Perhaps, if we seek something more elevated and creditable, it will be in certain periodicals conducted on higher lines than those to which the ordinary publisher has from financial exigencies to be bound; and of these there are several both in France and England—nay, in Italy, in Australia.
The Illustrated Book, as we are familiar with it here, affords innumerable examples of varied treatment, as the school of design and the public taste differ or fluctuate from century to century, from age to age, and even from season to season. We do not speak of the cheaper literature in this class, accompanied by engravings so intolerably poor as to disarm criticism, but to the higher efforts of the artist to respond to the author, and to appeal more directly to the eye. In this country, however, we have not so far been so fortunate, or otherwise, as to attain the Continental ideal of what the graphic portion of a literary performance should be; and the question is intimately associated, particularly in France and among foreign buyers of the French school, who are numerous in all parts of the world, with that of binding, inasmuch as a volume possessing pictorial embellishments of whatever kind must fulfil all requirements in that respect no less than in the outward vesture, and what may be termed the complemental book-plate.
One of the eighteenth-century French productions which answers most thoroughly to the just foregoing description, is the "Fermiers Generaux" edition of the Contes et Nouvelles of La Fontaine, 2 vols. 8vo, 1762. The ordinary copies of this work, of which the whole charm lies in the meretricious plates by Eisen (for the text is inoffensive enough), are distinguished by the presence or otherwise of two or three plates in a particular state, those left as originally printed being preferred, because they offer certain unconventional details subsequently modified. But, in fact, to make a perfect exemplar of the work, to satisfy the demand of a rigid connoisseur, you have to combine features in the shape of proofs before letters and vignettes taken off separately, besides extra engravings by other artists not strictly belonging to the edition, until you have a complete album of bijoux indiscrets, and in the old French morocco by Derome or Bozerian a L200 lot. The Earl of Crawford's copy, which was to have been sold at Sotheby's in July 1896 (No. 493 of catalogue), was a masterpiece of this description; but it was withdrawn. It has since been sold to another noble lord—the Earl of Carnarvon.
A copy of the normal decouvert type of the Contes et Nouvelles, 1762, may be had, according to condition and binding, for between L10 and L50. It has been said of the extra plates to the Contes et Nouvelles of La Fontaine that their rejection as part of the published work ought to be a matter neither of surprise nor of regret, for they are not only flagrantly indecent, but are poor and unsatisfying from an artistic point of view. Another favourite edition of the Tales is that with the plates by Romeyn de Hooge, 1685, 2 vols. 8vo; but you must have it on fine paper in old morocco.
Looking at the illustrated editions of the Tales generally, the plates, except the charming head and tail pieces, do great injustice to the text, which the author can hardly have foreseen the possibility of being deformed and discredited by such forced and exaggerated constructions of his meaning.
The edition of La Fontaine's Fables by Oudry, 4 vols. folio, 1755-59, is almost equally sought by connoisseurs, though on somewhat different grounds. Some copies in one of the plates, where there is a tavern sign, have on the board a lion rampant. In the Bibliotheque at Paris is a copy on largest paper bound for Marie Antoinette with original decorations by Oudry himself on the covers; it is only a single book out of thousands which they have there, yet it might make a day's sale, and a remunerative one, in Wellington Street in the Strand! Boccaccio, 5 vols. 8vo, 1757, with plates by Eisen, Gravelot, and others, enters into this series; it is not an uncommon book, and is found with a French and an Italian text, of which the former is generally preferred. It is necessary to secure a copy in all respects faultless. But far more important and relatively costly are the Baisers of Dorat, 1770, printed on grand papier de Hollande, with the title in red and black, and, above all, Laborde's Choix de Chansons, 1773, always a dear publication when the state is right, and excessively difficult to obtain with proof plates; the Magniac copy was bought by Mr. Quaritch at Phillips's a few years since for upwards of L200, and sold by him, we believe, to Lord Carnarvon. Another copy, with the plates in unlettered proof state, is marked L250 in Pearson & Co.'s Catalogue, 1897-98. La Folle Journee, by Beaumarchais, with engravings of the same period and character, is also a charming production, and commands a good price.
The minutiae into which the enthusiasts for the graphic French literature produced in the closing years of the ancient regime permit themselves to enter is rather bewildering to a novice or an outsider, and certainly asks as much study as it can well be worth. The cultivation of the pursuit has naturally brought into existence a small library of monographs, of which that by Cohen is one of the best known and the most frequently quoted. There is an equal degree of difference between the pictorial features of books produced in England and on the Continent during the past and the present centuries. In France there still reigns the spirit of enterprise conducive to the execution of high-class work; but among ourselves it is painful to contemplate the decline, not of power, but of encouragement, and the unhealthy tendency to a style of illustration which will not probably be very creditable to the country in retrospect. A collection of modern illustrated works of mixed origin may well dispense, except by way of sample and contrast, with much of the fantastic and preposterous creations of some of the latter-day masters.
The Edition de Luxe, the Large, Larger, and Largest Paper, the copy on yellow paper, blue paper, writing paper, on papier de Hollande, de Chine, or d'Inde, or on Japanese vellum, the very limited impression, are among the fancies and demands of the omnivorous past. A short study of the supplement to Bonn's Lowndes and of Martin's Privately Printed Books will suffice to show that not only a library, but a tolerably extended one, might be formed of these classes of literature exclusively; and indeed the thing has been more than once actually done. Utterson, Halliwell, Laing, Maidment, Eyton, Turnbull, and others have contributed to leave to us a voluminous inheritance of now rather neglected and undervalued curiosities of this kind. But even here the discriminating collector may still advantageously pick out items worth buying and holding, for in the case of every artificial furore the good, bad, and indifferent are apt to rise and to fall together, while it is reserved only for the first to experience a revival—the Revival of the Fittest.
The Illustrated Copy is an indefinite quantity as to character and importance or estimation, since no two correspond. Nearly all those which have been formed are more or less unequal, even where there has been no regard to cost, and every care has been exercised in the selection of objects; for there is a chronic tendency to become complete. But so far as the normal undertaking of this class is concerned, we usually perceive a few desirable and appropriate prints or drawings as a sort of piece de resistance, and the remainder is made up anyhow. Even such a book as the Pennant's London in the Huth Collection strikes us as unsatisfactory on the ground stated; there is a share of merit in the choice of embellishments; there is also too considerable a residuum of comparative rubbish; and if it is so here, the reader may judge how the matter stands with illustrated books of the ordinary stamp made up for sale. There is one remark to be offered. The really fine prints and other similar productions are too valuable to treat in this way, as they would necessarily render the work, when it was ready for the client, too expensive. A Pennant, for example, exclusively composed of first-rate material, and tolerably representative in regard to names and localities, would be worth thousands of pounds. The time for securing prizes for this purpose at a moderate figure has gone by. The catalogues advertise copies "extensively and tastefully" illustrated with hundreds or thousands of portraits and views; and the bidding or demand, as the case may be, is carried to L20, L50, or L100. Our advice is, Not to touch. It is preferable to have a few chosen examples in a portfolio.
It is not always that the Illustrated Copy is restricted to engravings and other works of art. Autograph letters enter into the plan, and facsimiles of title-pages or other cognate and more or less relevant objects. One of the most recent enterprises of this nature—a Boswell's Johnson—cost the actual possessor about L10,000; it was extended to forty-two volumes, and aimed at having a token of some kind of every one mentioned in the text. So we advance. It was deemed a piece of extravagance when, forty or fifty years ago, the late Sir William Stirling-Maxwell expended about L1000 in forming an illustrated copy of his own Cloister Life of Charles V.
The Nature-printing, Autotype, Photogravure, Collotype, and other processes strike us as hardly falling within the category here contemplated, although that they are material accessions to our resources is undoubted. They are the fruit of a combination between nature and mechanical science; their fidelity for portraiture and technical purposes may be granted; but they do not realise the notion of artistic embellishment or interpretation, nor are they capable of rendering with anything approaching truth the more delicate and subtle touches of the miniaturist.
The Edition de Luxe is dilettantism in extremis. It is a movement which seems to rest on a false theory and basis. It should have limited itself to nugae literariae, to bagatelles, which no mortal sought to read, and which might be harmlessly printed on any material, of any latitude and longitude, in any type, or else to graphic works where the luxury would more comfortably and more suitably make itself manifest in illustrations varied and duplicated to whatever extent it pleased the issuer, or was calculated to gratify his clients. But to apply the principle to books so essentially appealing to practical readers as Dickens, Thackeray, Scott, and others, was an unfortunate step and precedent, which has thrown on the market a large amount of stock not easily moved even at a heavy discount on the published price.
Merely looking at the bibliophile pure and simple, and shutting our eyes to those phases of book-collecting, where the principle or sole aim is educational or religious, we incline to the conclusion that foreigners, and above all the French, are less practical than ourselves, and lay far greater stress on sentiment.
