Charles's library consisted chiefly of epitaphs, drawings of monuments and arms, and an historical catalogue of the officers of the College of Arms. Some of these are now at the Herald's College, one of the manuscripts is in the Lansdowne collection, and the others were bought by Harley.
On Strype's death in 1737, the majority of the papers, collected by Foxe the martyrologist, which had been in the annalist's possession, also passed with others into Harley's hands; they form vols. 416 to 428, and vol. 590 of this collection. Some of Foxe's papers are in the Lansdowne library.
By means of great exertion and a lavish expenditure, Harley became within ten years the possessor of about 2500 old MSS., and in 1721 had collected 6000 volumes, 1400 charters, and 500 rolls, besides about 350,000 pamphlets. His entire library afterwards numbered over 20,000 volumes.
Robert Harley, afterwards Earl of Oxford, was descended from an ancient family, existing, it is pretended, in Shropshire at the time of the Norman Conquest, and closely allied to the French family of de Harlai. He was the eldest son of Sir Edward Harley, member for the county of Hereford, in the Parliament which restored Charles I I.; was born in 1661, rose to a high position in public affairs, and was created, by Queen Anne, a peer of the realm by the style and title of Baron Wigmore, in the county of Hereford, Earl of Oxford, and Mortimer.* Soon afterwards he was made Lord High Treasurer of Great Britain, and Prime Minister. He was twice married—first to Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Foley of Whitley Court, Worcestershire, by whom he had three children—a son, Edward, who succeeded him, and two daughters. His second wife was Sarah, daughter of Simon Middleton, of Hurst Hill, Edmonton, who survived him some years.
* The Earldom of Mortimer was added, because, although Aubrey de Vere, twentieth Earl of Oxford had died without leaving male issue in 1702, it was necessary to guard against possible claimants among remote descendants of the de Veres.
Swift drew attention to the circumstance that Robert Harley was educated at Shilton, a private school in Oxfordshire, remarkable for having produced at the same time a Lord High Treasurer (the Earl of Oxford), a Lord High Chancellor (Lord Harcourt), a Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas (Lord Trevor), and ten members of the House of Commons, who were all contemporaries as well at school as in Parliament. From both his father and grandfather he had inherited a taste for books, and as Speaker of the House of Commons, had taken considerable part in organising the Cottonian library when it was bequeathed to the nation. It was on this occasion that his notice was first drawn to Humphrey Wanley, who offered some valuable hints in regard to the arrangement of the Cotton manuscripts, and subsequently proved himself to be the model of librarians.
Humphrey Wanley was the son of a country parson; he had received a university education, and had already achieved success and some fame as a scholar by his catalogue of the Anglo-Saxon MSS., preserved in the principal libraries of Great Britain. He would gladly have undertaken the custody of the Cotton library vice Dr. Smith, and wrote to Robert Nelson, a learned writer and philanthrophist, who apparently possessed some influence with the government, to solicit his good offices in procuring him that post. Nelson's answer, interpolated by a remark in Wanley's beautiful, scholarly hand, is interesting as an illustration of the rivalry that existed between the two foremost librarians of the day.
"Were I as able to advise Mr. Wanley as I am desirous to offer what might be most advantageous for his interest," wrote Nelson, "I should immediately have answered your last letter which requires some queries to be resolved before I can well determine how you ought to proceed. For if there is any friendship between you and the Dr. [Smith] it will give a different aspect to your endeavours to supplant him."
Here there is a mark in the original letter referring to a note written across the margin by Wanley as follows:
"This is about the Cottonian Library, the custody whereof I did then, and many years after, most ardently desire. As to friendship between Dr. Thomas Smith [here meant] and me there was but little, his conversation being not suitable to mine, by reason of his jealousies and peevishness extreme. I always allowed the Doctor's pretensions to be much better grounded than mine; but if he, being a non-juror, could not swear to the Queen's government, or being much in years should happen to decease, as he did after some time, I desired that employment when the trustees should please to regulate that noble collection.
"Otherwise," continues Nelson, "I can see no reason why a man that is qualified for an employment may not fairly offer himself as a candidate for it, without injury to others that may pretend to it, and if you should want success, it no way diminishes those qualifications you were endowed with, for the discharge of the employment. If the Sir Robert Cotton you mention be of the Post Office, I believe I can find a way of applying to him,—I am your faithful friend and servant, Wanley's ardent desire was not destined to be satisfied, but a still more honourable position was in store for the distinguished scholar and man of letters, for he not only became ultimately custodian of the Harleian manuscripts, but as we shall presently see, he deserved by his zeal, learning, and discrimination to be considered together with Lord Oxford, the joint-founder of the Harleian library.
"2nd October 1702."
Thus, it was entirely owing to Wanley that the D'Ewes collection, purchased for 6000 pounds, was secured by Sir Robert Harley, and it formed the basis of what is now one of our greatest national collections of manuscripts. The acquisition of this celebrated library was the determining point in Wanley's career and in that of the Harleian library itself.
Sir Symonds D'Ewes, the antiquary, had by his will left all his books and manuscripts to his grandson, another Sir Symonds, but without antiquarian or literary tastes. Wanley, having discovered that although, according to the antiquary's will, his collection might not be dispersed, it might still possibly be bought, wrote to Harley and suggested that he should be the purchaser:
"Sir Symonds D'Ewes, being pleased to honour me with a peculiar kindness of esteem, I have taken the liberty of inquiring of him whether he will part with his library; and I find that he is not unwilling to do so, and that at a much easier rate than I could think for. I dare say that it would be a noble addition to the Cotton Library; perhaps the best that could be had anywhere at present . . . . If your Honour should judge it impracticable to persuade Her Majesty to buy them for the Cotton Library—in whose coffers such a sum as will buy them is scarcely conceivable—then Sir, if you have a mind of them yourself, I will take care that you shall have them cheaper than any other person whatsoever. I know that many have their eyes on this collection. I am desirous to have this collection in town for the public good, and rather in a public place than in private hands, but of all private gentlemen's studies first in yours. I have not spoken to anybody as yet, nor will not till I have your answer, that you may not be forestalled."
