the following anecdote will show: Two centuries ago, the library
of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster was kept in the Chapter House,
and repairs having become necessary in that building, a scaffolding
was erected inside, the books being left on their shelves.
One of the holes made in the wall for a scaffold-pole was
selected by a pair of rats for their family residence.
Here they formed a nest for their young ones by descending to
the library shelves and biting away the leaves of various books.
Snug and comfortable was the little household, until, one day,
the builder's men having finished, the poles were removed, and--
alas! for the rats--the hole was closed up with bricks and cement.
Buried alive, the father and mother, with five or six of their
offspring, met with a speedy death, and not until a few years ago,
when a restoration of the Chapter House was effected, was the rat
grave opened again for a scaffold pole, and all their skeletons
and their nest discovered. Their bones and paper fragments
of the nest may now be seen in a glass case in the Chapter House,
some of the fragments being attributed to books from the press
of Caxton. This is not the case, although there are pieces of very
early black-letter books not now to be found in the Abbey library,
including little bits of the famous Queen Elizabeth's Prayer book,
with woodcuts, 1568.
A friend sends me the following incident: "A few years since,
some rats made nests in the trees surrounding my house;
from thence they jumped on to some flat roofing, and so made
their way down a chimney into a room where I kept books.
A number of these, with parchment backs, they entirely destroyed,
as well as some half-dozen books whole bound in parchment."
Another friend informs me that in the Natural History Museum of the
Devon and Exeter Institution is a specimen of "another little pest,
which has a great affection for bindings in calf and roan.
Its scientific name is Niptus Hololeucos." He adds, "Are you aware
that there was a terrible creature allied to these, rejoicing in
the name of Tomicus Typographus, which committed sad ravages in Germany
in the seventeenth century, and in the old liturgies of that country
is formally mentioned under its vulgar name, `The Turk'?" (See Kirby
and Spence, Seventh Edition, 1858, p. 123.) This is curious,
and I did not know it, although I know well that Typographus Tomicus,
or the "cutting printer," is a sad enemy of (good) books.
Upon this part of our subject, however, I am debarred entering.
The following is from W. J. Westbrook, Mus. Doe., Cantab., and represents
ravages with which I am personally unacquainted:
"Dear Blades,--I send you an example of the `enemy'-mosity of an
ordinary housefly. It hid behind the paper, emitted some caustic
fluid, and then departed this life. I have often caught them in
such holes.' 30/12/83." The damage is an oblong hole, surrounded
by a white fluffy glaze (fungoid?), difficult to represent in a woodcut.
The size here given is exact.
IN the first chapter I mentioned bookbinders among the Enemies
of Books, and I tremble to think what a stinging retort might be made
if some irate bibliopegist were to turn the scales on the printer,
and place HIM in the same category. On the sins of printers,
and the unnatural neglect which has often shortened the lives
of their typographical progeny, it is not for me to dilate.
There is an old proverb, " 'Tis an ill bird that befouls its
own nest"; a curious chapter thereupon, with many modern examples,
might nevertheless be written. This I will leave, and will now
only place on record some of the cruelties perpetrated upon books
by the ignorance or carelessness of binders.
Like men, books have a soul and body. With the soul, or literary portion,
we have nothing to do at present; the body, which is the outer
frame or covering, and without which the inner would be unusable,
is the special work of the binder. He, so to speak, begets it;
he determines its form and adornment, he doctors it in disease
and decay, and, not unseldom, dissects it after death.
Here, too, as through all Nature, we find the good and bad running
side by side. What a treat it is to handle a well-bound volume;
the leaves lie open fully and freely, as if tempting you to read on,
and you handle them without fear of their parting from the back.
To look at the "tooling," too, is a pleasure, for careful thought,
combined with artistic skill, is everywhere apparent. You open
the cover and find the same loving attention inside that has been
given to the outside, all the workmanship being true and thorough.
Indeed, so conservative is a good binding, that many a worthless
book has had an honoured old age, simply out of respect to its
outward aspect; and many a real treasure has come to a degraded end
and premature death through the unsightliness of its outward case
and the irreparable damage done to it in binding.
The weapon with which the binder deals the most deadly blows to books
is the "plough," the effect of which is to cut away the margins,
placing the print in a false position relatively to the back and head,
and often denuding the work of portions of the very text.
This reduction in size not seldom brings down a handsome folio
to the size of quarto, and a quarto to an octavo.
With the old hand plough a binder required more care and caution
to produce an even edge throughout than with the new cutting machine.
If a careless workman found that he had not ploughed the margin quite
square with the text, he would put it in his press and take off "another
shaving," and sometimes even a third.
Dante, in his "Inferno," deals out to the lost souls various tortures
suited with dramatic fitness to the past crimes of the victims,
and had I to execute judgment on the criminal binders of certain
precious volumes I have seen, where the untouched maiden sheets
entrusted to their care have, by barbarous treatment, lost dignity,
beauty and value, I would collect the paper shavings so ruthlessly shorn
off, and roast the perpetrator of the outrage over their slow combustion.
In olden times, before men had learned to value the relics of our printers,
there was some excuse for the sins of a binder who erred from ignorance
which was general; but in these times, when the historical and antiquarian
value of old books is freely acknowledged, no quarter should be granted
to a careless culprit.
It may be supposed that, from the spread of information,
all real danger from ignorance is past. Not so, good reader;
that is a consummation as yet "devoutly to be wished."
Let me relate to you a true bibliographical anecdote:
In 1877, a certain lord, who had succeeded to a fine collection
of old books, promised to send some of the most valuable
(among which were several Caxtons) to the Exhibition at
South Kensington. Thinking their outward appearance too shabby,
and not knowing the danger of his conduct, he decided
to have them rebound in the neighbouring county town.
The volumes were soon returned in a resplendent state, and,
it is said, quite to the satisfaction of his lordship,
whose pleasure, however, was sadly damped when a friend
pointed out to him that, although the discoloured edges had
all been ploughed off, and the time-stained blanks, with their
fifteenth century autographs, had been replaced by nice clean
fly-leaves, yet, looking at the result in its lowest aspect only--
that of market value--the books had been damaged to at least
the amount of L500; and, moreover, that caustic remarks
would most certainly follow upon their public exhibition.
Those poor injured volumes were never sent.