The French, and we may perhaps add the Anglo-French school of book-collecting, works on lines which to a normal lover of books must at first appear rather mysterious and strange, if not absolutely irrational. The closest analogy which it is in our power to suggest is the almost parallel sentiment and policy in regard to other branches of inquiry—china, furniture, numismatics. The Frenchman and his English disciple have no respect whatever as collectionneurs for substantial value, and agree in ignoring everything, good, bad, indifferent, outside a prescribed limit.
The temper of the foreign markets, especially the French one, is so essentially different from that of England, that it demands an almost life-long study of the subject to comprehend the true principles by which they are guided and influenced. In what we are just now urging, we must of course be understood to allude to the amateur pure and simple,—in fact, if it may be said without offence, to the virtuoso. There are foreign book-collectors, as there are English, who seek copies of works within their lines, whatever those lines may be, for the sake of information and reference. The collector has no such aim. He aspires to make himself master of so many items answering to certain inexorable postulates laid down by the experts in such matters. His taste has happened to take a bibliographical direction and shape; it is hardly a literary one; and the objects of his pursuit, instead of being pictures, prints, antiquities, gems, or coins, are things in book-form.
Monsieur and his British satellite cultivate exclusively what is French, just as in the numismatic department Monsieur will only buy French coins or Franco-Italian ones, or the money of Monsieur's direct ancestors, the Greeks and Romans. It is the same principle throughout; and the undoubted fact is before us that, if the article to be sold is right in all respects, the price is marvellous. One can understand a high appreciation of some superb or unique example of ancient typography, of a book which has belonged to a famous person, or of a manuscript like the Bedford Missal or the Hours of Anne of Brittany. One can understand, again, the enthusiasm for an unrecorded old poem, romance, or play, for a production by an eminent author supposed to have perished, or for a precious relic such as the Manesse MS., presented by the German Emperor Frederic to the library at Heidelberg, from which it had been taken by the French during the wars of the Revolution. But the Parisian gout is less intent on such matters than on flimsy and effeminate specialities. A copy of a book, it does not signify how valuable intrinsically it may be, is worth nothing in the eyes of Monsieur and Monsieur d'Angleterre son ami, unless it is in a particular vesture, with a particular ex libris, and of a particular measurement in millesimes. MM. les amateurs reject not merely calf, but that vellum wrapper and that stitched paper envelope so dear to us English—so dear that when one of us has given hundreds of pounds for a book thus clothed, rather than commit it to a binder, we employ him to make us a case for the gem. The volume of tracts which Charles I. borrowed of Thomason the stationer, and let fall in the mud, what could Monsieur do with it? Absolutely nothing. But the British Museum cherishes the relic, and would not on any account, we solemnly believe, suffer the stains to be removed. They are the credentials, the link between the king and ourselves.
On the subject of French books in regard to their bindings we shall have more to say below.
 Four Generations of a Literary Family, 1897, ii. 371.
The extrinsic features in books—Autographs—Inscriptions—Various classes of them and of interest in their subject-matter—The Henry VIII. Prayer-Book of 1544—Some account of it—Gabriel Harvey—Spenser—Evelyn—Milton—Hypothetical grands prix—Classification of inscriptions—Examples—Dramatists—Poets—Jonson, Massinger, Drayton, Wycherley, Killigrew—Mere signatures—Shakespeare's copy of Florio's Montaigne, 1603—The Earl of Essex's copy of Drayton's Eclogues, 1593—Humphrey Chetham—Strays from his library—Beau Nash as a collector—Sir Joshua Reynolds—William Beckford and his Vathek—Foreign autographs and memoranda—A whimsical note in a copy of Shakespeare's Passionate Pilgrim, 1599—Interesting MS. matter in a copy of Stow's Survey, 1633—Pepys's binder—Dr. Burney and his verses in Sandford and Merton—Napoleon and Josephine—The Lutheran Testament given by the latter to General Buonaparte—A charming presentation copy from Josephine of Voltaire's Henriade—What makes the interest in autographs—Ineptitudes—The reviewer's copy—Latter-day vandalism—Arms on books—Prefaces and Dedications—Imprimaturs.
WHAT may be treated as the casual accessories of books of nearly all periods and countries—the autograph inscription testifying to the ownership or signalising a gift from one possessor to another—have manifold and diversified elements of interest and attraction. These features offer a graduated scale of importance, just as it happens. The question depends on the donor, or the recipient, or the article given and received; and where all these combine to augment the charm and to complete the spell, the issue is electrifying. No more impressive corroboration of this truth could well be desired or produced than the Henry VIII. Prayer-Book of 1544 on vellum, from the Fountaine Collection, with the MSS. notes and autographs of the King, the Princess Mary, Prince Edward, and Queen Catherine Parr. It fetched about 600 guineas at Christie's in 1894.
In the Bibliographer, Bookworm, and his own Collections, the writer has formerly assembled together notices of all the most remarkable examples of English books, both printed and in MS., with inscriptions, marginalia, and other records of prior and successive possession, brought within his reach during more than thirty years past. There are not unreasonably people who may not see in an ordinary copy of a volume much tangible interest, yet who are prepared to recognise the value, and even importance, of one with the autograph and memoranda of some illustrious personage, of some great warrior or statesman, or of a famous man of letters, artist, or sculptor. The accidental and secondary feature in the work takes precedence of the rest; he pays for the sentiment and association. The direct human interest resident in such a relic is apt, in the opinion of many, to surpass that of the finest binding; for one has here the very characters traced long ago by the holder; one can imagine him (or her) seated at the table engaged in the task of leaving to the times to come this memento. The book is the casual receptacle; perchance in itself it is of inconsiderable worth; but the manuscript accessions are as an embalmment and a sanctification. The copy is not as others; it has descended to us as a part of a precious inheritance, of which the mere paper and print are the least significant; we are to approach and touch it reverently, as if the individual to whom it appertained were standing by, to reprove an ungentle hand and take back the legacy.
It would be barely possible, were it of essential use, to schedule all the existing presentation or annotated copies of books in our own and other literatures, but we shall here make an effort to offer a general view of what is intended, and what may in some instances become attainable by watching opportunities:—
Monastic or collegiate literature. Editions of the Bible. Editions of the New Testament. Editions of the Prayer-Book. Royal Books:— (i) With autograph notes by the owner. (ii) With inscription by the giver. (iii) With both. (iv) In binding identifiable with a royal personage. Books which possess the signatures of noble or illustrious individuals, politicians, statesmen, soldiers. The same categories apply. Books with literary inscriptions:— (i) Presentation copies with author's inscription. (ii) With his inscription and additional matter by him. (iii) With inscription by recipient. (iv) With autographs and MSS. notes by both. Foreign books:— Monastic and mediaeval. With MS. matter of historical or genealogical interest. Books from royal or noble libraries. Books of literary interest.
Monastic inscriptions are generally limited in their interest to casual light shed by them on personages connected with the institution or on some local circumstance.
Of royal books, genuine and otherwise, the number has had a tendency to increase through the successive dispersion of old libraries everywhere, combined with the additional facilities for gaining access to those which still remain intact. The Henry VIII. Prayer-Book on vellum is the only copy known in any state of the edition of 1544, and may not have been publicly issued with this date.
Some of the royal memoranda are of signal interest and curiosity. On the back of the title, under the royal arms, the king himself says: "Remember thys wrighter wen you doo pray for he ys yours noon can saye naye. Henry R." At the passage: "I have not done penance for my malice," the same hand inserts in the margin: "trewe repentance is the best penance;" and farther on he makes a second marginal note on the sentence: "thou hast promysed forgyveness," . . . "repentance beste penance." This was a sort of family common-place book. Inside the cover Prince Edward (afterward Edward VI.) writes: "I will yf you will." The volume, which contains other matter of great historical value, appears to have been given by Henry VIII. shortly before his death to his daughter Mary; for on a small piece of vellum inside the cover he has written: "Myne owne good daughter I pray you remember me most hartely when you in your prayere do shew for grace to be attayned assurydly to yr lovyng fader Henry R." The Princess subsequently gave it to her stepmother, Catherine Parr, and it has a motto and signature of that lady's second husband, Lord Seymour of Sudeley, the Admiral.
The old king, we observe, grew rather nervous about the future just at the last, and he at all events admitted that there was room for contrition.
A companion volume and monument was the copy of the Sarum Horae of 1520, printed on vellum, in the second portion of the Ashburnham sale. This precious book belonged to the Parr family, including the mother of Queen Katherine Parr, and at any rate contained an inscription in the hand of the Queen's brother, and of those of members of the Carew, Vaux, Tailboys, Nevill, and other families, besides being in beautiful condition; and the same library yielded a second copy of Hours, 1512, which had passed through the hands of Henry VIII. himself, as attested in one place by his autograph memorandum: "Pray yow pray for me your loving cousin Henry Rex." Such relics appear to bring back before us the dead players on the human stage, divested of all but their more redeeming characteristics.
