« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Mr. Edwards shows that it is equally unjust to deny to them, or at least to many among them, the credit of having been the main and almost the sole instruments of its preservation.*
This at least is certain : that whatever of merit is to be recognised in transmitting those remains of classic literature which have reached our age, by far the larger share of that merit is due to the monasteries and monastic libraries. For a long period the monastic bodies stand all but alone as bookcollectors and book-preservers; and if it be true in some instances that their function was mainly that of passive instruments in handing on to posterity the collections of ancient authors which already existed, in others their active services are beyond all question; as those of the monks of St. Gall, detailed by Mr. Botfield in the admirable Introduction to his • Prefaces of the First Editions of Greek and Roman Classics.'t Without accepting unreservedly all Dr. Maitland's conclusions from the facts which he has brought together in his · Dark Ages,' in reply to the strictures of Robertson, Hallam, and other writers on the middle ages, we cannot ignore the lifelike and truthful character of many of his pictures of medieval lovers of learning for learning's sake, nor regard his reply to the argument in evidence of the excessive rarity of books which these writers found on a few plainly exceptional instances of dearness, as other than perfectly conclusive. An impartial scrutiny of the medieval chronicles makes it plain that the commerce in books, like most other branches of trade, was maintained, in greater or less activity, throughout the entire period. It drew its supplies mainly from the monastic scriptoria, but in part also from certain literary centres, and especially the seats of the schools and universities; and although examples of extravagant prices for MSS, of great rarity or luxurious ornamentation, such as Robertson brings forward, may be culled without difficulty from the records of the time, it is equally beyond dispute that in what we may call the every-day department of the book-trade-in the text-books of the schools, and the practical, theological, ascetical, and philosophical literature of the age, the supply was steady; and the prices, though relatively of course far beyond the present value of the nominal sum, differed much less than is commonly imagined from those which were current for printed books nearly a century after the invention of printing.
It is plain that the prices relied on by Robertson and others
* Memoirs of Libraries, vol. i. pp. 88-91.
rs on the action, the ate ages ; ar
are exceptional ; that the books sold at this costly rate were such as, either from rarity or beauty of execution, possessed a value entirely independent of the commercial estimate; and that those prices are no more to be taken as ruling the market of their day than could the Valdarfer Boccaccio, or a unique Caxton, or the Gutenberg Bibles of the Perkins sale, be accepted as samples of the price of books in our own. The truth is that, then as now, there were éditions de luxe : the medieval book-trade, like our own, had its articles of vertu; nor were there wanting Spencers and Blandfords ready to pay the price necessary to secure the glory of becoming possessed of them. But it is equally certain that there existed a tolerably fixed and settled rule of demand and supply. Dr. Kirchhoff, of Leipzig, in a very interesting and learned series of papers on the Serapeum,'* supplies many curious particulars as to the production, the prices, and the commercial circulation of books in the middle ages; and the prices which he has ascertained may, making the required reductions, be used as a guide in estimating the actual condition of the medieval book-market. It is impossible for us, of course, to go into detail, but we may say that the trade-prices of MSS. mainly depended on the number of sheets, the sextern sheet of six leaves being commonly valued at two or two and a-half solidi. Many MSS. still show the trade-price originally marked upon them, specifying the number of sexterns and the price per sextern, as well as the total cost of the volume. Thus a volume of medical treatises of Avicenna, Averroes, Rhases, Serapion, and Isaac, is marked at octo florenos ; but this price is admitted to be beyond the average, and is justified
propter magnitudinem autorum,'† the price per sextern being four instead of two solidi. On the other hand, a Summa · Pisani 'i on account of its less special interest, costs but two solidi per sextern; and a MS. of the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great and other historical treatises is marked at the same rate. The ponderous theological treatises in use in the University schools, such as the Summa of St. Thomas, or the Sententiæ of Peter Lombard, were to be had of the Oxford booksellers for prices varying from thirteen to twenty shillings. A MS. of Anthony Wood in the Bodleian, quoted in Oxonjana, p. 36, contains a rather extensive list of prices. A Historia Scholastica cost twenty shillings; a Biblical Con
* Serapeum: Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswissenschaft, vol. for 1852, pp. 257, 273, and 279.
† Serapeum, p. 260. Ibid. p. 262. Ibid. p. 264.
cordance, ten; the four greater prophets, with glossaries, five; and several theological treatises, one of which is the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, are set down at ten shillings; and St. Augustine on Genesis, and a Commentary on the Psalms at the same price. A still more instructive example given by Kirchhoff is one in which all the items * of the cost of producing the MS. are enumerated, each being separately assigned. The MS., which was in two volumes, was a new one (ultimatè scriptus), and contained sixty-two sexterns and a-half. The transcription cost thirty-nine francs and twelve deniers ; ten skins of parchment, with dressing and preparation, cost thirty-six sous; five gilt initial letters, together with the first letter of the volume, cost thirty sous; other gilt and rubricated letters in different parts of the volume cost three francs and eleven sous; the hire of the original MS. from which the copy was made amounted to five francs ; the cost of repairing the edges of the sheets and stretching and pressing the volume was eleven sous; and that of the binding, two francs; making the entire cost of this large and specially expensive work in two volumes, sixty-two livres and eleven sous.
