What other system in this world could have bestowed that absolute serenity of mind which those who practised chivalry retained amid the tumults of their life? The Saracens, abashed by the tranquil spirit of their royal prisoner, Louis IX., mistook his humility for pride. In vain did they threaten him with torture: the king only replied 'Je suis prisonnier du Sultan, il peut faire de moi a son vouloir.' And when at last the Sultan's murderer rushed into his prison, his hands dripping with blood, and crying, 'What will you give me for having destroyed him who would have put you to death?' the king was more struck with horror at the crime than with fear for his own safety, and remained motionless, disdaining to answer. Thereupon the Saracen, maddened by a tranquillity which he rightly attributed to the immense power of Christian chivalry, presented the point of his blood-stained sword to the king's breast, crying, 'Fais moi chevalier, ou je te tue.' 'Fais toi Chrestien,' replied the intrepid king, 'et je te ferai chevalier.'
We are accustomed nowadays to look upon chivalry merely as a knightly institution which had to do solely with tournaments, banquets, knight-errantry, and the rescuing of encastled maidens. The modern acceptance of the term omits all those gentle qualities of mind which go to make the true chivalric disposition. We associate chivalry with 'fair play' combined with 'manliness'; and humility has no part in it. Indeed it never enters into our mind that it was a system of 'humanyte, curtosye, and gentylnesse.' More, it was a religion deeply ingrained in the hearts of men, a religion which spread through all grades of society, and one which consisted in the beatifying of the noblest qualities of human nature; and it has left an indelible mark upon our national character. Chivalry is not dead to-day as thoughtless people so often exclaim; it will never die so long as our national characteristics endure, though to-day it passes under a different name. 'Sport' we call it now, and we pride ourselves in being 'sporting' even in the hour of death—witness the countless instances brought about by the late great war.
Bertrand du Guesclin, one of the greatest and most fearless exponents of the chivalric spirit, and the Black Prince's most redoubtable enemy, fell at last into the hands of the English. One day at Bordeaux the Prince summoned him from his prison, and asked him how he fared. 'Par may foy, monseigneur,' replied Bertrand, 'il m'ennuye de n'entendre que le chant des Souris de Bourdeaux; je voudrois bien ouyr les Rossignols de nostre pais'; but he added that he loved honour better than aught else and never had anything brought him more glory than his prison, seeing that, as all the other prisoners had been ransomed, he was kept there only through fear of his prowess. The Prince of Wales, touched in his honour (or rather pride) at du Guesclin's words, agreed to liberate Bertrand upon payment of seventy thousand florins of gold. 'But what was more extraordinary in this adventure,' says a French chronicler, 'was that the Princess of Wales gave him thirty thousand, and Sir John Chandos, who had taken him prisoner, took upon himself to pay what was wanting to make the sum complete.' 'Sporting,' was it not? Truly we are a marvellous race, and it is not to be wondered that other nations, from whom this spirit has long passed away, despair of ever being able to understand us.
England has always been the home of chivalry. La Colombiere in his 'Vray Theatre d'Honneur et de Chevalerie ou le Miroir Heroique de la Noblesse' remarks that the greatest number of the old romances have been more particularly employed in celebrating the valour of the knights of this kingdom than that of any other; because, in fact, they have always loved such exercises in an especial manner. 'The city of London,' writes Francisco de Moraes in the 'Palmerin de Inglaterra,' 'contained in those days all, or the greater part, of the chivalry of the world.' In Perceforest a damozel says to his companion 'Sire chevalier, I will gladly parley with you because you come from Great Britain; it is a country which I love well, for there habitually (coustumierement) is the finest chivalry in the world; c'est le pays au monde, si comme je croy, le plus remply des bas et joyeulx passetemps pour toutes gentilles pucelles et jeunes bacheliers qui pretendent a honneur de chevalerie.'
The entire cycle of legends which has the Holy Grail for its centre is concerned with Britain and Britain alone. Caerleon and Winchester, Tintagel and Glastonbury, these are the chief stages in this great romance of perfect knighthood; and whether related by a scribe of Hainault in the thirteenth century or sung by a Welsh bard before the Norman Conquest or praised at the court at Paris by the favourite troubadour of Philip Augustus, it is all one as regards the setting and the chief characters. 'Whether for goodly men or for chivalrous deeds, for courtesy or for honour,' wrote the Norman chronicler Wace in the middle of the twelfth century, 'in Arthur's day England bore the flower from all the lands near by, yea from every other land whereof we know. The poorest peasant in his smock was a more courteous and valiant gentleman than was a belted knight beyond the sea.'