In the British Museum we have the Great Bible of 1540 on vellum, which enters into the present category by reason of its association with the same prince, though in a different way. On the reverse of the fly-leaf occurs: "This Booke is presented vnto your most excellent highnesse by youre loving, faithfull, and obedient subiect and daylye Oratour, Anthonye Marler, of London, Haberdassher." Truly a gift worthy of a king; and there it remains, a precious link with the past and a splendid memorial of the citizen of London who laid it at his sovereign's feet.
Propriety and sympathy of costume go very far indeed to establish and augment the estimation of printed volumes with manuscript tokens of former proprietorship. The collector who chooses this field of activity has to weigh the correlation and harmony between the volume itself and the individual or individuals to whom it once appertained. We have usually to content ourselves with the interest resident in an autograph, with or without further particulars; it is a book, perhaps, which formed part of the library of a distinguished Elizabethan or Jacobean writer or public character; but, if it were not, its worth might be nominal. Again, the book is possibly one of great value, and exhibits an early autograph and MSS. notes; it would be better without them. Find the copy of Venus and Adonis, 1593, given by Shakespeare to Lord Southampton, the poet's copy of the Faery Queen, 1590-96, Sir Fulke Greville's copy of Sydney's Arcadia, 1590, or a book of Voyages belonging to Drake or Raleigh, and it is worth a library, and a good one too. The nearest approach we have yet made to this kind of combination is the first folio Montaigne and the original edition of Lord Brooke's works, 1633, with the signature of Jonson, and the Spenser of 1679 with the notes of Dryden, unless the Paradise Lost, 1667, with Milton's presentation to a bookbinder at Worcester be authentic.
We must not omit in the present connection the copy of the prose story-book of Howleglas, given in 1578 with others by Edmund Spenser to Gabriel Harvey. But an almost equally covetable possession was the copy just referred to of Milton's Paradise Lost, 1667, which occurred only the other day at a sale, where it was, as too often happens, mis-described, and brought L70. It bore on a small slip inlaid in a fly-leaf: "For my loving ffreind, Mr. Francis Rea, Booke binder in Worcester these," and on another piece of paper: "Presented me by the Author to whom I gave two doubl sovereigns" = L4, nearly as much as the poet had for the copyright. The story of the book is unknown to us; it seems eminently likely that the first memorandum was written by Milton; but whether it belonged to a wrapper forwarding the gift, or to a letter accompanying it, is problematical.
Rea of Worcester must be the same individual who is described as having re-bound in June 1660 the Jolley and Ashburnham copy of Higden's Polychronicon, printed by Caxton, 1482; but there an earlier owner, Richard Furney, calls him "one Rede of Worcester."
At Trinity, Cambridge, there is the edition of Spenser, 1679, with a memorandum on the fly-leaf by Jacob Tonson, testifying to the MSS. notes in the book being by Dryden, and at Wootton formerly was the Faery Queen, 1596, John Evelyn's cypher in gold down the back of the cover and seventeen lines in his autograph on the fly-leaf.
Among our dramatists, Ben Jonson is conspicuous by the number of copies of his own performances which he presented to royal and noble personages or to private friends. Of three gift-copies of his Volpone, 1607, one has an inscription to John Florio, the other to Henry Lambton of Lambton. The almost unique large-paper one of Sejanus, 1605, in the Huth Collection, was given to the poet's "perfect friend," Francis Crane. In the Museum are the Masque of Queens and the Masque of Blackness and Beauty offered to the queen of James I. But of Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, and many others, we have not a single memorial of this kind. Of Massinger there is one: the copy of his Duke of Milan, 1623, received from him by Sir F. Foljambe. In the case of Taylor the water-poet, the nearest approach to anything of the sort is the MS. note of the recipient of a copy of his Works, 1630.
Of two equally prominent poets of the same epoch, Daniel and Drayton, the latter seems to have had a partiality for inscribing his autograph in presentation copies of his books, while of Daniel in this way we do not recollect to have met with a single example.
Very engaging, on account of its manly and cordial tone, is the autograph epistle by Sir Richard Fanshawe accompanying an extant copy of his translation of Guarini's Faithful Shepherd, 1648. The whole production may be seen in the Huth Catalogue (p. 633), where we inserted it as a favourable sample of this kind of poetry or verse. The lines are headed: "To my deare friend Mr. Tho. Brooke with Pastor Fido before an entended voyage," and commence:—
"This to the man I most affect I send, The faithfull Shepherd to as true a friend. There on each page thou'lt tenderest passion see, But none more tender than my own for thee."
The volume belongs to the series of memorials, which we possess in not too ample abundance, of the regard entertained by men of letters of former days for each other, or for their intimates, and ranks with the priceless copies of his own books presented by Jonson to some of his distinguished contemporaries. If he, or any one else, made gifts of such things to the greatest of them all, every trace of such an incident has apparently disappeared.
Rarity of occurrence is not by any means an imperative feature in influencing or determining the value of inscriptions. No examples are probably more abundant than the books of Izaak Walton, either with an ordinary note of presentation, or with MSS. notes in the writer's hand, if not with both; yet they invariably command a liberal price from the admission of Walton by common acknowledgment into the select circle of literary men, whose works we love for the sake of the author.
The following inscription in contemporary MS. occurs on the reverse of the Old Testament title to a Cranmer's Bible of 1540: "Thys byble ys John Crogdens, Cytyzen and merchant taylor of London, dwellynge in Wattlynge Street at y^e syne of Y^e Whyte Horse, 1550."
Occasionally more or less curious personal traits or family clues are yielded by the memoranda on fly-leaves. A Latin Testament of 1563 bears: "e libris Thomae Northcote e dono Joh. Rolle Armig. de Stephenstone in agro Devoniensi;" a copy of Jewell's Sermons, 1583, has "John Willoughby, 1591," and "Amor vincit omnia." In the Savile copy of Sir Thomas More's Works, 1557, we read: "de dono H. Savile anno 1600; found by Mary Savile, Dec. 12, 1635, amongst other books at Metheby: for my daughter Mary Savile."
If the reader will cross over with us into Scotland for a moment or so, we will introduce him to a very interesting relic in the shape of a Latin Aristotle of 1526, in which a Cistercian monk of Kinloss Abbey, Andrew Langland, has enshrined two metrical compositions from his own pen; an epitaph on the Regent Murray, and an epistle to Joannes Ferrerius, Professor at Kinloss, 1542, and continuator of Hector Boece. The epitaph is dialogue-wise between the Bishop of Orkney, who was absent from the funeral, and Ferrerius, who attended it.
At the sale of the library of the Duke of Leeds, a large-paper copy of Wycherley's Miscellany Poems, 1704, apparently given by the poet to Lord Treasurer Danby, produced the outrageous price of L46. A far more interesting example was that which he presented to Mistress Mary Twysden, as noticed in the Bibliographer. A more important souvenir was the Latin Testament given by Pope to Bolingbroke in 1728 (Christie's, April 3, 1895, No. 339); and a yet stronger sympathy must be felt with the Juvenal and Persius, 8vo, Amsterdam, 1684, which once belonged to T. Killigrew, and subsequently to Pope, whose English version occupies the interleaves, if the description given by Wake of Derby be correct, as the book itself we have not seen.
We approach a different class of consideration when we leave behind us the more or less factitious and artificial attractions of early bindings and autograph memoranda, and pass to books which owe their extrinsic interest to a mere signature, as in the case of the copy of Florio's Montaigne, 1603, which belonged to Shakespeare, and possesses his autograph on the fly-leaf, and of which the provenance, as stated by Madden in his pamphlet, 1838, favours the authenticity; and again, in that of Mr. Collier's copy of Drayton's Shepheard's Garland, 1593, which bears on the title-page the signature of Robert, Earl of Essex.
There quite casually fell into our own hands a copy of one of Archbishop Usher's books, a stray from Manchester, with "Humfrey Chetham's Booke, 1644," on fly-leaf, and with it came a MS. on vellum, also formerly Chetham's, of the Stimulus Conscientiae in English verse. They long lay in a garret at Pennington Hall, Leigh, Lancashire, the seat of the Hiltons, with whom Chetham was intimate, if not connected.
We meet with a surprise now and then, as when such a work as the English Reynard the Fox of 1681-84 carries on its face a proof of the prior ownership of Beau Nash: "Rich. Nash Arm. Bathoniae, 1761," but it is quite natural to find the autograph of Sir Joshua Reynolds accompanying a series of French plates illustrative of the Odyssey, 1639.
In old books, and in new ones too, there are inscriptions and inscriptions. We are all familiar with the scrawl of the clown, who has handed down to us his unconsecrated name on the title-page or fly-leaf of some volume of ours otherwise irreproachable. Just a step above him is your fellow who writes some objurgatory caveat against the malappropriator, and brings the Almighty without scruple into the witness-box, in case any varlet should make free with his property:—
"Hic liber est meus, Testis est Deus; Si quis me quaerit, Hic nomen erit."