Some years ago one of the most rare books printed by Machlinia--
a thin folio--was discovered bound in sheep by a country bookbinder,
and cut down to suit the size of some quarto tracts.
But do not let us suppose that country binders are the only culprits.
It is not very long since the discovery of a unique Caxton
in one of our largest London libraries. It was in boards,
as originally issued by the fifteenth-century binder, and a
great fuss (very properly) was made over the treasure trove.
Of course, cries the reader, it was kept in its original covers,
with all the interesting associations of its early state untouched?
No such thing! Instead of making a suitable case, in which it
could be preserved just as it was, it was placed in the hands of a
well-known London binder, with the order, "Whole bind in velvet."
He did his best, and the volume now glows luxuriously in its
gilt edges and its inappropriate covering, and, alas! with
half-an-inch of its uncut margin taken off all round.
How do I know that? because the clever binder, seeing some MS.
remarks on one of the margins, turned the leaf down to avoid
cutting them off, and that stern witness will always testify,
to the observant reader, the original size of the book.
This same binder, on another occasion, placed a unique
fifteenth century Indulgence in warm water, to separate
it from the cover upon which it was pasted, the result
being that, when dry, it was so distorted as to be useless.
That man soon after passed to another world, where, we may hope,
his works have not followed him, and that his merits as a
good citizen and an honest man counterbalanced his de-merits
as a binder.
Other similar instances will occur to the memory of many a reader,
and doubtless the same sin will be committed from time to time
by certain binders, who seem to have an ingrained antipathy to rough
edges and large margins, which of course are, in their view,
made by Nature as food for the shaving tub.
De Rome, a celebrated bookbinder of the eighteenth century,
who was nicknamed by Dibdin "The Great Cropper," was, although in
private life an estimable man, much addicted to the vice of reducing
the margins of all books sent to him to bind. So far did he go,
that he even spared not a fine copy of Froissart's Chronicles,
on vellum, in which was the autograph of the well-known book-lover,
De Thou, but cropped it most cruelly.
Owners, too, have occasionally diseased minds with regard to margins.
A friend writes: "Your amusing anecdotes have brought to my memory
several biblioclasts whom I have known. One roughly cut the margins off
his books with a knife, hacking away very much like a hedger and ditcher.
Large paper volumes were his especial delight, as they gave more paper.
The slips thus obtained were used for index-making! Another, with the bump
of order unnaturally developed, had his folios and quartos all reduced,
in binding, to one size, so that they might look even on his bookshelves."
This latter was, doubtless, cousin to him who deliberately cut
down all his books close to the text, because he had been several
times annoyed by readers who made marginal notes.
The indignities, too, suffered by some books in their lettering!
Fancy an early black-letter fifteenth-century quarto on Knighthood,
labelled "Tracts"; or a translation of Virgil, "Sermons"! The "Histories
of Troy," printed by Caxton, still exists with "Eracles" on
the back, as its title, because that name occurs several times
in the early chapters, and the binder was too proud to seek advice.
The words "Miscellaneous," or "Old Pieces," were sometimes used
when binders were at a loss for lettering, and many other instances
might be mentioned.
The rapid spread of printing throughout Europe in the latter part
of the fifteenth century caused a great fall in the value of plain
un-illuminated MSS., and the immediate consequence of this was the
destruction of numerous volumes written upon parchment, which were used
by the binders to strengthen the backs of their newly-printed rivals.
These slips of vellum or parchment are quite common in old books.
Sometimes whole sheets are used as fly-leaves, and often reveal
the existence of most valuable works, unknown before--proving, at
the same time, the small value formerly attached to them.
Many a bibliographer, while examining old books, has to his great
puzzlement come across short slips of parchment, nearly always from some
old manuscript, sticking out like "guards" from the midst of the leaves.
These suggest, at first, imperfections or damage done to the volume;
but if examined closely it will be found that they are always in
the middle of a paper section, and the real reason of their existence
is just the same as when two leaves of parchment occur here and there
in a paper volume, viz.: strength--strength to resist the lug
which the strong thread makes against the middle of each section.
These slips represent old books destroyed, and like the slips
already noticed, should always be carefully examined.
When valuable books have been evil-entreated, when they have become
soiled by dirty hands, or spoiled by water stains, or injured
by grease spots, nothing is more astonishing to the uninitiated than
the transformation they undergo in the hands of a skilful restorer.
The covers are first carefully dissected, the eye of the operator
keeping a careful outlook for any fragments of old MSS.
or early printed books, which may have been used by the original binder.
No force should be applied to separate parts which adhere together;
a little warm water and care is sure to overcome that difficulty.
When all the sections are loose, the separate sheets are placed
singly in a bath of cold water, and allowed to remain there until
all the dirt has soaked out. If not sufficiently purified,
a little hydrochloric or oxalic acid, or caustic potash may be put
in the water, according as the stains are from grease or from ink.
Here is where an unpractised binder will probably injure a book for life.
If the chemicals are too strong, or the sheets remain too long in
the bath, or are not thoroughly cleansed from the bleach before they
are re-sized, the certain seeds of decay are planted in the paper,
and although for a time the leaves may look bright to the eye,
and even crackle under the hand like the soundest paper,
yet in the course of a few years the enemy will appear, the fibre
will decay, and the existence of the books will terminate in a state
of white tinder.
Everything which diminishes the interest of a book is inimical
to its preservation, and in fact is its enemy. Therefore, a few
words upon the destruction of old bindings.
I remember purchasing many years ago at a suburban book stall,
a perfect copy of Moxon's Mechanic Exercises, now a scarce work.
The volumes were uncut, and had the original marble covers.
They looked so attractive in their old fashioned dress,
that I at once determined to preserve it. My binder soon
made for them a neat wooden box in the shape of a book,
with morocco back properly lettered, where I trust the originals
will be preserved from dust and injury for many a long year.
Old covers, whether boards or paper, should always be retained if
in any state approaching decency. A case, which can be embellished
to any extent looks every whit as well upon the shelf! and gives even
greater protection than binding. It has also this great advantage:
it does not deprive your descendants of the opportunity of seeing
for themselves exactly in what dress the book buyers of four centuries
ago received their volumes.
AFTER all, two-legged depredators, who ought to have known better,
have perhaps done as much real damage in libraries as any other enemy.