There is a pleasing story which relates how Robert Bruce, marching with his army in the mountains of Ireland, heard a woman crying during one of the halts. He inquired immediately what was the matter, and was told that it was a camp-follower, a poor laundress, who was taken in child-bed; and as it was impossible to take her with them, she bemoaned her fate in being left behind to die. The king replied that he is no man who will not pity a woman then. He ordered that a tent should be pitched for her immediately, and that she should be attended at once by the other women; and there he tarried his host until she had been delivered and could be carried along with them. 'This,' says the Chronicler, 'was a full great courtesy.' Chivalry? In the very highest sense of the word.
We must be careful lest, losing sight of the many attributes of chivalry, we incline towards the erroneous view that it was confined entirely to the upper classes. That the manuscript volumes of the romantic tales which were so eagerly purchased and treasured by the educated classes could never possibly come into the hands of the rude illiterate peasants is a fallacious argument. Scanty indeed would be our folk-lore had it all been transmitted graphically. Chaucer bears evidence of the widespread popularity of these heroic tales in his day:
'Alexaundres storie is so commune That every wight that hath discrecioune Hath herde somewhat or al of his fortune.'
The incidents of these immortal tales were as well known to the humblest as to the highest in the land. We have abundant evidence of their popularity when recounted in front of the fire in hostel or homestead. Even so late as Milton's day it was the custom to recount knightly adventures and fairy tales about the evening fireside. When
the live-long daylight fail Then to the Spicy Nut-brown Ale, With stories told of many a feat, How Faery Mab the junkets eat, . . . . . . Where throngs of Knights and Barons bold, In weeds of Peace high triumphs hold, With store of Ladies, whose bright eyes Rain influence, and judge the prise,
until at length
Thus done the Tales, to bed they creep, By whispering Winds soon lull'd asleep.
How great a part of the pleasures of this world have they missed whose pulses are never stirred by the Spirit of Romance! Content and Peace of Mind may be had by all who will offer up sacrifices to obtain them; but Imagination is not to be had at any price unless it be a part of our birthright. Content may yield a tranquillity of mind that refreshes the soul, but it is Imagination alone that can produce that spiritual exaltation which takes our minds from worldly things, carries us backwards or forwards through countless ages of the past or aeons of futurity, and enables us to ride in the chariot of Phoebus. It is a vast library in itself.
'He had small need of books; for many a tale Traditionary round the mountains hung, And many a legend, peopling the dark woods, Nourished Imagination in her growth.'
It was the fortune of our book-hunter once to spend an afternoon in June upon the downs near Winchester. To southward of the old town there is a deep grassy hollow, crescent-shaped, its southern slope fringed with wood; and here in the shade he lay reading the 'Morte d'Arthur' of old Malory. Coming at length to the Noble Tale of the Sangreal, he read how King Arthur, having come 'unto Camelot by the houre of undorn on Whytsonday,' and feasting with the fellowship of the Round Table, was told of the marvel wrought unto Balin's sword by Merlin.
You will remember that Balin fought unbeknown with his brother Balan, that each wounded the other unto death, and that they were buried by Merlin in the same tomb. Then Merlin 'lete make by his subtylyte that Balyn's swerd was put in a marbel stone standyng up ryght as grete as a mylle stone, and the stone hoved alweyes above the water, and dyd many yeres, and so by adventure it swam doun the streme to the Cyte of Camelot that is in Englysshe Wynchestre.'
To the west the downs slope steeply into the river valley, and set in the rich green meadows like a skein of silver threads the book-hunter could discern the Itchen with its attendant rivulets. So he gazed across to the stream and pondered over this marvellous stone which 'hoved' always above the water, a sword set in it so that the pommel alone could be seen, 'and in the pomel therof were precyous stones wrought with subtyle letters of gold.' It was the symbol which was to prove the youthful Galahad the haut prince who should achieve the Sangreal.
That same evening, wandering along the river's bank below the city, his head full of the wondrous tale, an adventure befell him. It was dusk, and he had crossed the stream at a ford, when suddenly he saw the stone. It was lying upon its side, not a dozen paces from the water. There was no doubt whatever about it. It was roughly five feet long, about half as wide and thick, and of a curious reddish-brown—the colour of dried blood.
'Sir,' said the squire who brought the news to the King and his Knights, 'there is here bynethe at the Ryver a grete stone which I saw flete above the water, and therin I sawe styckyng a swerd. The Kynge sayde, I wille see that marveill. Soo all the Knyghtes went with hym. And whanne they came unto the ryver they fonde there a stone fletyng, as hit were of reed marbel, and therin stack a fair ryche swerd.'
I confess that not a little awe was mingled with delight as our book-hunter gazed upon the stone, walked round it, touched it! Then suddenly away in the old city a bell tolled, and he recollected that it was Whitsun Eve! That walk home in the twilight was something not easily to be forgotten, and neither supper nor a pipe could bring him back to earth and the twentieth century again. Next morning he was up early, anxious to see if any trace were left of the spot where this marvel had occurred, for it was scarcely possible that the whole adventure was other than a dream. But the spot was soon found, and sure enough there was the stone or peron, and he could examine it in the sunshine at his leisure. How it got there or whence it came it were impossible to guess; the chalk for miles around contains nothing but flints, and the peron was smooth and polished 'as a mill-stone.'