"Will. Morsse, 1678."
Of the whimsical entries in old English books the diversity is endless. On the fly-leaf of a copy of Roger Edgworth's Sermons, 4to, 1557, occurs: "Bryen O'rourke his hand and writting by fore God and man." A singular application of the Holy Scriptures presents itself in a couple of IOU's written by James Haig of Prettisides in Longwood, co. Wilts, on the back of the title to a New Testament of 1584. There is a curious, almost pathetic form of this habit of writing in books, practised from very early days down to our own, when we may easily remember how Lamb and Coleridge used to fill the blank leaves of a work of common interest, as it kept passing to and fro like a messenger, till the worth of the manuscript matter left that of the printed far behind indeed. In a mild kind of way this sort of thing was already going on in the sixteenth century. A copy of the English version of the Paraphrase of Erasmus on the New Testament, 1548, passes similarly between two Tudor-period intimates, and there is this: "Mr. Dunes, I woulde wish you to peruse V. chapter of Marke, and there you shall finde great comforte to your soules health. Thus fare you well in the Lorde. Wyllyam Byrde."
In the copy of Shakespeare's Passionate Pilgrim, 1599, bound up with an early edition of Venus and Adonis, a former owner represents with perfect justice, that although he gave three-halfpence for the two volumes in one, a corner of a leaf was defective; and there has been furthermore a profound arithmetical computation that if this gentleman and his heirs or assigns had invested the amount in good securities, the capital at this moment would have reached the vicinity of L1000. In a copy of Stow's Survey, 1633, which once belonged to Sir Thomas Davies, Lord Mayor of London in 1676, we encounter a memorandum on the fly-leaf: "I pray, put in the loose leaues Carefully. John Meriton. For Mr. Richardson, bookbinder in Scalding Alley." Richardson bound for Pepys. In an odd volume of Sandford and Merton, which fell in Dr. Burney's way, and which he gave to his daughter—Johnson's "little Burney"—he wrote:—
"See, see, my dear Fan, Here comes, spick and span, Little Sandford and Merton, Without stain or dirt on; 'Tis volume the second, Than the first better reckoned; Pray read it with glee, And remember C. B.
"April 18, 1786."
Beauty has been said to depend on Variety, and so we ought not to object to examples selected from widely different sources.
Horace's multa renascentur comes into our mind when we stumble on a remark by Wodhull the collector in an Acta Apostolorum printed at Oxford in 1715: "In May, 1810, Mr. Leigh, auctioneer, told me that a copy of this edition had lately sold for L20, observing, 'these are the times to sell books, not to buy them.'" A more notable man, William Beckford, appears in a copy of the original French Vathek, 1787, as the second person of the drama by reason of the written matter referring to him, and being in the hand of M. Chavannes of Lausanne. The note occupies the whole of the available space on the title, and is as follows:—"A la demande de M. Beckford je me suis charge de corriger son Manuscrit et de le faire imprimer a Lausanne. M. Beckford en quittant Lausanne se hata de le faire imprimer a Paris au Prejudice de l'Imprimeur de Lausanne, et je dus menacer M. Beckford de mettre dans les papiers son infidelite . . . et M. B. se hata de dedomager l'Imprimeur pour eviter la publicite."
So far as books with the autographs and MSS. notes of men of the modern school, such as Byron, Coleridge, Lamb, and Shelley, are concerned, the opportunities for securing specimens have certainly grown more numerous. We have already in the places specified above furnished many illustrations of this section, and they might be readily extended.
In the foreign department there is a perfectly inexhaustible store of material under a variety of heads: evidences of ownership and descent, biographical suggestions, historical links and side-lights, dated armorial ex libris. In 1869 the author met with a thick 4to volume, including the Cologne edition of the Legenda Sancti Albani Martyris, printed about 1475, on the fly-leaf or cover of which was a list of contents made in 1475; and in the Hopetoun copy of the Ethica of Aristotle the original owner had established the place of printing, otherwise unspecified, by a MS. note, dated 1469, in which he stated that the book was presented to him by its typographer, "Johannes Mentelin Argentin."
In a copy of the works of Petrarch in Latin, folio, 1501, occurs on the title: "Liber Antonij kressen juris vtriusq. doctoris emptus venecijs ligatus nurenberge Mcccccv;" and the noble old volume (now in the British Museum) is accompanied by a memoir of Kressen, printed about 1600, of uniform size, with a splendid portrait of the interesting Nueremberger.
A copy of the Vulgate of 1484 commands attention from the presence of a coeval MS. note pasted on the first leaf: "Hec Biblia est Petri Dominici Boninsegnis qui a fratre Cosmo empta fuit Anno MCCCCLXXXU. xviii. die Februarii." A Latin Horae of the fifteenth century contains on a fly-leaf the ensuing little family story: "Ces Heures apartiennent a Damoyselle Michelle Du Dere Femme de M. Loys Dorleans Advocat en la Court du Parlement et lesquelles luy sont echeues par la succession de feu son pere M. Jehan Dudere Conseiller du Roy & Auditeur en sa chambre des comptes 1577. Amour & Humilite sont les deux liens de nostre mariage." A St. Jerome's Epistolae, printed at Mainz about 1470, is accompanied by the dated book-plate, 1595, of Christophorus Baro a Wolckhenstain.
In the French series the number of interesting items from a personal or historical point of view, if not both, is of course great, although, as a rule, French collectors have been rather sparing as annotators of their literary possessions. In a copy of De Bure's Sale Catalogue, 1786, now in the Huth Library, occurs a peculiarly striking exception, however, in the shape of a MS. note in the handwriting of Louis XVI., only three years prior to the fall of the Bastille, "Marquer les livres que je desire pour moi."
In the Duke of Sussex's Library was a New Testament in French presented by Josephine before her second marriage to Napoleon. She had inscribed on the spare leaf preceding title: "Au General Bonaparte ce Testament Lutherain est presente de part la veuve Beauharnois," and below occurs in the illustrious recipient's hand, Buonaparte. An association fully as historically and personally significant appertains to the Voltaire's Henriade, 1770, in one of the volumes of which the to-be Empress writes: "Donne part Madame la Viscontesse de Beauharnois: pensez a elle, aimez-la, n'oubliez jamais qu'elle est votre amie la plus attachee." Was this an oblation at the same shrine? But this is a slight digression, warranted by the twofold circumstance that all these examples have belonged to English collectors, and are of a class quite as interesting to us as to those with whom they are more immediately associated by origin. The same may perhaps be said of the MS. sold in London in 1899, formerly belonging to two persons so widely different as Marie Antoinette and Robespierre, of the latter of whom it possessed the autograph. The interest seemed to centre in the signature of the Revolutionary leader.
The interest and respect with which the presence of handwriting in books is regarded are indefinitely varied. But the preponderance of worshippers is no doubt on the side of those who have shone in the belles lettres and in society. Sovereigns, unless it be Frederic the Great or Napoleon, Mary of Scotland or Marie Antoinette, generals, politicians, professional men, do not go for much. The competition is for the poet, the novelist, the newsmonger, or some enfant terrible, whose autograph is rare to excess. To be on thoroughly good posthumous terms with collectors, one has no need to have been respectable, sober, benevolent, or pious; these are rather in the nature of draw-backs; but one must have possessed a strong personality. That is the secret. Personality. Schedule the illustrious of the past on this guiding principle, and you cannot err. Men and women without infirmities, without vices, why, ask any dealer of repute and experience, and he will tell you that there is no call for their signatures or for their correspondence. They have too much character in one sense and too little in another. An autograph of Dick Turpin or Claud Du Val would be worth a dozen of Archdeacon Paley or even of Archbishop Tillotson.
The autograph collector certainly forms a separate genus. He does not buy books. He does not affect MSS. where they exceed the limits of a fly-leaf or title-page entry. We are accustomed to criticise Master John Bagford unkindly because he stripped the volumes of their titles and then cast them away. But he lived a long while ago, when the value and rarity of many of these things were not so generally understood, and there were not customers all over the Old and New Worlds as many as one can tell on one's fingers to take an early book, if it was offered to them. Even now it not seldom happens that an exceedingly interesting signature or note accompanies an item worth only so much per lb., and your connoisseur in the autograph surrenders all but his portion to its destiny. Who can gainsay him? He shrugs his shoulders; he is no bookworm; he wants autographs alone.
Exceptions to the governing principle arise, however, and sometimes they are recognised, sometimes not. The most beautiful examples for internal condition, binding, even intrinsic interest, are occasionally sacrificed to this Procrustes—this case-hardened Bagford of our own day. Not so long since we remarked as a treasure beyond our purse a copy of Donne's Sermons, with a brilliant portrait of the author, and a long inscription by Izaak Walton presenting the volume to his aunt. It was in the pristine English calf binding, as clean as when it left Walton's hands en route for his kinswoman, and such a delightful signature. What has become of it? It is sad even to commit to paper the story—one among many. An American gentleman acquired it, tore the portrait and leaf of inscription out, and threw the rest away! Why, forsooth, should he keep a folio volume against his inclination? He left that to whomsoever it might chance to fall—a mangled corpse!