The D'Ewes collection was a curiously miscellaneous one, containing much trivial matter side by side with learned treatises, transcripts of important cartularies, monastic registers, public and private muniments of the most varied description. A list of them is to be found in the Harleian MS. 775. No subject seems to have been void of interest for the great antiquary: he treasured up his school exercises as carefully as he did any ancient Greek or Roman charter, or mediaeval paleographic gem.
With the purchase of this rich medley of books begins Wanley's term of office as librarian to Lord Oxford, which continued till his death in 1726. By his knowledge and literary acumen the librarian supplied what was lacking in his patron, for like Sir Robert Cotton, Harley, despite his love of books, was by no means a scholar or man of letters. Even the insignificant pamphlets, once ascribed to his pen, have since been proved to be the work of others. His verses, some of which were printed in the sixteenth volume of Swift's works, were condemned by Macaulay as being "more execrable than the bellman's." But with Wanley at his side he surpassed even Cotton as a collector, for the librarian possessed an intimate acquaintanceship with the contents of every foreign library of note, and Harley was always ready to spend in princely fashion whenever Wanley considered that a manuscript was worth buying. On the sumptuous bindings with which he adorned these acquisitions he expended as much as 18,000 pounds. His principal binders were Thomas Elliott and Christopher Chapman, of Duck Lane, who called forth some severe remarks in Wanley's Diary, on the subject of their negligence and extravagant prices. On inspecting Mr. Elliott's bill he finds him "exceeding dear in all the works of Morocco, Turkey, and Russia leather, besides those of velvet," and he is constantly reprimanding both book-binders for their "negligence in executing my Lord's work."
Perhaps the best-merited praise that has ever been bestowed on the founder of this celebrated library is Macaulay's tribute to his "sincere kindness for men of genius." And, however much the first Earl of Oxford may have transgressed politically (he is accused of having been unscrupulous, weak, and incapable as a minister), his services to literature in the protection which he accorded to the learned, have won for him a high place in the estimation of his countrymen. Even as a politician he acquired some literary fame, as being the first minister who employed the Press for ministerial purposes; and it redounds to his honour that, amid the cares and passions of public life, and aims more or less worthy of a statesman, he occupied his scanty leisure with the altogether laudable endeavour to gather together under his own roof for the benefit of students and scholars as much as possible of the lore and erudition of past ages.
The correspondence between Harley and Defoe, preserved at Welbeck Abbey, and now published by the Historical MSS. Commission, reveals the intimate relations which existed for public purposes between these two remarkable men.
Of Edward, second Earl of Oxford, much praise and very little blame have been recorded. He has been quaintly described as " indeed rich but thankful, charitable without ostentation, and that in so good-natured a way as never to give pain to the person whom he obliged in that respect." He was, in truth, indolent and extravagant, faults which did not, however, detract from his popularity. He was the prey of adventurers, and the providence of impecunious poets such as Pope and Swift. All the literati of the day were allowed access to his library. Oldys drew therefrom the materials for his Life of Sir Walter Raleigh; Joseph Ames and Samuel Palmer had recourse to it in their black-letter studies. Pope was his adored friend and kept up a lively correspondence with him; Swift was always welcome at his table. He had many tastes, of which book-collecting was not the least expensive, and of the fortune of 500,000 pounds which his wife brought him, the greater part is said to have been sacrificed to "indolence, good-nature, and want of worldly wisdom."
In 1740 he was obliged to sell his estate of Wimpole, in order to clear off a debt of 100,000 pounds, a sacrifice which failed to appease his creditors, and a prey to carking care, he found the downward path from conviviality to inebriety a rapid one.
It was during the lifetime of the second Lord Oxford that the Rev. Thomas Baker bequeathed his works in manuscript to the Harleian library. A memorandum prefixed to these papers states that, in consideration of one guinea (to satisfy an original copy of Baston's verses on the battle of Bannockburn; a fine one of the Chronicle of Mailros; the Life of King David, written by the Abbot of Rievaulx; copies of charters between Scottish and French kings; and transcripts overlooked by Rymer and John Harding touching the lordship of England over Scotland. A contemporaneous document relates to the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to the Dauphin, and there are various letters from the same queen. We also notice Papal Bulls, enjoining the Scottish bishops to render obedience to the Archbishop of York as their metropolitan, and the king's recognition of that archbishop's rights; besides many other important papers too numerous to mention. Wales and Ireland are also well represented.
But like the Cottonian, the Harleian library spread its borders far beyond the limits of British history. As early as 1697 it had been Wanley's opinion that it would conduce very much to the welfare of learning in this country if some fit person or persons were sent abroad to make it their business to visit the libraries of France, Italy, and Germany, and to give a good account of the most valued manuscripts in them. "The Papists," he adds in his memorandum to this effect, "are communicative enough, for love or money, of any book that does not immediately concern their controversies with Protestants,"* a somewhat cryptic utterance which Wanley does not concern himself to explain, controversy not being one of the sciences to which his attention was turned. But his letter of instructions to Mr. Andrew Hay, who was commissioned by Lord Oxford 1720 to proceed to France and Italy in order to purchase MSS. for him, shows such an intimate knowledge of the contents of the great continental libraries, that long as it is we cannot forbear transcribing the whole:—
"Mr. Andrew Hay, you being upon your departure towards France and Italy by my noble Lord's order, I give you this commission, not now expecting that you can execute every part of it in this journey, but yet hoping that you will dispatch those articles which are of the greatest importance, and put the others into a proper posture against the time of your next return thither.
*Marl. MS., Harl. M.S., vol. 5911, f. 2.
"In Paris Fr. Bernard Montfaucon has some Coptic, Syriac, and other MSS. worth the buying. Among them is an old leaf of the Greek Septuagint, written in uncial or capital letters. Buy these and the leaden book he gave to Cardinal Bouillon if he can procure it for you or direct you to it. In the archives of the Cistercian monastery of Clervaulx, I am told there are some original letters or epistles written by the hand of St. Hierome upon phylira or bark. One or more of these will be acceptable if not too outrageously valued. The Duke of Savoy has many Greek MSS., as also the Egyptian board or table of Isis, adorned with hieroglyphics, being those which have been explained by Pignorius, Richerus, etc. Let me have some account of these.
