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PAGE 4

Libraries
by [?]

The pleasures of study are classed by Burton among those exercises or recreations of the mind which pass within doors. Looking about this “world of books,” he exclaims, “I could even live and die with such meditations, and take more delight and true content of mind in them than in all thy wealth and sport! There is a sweetness, which, as Circe’s cup, bewitcheth a student: he cannot leave off, as well may witness those many laborious hours, days, and nights, spent in their voluminous treatises. So sweet is the delight of study. The last day is prioris discipulus. Heinsius was mewed up in the library of Leyden all the year long, and that which, to my thinking, should have bred a loathing, caused in him a greater liking. ‘I no sooner,’ saith he, ‘come into the library, but I bolt the door to me, excluding Lust, Ambition, Avarice, and all such vices, whose nurse is Idleness, the mother of Ignorance and Melancholy. In the very lap of eternity, amongst so many divine souls, I take my seat with so lofty a spirit, and sweet content, that I pity all our great ones and rich men, that know not this happiness.'” Such is the incense of a votary who scatters it on the altar less for the ceremony than from the devotion.[5]

There is, however, an intemperance in study, incompatible often with our social or more active duties. The illustrious Grotius exposed himself to the reproaches of some of his contemporaries for having too warmly pursued his studies, to the detriment of his public station. It was the boast of Cicero that his philosophical studies had never interfered with the services he owed the republic, and that he had only dedicated to them the hours which others give to their walks, their repasts, and their pleasures. Looking on his voluminous labours, we are surprised at this observation;–how honourable is it to him, that his various philosophical works bear the titles of the different villas he possessed, which indicates that they were composed in these respective retirements! Cicero must have been an early riser; and practised that magic art in the employment of time, which multiplies our days.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: The Cottonian collection is the richest English historic library we possess, and is now located in the British Museum, having been purchased for the use of the nation by Parliament in 1707, at a cost of 4500l. The collection of Sir Hans Sloane was added thereto in 1753, for the sum of 20,000l. Dr. Birch and Mr. Cracherode bequeathed their most valuable collections to the British Museum. Mr. Douce is the only collector in the list above who bequeathed his curious gatherings elsewhere. He was an officer of the Museum for many years, but preferred to leave his treasures to the Bodleian Library, where they are preserved intact, according to his earnest wish, a wish he feared might not be gratified in the national building. It is to this scholar and friend, the author of these volumes has dedicated them, as a lasting memorial of an esteem which endured during the life of each.]

[Footnote 2: By Mr. Inglis, in 1832. This famous bishop is said to have possessed more books than all the others in England put together. Like Magliabechi, he lived among them, and those who visited him had to dispense with ceremony and step over the volumes that always strewed his floor.]

[Footnote 3: The earliest decorated books were the Consular Diptycha, ivory bookcovers richly sculptured in relief, and destined to contain upon their tablets the Fasti Consulares, the list ending with the name of the new consul, whose property they happened to be. Such as have descended to our own times appear to be works of the lower empire. They were generally decorated with full length figures of the consul and attendants, superintending the sports of the circus, or conjoined with portraits of the reigning prince and emblematic figures. The Greek Church adopted the style for the covers of the sacred volume, and ancient clerical libraries formerly possessed many such specimens of early bookbinding; the covers being richly sculptured in ivory, with bas-reliefs designed from Scripture history. Such ivories were sometimes placed in the centre of the covers, and framed in an ornamental metal-work studded with precious stones and engraved cameos. The barbaric magnificence of these volumes has never been surpassed; the era of Charlemagne was the culmination of their glory. One such volume, presented by that sovereign to the Cathedral at Treves, is enriched with Roman ivories and decorative gems. The value of manuscripts in the middle ages, suggested costly bindings for books that consumed the labour of lives to copy, and decorate with ornamental letters, or illustrative paintings. In the fifteenth century covers of leather embossed with storied ornament were in use; ladies also frequently employed their needles to construct, with threads of gold and silver, on grounds of coloured silk, the cover of a favourite volume. In the British Museum one is preserved of a later date–the work of our Queen Elizabeth. In the sixteenth century small ornaments, capable of being conjoined into a variety of elaborate patterns, were first used for stamping the covers with gilding; the leather was stained of various tints, and a beauty imparted to volumes which has not been surpassed by the most skilful modern workmen.]

[Footnote 4: The Fuggers were a rich family of merchants, residing at Augsburg, carrying on trade with both the Indies, and from thence over Europe. They were ennobled by the Emperor Maximilian I. Their wealth often maintained the armies of Charles V.; and when Anthony Fugger received that sovereign at his house at Augsburg he is said, as a part of the entertainment, to have consumed in a fire of fragrant woods the bond of the emperor who condescended to become his guest.]

[Footnote 5: A living poet thus enthusiastically describes the charms of a student’s life among his books–“he has his Rome, his Florence, his whole glowing Italy, within the four walls of his library. He has in his books the ruins of an antique world, and the glories of a modern one.”–Longfellow’s Hyperion.]