I do not refer to thieves, who, if they injure the owners, do no harm
to the books themselves by merely transferring them from one set of
bookshelves to another. Nor do I refer to certain readers who frequent
our public libraries, and, to save themselves the trouble of copying,
will cut out whole articles from magazines or encyclopaedias.
Such depredations are not frequent, and only occur with books easily
replaced, and do not therefore call for more than a passing mention;
but it is a serious matter when Nature produces such a wicked old
biblioclast as John Bagford, one of the founders of the Society
of Antiquaries, who, in the beginning of the last century, went about
the country, from library to library, tearing away title pages from rare
books of all sizes. These he sorted out into nationalities and towns,
and so, with a lot of hand-bills, manuscript notes, and miscellaneous
collections of all kinds, formed over a hundred folio volumes,
now preserved in the British Museum. That they are of service as
materials in compiling a general history of printing cannot be denied,
but the destruction of many rare books was the result, and more than
counter-balanced any benefit bibliographers will ever receive from them.
When here and there throughout those volumes you meet with titles
of books now either unknown entirely, or of the greatest rarity;
when you find the Colophon from the end, or the "insigne typographi"
from the first leaf of a rare "fifteener," pasted down with dozens of
others, varying in value, you cannot bless the memory of the antiquarian
shoemaker, John Bagford. His portrait, a half-length, painted by Howard,
was engraved by Vertue, and re-engraved for the Bibliographical Decameron.
A bad example often finds imitators, and every season there crop up
for public sale one or two such collections, formed by bibliomaniacs,
who, although calling themselves bibliophiles, ought really to be ranked
among the worst enemies of books.
The following is copied from a trade catalogue, dated April, 1880, and
affords a fair idea of the extent to which these heartless destroyers will
FIFTY DIFFERENT CAPITAL LETTERS _on_ VELLUM; _all in rich Gold
and Colours. Many 3 inches square: the floral decorations
are of great beauty, ranging from the XIIth to XVth century.
Mounted on stout card-board_. IN NICE PRESERVATION, L6 6_s_.
These beautiful letters have been cut from precious
MSS., and as specimens of early art are extremely
valuable, many of them being worth 15_s_. each."
Mr. Proeme is a man well known to the London dealers in old books.
He is wealthy, and cares not what he spends to carry out his
bibliographical craze, which is the collection of title pages.
These he ruthlessly extracts, frequently leaving the decapitated
carcase of the books, for which he cares not, behind him.
Unlike the destroyer Bagford, he has no useful object in view,
but simply follows a senseless kind of classification. For instance:
One set of volumes contains nothing but copper-plate engraved titles,
and woe betide the grand old Dutch folios of the seventeenth century
if they cross his path. Another is a volume of coarse or quaint titles,
which certainly answer the end of showing how idiotic and conceited
some authors have been. Here you find Dr. Sib's "Bowels opened
in Divers Sermons," 1650, cheek by jowl with the discourse attributed
falsely to Huntington, the Calvinist, "Die and be damned,"
with many others too coarse to be quoted. The odd titles adopted
for his poems by Taylor, the water-poet, enliven several pages,
and make one's mouth water for the books themselves. A third
volume includes only such titles as have the printer's device.
If you shut your eyes to the injury done by such collectors, you may,
to a certain extent, enjoy the collection, for there is great beauty
in some titles; but such a pursuit is neither useful nor meritorious.
By and by the end comes, and then dispersion follows collection,
and the volumes, which probably Cost L200 each in their formation,
will be knocked down to a dealer for L10, finally gravitating
into the South Kensington Library, or some public museum,
as a bibliographical curiosity. The following has just been sold
(July, 1880) by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge,
in the Dunn-Gardinier collection, lot 1592:--
"TITLEPAGES AND FRONTISPIECES.
_A Collection of upwards of_ 800 ENGRAVED TITLES AND FRONTISPIECES,
ENGLISH AND FOREIGN (_some very fine and curious) taken from
old books and neatly mounted on cartridge paper in 3 vol,
half morocco gilt. imp. folio_."
The only collection of title-pages which has afforded me unalloyed pleasure
is a handsome folio, published by the directors of the Plantin Museum,
Antwerp, in 1877, just after the purchase of that wonderful typographical
It is called "Titels en Portretten gesneden naar P. P. Rubens voor de
Plantijnsche Drukkerij," and it contains thirty-five grand title pages,
reprinted from the original seventeenth century plates, designed by Rubens
himself between the years 1612 and 1640, for various publications which
issued from the celebrated Plantin Printing Office. In the same Museum
are preserved in Rubens' own handwriting his charge for each design,
duly receipted at foot.
I have now before me a fine copy of "Coclusiones siue decisiones antique
dnor' de Rota," printed by Gutenberg's partner, Schoeffer, in the year 1477.
It is perfect, except in a most vital part, the Colophon, which has been
cut out by some barbaric "Collector," and which should read thus: "Pridie
nonis Januarii Mcccclxxvij, in Civitate Moguntina, impressorie Petrus
Schoyffer de Gernsheym," followed by his well-known mark, two shields.
A similar mania arose at the beginning of this century for
collections of illuminated initials, which were taken from MSS.,
and arranged on the pages of a blank book in alphabetical order.
Some of our cathedral libraries suffered severely from depredations
of this kind. At Lincoln, in the early part of this century,
the boys put on their robes in the library, a room close
to the choir. Here were numerous old MSS., and eight or ten
rare Caxtons. The choir boys used often to amuse themselves,
while waiting for the signal to "fall in," by cutting out with their
pen-knives the illuminated initials and vignettes, which they would
take into the choir with them and pass round from one to another.
The Dean and Chapter of those days were not much better, for they
let Dr. Dibdin have all their Caxtons for a "consideration."
He made a little catalogue of them, which he called "A Lincolne
Nosegaye." Eventually they were absorbed into the collection at Althorp.
The late Mr. Caspari was a "destroyer" of books. His rare collection
of early woodcuts, exhibited in 1877 at the Caxton Celebration,
had been frequently augmented by the purchase of illustrated books,
the plates of which were taken out, and mounted on Bristol boards,
to enrich his collection. He once showed me the remains of a fine copy
of "Theurdanck," which he had served so, and I have now before me several
of the leaves which he then gave me, and which, for beauty of engraving
and cleverness of typography, surpasses any typographical work known to me.