It is not peremptorily necessary, however, that there should be witness in black on white to the prior holder of a literary bijou; for the external evidence may prove abundantly adequate to the satisfaction of the most sceptical. A binding is quite capable of serving as a voucher and guarantee for the provenance of a printed book or manuscript, provided that all the links in the chain are sound. The Prayer-Book of Queen Henrietta Maria, the Fables of La Fontaine with the arms of Marie Antoinette as Dauphine, an unquestioned Grolier or Maioli, and still more such a bibliographical phoenix as that volume bound in gold of Lady Elizabeth Tyrrwhit's Prayers, formerly belonging to Queen Elizabeth, which the late Sir Wollaston Franks purchased at an incredible price and presented to the British Museum—these, and many more, speak for themselves. Yet where a royal or noble personage is not in the case, when it is only some Shakespeare or some Milton who is concerned, let us preferably have the written internal passport. We would barter all the books which we have indicated for the Florio's Montaigne with the poet's signature on the fly-leaf, albeit it is in no better a covering than its Shakespearian jacket of shabby old calf.
More than one volume in the earlier range depends very disproportionately for its interest on the preliminary matter in the form of a Preface or Dedication. In Prefaces, Dedications, Epistles, 1874, the writer drew attention to this point, and furnished a considerable series of such prolegomena in illustration of the fact. But there are cases, of course, where the inscription is of a piece with the book, as in Davenant's Madagascar, 1638, where the poet wrote and printed on the leaf following the title: "If these Poems live, may their Memories, by whom they were cherish'd, End. Porter, H. Jarmyn, live with them."
The Imprimatur, or License to the Printer, occasionally supplies a curious literary or biographical side-light. That to Davenant's play of the Witts, 1636, runs: "This Play, called the WITTS, as it was Acted without offence, may be Printed, not otherwise, 19 Ianuary, 1635. Henry Herbert;" and before Blount's Jocular Tenures, 1679, we find: "I well knowing the Learning and industry of the Author, do allow the Printing of this Book. Fra. North." Once more there is Sir Isaac Newton's Principia, 1687, with "Imprimatur. S. Pepys."
Materials on which books are printed—Early popular works printed on vellum—The edition de luxe again—Binding of books—Earliest method and style—Printers who were also binders—Superiority of morocco to russia and calf—Influence of climate and atmosphere on bindings—Character of old English bindings—Charm of a Caxton or other precious volume in the original covers—A first folio Shakespeare in old calf—Our latter-day literature compared with the old—Splendour of the liveries of books in the libraries of France under the ancient regime—Disappointment at the interiors of well-bound volumes explained—The author plays a subordinate part—The Parisian book-binding Code—The difference between the French and ourselves—The original publisher's boards—The Frenchman's maroquin rouge—A suggestion to collectors—Bibliographical simulacra—Do not touch!—Sentiment finds a place in England in regard to the treatment of old books—Thoughts which a book may awaken.
IT may be necessary to introduce a few words about the material on which the Printed Book has at various times been brought before its readers, or at least its purchasers. The oldest European fabrics employed for books of this class (not MSS.) were paper and parchment, the latter very often prepared with very slight care, but the former of remarkable strength and durability. The cost must have been at first very onerous; but impressions of ancient volumes were usually limited. By degrees, fine vellum, alike conspicuous for its delicacy of quality and beauty of tone, was introduced, and became fashionable among the patrons of literature in Italy and elsewhere during the Renaissance. No such luxurious mode of presenting the type and giving full effect to the work of the illuminator, which so constantly formed a feature and a charm in the productions of the presses of the Continent of Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries has ever since been found possible. It is rather singular that not merely classical authors and other editiones principes received this sumptuous treatment, but even such books as grammars and theological treatises. A copy of the Grammatica of Alexander Gallus (or De Villa Dei) was lately offered for sale by auction, and realised L23; it was printed on vellum of excellent character and colour about 1480.
A visit to the galleries where the show-cases are ranged at the British Museum in intelligible order, is by no means the worst method of arriving at an introductory or general acquaintance with this aspect of the matter. For there examples of printing on parchment or vellum in all countries from the earliest period are conveniently grouped together. The National Library is fairly rich in treasures of the present class, partly owing to the two facts, that it has inherited a good deal from the old royal collections and the Grenville one, and that it was already in the field when prices were more consistent with the financial resources of the institution. Among the productions on vellum here to be found are the Gutenberg, and Fust and Schoeffer, Bibles (1455-62); the Psalters of 1457 and 1459; the Cicero of 1465; the Livy of 1469; the Book of St. Albans, 1486; one of the two known Caxtons on vellum (the Speculum Vitae Christi, bought of Mr. Maskell in 1864); the Sarum Missals of 1492 and 1497; the Great Bible of 1540; and the Works of Aquinas, in seventeen folio volumes, formerly belonging to Pope Pius V. and Philip III. of Spain. A curious episode is connected with the last item. In the time of Panizzi the copy was offered for sale, and the Museum commission (L300, we believe) was topped; but the book occurred again, and was acquired by Coventry Patmore, who presented it to the establishment, where he had for many years been an officer.
On the whole, there is no doubt that the English, and much more the Scotish, printers employed this costly and durable substance far more sparingly than those of the Continent. Of many no specimens whatever have descended to us; and the circumstances render it improbable that we shall hereafter add sensibly to our stores in this direction. In the case even of the Romish service-books, printed on paper, it is a matter of common knowledge among book-lovers that the Canon Missae, which was subject to exceptional wear and tear, is usually on vellum.
In our own language, works which we are accustomed to view as essentially popular were occasionally struck off (in a few copies, no doubt) on parchment. There is the edition of Helyas, Knight of the Swan, printed by Wynkyn de Worde, 1512, of which only one copy remains, and the metrical version of the Ship of Fools, from the same press, 1509, of which an unique copy is in the National French library. Let us recollect, too, the Scotish Boece of 1536, the Great Bible of 1539, and the Tudor Prayer-Book of 1544.
Except paper, parchment (called in some old documents parthemen), and vellum, there are no substances which can be said to boast any degree of antiquity, so far as European literature is concerned. We have, as is sufficiently well known, many others of comparatively modern introduction, which tend to impart to the editions or specimens for which they are employed a special value and curiosity. Such are: (1) Whatman's hand-made paper; (2) Dutch paper (papier de Hollande), of which there are cheap and worthless imitations; (3) China paper; (4) India paper; (5) Japanese (so-called) vellum; (6) tinted paper; (7) writing paper; (8) motley paper or paper of different colours; (9) silk; (10) satin.
The edition de luxe has consumed in its time an enormous total of some of these descriptions of receptacle for literary products. The lovers of the Select in Books, who more commonly regard their possessions as vertu rather than as vehicles of instruction or amusement, not unnaturally prefer something which the ordinary purchaser cannot procure, or at any rate does not seek. The fancy appears to be, for the most part, worse than futile, unless it is that books with engravings sometimes gain by being taken off on one or another of these materials; although in practice illustrations are found to be just as apt to come out well on ordinary paper of good quality as on spurious vellum. It was not unusual in the last century, in Mexico and in South America, to print on silk even ordinary works; it may have been possibly found cheaper than paper. Satin is purely ceremonial.
Certain books occur of various dates, such as the Livre de Quatre Couleurs, printed on paper of various shades or colours, either for some passing reason or as a mere matter of fancy. A modern jest-book appeared not long since, harmoniously executed on motley paper in a motley binding—a humorous conceit!
It is sufficiently remarkable that neither the Printing nor the Book-binding industries ever erected themselves into societies or guilds, as did the representatives of so many trades far less important in the nature as well as the influence of their products. All the early typographers, at all events from the sixteenth century, were members of the Stationers' Company, and the investiture of books in liveries of different kinds became the function of an unprivileged and unchartered body, of which our knowledge is on that account even more limited and imperfect than it would otherwise have been. It is only through occasional and casual notices in correspondence or diaries that we hear of those who bound volumes for the older collectors, and we have to wait till we come down to the Harleian era, before we find artificers of this class in possession of a recognised calling and competent staff. Three employments, which have long been independent and distinct, those of the printer, stationer, and binder, were therefore at first and during a prolonged period in the same hands and under the same roof.
Anterior to the introduction of printed books, the literary product or record was either rolled up (volutus) or stitched, with or without a wrapper; and hence, when there were no volumes in the more modern acceptation in existence, there were rolls. We do not agree with the editor of Aubrey's Letters, &c., 1813, where, in a note to a letter from Thomas Baker to Hearne, he (the editor) remarks that the term explicitus was applied to the completion of the process of unfolding a roll: it always signified the termination of the labour of the scribe, and even in early printed books occurs in the form explicit to convey the same idea on the part of the printer.
