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The Library   By: (1844-1912)

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Books, books again, and books once more! These are our theme, which some miscall Mere madness, setting little store By copies either short or tall. But you, O slaves of shelf and stall! We rather write for you that hold Patched folios dear, and prize "the small, Rare volume, black with tarnished gold." A. D.


The pages in this volume on illuminated and other MSS. (with the exception of some anecdotes about Bussy Rabutin and Julie de Rambouillet) have been contributed by the Rev. W. J. Loftie, who has also written on early printed books (pp. 94 95). The pages on the Biblioklept (pp. 46 56) are reprinted, with the Editor's kind permission, from the Saturday Review; and a few remarks on the moral lessons of bookstalls are taken from an essay in the same journal.

Mr. Ingram Bywater, Fellow of Exeter College, and lately sub Librarian of the Bodleian, has very kindly read through the proofs of chapters I., II., and III., and suggested some alterations.

Thanks are also due to Mr. T. R. Buchanan, Fellow of All Souls College, for two plates from his "Book bindings in All Souls Library" (printed for private circulation), which he has been good enough to lend me. The plates are beautifully drawn and coloured by Dr. J. J. Wild. Messrs. George Bell & Sons, Messrs. Bradbury, Agnew, & Co., and Messrs. Chatto & Windus, must be thanked for the use of some of the woodcuts which illustrate the concluding chapter. A. L.


"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... Continue reading book >>

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