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Golden volumes! richest treasures!
Objects of delicious pleasures!
You my eyes rejoicing please,
You my hands in rapture seize!
Brilliant wits, and musing sages,
Lights who beamed through many ages,
Left to your conscious leaves their story,
And dared to trust you with their glory;
And now their hope of fame achieved,
Dear volumes! you have not deceived!

This passion for the enjoyment of books has occasioned their lovers embellishing their outsides with costly ornaments;[3] a fancy which ostentation may have abused; but when these volumes belong to the real man of letters, the most fanciful bindings are often the emblems of his taste and feelings. The great Thuanus procured the finest copies for his library, and his volumes are still eagerly purchased, bearing his autograph on the last page. A celebrated amateur was Grollier; the Muses themselves could not more ingeniously have ornamented their favourite works. I have seen several in the libraries of curious collectors. They are gilded and stamped with peculiar neatness; the compartments on the binding are drawn, and painted, with subjects analogous to the works themselves; and they are further adorned by that amiable inscription, Jo. Grollierii et amicorum!–purporting that these literary treasures were collected for himself and for his friends.

The family of the Fuggers had long felt an hereditary passion for the accumulation of literary treasures: and their portraits, with others in their picture gallery, form a curious quarto volume of 127 portraits, rare even in Germany, entitled “Fuggerorum Pinacotheca.”[4] Wolfius, who daily haunted their celebrated library, pours out his gratitude in some Greek verses, and describes this bibliotheque as a literary heaven, furnished with as many books as there were stars in the firmament; or as a literary garden, in which he passed entire days in gathering fruit and flowers, delighting and instructing himself by perpetual occupation.

In 1364, the royal library of France did not exceed twenty volumes. Shortly after, Charles V. increased it to 900, which, by the fate of war, as much at least as by that of money, the Duke of Bedford afterwards purchased and transported to London, where libraries were smaller than on the continent, about 1440. It is a circumstance worthy observation, that the French sovereign, Charles V. surnamed the Wise, ordered that thirty portable lights, with a silver lamp suspended from the centre, should be illuminated at night, that students might not find their pursuits interrupted at any hour. Many among us, at this moment, whose professional avocations admit not of morning studies, find that the resources of a public library are not accessible to them, from the omission of the regulation of the zealous Charles V. of France. An objection to night-studies in public libraries is the danger of fire, and in our own British Museum not a light is permitted to be carried about on any pretence whatever. The history of the “Bibliotheque du Roi” is a curious incident in literature; and the progress of the human mind and public opinion might be traced by its gradual accessions, noting the changeable qualities of its literary stores chiefly from theology, law, and medicine, to philosophy and elegant literature. It was first under Louis XIV. that the productions of the art of engraving were there collected and arranged; the great minister Colbert purchased the extensive collections of the Abbe de Marolles, who may be ranked among the fathers of our print-collectors. Two hundred and sixty-four ample portfolios laid the foundations, and the very catalogues of his collections, printed by Marolles himself, are rare and high-priced. Our own national print gallery is growing from its infant establishment.

Mr. Hallam has observed, that in 1440, England had made comparatively but little progress in learning–and Germany was probably still less advanced. However, in Germany, Trithemius, the celebrated abbot of Spanheim, who died in 1516, had amassed about two thousand manuscripts; a literary treasure which excited such general attention, that princes and eminent men travelled to visit Trithemius and his library. About this time, six or eight hundred volumes formed a royal collection, and their cost could only be furnished by a prince. This was indeed a great advancement in libraries, for at the beginning of the fourteenth century the library of Louis IX. contained only four classical authors; and that of Oxford, in 1300, consisted of “a few tracts kept in chests.”