It was printed for the Emperor Maximilian, by Hans Schonsperger,
of Nuremberg, and, to make it unique, all the punches were cut on purpose,
and as many as seven or eight varieties of each letter, which, together
with the clever way in which the ornamental flourishes are carried
above and below the line, has led even experienced printers to deny
its being typography. It is, nevertheless, entirely from cast types.
A copy in good condition costs about L50.
Many years since I purchased, at Messrs. Sotheby's, a large lot of MS.
leaves on vellum, some being whole sections of a book, but mostly
single leaves. Many were so mutilated by the excision of initials as to
be worthless, but those with poor initials, or with none, were quite good,
and when sorted out I found I had got large portions of nearly twenty
different MSS., mostly Horae, showing twelve varieties of fifteenth
century handwriting in Latin, French, Dutch, and German. I had each sort
bound separately, and they now form an interesting collection.
Portrait collectors have destroyed many books by abstracting
the frontispiece to add to their treasures, and when once
a book is made imperfect, its march to destruction is rapid.
This is why books like Atkyns' "Origin and Growth of Printing,"
4o, 1664, have become impossible to get.
When issued, Atkyns' pamphlet had a fine frontispiece, by Logan,
containing portraits of King Charles II, attended by Archbishop
Sheldon, the Duke of Albermarle, and the Earl of Clarendon. As
portraits of these celebrities (excepting, of course, the King)
are extremely rare, collectors have bought up this 4o tract of Atkyns',
whenever it has been offered, and torn away the frontispiece to adorn
This is why, if you take up any sale catalogue of old books,
you are certain to find here and there, appended to the description,
"Wanting the title," "Wanting two plates," or "Wanting the last page."
It is quite common to find in old MSS., especially fifteenth century,
both vellum and paper, the blank margins of leaves cut away.
This will be from the side edge or from the foot, and the
recurrence of this mutilation puzzled me for many years.
It arose from the scarcity of paper in former times, so that when
a message had to be sent which required more exactitude than could
be entrusted to the stupid memory of a household messenger,
the Master or Chaplain went to the library, and, not having
paper to use, took down an old book, and cut from its broad
margins one or more slips to serve his present need.
I feel quite inclined to reckon among "enemies" those bibliomaniacs
and over-careful possessors, who, being unable to carry their
treasures into the next world, do all they can to hinder their
usefulness in this. What a difficulty there is to obtain admission
to the curious library of old Samuel Pepys, the well-known diarist.
There it is at Magdalene College, Cambridge, in the identical book-cases
provided for the books by Pepys himself; but no one can gain admission
except in company of two Fellows of the College, and if a single book
be lost, the whole library goes away to a neighbouring college.
However willing and anxious to oblige, it is evident that no one
can use the library at the expense of the time, if not temper,
of two Fellows. Some similar restrictions are in force at
the Teylerian Museum, Haarlem, where a lifelong imprisonment is
inflicted upon its many treasures.
Some centuries ago a valuable collection of books was left to
the Guildford Endowed Grammar School. The schoolmaster was to be
held personally responsible for the safety of every volume, which,
if lost, he was bound to replace. I am told that one master,
to minimize his risk as much as possible, took the following
barbarous course:--As soon as he was in possession, he raised
the boards of the schoolroom floor, and, having carefully packed
all the books between the joists, had the boards nailed down again.
Little recked he how many rats and mice made their nests there;
he was bound to account some day for every single volume,
and he saw no way so safe as rigid imprisonment.
The late Sir Thomas Phillipps, of Middle Hill, was a remarkable instance
of a bibliotaph. He bought bibliographical treasures simply to bury them.
His mansion was crammed with books; he purchased whole libraries,
and never even saw what he had bought. Among some of his purchases
was the first book printed in the English language, "The Recuyell
of the Histories of Troye," translated and printed by William Caxton,
for the Duchess of Burgundy, sister to our Edward IV. It is true,
though almost incredible, that Sir Thomas could never find this volume,
although it is doubtless still in the collection, and no wonder,
when cases of books bought twenty years before his death were never opened,
and the only knowledge of their contents which he possessed was
the Sale Catalogue or the bookseller's invoice.
SERVANTS AND CHILDREN.
READER! are you married? Have you offspring, boys especially
I mean, say between six and twelve years of age? Have you also
a literary workshop, supplied with choice tools, some for use,
some for ornament, where you pass pleasant hours? and is--
ah! there's the rub!--is there a special hand-maid, whose
special duty it is to keep your den daily dusted and in order?
Plead you guilty to these indictments? then am I sure of
a sympathetic co-sufferer.
Dust! it is all a delusion. It is not the dust that makes
women anxious to invade the inmost recesses of your Sanctum--
it is an ingrained curiosity. And this feminine weakness,
which dates from Eve, is a common motive in the stories
of our oldest literature and Folk-lore. What made Fatima
so anxious to know the contents of the room forbidden her
by Bluebeard? It was positively nothing to her, and its
contents caused not the slightest annoyance to anybody.
That story has a bad moral, and it would, in many ways, have been
more satisfactory had the heroine been left to take her place in
the blood-stained chamber, side by side with her peccant predecessors.
Why need the women-folk (God forgive me!) bother themselves about
the inside of a man's library, and whether it wants dusting or not?
My boys' playroom, in which is a carpenter's bench, a lathe,
and no end of litter, is never tidied--perhaps it can't be,
or perhaps their youthful vigour won't stand it--but my workroom
must needs be dusted daily, with the delusive promise that
each book and paper shall be replaced exactly where it was.
The damage done by such continued treatment is incalculable.
At certain times these observances are kept more religiously
than others; but especially should the book-lover, married
or single, beware of the Ides of March. So soon as February is
dead and gone, a feeling of unrest seizes the housewife's mind.
This increases day by day, and becomes dominant towards the middle
of the month, about which period sundry hints are thrown out
as to whether you are likely to be absent for a day or two.
Beware! the fever called "Spring Clean" is on, and unless you
stand firm, you will rue it. Go away, if the Fates so will,
but take the key of your own domain with you.