The subject of books does not come directly within the scope of Mr. Rogers' inquiry in his elaborate ‘History of 'Agriculture and Prices in England.' But his researches have thrown some incidental light upon the prices and the circulation of written literature in Britain, and have demonstrated the fallacy of the notion that books, during the centuries of which he treats, “were wholly inaccessible to the general public.'t The few examples which he gives are perhaps particularly instructive, as representing various classes of books; not only church-service books, but also school books, and even light literature. Thus, the bailiff of Farney, in 1278, returns the cost of a church book, probably a missal, or gradual, at six and eight pence, and a similar volume in 1357 cost only four shillings. No information is given as to the size of these volumes, but in the department of school literature we find a copy of Baron's Mathematical Treatise, consisting of eleven quires, bought in 1379 for five and sixpence. A book purchased by Merton College for one of the foundation scholars, described generally as a school book,' without any notice of extent or character, cost only two-pence; and about the same
The sur. Rogers' inquiryland.' But his researcirculation
directe Llishes have
* Serapeum : Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswissenschaft, vol. for 1852, · p. 261.
+ History of Agriculture and Prices in England (1359–1798). By J. E. Thorold Rogers. Oxford, 1866, vol. i. p. 646.
period, in an inventory of effects, two “Romances' are valued at the still lower sum of three half-pence each. *
These practical details present a result widely different from the picture drawn by Robertson and even by Hallam. Still it is beyond dispute that the catalogue of collectors of libraries from the fifth century downwards is a very limited one. A few of the number are laymen, of whom Venantius Ferreolus, Publius Consentius, and Cassiodorus, minister of the Gothic King Theodoric, may be regarded as private collectors, and Charlemagne, Everard of Friuli, and Charles the Bald, as representatives of the line of Royal founders. But it is impossible to doubt Mr. Edwards' conclusion that the monks, after all, were the great collectors of the middle ages. Arthele
Nevertheless, while their relative deserts are freely admitted, the absolute results as regards the formation of libraries must appear small in modern eyes. Among Monastic Libraries Mr. Edwards enumerates those of Canterbury, York, Wearmouth, Whitby, Glastonbury, Croyland, and Durham in England; Monte Cassino and Pomposia in Italy; } Corvey, Reichenau, Marburg, St. Gallen, and Sponheim in Germany; and Fleury, Clugni, and St. Riquier in France. The stores of all these, judging by the extant catalogues, which the curious in bibliography have printed, were scanty enough. The Cathedral Library of Ratisbon in 1251 had but four hundred volumes. That of Christ Church, Canterbury, printed by Mr. Edwards, contains six hundred and ninety-eight numbers; but it is right to add that in many instances several distinct authors are comprised under one number. The library of Fulda, founded by Charlemagne, contained seven hundred and seventy-four volumes. The Royal Library of France in 1374 had but nine hundred and ten, and that of the Sorbonne itself, in 1392, barely reached the number of a thousand.
It will easily be understood that the contents of these libraries lay chiefly in the department of sacred learning. Nevertheless the monks of Monte Cassino had grown famous as early as the eleventh century for their transcriptions of Virgil, Horace, Theocritus, Terence, Ovid, and many of the
* History of Agriculture and Prices in England (1359–1798). By J. E. Thorold Rogers. Oxford, 1866, vol. i. p. 645. i Libraries and Founders, p. 26.
He overlooks the very ancient library of Bobbio, which was transferred to the Ambrosian Library at Milan, and supplied most of the palimpsests of that library and the Vatican.
Latin and even Greek historians, and in the monastic collections generally the proportion of secular books, if scanty according to our notions, was yet by no means contemptible. In the catalogue of the monastery of Corbey, 'under AUGUSTINUS, thirty'nine entries appear; under BEDA, thirteen; under BOETIUS, 'fifteen ; under HIERONYMUS, sixteen; under PRISCIANUS,
four; under VIRGILIUS, seven; under CICERO, five; under • LUCANUS, four; Juvenal, Persius, Martial, Ovid, Statius, • Terence, all occur in single entries, together with Pliny, Livy,
and Seneca.'* In like manner the Library of Durham contained copies of the Metaphysics and Ethics of Aristotle, the • Orations and Rhetoric of Cicero, the Institutes and Declama
tions of Quintilian; the poetical works of Virgil, Ovid, · Horace, Seneca, Juvenal, Claudian, Lucan, and Statius; the
histories and historical works of Sallust, Suetonius, Valerius • Maximus, Quintus Curtius, and Eutropius.'t These works, it is true, are but a handful in the mass of the logical, ascetical, biblical, and hagiographical treatises which form the staple of the library. Still it appears beyond all question that the copies of the classical authors were made by the monks themselves; and Mr. Edwards bears most honourable testimony to the industry of the Benedictines generally, and especially of those of Monte Cassino. $ The pictures which he draws of their literary activity from the earliest period may serve as a set-off against the scene of neglect and decay which Boccaccio is alleged to have witnessed in the same library, and from which Boccaccio's disciple, Benvenuto da Imola, who has given an account of the visit, draws the droll but characteristic moral, that he is a fool who breaks his head in writing books':
Nunc ergo, o vir studiose, frange tibi caput pro scribendo libros !!
Next in rank after the monks, as book-collectors in the middle ages, come the great ecclesiastical dignitaries to whom we are indebted for most of the Cathedral libraries—the nuclei at a later period of many important provincial collections. We need but name as the type of his class the celebrated Bishop of Durham, Richard d’Aungerville, better known as Richard of Bury, the first recorded donor of books to the University of Oxford, and author of the well-known Philobiblon, the great repertory of information as to medieval books and libraries. Mr. Edwards justly calls Richard the ' patron saint of British book-lovers.'S
* Libraries and Founders, p. 48. | Ibid., p. 56.