"At Venice buy a set of the Greek liturgical books printed there—I mean a set of the first edition if they may be had; if not let us have the other. Buy also Thomassini Bibliothecae Venetae in 40. Get a catalogue of Mr. Smith's MSS. there, and inquire how matters go about Giustiniani's Greek MSS. In the bookseller's shops, etc., you may frequently pick up Greek MSS., which the Greeks bring from the Morea and other parts of the Levant. Remember to get the fragments of Greek MSS. you left with the bookseller who bought Maffeo's library. The family of Moscardi at Verona have many valuable antiquities, and among the rest four instruments of the Emperor Theodosius, junior [now imperfect] written upon phylira. These must be bought, and especial care taken of them, etc. The first begins 'dem relectis'; the second 'ius vir in ast'; the third 'ius vir in'; the fourth 'ni Siciliensis.' At Florence, the Dominicans or Franciscans have a large collection of Greek MSS. You may see them and get a catalogue of them if you can. Buy Ernstius or some other catalogue of the Grand Duke's MSS.
"At Milan in the Ambrosian Library is a very ancient Catullus, part of Josephus in Latin, written upon bark; a Samaritan Pentateuch in octavo, part of the Syriac Bible in the ancient or Estrangele characters; divers Greek MSS. in capital letters, being parts of the Bible, with other books of great antiquity, both Greek and Latin. You may look upon them and send me some account.
"At Monza [about ten miles from Milan] is an imperfect Antiphonarium Gregorii Papae. It is all written upon purplecoloured parchment, with capital letters of gold. Buy this if you can.
"The family of Septata at Milan have a Latin writing upon bark. Buy this if it will be parted with.
"In the archives of the Church of Ravenna are divers instruments written upon bark. You may see them.
"At Rome the Greek monks of St. Basil have very many old Greek MSS. written in capitals, particularly a book of the four Gospels, and some pieces of St. Gregory Nazianzen upon St. Paul's Epistles. Buy as many as you can, for I hear they are poor, and therefore, they may sell the cheaper. They have likewise a Greek charter of Roger, King of Sicily, in five pieces, with some other instruments in Greek, written upon bark or vellum. Buy these also if you can.
"The Fathers of the Oratory at Rome have many very ancient MSS., both Greek and Latin. See them at least, even supposing that they will not sell. In the Cathedral library at Pisa are many ancient MSS. Let me have some account of these also.
"The monks of Bovio, near, if not in Pavia, have many very ancient MSS., and among the rest a book of the Gospels in Latin, wherein St. Luke is written Lucanus. They have many old deeds in their archives. Buy what you can.
"At Cava [about a day's journey from Naples], is a Benedictine monastery. In the archives or treasury is a Greek deed of Roger, King of Sicily, with his golden seal appendant. Buy this if you can. In the library are some old MSS.; see these at least, if you cannot buy.
"At Naples, in the library of the Augustin Friars of St. John de Carbonara is a Greek MS. of the Gospels [or of homilies upon the Gospels] all written in capitals, with letters of gold upon purple parchment. This must be bought. There is also a Dioscorides in Greek capitals, being a large work with figures of the planets, etc. This must also be bought. There is also a good number of other ancient MSS., both Greek and Latin. Among the latter is an Hieronimus de Scriptoribus Ecclesiasticis, in Saxon letters, and the Gospels in Latin, where St. Luke is called Lucanus. Buy of these what you can.
"If the Greek MSS. of the monastery of St. Saviour, near Messina in Sicily, or any of them do remain there yet, or in that neighbourhood, as it is probable they may, they will doubtless come exceeding cheap. You will inquire, however, how this matter stands.
"Pray Sir, all along in your journey endeavour to secure what Greek MSS. and Latin classical MSS. you can, provided they come at reasonable prices, and let me be favoured with an account of your proceedings as often as may be convenient."
And he adds:
"Mr. Hay, in executing this commission, my noble Lord cannot give you positive directions how to bid upon every occasion, by reason of this his great distance from those parts, and must therefore rely upon your fidelity, your prudence, your usual dexterity in business, and your personal affection to him. You will be sure always to buy as cheap as you can, for I foresee that some of the things his Lordship chiefly wants or is desirous of, will not come for a small matter. In most of the monasteries you will be able to buy for ready money; but it may be at a cheaper rate with the Greek monks at St. Basil's monastery at Rome, whose MSS. are good, and themselves in want.
"I beseech God to bless and prosper you all along in this so long a journey, and to bring you back again with safety and good success; and you may be sure that you will be more welcome to but very few than to, good Sir, your very hearty well-wisher and most humble servant,
"26th April 1720."*
* Printed in the Preface to the Catalogue of the Harleian MSS.
Mr. Hay's expedition was not entirely successful. Some of the manuscripts mentioned in the above letter, which Wanley insisted "must be bought," are clearly not in the Harleian collection, and notably the Greek and Latin MSS. written in letters of gold upon purple parchment. For this library contains among its choicest treasures no manuscript entirely written upon purple vellum, the Codex Aureus being only partially thus stained. As we have already seen, during the early ages of Christianity, the Greeks and Romans were in the habit of writing their most precious books in letters of gold and silver on purple-stained vellum, that colour being the distinguishing sign of royalty and greatness. Purple was only worn by princes, and in this manner of distinguishing the Scriptures was shown the high degree of reverence in which they were held. The practice was continued during the fifth and three following centuries, although it was so little known in England that when, towards the end of the seventh century, St. Wilfrid, Archbishop of York, gave a copy of the Gospels ornamented in this manner to York Minster, his biographer described the book as a thing almost miraculous. Manuscripts entirely composed of leaves of purple vellum are of the greatest rarity, and many are described by palaeographers as purple-stained when they are only partially so. The age of a manuscript may sometimes be determined among other characteristics by the fineness and whiteness of the vellum, and sometimes by its purple colour. The MSS. numbered 2788, 2820, and 2821 in the Harleian library are described by Astle as purple-stained, whereas they are only thus painted in places intended to receive the golden letters. Frequently, only the most important parts, such as the title-pages, prefaces, or a few pages at the beginning of each gospel or the Canon of the Mass, were written on vellum which had been prepared in this manner.