Do not misunderstand. Not for a moment would I advocate dust and dirt;
they are enemies, and should be routed; but let the necessary routing
be done under your own eye. Explain where caution must be used,
and in what cases tenderness is a virtue; and if one Eve in the family
can be indoctrinated with book-reverence you are a happy man;
her price is above that of rubies; she will prolong your life.
Books MUST now and then be taken clean out of their shelves,
but they should be tended lovingly and with judgment.
If the dusting can be done just outside the room so much the better.
The books removed, the shelf should be lifted quite out of its bearings,
cleansed and wiped, and then each volume should be taken separately,
and gently rubbed on back and sides with a soft cloth. In returning
the volumes to their places, notice should be taken of the binding,
and especially when the books are in whole calf or morocco care
should be taken not to let them rub together. The best bound books
are soonest injured, and quickly deteriorate in bad company.
Certain volumes, indeed, have evil tempers, and will scratch
the faces of all their neighbours who are too familiar with them.
Such are books with metal clasps and rivets on their edges;
and such, again, are those abominable old rascals, chiefly born
in the fifteenth century, who are proud of being dressed in REAL
boards with brass corners, and pass their lives with fearful knobs and
metal bosses, mostly five in number, firmly fixed on one of their sides.
If the tendencies of such ruffians are not curbed, they will do
as much mischief to their gentle neighbours as when a "collie"
worries the sheep. These evil results may always be minimized
by placing a piece of millboard between the culprit and his victim.
I have seen lovely bindings sadly marked by such uncanny neighbours.
When your books are being "dusted," don't impute too much common
sense to your assistants; take their ignorance for granted,
and tell them at once never to lift any book by one of its covers;
that treatment is sure to strain the back, and ten to one the weight
will be at the same time miscalculated, and the volume will fall.
Your female "help," too, dearly loves a good tall pile to work at and,
as a rule, her notions of the centre of gravity are not accurate,
leading often to a general downfall, and the damage of many a corner.
Again, if not supervised and instructed, she is very apt to rub the dust
into, instead of off, the edges. Each volume should be held tightly,
so as to prevent the leaves from gaping, and then wiped from the back
to the fore-edge. A soft brush will be found useful if there is much dust.
The whole exterior should also be rubbed with a soft cloth, and then
the covers should be opened and the hinges of the binding examined;
for mildew WILL assert itself both inside and outside certain books,
and that most pertinaciously. It has unaccountable likes and dislikes.
Some bindings seem positively to invite damp, and mildew will attack
these when no other books on the same shelf show any signs of it.
When discovered, carefully wipe it away, and then let the book remain
a few days standing open, in the driest and airiest spot you can select.
Great care should be taken not to let grit, such as blows in at the open
window from many a dusty road, be upon your duster, or you will
probably find fine scratches, like an outline map of Europe, all over
your smooth calf, by which your heart and eye, as well as your book,
will be wounded.
"Helps" are very apt to fill the shelves too tightly, so that to extract
a book you have to use force, often to the injury of the top-bands.
Beware of this mistake. It frequently occurs through not noticing
that one small book is purposely placed at each end of the shelf,
beneath the movable shelf-supports, thus not only saving space,
but preventing the injury which a book shelf-high would be sure
to receive from uneven pressure.
After all, the best guide in these, as in many other matters,
is "common sense," a quality which in olden times must have been
much more "common" than in these days, else the phrase would
never have become rooted in our common tongue.
Children, with all their innocence, are often guilty of book-murder. I
must confess to having once taken down "Humphrey's History of Writing,"
which contains many brightly-coloured plates, to amuse a sick daughter.
The object was certainly gained, but the consequences of so bad
a precedent were disastrous. That copy (which, I am glad to say,
was easily re-placed), notwithstanding great care on my part,
became soiled and torn, and at last was given up to Nursery martyrdom.
Can I regret it? surely not, for, although bibliographically sinful, who
can weigh the amount of real pleasure received, and actual pain ignored,
by the patient in the contemplation of those beautifully-blended colours?
A neighbour of mine some few years ago suffered severely from a propensity,
apparently irresistible, in one of his daughters to tear his library books.
She was six years old, and would go quietly to a shelf and take down
a book or two, and having torn a dozen leaves or so down the middle,
would replace the volumes, fragments and all, in their places,
the damage being undiscovered until the books were wanted for use.
Reprimand, expostulation and even punishment were of no avail;
but a single "whipping" effected a cure.
Boys, however, are by far more destructive than girls,
and have, naturally, no reverence for age, whether in man or books.
Who does not fear a schoolboy with his first pocket-knife?
As Wordsworth did not say:--
"You may trace him oft
By scars which his activity has left
Upon our shelves and volumes. * * *
He who with pocket-knife will cut the edge
Of luckless panel or of prominent book,
Detaching with a stroke a label here, a back-band there."
_Excursion III, 83_.
Pleased, too, are they, if, with mouths full of candy,
and sticky fingers, they can pull in and out the books on your
bottom shelves, little knowing the damage and pain they will cause.
One would fain cry out, calling on the Shade of Horace to pardon
the false quantity--
"Magna movet stomacho fastidia, si puer unctis
Tractavit volumen manibus." _Sat. IV_.
What boys CAN do may be gathered from the following true story,
sent me by a correspondent who was the immediate sufferer:--
One summer day he met in town an acquaintance who for many years had
been abroad; and finding his appetite for old books as keen as ever,
invited him home to have a mental feed upon "fifteeners" and other
bibliographical dainties, preliminary to the coarser pleasures enjoyed
at the dinner-table. The "home" was an old mansion in the outskirts
of London, whose very architecture was suggestive of black-letter
and sheep-skin. The weather, alas! was rainy, and, as they
approached the house, loud peals of laughter reached their ears.
The children were keeping a birthday with a few young friends.
The damp forbad all outdoor play, and, having been left too
much to their own devices, they had invaded the library.
It was just after the Battle of Balaclava, and the heroism of
the combatants on that hard-fought field was in everybody's mouth.
So the mischievous young imps divided themselves into two opposing camps--
Britons and Russians. The Russian division was just inside the door,
behind ramparts formed of old folios and quartos taken from
the bottom shelves and piled to the height of about four feet.
