for three treatises of Philolaus, while Aristotle paid nearly thrice
the sum for a few books that had been in the library of Speusippus.
Did not a Latin philosopher go great lengths in a laudable anxiety
to purchase an Odyssey "as old as Homer," and what would not Cicero,
that great collector, have given for the Ascraean editio princeps of
Hesiod, scratched on mouldy old plates of lead? Perhaps Dr.
Schliemann may find an original edition of the "Iliad" at
Orchomenos; but of all early copies none seems so attractive as that
engraved on the leaden plates which Pausanias saw at Ascra. Then,
in modern times, what "great allies" has the collector, what
brethren in book-hunting? The names are like the catalogue with
which Villon fills his "Ballade des Seigneurs du Temps Jadis." A
collector was "le preux Charlemaigne" and our English Alfred. The
Kings of Hungary, as Mathias Corvinus; the Kings of France, and
their queens, and their mistresses, and their lords, were all
amateurs. So was our Henry VIII., and James I., who "wished he
could be chained to a shelf in the Bodleian." The middle age gives
us Richard de Bury, among ecclesiastics, and the Renaissance boasts
Sir Thomas More, with that "pretty fardle of books, in the small
type of Aldus," which he carried for a freight to the people of
Utopia. Men of the world, like Bussy Rabutin, queens like our
Elizabeth; popes like Innocent X.; financiers like Colbert (who made
the Grand Turk send him Levant morocco for bindings); men of letters
like Scott and Southey, Janin and Nodier, and Paul Lacroix; warriors
like Junot and Prince Eugene; these are only leaders of companies in
the great army of lovers of books, in which it is honourable enough
to be a private soldier.
The Library which is to be spoken of in these pages, is all unlike
the halls which a Spencer or a Huth fills with treasure beyond
price. The age of great libraries has gone by, and where a
collector of the old school survives, he is usually a man of
enormous wealth, who might, if he pleased, be distinguished in
parliament, in society, on the turf itself, or in any of the
pursuits where unlimited supplies of money are strictly necessary.
The old amateurs, whom La Bruyere was wont to sneer at, were not
satisfied unless they possessed many thousands of books. For a
collector like Cardinal Mazarin, Naude bought up the whole stock of
many a bookseller, and left great towns as bare of printed paper as
if a tornado had passed, and blown the leaves away. In our modern
times, as the industrious Bibliophile Jacob, says, the fashion of
book-collecting has changed; "from the vast hall that it was, the
library of the amateur has shrunk to a closet, to a mere book-case.
Nothing but a neat article of furniture is needed now, where a great
gallery or a long suite of rooms was once required. The book has
become, as it were, a jewel, and is kept in a kind of jewel-case."
It is not quantity of pages, nor lofty piles of ordinary binding,