Wanley, as may be seen from the foregoing letter, added to his knowledge of manuscripts a certain fondness for driving a bargain. He was extremely desirous of obtaining the treasures which he describes so accurately, but he was almost as much bent on getting them cheap as on getting them at all. This may have been the result of solicitude for his patron's pocket, for Lord Oxford was ruining himself to enrich his library; but at all events in this matter nature and grace seem to have gone amicably hand in hand. Wanley's only comment on the death of the Earl of Sunderland in 1722 is to the effect that it will make rare old books more accessible from the fact of their being less in demand, " so that any gentleman may be permitted to buy an uncommon old book for less than forty or fifty pounds."
Number 2788 is the wonderful Codex Aureus or Golden Gospels. Its acquisition by Lord Oxford is chronicled in Wanley's Diary in the year 1720. On the 14th May he wrote:
"Yesterday Mr. Vaillant (a bookseller) brought me a specimen of the characters of that Latin MS. of the Gospels, which is to be sold at the approaching auction of Menare's books at the Hague. These characters are all uncials, gilded over with gold, and appear to be formed in very elegant manner. Among them I observe A, G, V, M and E so shaped, which is not commonly seen in the body or text of old MSS., although frequent in the title or Rubrics. In my opinion this most ancient and valuable book should be purchased at any rate."
Lord Oxford gave orders for the Golden Manuscript to be secured, and commissioned Mr. Vaillant to buy it with all secrecy and prudence. There are several entries in Wanley's Diary concerning the negotiations for this purchase, and on the 27th June all was brought to a happy conclusion.
"This day the Codex Aureus Latinus was cleared out of the king's warehouse, and delivered into my custody." On the 29th its solemn entry into the Harleian library is recorded, and on the 13th July of the following year, we find that "Mr. Elliot, having clothed the Codex Aureus in my Lord's morocco leather, took the same home this day, in order to work upon it with his best tools, which he can do with much more conveniency at his own house than here." Wanley makes a note of this circumstance because of his "speedy journey to Oxford in case any ill accident should happen."
This celebrated MS. is written throughout in gold letters upon vellum, with the exception of the first lines of chapters in the Gospels and the first lines of the subsidiary articles, which are in red ink. The paintings of the four evangelists are extremely interesting, and the title-pages are stained purple. This codex is described by Sir Edward Maunde Thompson as French, of the time of Charlemagne, and we may add that its position in the Harleian may be compared to that of the Durham or Lindisfarne Gospels in the Cottonian library.
The manuscripts numbered 2820 and 2821 are further examples of partially purple-stained vellum, in imitation of earlier work. They are of German workmanship of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The execution of the miniatures is condemned by Sir Edward Thompson as "very rude" and "hard," but with all deference to so great an authority we must put in a plea for them, on the score of their extreme naivete and candour.
A mediaeval roll of immense interest, one of the greatest treasures of this collection, consists of a series of beautiful outline drawings, known as the Guthlac Roll, representing scenes from the life of St. Guthlac. These drawings, which are of the twelfth century, are contained in eighteen rondeaux, intended, perhaps, as a design for a stained-glass window in honour of the saint at Croyland. They quaintly describe, in exquisite delicacy of form and colour, how the young Guthlac, after taking leave of his parents, renounces the profession of arms, and receives the tonsure at the hands of Bishop Hedda. Then, sailing away in a boat to Croyland, he builds an oratory with the help of two companions, Becelin and Tatwin, and an angel converses with him. No sooner is he launched on his new career of prayer, good works, and bodily mortification, than demons assail him, carry him to the roof of his oratory, and scourge him with knotted cords. But he scares them away with the white scourge given to him by St. Bartholomew. He is then ordained priest, instructs Ethelbald in the Christian religion, and prophecies that he will be king. The last six rondeaux show forth the death of Guthlac, the burial of his body by his sister Pega, his appearing to Ethelbald and his attendants who are weeping round his tomb, and his blissful state in heaven among the benefactors of Croyland Abbey.
Reference has already been made to Wanley's Diary,* a chronicle of the purchases made by Lord Oxford during the greater part of Wanley's custodianship, and of the principal events which happened in the library. It begins on the 2nd March 1714, when Wanley had been librarian for about six years. Many of the entries are exceedingly curious, as demonstrating the energy with which old manuscripts were traced, discovered, and purchased, and the tact and discretion employed, in order to induce their owners to part with them. A fine manuscript of part of Bede's Ecclesiastical History in Saxon, and two other valuable Saxon MSS. — King Alfred's translation of Ossian and a copy of Aelfrick's Grammar—were discovered in private hands, besides the Psalterium Gallicanum of St. Jerome "with the * and ./., written about the time of the last King Ethelred, with the Litany and some prayers, being one of the most beautiful books that can be seen."
* Lansdowne MSS., 771, 772.
There was, moreover, a constant movement in the library itself. All those who had any kind of manuscript for sale came to Wanley, and he notifies in his diary the arrival of books in Chinese, Armenian, Samaritan, Hebrew, Chaldee, Aethiopic and Arabic (both in Asiatic and African letters), in Persian, Turkish, Russian, Greek (ancient and modern), Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, Provencal, High German, Low German, Flemish, Anglo-Saxon, English, Welsh, and Irish, in all about 940 manuscripts,
"Which is," he remarks, "a great parcel, besides which my Lord hath got many other MSS. remaining at Wimpole . . . . My Lord hath not only other MSS. in this room, written in almost all those [languages] above enumerated, but also in those that follow, which I call to mind on the sudden-viz., Chinese, Japanese, Sanscrit or Hanscrit, Malabaric, Syriac, in the Nestorian, as well as in the common characters (some few specimens of Coptic letters), Slavonian, Wallachian, Hungarian, Courlandish, Francic or old Teutonic, Biscayan, Portuguese." On another occasion, a person who had some books for sale, which he was anxious that Lord Oxford should buy, offered Wanley a douceur, in the hope that the librarian would press their purchase, "not knowing," he says simply, "the kind of man I am." Wanley refused the bribe, but advised his patron to buy the books, which he did.