The most ancient binders were the monks, who stitched together their own compositions or transcripts, or, when the volume was more substantial, encased it in oaken boards, which a subsequent hand often improved and preserved by a coat of leather. But laymen were occasionally their own binders, as we perceive in the note to Warton's Poetry, where a "Life of Concubranus" in MS. is said to have been bound by William Edis, afterward a monk at Burton-on-Trent, while he was a student at Oxford in 1517.
At Durham and Winchester there were notable schools of art of the present class in the Middle Ages, and specimens occasionally occur, though rarely in good state. A very fine Winchester piece of work was sold in 1898 among William Morris's books (No. 580), and all over the country and abroad, even down to the present time, the inmates of religious institutions occupy themselves with the same industry on a less ambitious scale, and with infinitely less artistic and picturesque results.
When Barclay wrote his English paraphrase of Brandt's Stulltifera Navis about 1508, it almost seems as if the type of connoisseur, who understood the outside better than the interior of a book, was already in evidence, for the writer says:—
"Still am I busy bookes assembling, For to have plentie it is a pleasaunt thing In my concept, and to haue them ay in hand: But what they meane do I not vnderstand. . . . Lo in likewise of bookes I haue store, But fewe I reade, and fewer vnderstande, I folowe not their doctrine nor their lore, It is ynough to beare a booke in hande."
In Barclay's English Ship of Fools, 1509, it is stated that at that time damask, satin, and velvet were employed as luxurious materials for the covering of books, and it seems to have been usual to draw a curtain before the case in which they were preserved. Showy or gay bindings were approved, especially where the owner was not a reader, but, to quote the Latin text, was "Viridi contentus tegmine libri."
The formation of Book-binding into a distinct employment and organisation must have preceded any explicit evidence of the fact. The gradual increase in the output of literature of all kinds from the days of Elizabeth necessitated the surrender to an independent craft of the envelopment of volumes in various liveries, more especially when the French and Italians had set the fashion of elaborate ornamental patterns and rich gilding. Already in the time of Edward VI. the tariff chargeable for certain quasi-official publications, such as the Bible and Book of Common Prayer, was fixed by Government, and at a later date scales of prices for binding in different styles or materials were periodically printed. That of 1646 is reprinted entire in the Antiquary for 1886.
The most usual styles were plain brown sheep or calf without any lettering, a publisher's label inside the volume sometimes supplying the latter deficiency, and communicating to a shelf of books an aspect far from picturesque; but vellum or parchment of varying consistence was also a favourite and inexpensive mode of covering the contents of a library. Morocco and russia were later innovations, and the former is not unusually found altogether free from decoration or gilding and with a lettering, probably abbreviated and obscure, on the back. Very sumptuous examples alike of calf and turkey leather binding frequently present themselves, either executed for ordinary persons, or without any note of the original owner; many are more or less successful copies of Continental models, such as the Lyonnese calf, the Grolier and Maioli pattern; but in general our ancestors seem to have been satisfied with the paned sides and floriate back, unless heraldic accessories intervened to usurp the space occupied by the lateral ornament or (as in some of John Evelyn's or his sovereign's books) a gilt ornamental cypher formed the dorsal embellishment.
A visit to some old church or parish, or even cathedral, library nowadays may afford a notion of the external aspect of the early book-closet of the English student or amateur. The glass case is conspicuously absent; the shelf on which the volumes are ranged has to our eyes a ragged, slatternly look; and nothing can well be more opposite to modern taste. Yet the feeling for the printed matter between the two covers or behind the paper label was more genuine, may be, and more practical when a handful of volumes, reflecting the personal predilections or requirements of the owner, gradually accumulated, and the acquisition did not amount to a pursuit, much less to a passion and a competitive race.
The professional binding of books in our country, whether they had been actually produced here or had been purchased abroad, was at the outset almost exclusively executed by printers, who must have had a special department to carry out this branch of work. We hear of the site of Dean Colet's original school having been a bookbinder's, and of the teaching establishment occupying the upper part of the building. The usual style of binding appears to have been the covering of stamped leather, of which such a rich store of examples still survives, and which was copied from the German and Low-Country models. For weightier books oaken boards frequently served as a foundation, on which the leather was laid. Our sovereigns and nobility employed Pynson, Berthelet, Raynes, and other typographers to clothe the volumes which formed their libraries, before the more luxurious and splendid fashion was introduced of investing them in richly gilt calf bindings, with or without armorial cognisances, and these were again superseded by the adoption of the Continental taste for Levant morocco (maroquin de Constantinople).
Down to the time of the earlier Stuarts the binding department more than probably remained part of the printer's functions, and calf or sheep was the usual material employed. Thomas Vautrollier, however, the Elizabethan typographer, who carried on business in the Black Friars, and who adopted the Anchora Spei as a device on his title-pages, seems to have occasionally bound copies of his own publications in morocco with the same symbol on the covers in gold—perhaps to order; and Lyonnese calf was another style in favour at the same date. Some highly preserved specimens of the latter have descended to us.
Another of the earlier essays in England in the direction of morocco bindings appears to have had in view as a model the Grolieresque style of decoration. A copy of a Latin Bible printed at Venice in 1537, and presented in 1563 by the Earl of Arundel to Sir William Petre, bears the crest of the Fitzalans, a white horse, on sides enclosed in a painted design, the compartments filled in with a dotted pattern. But examples of the same or a similar class are by no means uncommon. A copy of a very common volume, Knolles's History of the Turks, 1638, was sold among the Morris books in 1898 at a high price on account of the very charming red morocco binding, richly gilt, with the unusual feature of side-panels filled in with dotted scrolls.
Early Continental collectors more usually than our own registered not only the place and date of purchase on the fly-leaf or title-page, but the circumstances attendant on the binding, as we find in the volume of tracts elsewhere mentioned, put into their existing covers in 1469, in the nearly coeval assemblage of tracts formed and bound by Udalric Ellenbog in 1476, and in the Latin Petrarch of 1501, bound for Antonius Kressen of Nuernberg in 1505, now in the British Museum.
The middle-period schools of collectors and binders, who displayed a preference for morocco over russia and calf, were assuredly wise in their generation. Much of the russia has perished, or is perishing fast, under a variety of deleterious agencies; and the more modern calf, at least, does not bear its years well. But morocco, at first more expensive, withstands infinitely better and longer the incidence of social life. What noble sets of books, as well as single volumes, have almost crumbled away in damp country-houses, sometimes relegated to the garret or the stable by the intelligent and highly-educated proprietors, while others have fallen a prey to gas and dust in town. These sources of injury and natural ruin no material can of course long resist; and, the foreigner often enjoying the advantage of a less impure atmosphere, and not usually aiming at a larger collection than may be necessary as chamber-furniture, his acquisitions are apt to come down to us in a more contemporary state, although we grant that, where certain postulates have been fulfilled, we have shown our capability of presenting to a distant age an assemblage of the ancient literature of our own and other countries as immaculate as when it changed hands over the counter in Tudor or in Stuart times.
Binding and Bibliography, no less than literature, are in opposite lobbies as regards the character of the objects which one sees submitted to periodical competition. The taste in books has undergone revolutionary changes; the volumes on which early owners lavished extravagant sums have too often become per se waste paper; and it consequently happens that a catalogue devoted to an account of such relics of the past has to register titles and names which play a subordinate part in the matter, and are, as it were, merely useful as a means of identification.
While a large number of splendid examples of binding in russia and morocco have been produced in Great Britain, there has scarcely been at any time a school of binding analogous to those which France, and even Italy, have known, each with its distinctive and recognisable characteristics; nor have we attained in the liveries of our books to the same splendour and beauty of decoration, or to an equal degree of historical or personal interest.
A large number of fine examples present themselves in our sale-rooms here, formerly ornaments of some of the noble collections formed in different parts of Germany; too often they show traces of neglect, yet occasionally they have preserved their pristine beauty and freshness almost unimpaired. They are, for the most part, of the very favourite class, where the oaken boards constitute a receptacle or foundation for an encasement of leather (frequently pigskin) stamped with some beautiful historiette on either side, and carrying the date and other particulars of origin and ownership. We meet with numerous specimens from time to time of the libraries of the Electors of Saxony and Bavaria in this picturesque and becoming raiment.
There should be by right, and with advantage, as distinct an intellectual spirit or element of thought in the binding as in the writing and printing of a book. A man who traces on the covers and back of a volume lines, curves, circles, crescents, scrolls, and other figures without harmony and without significance—in other words, without mind or esprit—is no true artist, but either an unskilful copyist or a rude beginner. Different schools naturally adopted new ideas of the beautiful or the elegant; some of our most ancient patterns were scriptural or mathematical; the age ruled the prevailing taste and fashion, and everything in and out of Nature has had its turn and its day. Then, again, nationality goes for something: the Frenchman is fond of his lis and the Scot of his thistle.
