X hits on this document





23 / 70

Barcelona, under the pillars of Los Encantes, where are the stalls

of the merchants of bric-a-brac and the seats of them that sell

books.  In a gloomy den the Don stored up treasures which he hated

to sell.  Once he was present at an auction where he was out-bid in

the competition for a rare, perhaps a unique, volume.  Three nights

after that, the people of Barcelona were awakened by cries of

"Fire!"  The house and shop of the man who had bought "Ordinacions

per los gloriosos reys de Arago" were blazing.  When the fire was

extinguished, the body of the owner of the house was found, with a

pipe in his blackened hand, and some money beside him.  Every one

said, "He must have set the house on fire with a spark from his

pipe."  Time went on, and week by week the police found the bodies

of slain men, now in the street, now in a ditch, now in the river.

There were young men and old, all had been harmless and inoffensive

in their lives, and--all had been bibliophiles.  A dagger in an

invisible hand had reached their hearts but the assassin had spared

their purses, money, and rings.  An organised search was made in the

city, and the shop of Don Vincente was examined.  There, in a hidden

recess, the police discovered the copy of "Ordinacions per los

gloriosis reys de Arago," which ought by rights to have been burned

with the house of its purchaser.  Don Vincente was asked how he got

the book.  He replied in a quiet voice, demanded that his collection

should be made over to the Barcelona Library, and then confessed a

long array of crimes.  He had strangled his rival, stolen the

"Ordinacions," and burned the house.  The slain men were people who

had bought from him books which he really could not bear to part

with.  At his trial his counsel tried to prove that his confession

was false, and that he might have got his books by honest means.  It

was objected that there was in the world only one book printed by

Lambert Palmart in 1482, and that the prisoner must have stolen

this, the only copy, from the library where it was treasured.  The

defendant's counsel proved that there was another copy in the

Louvre; that, therefore, there might be more, and that the

defendant's might have been honestly procured.  Here Don Vincente,

previously callous, uttered an hysterical cry.  Said the Alcalde:-

"At last, Vincente, you begin to understand the enormity of your

offence?"  "Ah, Senor Alcalde, my error was clumsy indeed.  If you

only knew how miserable I am!"  "If human justice prove inflexible,

there is another justice whose pity is inexhaustible.  Repentance is

never too late."  "Ah, Senor Alcalde, but my copy was not unique!"

With the story of this impenitent thief we may close the roll of

biblioklepts, though Dibdin pretends that Garrick was of the

company, and stole Alleyne's books at Dulwich.

There is a thievish nature more hateful than even the biblioklept.

The Book-Ghoul is he who combines the larceny of the biblioklept

with the abominable wickedness of breaking up and mutilating the

volumes from which he steals.  He is a collector of title-pages,

frontispieces, illustrations, and book-plates.  He prowls furtively

among public and private libraries, inserting wetted threads, which

slowly eat away the illustrations he covets; and he broods, like the

obscene demon of Arabian superstitions, over the fragments of the

mighty dead.  His disgusting tastes vary.  He prepares books for the

Document info
Document views66
Page views66
Page last viewedThu Oct 20 19:52:36 UTC 2016