At another time—
"A French sort of droll came to my lodging, saying he was sent to me by Mr. Bu-Pis, of Long Acre. He pulled out a 40 paper MS., dedicated to Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, treating of Geomancy, and other like nonsense, being written mostly in German. Monsieur stumped up the value of it, and often swore it was the finest thing in the world. I asked him the price of it, and looked grum and gravely, which he saw with satisfaction; but as soon as his answer of fifty guineas was out, I replied that was the book mine he should have it for the hundredth part of a quart d'ecu. The droll would, however, have made remonstrances, but I would hear none; il ne vaut rien being my word. So I waited on him downstairs, which he took as a piece of ceremony; but indeed it was to see him out of the house without stealing something."
One of the most important negotiations chronicled by Wanley relates to the purchase of the Graevius MSS. in 1724-25. Johann Graevius was a German classical scholar, born in 1632, and chiefly known by his Thesaurus Antiquitatum Romanorum, and his Antiquitatum et Historianum Italia, in 45 volumes. His library, one of the most remarkable in Europe, was sold at his death in 1703 to the elector, Johann Wilhelm, for 6000 Reichsthaler. The elector presented all the printed books in this collection to the University of Heidelberg, but kept the manuscripts, 110 in number, in his own library at Dusseldorf They were accounted such treasures, that travellers, interested in antiquities, were taken to see them. The German scholar Uffenbach, who visited the elector's library in VI I, says of them:
"Among the few MSS. that were shown to me, the most remarkable was a beautiful old quarto codex of Horace, which Graevius once lent to Mr. Bentley, who could not be prevailed on to restore it till forced into it by the threat that the elector would appeal to the Queen. There were several volumes of autograph letters from learned men, collected by Graevius, and several very beautiful breviaries, among which was one in duodecimo, bound in silver, and containing as many beautiful figures as I have ever seen in such books. Mr. Le Roy also showed me the 'Officia Ciceronis,' printed by Scheffer in 1466—namely the books De Amicitia et Senectute."
The above books, together with others not mentioned by Uffenbach, subsequently found their way into the Harleian library, and have been identified by Mr. A. C. Clark, who has made a careful study of them aided by the dates written in Wanley's hand on the first page.*
* See his interesting paper in the "Classical Review," October 1891, The Library of J. G. Gravius.
The manner of their disappearance from the elector's library illustrates the more than questionable dealings to which book-collectors were often subjected at the hands of their librarians. There is a curious correspondence preserved in the Bodleian library, consisting of autograph letters which passed between Buchels, the elector's librarian at Dusseldorf, and Zamboni, the resident at the court of Great Britain for the Landgraf of Hessen Darmstadt. In appearance the correspondence is innocent enough: Zamboni has manuscripts for sale on behalf of persons abroad. But there is far more than meets the eye, and the letters contain almost beyond doubt the disguised and detailed account of how the elector was robbed of his manuscripts, and how Zamboni defrauded the fraudulent librarian Buchels. Indeed the whole history of the Graevius manuscripts seems to be one of peculation, until they came into Lord Oxford's possession. Graevius himself was by no means irreproachable in the matter of restoring borrowed books; Buchels, a Latin scholar and bibliograph of some merit, had a suspicious tendency to appropriate his master's goods; and Zamboni, had he lived in these days, would certainly have been prosecuted for criminal bankruptcy, if, indeed, the greater part of the transaction were not considered too dishonest to risk exposure.
Buchels, in writing to Zamboni, 13th August 1717, maintains an air of mystery about the books which he offers to him for sale, professing to get them from various monasteries, and describing the difficulties which he has in obtaining them. There are English dealers about, too, who raise the price of everything. By degrees he sends lists of what he has to dispose of, and shelters himself behind a mysterious friend, who is obliged to sell such and such a manuscript. Sometimes this friend is travelling about, sometimes he is in the country, but he is always the source of difficulties. But Zamboni is not deceived to the extent to which Buchels wishes to deceive him, and he knows full well that the manuscripts offered to him all formed part of the Codices Graeviani, and he tells Wanley so, but does not of course mention Buchels. Meanwhile there is much bargaining between Buchels and Zamboni; but it is certain, from the correspondence in the Bodleian library, that Zamboni never paid for the MSS. which he sold to Lord Oxford in anything but promises. The bills which he gave were never met, and if the elector was the loser, his librarian cannot be said to have profited by the fraud which he undoubtedly committed.
Wanley's part in the transaction, a strictly honourable one, is fully recorded in the Diary. On the 26th December 1724, he wrote:—
"The last night Mr. Mattaire came to me and said that he had seen Signor Zamboni, and nine MSS. which are lately come to him from Italy—that they will soon be sent to his house without being shown to any other, and that then I shall see them forthwith. And further, that this Signor expects a little parcel of Greek MSS., not yet arrived." Three weeks later he again wrote:—
"This morning I went to Mr. Mattaire, with whom I saw fifteen old Latin MSS., or fragments of MSS., belonging now to Signor Zamboni, but formerly to the Dutch Professor Graevius.
He opened a negotiation, and after some months wrote thus:—
"Signor Zamboni, sending a very kind letter to me, desiring to visit me, either here or at my lodgings, I desired he would please to call here, my lodgings being out of order, by reason of my maid's being married yesterday. Signor Zamboni came hither about 2, and I showed him many more of my Lord's MSS. to his great satisfaction. At length he desired that I would go along with him to an ordinary, where he was to dine with some foreign persons of distinction. I complied with his request, as thinking I might do my Lord some service; and after dinner was over, and the rest of the company gone, he assured me that as to the price of the MSS. which he hath sent hither, he will leave it entirely to my regulation, and accept of whatever I shall think an equitable price for them; only, he desires a dispatch as speedy as may be, lest the owner should send for them back. He further said that the owner chiefly values the two volumes of learned men's Letters, the Saxon Spieghel, and the Prayerbook of Solyman the Magnificent."