It was a wall of old fathers, fifteenth century chronicles,
county histories, Chaucer, Lydgate, and such like. Some few yards off
were the Britishers, provided with heaps of small books as missiles,
with which they kept up a skirmishing cannonade against the foe.
Imagine the tableau! Two elderly gentlemen enter hurriedly,
paterfamilias receiving, quite unintentionally, the first edition
of "Paradise Lost" in the pit of his stomach, his friend narrowly
escaping a closer personal acquaintance with a quarto Hamlet
than he had ever had before. Finale: great outburst of wrath,
and rapid retreat of the combatants, many wounded (volumes) being
left on the field.
ALTHOUGH, strictly speaking, the following anecdote does not
illustrate any form of real injury to books, it is so racy,
and in these days of extravagant biddings so tantalizing, that I
must step just outside the strict line of pertinence in order
to place it on record, It was sent to me, as a personal experience,
by my friend, Mr. George Clulow, a well-known bibliophile,
and "Xylographer" to "Ye Sette of ye Odde Volumes." The date
is 1881. He writes:--
"_Apropos_ of the Gainsborough `find,' of which you tell in `The Enemies
of Books,' I should like to narrate an experience of my own, of some
twenty years ago:
"Late one evening, at my father's house, I saw a catalogue of a sale
of furniture, farm implements and books, which was announced to take
place on the following morning at a country rectory in Derbyshire,
some four miles from the nearest railway station.
"It was summer time--the country at its best--and with the attraction
of an old book, I decided on a day's holiday, and eight o'clock
the next morning found me in the train for C----, and after a
variation in my programme, caused by my having walked three miles
west before I discovered that my destination was three miles
east of the railway station, I arrived at the rectory at noon,
and found assembled some thirty or forty of the neighbouring farmers,
their wives, men-servants and maid-servants, all seemingly bent
on a day's idling, rather than business. The sale was announced
for noon, but it was an hour later before the auctioneer put
in an appearance, and the first operation in which he took part,
and in which he invited my assistance, was to make a hearty
meal of bread and cheese and beer in the rectory kitchen.
This over, the business of the day began by a sundry collection
of pots, pans, and kettles being brought to the competition of
the public, followed by some lots of bedding, etc. The catalogue
gave books as the first part of the sale, and, as three o'clock
was reached, my patience was gone, and I protested to the auctioneer
against his not selling in accordance with his catalogue.
To this he replied that there was not time enough, and that
he would sell the books to-morrow! This was too much for me,
and I suggested that he had broken faith with the buyers,
and had brought me to C---- on a false pretence. This, however,
did not seem to disturb his good humour, or to make him unhappy,
and his answer was to call `Bill,' who was acting as porter,
and to tell him to give the gentleman the key of the `book room,'
and to bring down any of the books he might pick out, and he `would
sell 'em.' I followed `Bill,' and soon found myself in a
charming nook of a library, full of books, mostly old divinity,
but with a large number of the best miscellaneous literature of
the sixteenth century, English and foreign. A very short look over
the shelves produced some thirty Black Letter books, three or four
illuminated missals, and some book rarities of a more recent date.
`Bill' took them downstairs, and I wondered what would happen!
I was not long in doubt, for book by book, and in lots of two and three,
my selection was knocked down in rapid succession, at prices
varying from 1_s_. 6_d_. to 3_s_. 6_d_., this latter sum seeming
to be the utmost limit to the speculative turn of my competitors.
The _bonne bouche_ of the lot was, however, kept back by
the auctioneer, because, as he said, it was `a pretty book,'
and I began to respect his critical judgment, for `a pretty book'
it was, being a large paper copy of Dibdin's Bibliographical Decameron,
three volumes, in the original binding. Suffice it to say that,
including this charming book, my purchases did not amount to L13,
and I had pretty well a cart-load of books for my money--more than
I wanted much! Having brought them home, I `weeded them out,'
and the `weeding' realised four times what I gave for the whole,
leaving me with some real book treasures.
"Some weeks afterwards I heard that the remainder of the books were
literally treated as waste lumber, and carted off to the neighbouring town,
and were to be had, any one of them, for sixpence, from a cobbler
who had allowed his shop to be used as a store house for them.
The news of their being there reached the ears of an old bookseller
in one of the large towns, and he, I think, cleared out the lot.
So curious an instance of the most total ignorance on the part of
the sellers, and I may add on the part of the possible buyers also,
I think is worth noting."
How would the reader in this Year of Grace, 1887, like such
an experience as that?
IT is a great pity that there should be so many distinct
enemies at work for the destruction of literature, and that
they should so often be allowed to work out their sad end.
Looked at rightly, the possession of any old book is a sacred trust,
which a conscientious owner or guardian would as soon think
of ignoring as a parent would of neglecting his child.
An old book, whatever its subject or internal merits, is truly
a portion of the national history; we may imitate it and print
it in fac-simile, but we can never exactly reproduce it;
and as an historical document it should be carefully preserved.
I do not envy any man that absence of sentiment which makes some
people careless of the memorials of their ancestors, and whose blood
can be warmed up only by talking of horses or the price of hops.
To them solitude means _ennui_, and anybody's company is preferable
to their own. What an immense amount of calm enjoyment and mental
renovation do such men miss. Even a millionaire will ease
his toils, lengthen his life, and add a hundred per cent.
to his daily pleasures if he becomes a bibliophile; while to the man
of business with a taste for books, who through the day has struggled
in the battle of life with all its irritating rebuffs and anxieties,
what a blessed season of pleasurable repose opens upon him as
he enters his sanctum, where every article wafts to him a welcome,
and every book is a personal friend!
_Academy, The_, 23.
Acanis eruditus, 77, 78.
Acts of the Apostles, quoted, 4.
Aglossa pinguinalis, 76.
Albermarle (Duke of), portrait by Logan, 126.
Althorp library, 124.
Anderson (Sir C.), 55.
Anobium paniceum, 77, 78.
Anobium pertinax, 77, 78, 87, 88.
Antiquary, The, 54.
Antwerp, Monks at, 57, 58.
Asbestos fire, 27.
Ashburnham House, Westminster, 10.
Asiarch, an, 7.
Athens, Bookworm from, 81.
Atkyns' Origin and Growth of Printing, 126.
Auctioneer, story of, 145.
Austin Friars, 15.
Bagford (John), the biblioclast, r: 18.
