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AN APOLOGY FOR THE BOOK-HUNTER

"All men," says Dr. Dibdin, "like to be their own librarians."  A

writer on the library has no business to lay down the law as to the

books that even the most inexperienced amateurs should try to

collect.  There are books which no lover of literature can afford to

be without; classics, ancient and modern, on which the world has

pronounced its verdict.  These works, in whatever shape we may be

able to possess them, are the necessary foundations of even the

smallest collections.  Homer, Dante and Milton Shakespeare and

Sophocles, Aristophanes and Moliere, Thucydides, Tacitus, and

Gibbon, Swift and Scott,--these every lover of letters will desire

to possess in the original languages or in translations.  The list

of such classics is short indeed, and when we go beyond it, the

tastes of men begin to differ very widely.  An assortment of

broadsheet ballads and scrap-books, bought in boyhood, was the

nucleus of Scott's library, rich in the works of poets and

magicians, of alchemists, and anecdotists.  A childish liking for

coloured prints of stage characters, may be the germ of a theatrical

collection like those of Douce, and Malone, and Cousin.  People who

are studying any past period of human history, or any old phase or

expression of human genius, will eagerly collect little contemporary

volumes which seem trash to other amateurs.  For example, to a

student of Moliere, it is a happy chance to come across "La Carte du

Royaume des Pretieuses"--(The map of the kingdom of the

"Precieuses")--written the year before the comedian brought out his

famous play "Les Precieuses Ridicules."  This geographical tract

appeared in the very "Recueil des Pieces Choisies," whose authors

Magdelon, in the play, was expecting to entertain, when Mascarille

made his appearance.  There is a faculty which Horace Walpole named

"serendipity,"--the luck of falling on just the literary document

which one wants at the moment.  All collectors of out of the way

books know the pleasure of the exercise of serendipity, but they

enjoy it in different ways.  One man will go home hugging a volume

of sermons, another with a bulky collection of catalogues, which

would have distended the pockets even of the wide great-coat made

for the purpose, that Charles Nodier used to wear when he went a

book-hunting.  Others are captivated by black letter, others by the

plays of such obscurities as Nabbes and Glapthorne.  But however

various the tastes of collectors of books, they are all agreed on

one point,--the love of printed paper.  Even an Elzevir man can

sympathise with Charles Lamb's attachment to "that folio Beaumont

and Fletcher which he dragged home late at night from Barker's in

Covent Garden."  But it is another thing when Lamb says, "I do not

care for a first folio of Shakespeare."  A bibliophile who could say

this could say anything.

No, there are, in every period of taste, books which, apart from

their literary value, all collectors admit to possess, if not for

themselves, then for others of the brotherhood, a peculiar

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