X hits on this document





48 / 70

gathered out of the lovely Garden of Sacred Scripture, fit for any

worshipful Gentlewoman to smell unto," (1584).  "The Teares of

Ireland" (1642), are said, though one would not expect it, to be

"extremely rare," and, therefore, precious.  But there is no end to

the list of such desirable rarities.  If we add to them all books

coveted as early editions, and, therefore, as relics of great

writers, Bunyan, Shakespeare, Milton, Sterne, Walton, and the rest,

we might easily fill a book with remarks on this topic alone.  The

collection of such editions is the most respectable, the most

useful, and, alas, the most expensive of the amateur's pursuits.  It

is curious enough that the early editions of Swift, Scott, and

Byron, are little sought for, if not wholly neglected; while early

copies of Shelley, Tennyson, and Keats, have a great price set on

their heads.  The quartoes of Shakespeare, like first editions of

Racine, are out of the reach of any but very opulent purchasers, or

unusually lucky, fortunate book-hunters.  Before leaving the topic

of books which derive their value from the taste and fantasy of

collectors, it must be remarked that, in this matter, the fashion of

the world changes.  Dr. Dibdin lamented, seventy years ago, the

waning respect paid to certain editions of the classics.  He would

find that things have become worse now, and modern German editions,

on execrable paper, have supplanted his old favourites.  Fifty years

ago, M. Brunet expressed his contempt for the designs of Boucher;

now they are at the top of the fashion.  The study of old

booksellers' catalogues is full of instruction as to the changes of

caprice.  The collection of Dr. Rawlinson was sold in 1756.  "The

Vision of Pierce Plowman" (1561), and the "Creede of Pierce Plowman"

(1553), brought between them no more than three shillings and

sixpence.  Eleven shillings were paid for the "Boke of Chivalrie" by

Caxton.  The "Boke of St. Albans," by Wynkyn de Worde, cost 1

pounds:  1s., and this was the highest sum paid for any one of two

hundred rare pieces of early English literature.  In 1764, a copy of

the "Hypnerotomachia" was sold for two shillings, "A Pettie Pallace

of Pettie his Pleasures," (ah, what a thought for the amateur!) went

for three shillings, while "Palmerin of England" (1602), attained no

more than the paltry sum of fourteen shillings.  When Osborne sold

the Harley collection, the scarcest old English books fetched but

three or four shillings.  If the wandering Jew had been a collector

in the last century he might have turned a pretty profit by selling

his old English books in this age of ours.  In old French, too,

Ahasuerus would have done a good stroke of business, for the prices

brought by old Villons, Romances of the Rose, "Les Marguerites de

Marguerite," and so forth, at the M'Carthy sale, were truly

pitiable.  A hundred years hence the original editions of Thackeray,

or of Miss Greenaway's Christmas books, or "Modern Painters," may be

the ruling passion, and Aldines and Elzevirs, black letter and

French vignettes may all be despised.  A book which is commonplace

in our century is curious in the next, and disregarded in that which

follows.  Old books of a heretical character were treasures once,

rare unholy possessions.  Now we have seen so many heretics that the

world is indifferent to the audacities of Bruno, and the veiled

impieties of Vanini.

Document info
Document views229
Page views229
Page last viewedFri Jan 20 02:50:13 UTC 2017