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Books and Bookmen   By: (1844-1912)

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To the Viscountess Wolseley Preface Elzevirs Ballade of the Real and Ideal Curiosities of Parish Registers The Rowfant Books To F. L. Some Japanese Bogie books Ghosts in the Library Literary Forgeries Bibliomania in France Old French Title pages A Bookman's Purgatory Ballade of the Unattainable Lady Book lovers


Madame, it is no modish thing, The bookman's tribute that I bring; A talk of antiquaries grey, Dust unto dust this many a day, Gossip of texts and bindings old, Of faded type, and tarnish'd gold!

Can ladies care for this to do With Payne, Derome, and Padeloup? Can they resign the rout, the ball, For lonely joys of shelf and stall?

The critic thus, serenely wise; But you can read with other eyes, Whose books and bindings treasured are 'Midst mingled spoils of peace and war; Shields from the fights the Mahdi lost, And trinkets from the Golden Coast, And many things divinely done By Chippendale and Sheraton, And trophies of Egyptian deeds, And fans, and plates, and Aggrey beads, Pomander boxes, assegais, And sword hilts worn in Marlbro's days.

In this pell mell of old and new, Of war and peace, my essays, too, For long in serials tempest tost, Are landed now, and are not lost: Nay, on your shelf secure they lie, As in the amber sleeps the fly. 'Tis true, they are not "rich nor rare;" Enough, for me, that they are there!

A. L


The essays in this volume have, for the most part, already appeared in an American edition (Combes, New York, 1886). The Essays on 'Old French Title Pages' and 'Lady Book Lovers' take the place of 'Book Binding' and 'Bookmen at Rome;' 'Elzevirs' and 'Some Japanese Bogie Books' are reprinted, with permission of Messrs. Cassell, from the Magazine of Art; 'Curiosities of Parish Registers' from the Guardian; 'Literary Forgeries' from the Contemporary Review; 'Lady Book Lovers' from the Fortnightly Review; 'A Bookman's Purgatory' and two of the pieces of verse from Longman's Magazine with the courteous permission of the various editors. All the chapters have been revised, and I have to thank Mr. H. Tedder for his kind care in reading the proof sheets, and Mr. Charles Elton, M.P., for a similar service to the Essay on 'Parish Registers.'


The Countryman. "You know how much, for some time past, the editions of the Elzevirs have been in demand. The fancy for them has even penetrated into the country. I am acquainted with a man there who denies himself necessaries, for the sake of collecting into a library (where other books are scarce enough) as many little Elzevirs as he can lay his hands upon. He is dying of hunger, and his consolation is to be able to say, 'I have all the poets whom the Elzevirs printed. I have ten examples of each of them, all with red letters, and all of the right date.' This, no doubt, is a craze, for, good as the books are, if he kept them to read them, one example of each would be enough."

The Parisian. "If he had wanted to read them, I would not have advised him to buy Elzevirs. The editions of minor authors which these booksellers published, even editions 'of the right date,' as you say, are not too correct. Nothing is good in the books but the type and the paper. Your friend would have done better to use the editions of Gryphius or Estienne."

This fragment of a literary dialogue I translate from 'Entretiens sur les Contes de Fees,' a book which contains more of old talk about books and booksellers than about fairies and folk lore. The 'Entretiens' were published in 1699, about sixteen years after the Elzevirs ceased to be publishers. The fragment is valuable: first, because it shows us how early the taste for collecting Elzevirs was fully developed, and, secondly, because it contains very sound criticism of the mania. Already, in the seventeenth century, lovers of the tiny Elzevirian books waxed pathetic over dates, already they knew that a 'Caesar' of 1635 was the right 'Caesar,' already they were fond of the red lettered passages, as in the first edition of the 'Virgil' of 1636... Continue reading book >>

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