Three days later, 27 September 1725, the Diary further records:—
"Yesterday Signor Zamboni came to me, and was entertained to his own content and satisfaction. He conferred with me about the MSS. here in my custody, and will stand to my award, between my Lord and him. He says that as to the things my Lord formerly had of him, that he was no gainer, but that in one of the parcels, he of himself lowered the price twenty pounds less than his commission ran for. I hope I shall be able to separate the two volumes of Letters, the Saxon Spieghel and Solyman's Prayer-book, although they are very curious and valuable things, and so my Lord may have the others very cheap. This done, I believe that the same Letters and two MSS. may in time fall into my Lord's hands at a price far lower than they are now held up at. Signor Zamboni, who proves to be a good-natured and is [I believe] an honest gentleman, mentioned 4000 more original Letters in the possession of his correspondent, which may soon be brought over into England."
On the 2nd October he added:—
"I waited on Signor Zamboni yesterday, who is daily teased by his Dutch correspondent about the chest of MSS. lying here."
There was a further delay of nearly a fortnight, and then Wanley wrote to the rogue Zamboni to the effect that Lord Oxford had at last seen many of his manuscripts, which he was not unwilling to buy at a reasonable price, and that he would willingly forego the two volumes of letters, the Saxon Spieghel and Sultan Solyman's Prayerbook, "if held up too dear." He asked for the Greek MS. of Hesiod which he formerly saw among them, but which had since been withdrawn. Ultimately he sent back some of the books for which "this most greedy Signor" asked "the most horrible price." Wanley's hope that they might subsequently come to the library for less money was fulfilled as far as the letters were concerned; these are now to be found in volumes 4933 4934 4935 and 4936. Among them are a few other letters which were already in the Harleian library when the Dusseldorf manuscripts were purchased. Wanley had them all bound up together.
The manuscripts bought by Wanley from Zamboni number eighty-four, and comprise nearly all the important books mentioned in the Graevius catalogue. The Hesiod is the only valuable Greek MS. missing, and the principal Latin MS. of this collection, which did not pass into the Harleian library, is a Terence. It is also to be regretted that Wanley did not secure the prayers of Solyman and the celebrated Saxon Spieghel. Of the eighty-four other MSS., two have a special historical interest: the Cicero (2682) and the Quintilian (2664), both of which can be traced to the Cathedral library at Cologne.
Graevius borrowed the Cicero in 1663 from the authorities, but never returned it. The elector, Johann Wilhelm, bought it among other books which were sold at his death. It consists of a folio of 192 leaves of coarse vellum written in a German hand of the latter part of the eleventh century, and has been the subject of much learned criticism. It was collated by Mr. A. C. Clark, but until he identified it as one of the books that had formed part of the Graevius collection, very little attention had been paid to it. There is no trace of it before the sixteenth century, beyond the fact that its first collator was Modius of Cologne, who was allowed to use the Cathedral library, to which the Cicero then belonged. The acquisition of these manuscripts was the last important purchase made by Wanley; he died a few months later, aged fifty-three.
Besides the above-mentioned treasures from the Dusseldorf library the Harleian possesses, among other Greek classical manuscripts, some that are unique in character. Sir Edward Thompson, in his "Catalogue of Ancient Greek MSS. in the British Museum," calls attention to three in the Harleian collection which appear to him to be of superior merit. These are: (1) The Greek-Latin glossary of the seventh century. This manuscript is of singular interest both for language and palaeography, and consists of 277 leaves of vellum varying in thickness, some of it being very coarse. At the end, on a fly-leaf is some scribbling in what is described as "a Merovingian hand." (2) The Greek MS. of the ninth or tenth century, imperfect in the beginning, and in several other places, described by Wanley as the Codex Prusensis. The initial letters, some of which are ornamented, are generally red. (3) A volume numbered 5694 in the catalogue, and containing a part of Lucian's works, on 134 leaves of fine vellum of the tenth century. On the second fly-leaf are these words in an Italian fifteenth-century hand: "Libro de Jo. Chalceopylus, Constantinopolitanus," and at the bottom of the page, "Antonii Seripandi ex Henrici Casolle amici optimi munere." Wanley says that this MS. was supposed to have been carried from the old imperial library at Constantinople to the monastery of Bobi near Naples. He considered it "the finest old Greek classical MS. now in England." The library of Seripandus was preserved in the Augustinian monastery of St. John of Carbonara at Naples, but a part of it was sold to Jan de Witt, who took it to Holland, and this manuscript was among the number, and was included in the sale catalogue of De Witt's library in 1701. It was bought by Jan van der Mark of Utrecht, and on this account it is described in the Amsterdam edition of the work as the Codex Marcianus. Later on it came into the possession of John Bridges of Northamptonshire, who sold it to the second Lord Oxford.