Balaclava, battle of, 143.
Bale, the antiquary, 9.
Bandinel (Dr.), 87, 88.
Beedham, B., 52.
Bible, the first printed, burnt at Strasbourg, 13.
-- the "bug" edition, 95.
Bibliophile, pleasures of a, 153.
Bibliotaph, a, 129.
Bibliotheca Ecclesiae Londino-Belgicae, 16.
Binder's creed, 31.
-- plough, 105.
Binding, care to be taken of, 134.
-- quality of good, 104.
Bird (Rev. -), 55.
Birdsall (Mr.), bookbinder, 80.
Birmingham Riots, 11.
Black-beetles, enemies of books, 94.
Black-letter books in United States, 91.
Blatta germanica, 65.
Bodleian, hookworms at, 87.
Bookbinders as enemies of books, 103.
Books, absurd lettering, 111.
-- burnt at Carthage; at Ephesus, 4.
-- burnt in Fire of London, 10.
-- burnt by Saracens, 3.
-- captured by Corsairs, 18.
-- cleaning of, 114.
-- deprived of title pages, 118, 119.
Books destroyed at the Reformation, Si.
-- dried in an attic, 16.
-- examination of old covers, 116.
-- how to dust them, 134.
-- injured by hacking, i x i.
-- lost at sea, 17, 18.
-- margin reduced to size, 111.
-- mildew in, 136.
-- from monasteries destroyed, 9.
-- restoration when injured, 114.
-- restored after a fire, 15.
-- scarce before printing, 2.
-- sold to a cobbler, 52, 149.
-- too tight on shelves, 137.
-- their claims to be preserved, 151.
-- used to bake "pyes," 10.
-- which scratch one another, 134.
Book-sale in Derbyshire, 145.
Bookworm, the, 67-93.
-- attempt to breed, 81-3.
-- from Greece, 82.
-- in paper box, 89.
-- in United States, 91.
Bookworms' progress through books, 84.
-- race by, 86.
Bosses on books, 135.
Boys injuring books, 139.
-- in library, story of, 140.
Brighton, black letter fragments, 59.
British Museum, Boccaccio's Fall of Princes, 61.
British Museum free from the "worm," 83.
-- burnt book exhibited at, 11.
Brown spots in books, 24.
Burckhardt's Arabic MSS., 77.
"Bug" Bible, 95.
Burgundy (Duchess of), 130.
Cambridge Market, 97.
Caskets (the three), Shakspeare, 60.
Caspari (Mr.), a collector, 124.
Cassin (Convent of Mount), 49.
Caxton, William, 130.
--his use of waste leaves, 90.
--Canterbury Tales, used to light a fire, 53.
-- Golden Legend, ditto, 52.
--Lyf of oure Ladye, 89.
Caxtons saturated by rain, 22.
--spoilt in binding, 107.
--discovered in British Museum, 108.
Charles II, portrait by Logan, 126.
Chasles (Philarete), 52.
Child tearing books, 139.
Children as enemies of books, 138.
Choir boys injuring MSS., 124.
Christians burnt heathen MSS., 7.
Clarendon (Earl of), portrait by Logan, 126.
Clasps on books, injury from, 135.
Clergymen as biblioclasts, 64.
Clulow (Mr. George), 144.
Coal fires objectionable in libraries, 27.
Codfish, book eaten by a, 96.
Cold injures books, 26.
Collectors as enemies of books, 117.
College quadrangle, 41.
Colophon in Schoeffer's book, 123.
Colophons (collections of), I IS.
Commonwealth quartos, 44.
Communal libraries in France, 48.
Cotton library; partially burnt, 10.
Cowper, the poet, on burnt libraries, 12.
Crambus pinguinalis, 76.
Cremona, books destroyed at, 8.
Croton bug, 95.
Damp, an enemy of books, 24.
-- The Inferno, 106.
Derbyshire, book sale in, 145.
Dermestes vulpinus, 89.
De Rome, the binder, 47, 48, 110.
De Thou, 110.
Devil worship, 5.
Devon and Exeter Museum, 101.
Diana, Temple of, 6.
Dibdin (Dr.), 110.
--sale of his Decameron, 148.
--his books, 25.
D'Israeli (B.), 17.
Doraston (J.), Poem on Bookworne, 67, 76.
Dust, an enemy of books, 39.
-- and neglect in a library, 39-50, 133.
Dusting books-how to do it, 136.
Dutch Church burnt, 15.
-- library at Guildhall, 16.
Ecclesiastical Commissioners, 53.
Edmonds (Mr.), bookseller, 58.
Edward IV, 130.
Edwards (Mr.), bookseller, 18.
Electric light in British Museum, 32.
"Evil eye," the, 6.
"Excursion, The," 139.
Fire, an enemy of books, 1-16.
-- of London, 10.
Flint (Weston), account of black-beetles in New York
Folklore, ancient, 5.
"Foxey" books, 25.
Francis (St.) and the friars, 37.
French Protestant Church, 53.
Frith (John), 96.
Froissart's Chronicles, 110.
Frost in a library, 26.
Garnett (Dr.), 81.
Gas injurious, 29-38,
Gatty's (Mrs.) Parables, 76.
German Army at Strasburg, U.
Gesta Romanorum, 66.
Gibbon, the historian, 2.
Glass cases preservative of books, 27.
Golden Legend, by Caxton, 52.
Gordon Riots, 11.
Government officials as biblioclasts, 65.
Grenville (Rt. Hon. Thos.), 56.
Guildford, library at school, 129.
Guildhall, London, library at, 0.
-- documents concerning, burnt, 13,
Gwyn, Nell, housekeeping book of, 65.
"Gyp" brushing clothes in a library, 44.
Hannett, on bookbinding, 76.
Havergal (Rev. F. T.), 76.
Heathens burnt Christian MSS., 7.
Heating libraries, 27.
Hebrew books burnt, 8.
Hereford Cathedral library, 76.
Hickman family, 56.
Histories of Troy, 111.
Holme (Mr.), 77.
Hooke (R.), his Micrographia, 71-75.
Horace's Satires, 140.
Hot water pipes for libraries, 26.
House-fly, an enemy of books, 102.
Hudde, Heer, a story of, 17.
Hwqhrey's History of Writing, 138.