Artistic and historical book-covers have more than a special and technical importance, inasmuch as they contribute to enrich a pursuit which might otherwise become more limited in its interest than it is. For gay or splendid bindings assist in bringing the Book, manuscript or printed, within the category of antiquities or curiosities, where it awakens sentiments in the breasts of persons, neither literary nor bibliographical in their tastes, akin to those which they entertain for a specimen of old furniture or old porcelain; and so indeed we see entire libraries, which are little more than assemblages of triumphs of the binder's art and agreeable memorials of prior ownership. A once rather famous emporium in Piccadilly was known as the Temple of Leather and Literature, because the extrinsic was supposed to govern; and the same point is illustrated by the enormous difference in pecuniary value between copies of many old works in morocco and in more humble garb. Here Dress makes the book no less than in the song it is said to make the man. So it was with the three independent libraries of Mesdames de France, daughters of Louis XV. Each of these ladies had her favourite hue in morocco, with the royal arms on the sides; for Madame Adelaide it was red, for Madame Sophie, citron, and for Madame Victoire, green or olive. The ornamental details of early bindings, especially those of Continental origin, embrace nearly every section of natural history: beasts, birds, fishes, insects, flowers, and fruit, and endless varieties of geometrical lines and curves. A Spanish New Testament, printed at Venice in 1556, even presented on its sides what were described in the Ashburnham Catalogue as "richly gilt raindrops." Among flowers we most frequently meet with the rose, the daisy, the lily, and the tulip.
Many varieties of form in connection with the gift of books to friends or patrons formerly subsisted, apart from the autograph note inside the volume. We have adverted to the Grolier group of bindings and certain other allied types perhaps borrowed from Grolier, and the practice was followed, though on a very limited scale, in England, where the token in all cases was mainly confined to the title or fly-leaf, and consequently enters into a distinct category. A very unusual example of presentation occurs in a copy printed on vellum of Voerthusius' Consecrationis Augustae Liber Unus, printed at Antwerp in 1563, where the centres of either side of the volume are occupied by an inscription in gold letters to the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne.
Of the Grolier examples which have descended to us—and possibly the greater part has done so—we possess two or three types as regards the mode of registering the proprietorship; the books occur with and without the autograph: "Jo. Grolierij Lugdunensis: et Amicorum," which generally occurs at the end, and with variant mottoes: "Portio mea Domine sit in Terra Viventium," "Spes mea Dominus et verbo ejus fidem habeo," and "AEque difficilior." He was a noble patron of learning, and on the title of a volume on Music, printed in 1518, dedicated to him, appear his arms and the motto, "Joannes Grolierius Musarum Cultor."
To the same school belongs the equally well-known Maioli, with the similar method of establishing his claim: "Tho. Maioli et Amicorum;" Cristoforo Beneo of Milan ("Questo libro e de Christophore Beneo de Milano e soi Amize"); Antonio Maldonado, of whom a volume of Petrarch has on the upper cover the name of the poet, and on the reverse, "D. Antonio Maldonado," with a shield enclosing five fleurs-de-lis; and Penelope Coleona, with flowering vases heightened in silver, and her initials at the foot of the book.
This is, of course, a most fascinating and covetable class of possession, and the difficulty of procuring genuine specimens of the Henry Deux and Diane de Poitiers bindings, and of all the other sumptuous and artistic productions of a like character belonging to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, has naturally suggested to certain ingenious persons the desirability of counterfeiting them. The Maioli bindings have long been subject to this treatment and abuse; but at present almost every other book which offers itself in a fine state of preservation is suspicious from a wholesale system of forgery, which has more or less recently been introduced with considerable success, and culminated in an entire sale at a leading auction-room of a library almost exclusively composed of such fabrications.
Of the genuine old English bindings, the usual materials are vellum or parchment and sheep or calf. All these may be, and in general are, ostentatiously plain; but they are, on the contrary, susceptible of being rendered in the highest degree ornamental. Nothing is more agreeable to the eye, and even the touch, than an old book in contemporary gilt calf, with arms on the sides, or in the original vellum wrapper, or, again, in the plebeian mutton.
The two former modes of treatment may, as we have said, be developed to any extent in the direction of tooling and gilding; the sheep has to be left unadorned—simplex munditiis.
What can we desire more characteristic and harmonious than a Caxton, uncut and in oaken boards, or even in a secondary vesture of vellum, like the Holford copy of the Life of Godfrey of Bouillon? Or than a volume of Elizabethan poetry or a first Walton's Angler, in the primitive sheep, as clean as a new penny, like the Huth examples of Turbervile, 1570, and Walton? The purest copy of the first folio Shakespeare we ever saw was Miss Napier's, in the original calf, but wanting the verses. It sold at the sale for L151, and subsequently for over L400. There exist such things as Laneham's Letter from Kenilworth, 1575, Spenser's Faery Queen, 1590, Allot's England's Parnassus, 1600, and Davison's Poetical Rhapsody, 1611, in the pristine vellum wrappers; and one of the Bodleian copies of Brathwaite's most rare Good Wife, 1618, is just as it was received 280 years since from the stationer who issued it. Would any one wish to see these remains tricked out in the sprucest, or even the richest, modern habiliments?
Among ourselves in these islands we commonly prize and preserve (even in a leathern case) a highly preserved specimen of Tudor or Stuart binding; and there are instances where to exchange the old coat for a new one, however magnificent or (so to speak) appropriate, is not merely sacrilege, but absolute surrender of value. A copy of the first folio Shakespeare, of a Caxton, of Spenser's Faery Queen, in unblemished primitive clothing, could not be re-attired without making the party convicted of the act liable to capital punishment without benefit of clergy.
Besides the methods and kinds of binding above mentioned, there are others of a metallic and a textile character. We find volumes clothed in bronze, silver, silver-gilt, gold, and embroidered silks, the last variety usually associated with the Nunnery of Little Gidding, without absolute certainty of correctness so far as the claim set up on behalf of that institution to be an exclusive source of such products goes. Mr. Brassington has furnished in his well-known work examples of all these more or less exceptional and luxurious liveries. In the most precious metal the most celebrated specimen is the Book of Prayers of Lady Elizabeth Tirrwhyt, 1574, formerly belonging to Queen Elizabeth, and ascribed to the Edinburgh goldsmith, George Heriot. Next in point of rarity to gold comes bronze; silver and silver-gilt are comparatively frequent; and the embroidered style is only uncommon where the execution and condition are unimpeachable, as in the case of a few in our public libraries. The most ordinary books found within embroidered covers are small editions of the Common Prayer and Psalms; and they are almost invariably in a dilapidated state. Gilding books was usually considered at a later epoch, at all events in France, part of the business of a binder, and so perhaps it may have been in the case of Dubuisson, who flourished about the middle of the last century at Paris; yet we observe on his ticket attached to an exquisitely gilt copy of an almanac for 1747, in red morocco of the period, simply "Dore par Dubuisson," as if that portion or branch of the work only had been his.
Some curious episodes have ere now occurred in connection with sets of books, or even works in two or three volumes, in historical bindings, or with a remarkable and interesting provenance of another kind. It was only at the sale of the last portion of the Ashburnham Library (1898), No. 3574, that the third and fourth parts of Tasso, Rime e Prose, 1589, bound together by Clovis Eve for Marie-Marguerite de Valois Saint-Remy, was acquired by a French firm through Mr. Quaritch, the purchaser having already secured at the Hamilton Palace sale the first and second portions, also in one volume, in the same binding, and the set still wants Parts v.-vi., so that it will demand a small fortune to effect a perfect reunion.
It is hazardous to discount the durability and permanence of our best modern bindings of English origin, and to answer our own question, whether hereafter they will be appreciated in the same way as those of the old masters here and abroad. Yet we think that we can offer a valid and persuasive reason why we shall fall short of former ages in this handicraft. The feudal conditions and atmosphere, which go far to win our regard or arrest our attention in the case of the older binders and their work, have vanished, and can never revive. It is with the book from this point of view as it is from that of the autograph inscription or signature; both are extensions of the owner's personality; and what a personality it was! Those who follow us at a distance may find reason to think and speak differently; but we can at the present moment scarcely realise the possibility of our latter-day literature acquiring a pedigree and an incrusted fragrance such as belong to works, however dull and worthless in themselves, from the libraries of Grolier, Maioli, De Thou, Peiresc, or Pompadour. There is a sort of sensation of awe in taking up these volumes, as if they had passed through some holy ordeal, as if they had been canonised. It is not the piece of dressed leather with its decorative adjuncts which casts its spell over us: it is the reputation of the courtly patron of learning and art; of the statesman and soldier who sought a diversion in the formation of a library from severer employments; of the prince who loved to gather round him such evidences of his taste, or to lay them at the feet of a chere amie; of the licentious but superb Lady Marquise, who vied with her king in the magnificence of her books, as she did with his consort in that of her toilette—it is this which exercises upon our imagination its ridiculous yet unalterable sway.