The earliest Latin MS. in the Harleian library is a copy of the four Gospels of the sixth or seventh century—No. 1775. It was bought by the founder of the library from Jean Aymon, who stole it, together with eight other manuscripts, from the Bibliothique Royale in Paris, in 1707. It still bears on folio 2 its original press-mark. Another MS. in Lord Oxford's possession having been identified as one of these, was restored to its rightful owners in 1729. This relic of early Christian times consists of 35 leaves of the Epistles of St. Paul, the canonical Epistle, and the Apocalypse, written in gold letters on vellum. The adventure through which it found itself in the Harleian library together with the precious No. 1775, may be thus briefly related:
Jean Aymon was a renegade French priest who had retired to the Hague, married, and become a Lutheran pastor. He enjoyed a considerable reputation for learning and piety among the Dutch; but wearying of his monotonous, uneventful life, he resolved on returning to France under pretext of offering to Monsieur Clement, the king's sub-librarian, a certain book which he had discovered. He accordingly wrote to Clement asking him to procure him a passport, in order that he might present the book in question, and reveal some important matters to the king. Clement obtained the passport, and Aymon returned to France, where, in order to ingratiate himself with the librarian, he declared that he wished to be restored in religion. He was advised to retire for a time to the seminary of Foreign Missions, in order to study his position and to prepare for his rehabilitation as a priest. But he complained bitterly of the treatment which he received at the seminary, and paid frequent visits to Clement, who, with astounding simplicity, allowed him to remain for hours, often quite alone, in the Royal library. Here he employed himself in making selections from priceless manuscripts, sometimes cutting out pages from the middle of a volume where the theft would be less easily detected. When he had gathered in a considerable harvest, he cleverly obtained another passport, and escaped back to the Hague with his ill-gotten gains. He accounted for his absence by saying that he had been to seek documents, important for the defence of religion, and made no secret of having brought back rich trophies. It was thus through public rumour that Clement first became aware that the king's library had been robbed. But Aymon's method of pilfering had so far succeeded that it was some time before it could be ascertained what number of manuscripts he had carried off. By degrees, however, the list was completed and sent to Holland. The Abbe Bignon was the king's librarian at the time when it was discovered that one at least of the stolen treasures was in the Harleian library. As soon as Edward, Lord Oxford became aware of the fact, he hastened to restore it, and received in exchange a very polite acknowledgement of his courtesy from Cardinal Fleury on behalf of the king.*
* L. V. Delisle, Le Cabinet des Manuscrits de la Bibliotheque Imperiale.
In 1725 Wanley enumerated the Greek MSS. in the Harleian collection as 173. Among the illuminated ones, that which bears the number 1810 demands special attention. It is an Evangelia executed in Greece in the twelfth century, and written in black and red characters on the finest vellum. Some of the miniatures have suffered woefully, the paint having cracked in parts, but the faces are still full of beauty and life. One of the least damaged represents the death of the Blessed Virgin. The apostles surround the bed on which she lies extended; the aged St. Peter lifts up his hands in an attitude of grief; St. John is leaning over her left side; another bends forward and embraces her feet. In a lozenge-shaped medallion on a gold background our Lord holds her soul in His arms, in the form of a little child. A crowd of people form the background, and a figure at the head of the bed swings a censer. Three women contemplate the scene from a small window.
Another remarkable miniature, the last in the volume, is a good deal cracked, but still extremely interesting for the force and delicacy of touch which it displays. Our Lord appears to the apostles after His Resurrection. St. Thomas is in the act of placing his finger in the wounded side. The print of the nails is seen in the hands and feet. Sir Edward Thompson distinguishes this manuscript with his by no means frequent encomium, "very good."
The Greek Evangelium of the ninth or tenth century (5787), with its ornamental initials and borders, and St. Jerome's Latin version of the Psalter (2793), with a preface addressed to Sophronius, and written in a tenth-century hand, should not be passed over.
Another Psalter (2904), executed in England at the end of the tenth or beginning of the eleventh century, has a fine drawing of the Crucifixion, and grand initial letters. Westwood, in his Facsimiles and Miniatures, considers this drawing to be the finest of the kind, and the initial B (Beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum), the noblest with which he is acquainted. This manuscript has most of the characteristics of the later Anglo-Saxon school-the hunched-up shoulders to express grief, the attenuated lower limbs, and the manner in which prominence is given to the central figure by drawing the others much smaller. On a scroll which St. John holds are the words, "Hic est discipulis qui testimonii perhibet." The arrangement of Pilate's superscription—"Hic est Nazaren IHC rex judaeor"—is unusual but not without precedent.
The Harleian library contains no fewer than 300 MSS. of the Bible or parts of the Bible, written and illuminated between the seventh and the fourteenth centuries. Of the later copies we may note one of the whole Bible, written in the thirteenth century, and described in the "Catalogue of Ancient MSS. in the British Museum," as remarkable; and a Psalter, written before 1339, splendidly illuminated, and further interesting as having belonged to Philippa of Hainault, and as bearing the arms of England without those of France.
There is also a fine series of Talmudical and Rabbinical books; nearly 200 volumes of Fathers of the Church, as well as liturgical books of the different Latin and Greek rites.
The polite literature of the Middle Ages is admirably represented, among other examples by the famous Roman de la Rose, with its brilliant fourteenth-century miniatures, its wonderful figures gorgeously dressed, its broad borders richly decorated with fruit, birds, insects, and flowers, of which the rose is the most salient feature. One fascinating miniature shows—
Comment Narcissus se mira A la fontaine et souspira";
and after a long but delightful pilgrimage by flowery meads and limpid streams, amid curious mediaeval gardens
"La conclusion du rommant Est que vous voiez ez lemant Qui prent la rose a son plaisir En qui estait tout son desir."
This glimpse of the treasures of the Harleian library will at least account for the great celebrity it attained within a comparatively short time of its foundation. Wanley was careful to enter into his Diary the names of visitors, and any interesting details connected with them, and their motives for an inspection. On the 15th January 1719/20 he observed:—
"Dr.Fiddes came, and communicated to me his intention of writing the life of Cardinal Wolsey at large; and desired me to transcribe for him all such materials in this library as I should find for his purpose. I showed him divers things here, and gave him notice of many others in the Cottonian library, etc., but as to transcribing for him, begged his excuse, etc."
On the 22nd December 1721,
"Mr. Bowles, the Bodleian library-keeper, came, and I spent most of the time showing him some of the rarities here, to his great wonder and satisfaction."
And on the 28th
"Mr. Bowles came and saw more of the rarities here."