Hypothenemus eruditus, 76.
Ignorance and Bigotry, P-66.
Illuminated letters fatal to books, 51.
-- initials, collections of, 123.
Indulgence of 15th Century spoilt by a binder, 109.
Inquisition in Holland, 63.
Kirby and Spence on Entomologists, 75, 101.
Knobs of metal on bindings, 135.
Koran, The, 7.
Lamport Hall, 58.
Lansdowne Collection of MSS., 60.
Latterbury, copy of, at St. Martin's, 54.
Leather destroyed by gas, 30.
-- mistaken for bookworm, 75.
burnt: by Caesar, 3.
--- at Dutch Church, 15.
--- at Strasbourg, 13.
neglected in England, 15, 22, 40.
at Alexandria, 3.
of the Ptolemies) 3.
Library Journal, The, 94.
Lincoln Cathedral MSS., 124.
Lincolne Nosegaye, 124.
London Institution, 31.
Lubbock (Sir J.), 90.
Luke's, St., account of destruction of books, 4.
Luxe des Livres, 47.
Luxury and learning, 42.
Machlinia, book printed by, 106.
Magdalene College, Cambridge, 128.
Maitland (Rev. S. R.), 54.
Mansfield (Lord), ij.
MS. Plays burnt, 60.
Manuscripts, fragments of, 126.
Margins of books cut away, 49, 127.
Maximilian (The Emperor), 125.
Mazarin library, Caxton in, 52.
Metamorphoses of Ovid, by Caxton, 10.
Micrographia, by R. Hooke, 71.
Mildew in books, 136.
Minorite friars, 37.
Missal illuminations, sale of, 119.
Mohammed's reason for destroying books, 7.
Mohammed II throws books into the sea, 21.
Monks at Monte Cassino, 49.
Mould in books, 24.
Mount Cassin, library at, 50.
Moxon's Mechanic Exercises, 115.
Muller (M.), of Amsterdam, 62.
Newmarsh (Rev. C. F.), 54.
Niptus Hololeucos, 101.
Noble (Mr.), on Parish Registers, 61.
Notes and Queries, 77.
Oak Chest, 44.
OEcophora pseudospretella, 79.
Offer Collection of Bunyans, 14.
On, Priests of, 69.
Overall (Mr.), Librarian at Guildhall, 16.
Ovid, Metamorphoses by Caxton, 10.
Oxenforde, Lyf of therle, 10.
Paper improperly bleached, 25.
Paradise Lost, 142.
Parchment, slips of, in old books, 112.
Parish Registers, carelessness, 62.
Parnell's Ode, 70.
Patent Office, destruction of literature at, 65.
Paternoster Row, io.
Paul, St., 6.
Pedlar buying old books, 54, 55.
Peignot and hookworms, 79.
Pepys (Samuel), his library, 128.
Petit (Pierre), poem on bookworm, 70.
Philadelphia, wormhole at, 92.
Phillipps (Sir Thos.), 129.
Pieces of silver or denarii, 5.
Pinelli (Maffei), library of, 18.
Plantin Museum, 122.
policemen in Ephesus, 7.
Portrait collectors, 127.
Priestley (Dr.), library burnt, 11, 12.
Printers, the first, 13.
Printers' marks, collection of, 119.
-- ink and bookworms, 80.
Probrue (Mr.), 120.
Ptolemies, the Egyptian, 3.
Puttick and Simpson, 15.
Pynson's Fall of Princes, 61.
Queen Elizabeth's prayer-book, 98.
Quaint titles, collections of, 121.
Quadrangle of an old College described) 41.
Rain an enemy to books, 21.
Rats eat books, 97.
Recollet monks of Antwerp, 57.
-Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, 130.
Reformation, destruction of books at, 9.
Restoration of burnt books, 11.
Richard of Bury, 47.
Ringwalt's Encyclopaedia, 92.
Rivets on books, 135.
Rood and Hunte, 53.
Rot caused by rain, 21.
Royal Society, London, 71.
Rubens' engraved titles in Plantin Museum, 122.
-- autograph receipts, 122.
Ruins of fire at Sotheby and Wilkinson's, 14.
Rye (W. B.), 61, 83.
St. Albans, Boke of, 54.
St. Martin's-le-Grand, French church, 53.
St. Paul's Cathedral, books burnt in vaults of, 10.
Sale catalogues, extracts from, 119.
Schoeffer (P.), 123.
Schonsperger (Hans), 125.
Schoolmaster and endowed library, 129.
Scorched book at British Museum, 11.
Scrolls of magic, 6.
Serpent worship, 5.
Servants and children as enemies of books, 131-144.
Shakesperian discoveries, 58.
"Shavings" of binders, 31.
Sheldon (Archbishop), portrait by Logan, 126.
Sib's Bowels opened, 121.
Smith (Mr.), Brighton bookseller, 64.
Sotheby and Wilkinson, 125.
-- fire at their rooms, 14.
Spring clean, horrors of, 133.
Stark (Mr.), bookseller, 55-58.
Stealing a Caxton, 54.
Steam press, 40.
Strasbourg, siege of, 13.
Sun-light of gas, 29, 32.
Sun worship, 5.
Sylvester's Laws of Verse, 71.
Taylor, the water-poet, 121.
Teylerian Museum, Haarlem, 128.
Theurdanck, prints in, 125.
Thonock Hall, library Of, 56.
Timmins (Mr.), 50.
Title-pages, collections sold, 122.
-- volumes of, 118.
Title-pages, old Dutch, 120.
Tomicus Typographus, iox.
Utramontane Society, called "Old paper," 63,
Unitarian library, 13,
Universities destroy books, 9.
Value of books burnt by St. Paul, 4.
Vanderberg (M.), 57.
Vermin book-enemies, 94-102.
Pox Piscis, 96.
Washing old books, x6.
Water an enemy of books, 17-28.
Waterhouse (Mr.), Si.
Werdet (Edmond), 48, 57.
Westbrook (W. J.), 102.
Westminster Chapter-house, 97.
-- skeletons of rats, 97.
White (Adam), 83.
Wolfenbuttel, library at, 23.
Woodcuts, a Caxton celebration, 124.
Wynken de Worde, fragment, 59.
Ximenes (Cardinal) destroys copies of the Koran, 8.