It is impossible to avoid the discovery, if we take for the first time a survey of a library chiefly conspicuous for the splendour of its bindings, how almost invariably we are disappointed by the contrast between the exterior and the contents. It would probably be far from easy to fill a small case with examples where a really valuable book was enshrined in a covering of corresponding character. It is our ordinary experience to meet with some obsolete nondescript classic, or some defunct theological treatise of alike infinitesimal worth, in a sumptuous morocco garb, bestowed on it by the author as a compliment to his sovereign, or by the sovereign as an oblation to his mistress. In those princely establishments for which such things were destined and reserved, it was necessary that all the constituent features should correspond in external grandeur, the costumes of the great folks themselves, the furniture, the decorations, the equipages, the dependents, the book-bindings.
The remarkable changes of taste in books cannot be more powerfully and decisively exemplified than by the thousands of volumes which have descended to us in all languages and many branches of literature in liveries once only a subsidiary feature in the eyes of the possessors or acquirers, and at present often the sole title to regard and the sole object of competition. The work has become mere printed paper; but it is perhaps not less covetable as a triumph of bibliopegistic art, than as a memorial of the distinguished or interesting personages through whose hands it has passed to our own. The book, alas! has degenerated into a vehicle for external accessories. We are asked to admire, not the quality of the text or the style of the writer, but the beauty of the type, the splendour of the ink, and the elegance of the initial letters, on the one hand; on the other, the excellence of the leather, the brilliance of the gilding, the ingenuity and skill of the design, and the curiosity of the ex libris. But this has to be kept well in mind. It is the binding which constitutes the supreme feature of importance and attraction. A second copy in shabby attire may plead in vain its merits of production; but it fares as ill as a person of the highest respectability who labours under the misfortune of being badly dressed.
There is no point of distinction on the part of our own countrymen more marked and enduring than the very qualified allegiance which they give to the Parisian book-binding code. It is true enough that in England we admire not merely the old French School, but the modern one; but our loyalty and liking are by no means unreserved. A Frenchman, in nine cases out of ten, will not, in the first place, buy any book that was born out of France, any more than he will buy an article of furniture or china, or a coin, emanating from a less favoured soil; nor will he willingly acquire even a volume of native origin in any state but the orthodox morocco; but his first impulse and act, if he does so under protest, is to strip and re-clothe the disreputable article, and have it put into habiliments worthy of the cabinet choisi of Monsieur.
Now, we have had, and no doubt have still, on this side of the Channel certain heathens in the likeness of collectors who, no matter how perfect and how fresh, and how suitable, the original jacket, commit the heinous offence of following the Continental mode, and in such a way thousands of lovely examples, transmitted to us as heirlooms from our ancient families, have been sacrificed. But let us congratulate ourselves that we have among us many who know better, who will not even let the binder desecrate a faultless copy of Tennyson, Byron, Shelley, or Keats in the publisher's boards.
This is, however, not exactly an analogy. The analogy arises and grows possible when we compare such writers as Montaigne, Moliere, Corneille, or again, certain of the Elzevir series, with our corresponding foremost names. If we meet with the latter in vellum or in sheep, we only too gladly preserve them as we find them, provided that the outward garb is irreproachable. Of how many gems do we not know, in all the peerless glory of their pristine life, tenderly ensconced in morocco envelopes. Let them never be acquainted with another existence! Let no binder's unholy hand come near them! Let them be exhibited as historical monuments.
On the other hand, if we could oblige Monsieur to comply with this law, he would be desole; for it is not the matter which makes the book; it is the maroquin rouge.
Even in England, where we are more robust in our taste, the true collector is not a reader. He may buy a cheap book now and then; but he hands it to the cook when he has perused it. Such things are outside his category; they are for those interesting creatures the toiling million. His possessions or desiderata are not vehicles of instruction; they are far too valuable; they are objects of ocular and sensuous indulgence equally with china, paintings, sculpture, and coins. They are classable with bric-a-brac. You have an opportunity of appreciating the quality of the paper or vellum, the type, and the binding. The merits of the author are reserved.
It is better, if a gentleman leans a little to the practical side, and chooses to admit literature for actual reading, to have two cases, one for Books, the other for Bibliographical Simulacra. For it is not for one till he has graduated to lay his prentice fingers on a tome in the pristine mutton, or to endanger the maidenhood of a Clovis Eve, a Padeloup, or a Derome, which you must handle as if it were the choicest and daintiest proof medal or etching. Why, one has to bear in mind that he is not dealing with a mere ordinary source of intellectual gratification and improvement, but with a mechanical product perfect in all its parts. Let him come gloved, and his friend the owner will bless him.
Between a book bound in its original cloth or paper boards, and one in its rich vesture of morocco or russia, there is a contrast similar to that between a woodland and a park. In the one case, at a distance, perhaps, of fifty or even a hundred years from the period of publication, we hold in our hand a volume precisely in the state in which it passed from that of the contemporary salesman to the contemporary buyer; and not a stain nor a finger-mark save the mellowing touch of time is upon it anywhere. Let us look at the description in a sale catalogue of such a rarity as Lamb's Poetry for Children, 1807, "in the original grey boards, with red labels," or a copy of the first edition of Fielding's Tom Jones, absolutely uncut, and in the bookseller's pristine covers, or, better still, of the first part of the first edition of Spenser's Faery Queen, 1590, in the Elizabethan wrapper! It is not the mere circumstance, let it be understood, of untrimmed edges which makes the charm; many a book or pamphlet occurs as innocent of the binder's knife as the lamb unborn, and highly desirable it is too; but to render an example of this class complete, its authentic outward integument in blameless preservation is as essential to its repute and its marketable worth as the presence of the claws is held to be in the original valuation of a fur of fox or beaver.
No educated eye can regard with indifference a more or less interesting volume clothed in a becoming livery by an accomplished artist either of other times or of these. If it is an ancient vesture, with the credentials in the form of a coat of arms, an ex libris, or a signature, or all of these, handed down with it to us, we appear to be able to disregard time, and feel ourselves brought within touch of the individual who owned it, of him who encased it in its lavishly gilt leathern coat, and of the circle to which it was long a familiar object, as it reposed unmolested in a corner of some petite bibliotheque or study during generations—if the subject of which it treated had to be handled, a vicarious copy in working raiment doing duty for it. For it is not a book in the ordinary acceptation of the word; it is a souvenir of the past, a message and a voice from remote times, ever growing remoter, or an objet de luxe, a piece of literary, or rather bibliographical, dandyism. In any case, its identity is to be preserved and held sacred.
 Hazlitt's edition, 1871, iii. 193.
English and other national binders—Anonymous bindings—List of binders—The Scotish School—Mr. Quaritch out-bidden—The vellum copy of Boece's Chronicles of Scotland—Most familiar names in England—Embroidered bindings ascribed to the Nuns of Little Gidding—Provincial binders—Edwards of Halifax—Fashion of edge-painting—Amateur binding—Forwarding and finishing—A Baronet-binder—French liveries for English books—Bedford's French style—Incongruity of the Parisian gout with our literature—List of French binders—Ancient stamped leather bindings of Italy, Flanders, and Germany copied in France—Ludovicus Bloc of Bruges—Judocus de Lede—Rarity of early signed examples in France—Andre Boule (1508)—Enhancement of the estimation of old books in France by special bindings—The New Collector counselled and admonished—What he is to do, and where he is to go.
THE English School of Binding brings before us a roll of names borne by artists of successive periods and of varying merit, from the last quarter of the fifteenth century to the present time. That it is by no means exhaustive is due to the circumstance that in the case of many of the older, and some of the more recent, masters, there is no clue to the origin in the shape of an external inscription on the cover, as we find on foreign works, or in that of a ticket or a signature. As it so frequently happens with old pictures, the style of a binder was often, indeed generally, imitated by his pupils or successors, and we are apt to mistake the original productions for the copies, unless we engage in a very close study of minute details.
In the English, Scotish, and Irish series it is equally true that the preponderance of bindings are unidentified. The monastic liveries, in which so many venerable tomes have come down to us, were executed within the walls of the buildings which held the books, and had perhaps produced them; and analogously most of our early printers were binders of their own stocks, as well as of any other works brought to them. We may incidentally remind the reader that one practice on their part was to utilise waste as end-papers or pasteboard, and to that circumstance we are indebted for the recovery of numerous typographical fragments belonging to publications not otherwise known. That Pynson, Julian Notary, John Reynes, and others executed book-binding outside their own productions seems to be proved by the existence of much early literature of foreign origin with English end-papers and covers. In fact, till the Stationers' Company made the sale of books or printed matter a separate industry, the typographer was his own binder and vendor.