Two more visits from Mr. Bowles are chronicled, when he saw "yet more of the curious books, papers, and parchments here"; and shortly after Wanley wrote, "many come and tarry long." A visit from David Casley, keeper of the Cottonian and Royal libraries, on the 4th November 1725, is suggestive of a certain amount of friction between the two rival librarians. It is nearly the last entry in Wanley's record:—
"Mr. Casley came to collate my Lord's MSS. of Titus Livius for Mr. D'Orville, by my Lord's order. I am civil to him, but when just now he offered me a South Sea bond as security to let him carry one of the said MSS. home to collate it there, I would by no means hearken to such a proposal."
Perhaps Wanley would have regarded him with still greater suspicion if he had known that Casley was to be his successor in cataloguing the MSS. which he kept with so jealous a care. The talents of the two men were very different, as the catalogue itself shows. That part of it for which Wanley was responsible contains a description and an abstract of each manuscript. Casley, whose knowledge of the age of manuscripts has never been surpassed, contented himself with fixing their dates without any reference to their contents.
The work of building up the library does not seem to have flagged or deteriorated after Wanley's death. The search for precious MSS. was still actively carried on, and copies of a large collection of original, royal, and other letters and State Papers in the Lansdowne library furnish us with an example of Lord Oxford's unabated zeal in the pursuit of books. Appended to these papers is a note written on the first leaf by Mr. J. West, and dated 2nd May 1742:—
"Mem. I went with Edward, Earl of Oxford, to view these MSS. at a barber's shop next door to the Bull Head Tavern, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, when we were carried up two pair of stairs, and an old woman asked 300 pounds for the MSS., which was thought exorbitant, but which would have been given, if she would have declared any lawful title to us as owner of them."
After Casley, Hocker, deputy-keeper of the records in the Tower, undertook to continue the catalogue, but only completed it as far as the number 7355. When the collection was brought to the British Museum, after the death of the second Lord Oxford, Dr. Brown, Professor of Arabic at Oxford, and Dr. Kennicott, Fellow of Exeter College, added titles to such of the Arabic and Hebrew MSS. as needed them. Gomez, a learned Jew, was employed to do the same for the rabbinical books that were without titles. In 1800 the Rev. Robert Nares was appointed to continue and revise the catalogue. In a letter to Bishop Percy, dated British Museum, 19th January 1801, Nares wrote:—
"I am just now deep in old MSS., correcting all that part of the Harleian catalogue which was left unfinished by Humphrey Wanley, and very imperfectly executed by Mr. Casley."
The work done by Nares was supplemented by Stebbing Shaw, and Douce. The Rev. T. Hartwell Horne added a series of indexes, and published the catalogue in 1812.*
* Nichol's Literary Illustrations, vol. vii., p. 591.
On the death of Edward, Earl of Oxford, in 1741, his widow,* who is described as a "dull, worthy woman," cared to retain few of her husband's treasures. His various curiosities were sold by auction; his printed books, pamphlets, and engravings were disposed of to Thomas Osborne, a bookseller of Gray's Inn, for 13,000 pounds—several thousand pounds less than the cost of their bindings. A selection of scarce pamphlets found in the library was made by Oldys, and printed in 8 volumes, in 1746, under the title of the "Harleian Miscellany." Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote a preface to this work. The best edition of the "Harleian Miscellany" is that of Thomas Park, in 10 volumes, published between 1808-13.
* She was Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles, only daughter of John, fourth Earl of Clare, created Duke of Newcastle.
There still remained the precious manuscripts, and it had been the wish of Lord Oxford that books so carefully collected might not be dispersed. In accordance with this wish, Lady Oxford sold them to the nation in 1753 for the inconsiderable sum of 10,000 pounds. They then consisted of 7639 volumes, besides 14,236 original rolls, charters, deeds, and other documents, and these were removed to the British Museum, where they found a safe and suitable resting-place.
But although fortunately the Harleian MSS. have been preserved from the fate of so many choice volumes in the Cottonian library, they have suffered to some extent from the carelessness or dishonesty of borrowers. The second Lord Oxford was generous to a fault in lending, with the inevitable result. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the only one of his literary friends whom Lady Oxford tolerated,* wrote the following letter to her husband from Avignon in 1745, at the time when probably, the MSS. having been removed to the British Museum, attention was directed to the fact that some were missing:—
"I perfectly remember carrying back the manuscript you mention, and delivering it to Lord Oxford. I never failed returning to himself all the books he lent me. It is true I showed it to the Duchess of Montague, but we read it together, and I did not even leave it with her. I am not surprised in that vast quantity of manuscripts, some should be lost or mislaid, particularly knowing Lord Oxford to be careless of them, easily lending and as easily forgetting he had done it. I remember I carried him once one very finely illuminated that when I delivered he did not recollect he had lent it to me, though it was but a few days before. Wherever this is, I think you had need be in no pain about it."**
* "It is a common remark that people of brilliant parts often have no objection to relax or REST their understandings in the society of those whose intellects are a little more obtuse. Here was an instance: the gods never made anybody less poetical than Lady Oxford; and yet Lady Mary Wortley, though in general not over tolerant to her inferior's incapacity, appears upon the whole to have loved nobody so well. And there was an exception equally striking in her favour; for Lady Oxford, heartily detesting most of the wits who surrounded her husband, yet admired Lady Mary with all her might-pretty much as the parish clerk reverences the rector for his Greek and Hebrew. Lady Bute confessed that she sometimes got into sad disgrace by exclaiming, 'Dear mama! how can you be so fond of that stupid woman?' which never failed to bring upon her a sharp reprimand and a lecture against rash judgments, ending with 'Lady Oxford is not shining, but she has much more in her than such giddy things as you and your companions can discern."*— The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, edited by her great-grandson, Lord Whamcliffe, 2nd ed., vol. i., p. 66. Introduction.
** Letters, vol. ii., p. 147.
Two years after the removal of the Harleian library to the British Museum, Lady Oxford died, leaving an only daughter, Margaret Cavendish, married to William Bentinck, second Duke of Portland. She was the "noble, lovely little Peggy" sung by Prior. As she had inherited none of her father's and grandfather's tastes, it was fitting that the grand collection of MSS., for the sake of which they had impoverished themselves, should enrich an innumerable multitude of scholars and students of all nations and for all time.