That Winchester is not Camelot antiquaries have told us often enough. The city of the Knights may have been in the West Country or in Wales for aught our bookman cares; but until they can produce a likelier site and a better peron he will continue to take Sir Thomas's word for it.
One other point. I have said that the stone lay some few paces from the water. You will notice when you pay a pilgrimage to the stone (it lies at the ford, hard by a church) that the ground about it is almost level with the water, so that when the river is in flood the stone must be almost submerged: in other words, it would then hove above the water. It is easy to see from the bank on the other side that the river has changed its course by a few yards, leaving the stone now high and dry. If you dispute this, why then I can only say that the stone, as 'by adventure it swam down the stream,' must have been cast there by the river when in flood. That there is a cleft in the stone whence Galahad withdrew the sword I can neither affirm nor deny; it may have closed up, for with perons of this nature all things are possible, or the stone itself may have got turned over. At all events I for one shall not be so rash as to cast suspicion upon so historic a relic.
For those materialists who doubt that such an event ever took place, I will propound a theory. That the first twelve books of the 'Morte d'Arthur' were translated from the French by Sir Thomas Malory seems probable. Caxton says as much in his Preface, and the Epilogue to Book XII. reads, 'Here endeth the second book of Syr Tristram that was drawen oute of Frensshe in to Englysshe. But here is no rehersal of the thyrd book. And here foloweth the noble tale of the Sancgreal that called is the hooly vessel.' It has been shown that the stories of the Holy Grail are probably of Welsh origin, and—Sir Thomas is said to have been a Welshman. Is it possible that he was ever at Winchester, that he wandered on Whitsun Eve (as did our book-hunter) along the Itchen, that he came to and roused over the stone (smooth and polished as a mill-stone), so different from any to be seen hereabout, and that as he wandered back to Camelot he wove the delicious romance about it? At all events, if he were ever there, it is at least possible that the spot was in his mind when adapting the Welsh legends for his book. Mark how well the events which I relate accord with the topography of the spot. The stone was 'beneath at the river,' the damozel who comes to view the marvel 'came rydynge doune the ryver . . . . on a whyte palfroy toward them,' and there is mention of the river meads. It is hard to believe that Sir Thomas would definitely assert that Camelot 'is in English Winchester,' and make it the chief scene of his romance, had he never visited the town.
The book was finished, Caxton tells us, 'the ix yere of the reygne of king edward the fourth,' 1469; but was not 'chapytred and emprynted and fynysshed in th'abbey Westmestre' until 'the last day of July the yere of our lord M.CCCC.LXXXV.,' 1485. Three weeks later a fateful battle was fought—that of Bosworth, which placed the crown upon Harry Tudor's head. The facts that the new king was a great benefactor to Winchester, that he held the castle to have been built by King Arthur, and that he brought hither his queen to be delivered of his first-born (whom he named Arthur), point to something more than a chance connection between the city and the book.
Henry Tudor was also a Welshman, and possibly Malory was of the king's acquaintance, if not actually of his retinue. Bale asserts that Malory was occupied with affairs of state. But conclusions are dangerous things. The preface to the 'Morte d'Arthur' ascribes the ordering of the book to Edward the Fourth. '. . . I made a book unto th'excellent prynce and kyng of noble memorye kyng Edward the fourth. The sayd noble Ientylmen instantly requyred me t'emprynte thystorye of the sayd noble kyng and conquerour king Arthur and of his knyghtes, wyth thystorye of the saynt greal, and of the deth and endynge of the sayd Arthur; Affermyng that . . . there ben in frensshe dyvers and many noble volumes of his actes and also of his knyghtes.' Which looks rather as if Edward the Fourth (who had no reason to love the Welsh—you will remember that he had beheaded Owen Tudor, Richmond's grandfather) had heard of or read Malory's work, and was anxious to possess it in print, though unwilling to credit it to a follower of the Lancastrian party. It is a pleasant field for surmise, and, however wrongly, it is good to picture old Sir Thomas strolling along those pleasant meads beside the river, weaving his immortal cycle of tales.
There is a connection somewhere between Malory and Caxton too. In 1469 Malory finished his book, and in March of that year Caxton began to translate le Fevre's 'Recueil des Histoires de Troyes.' Where and when did Malory meet Caxton, who lived for some years about that time at Bruges, discovering that they possessed the same literary tastes? Did Malory hand the manuscript of his work to Caxton, in the service of the Duchess of Burgundy, sister of Edward the Fourth, and did the great printer (or the Duchess) show it to that king? We shall never know, and only Imagination can fill the gap.
But to continue. It was Whitsunday, and as the last notes of the voluntary echoed away among those 'antick pillars massy proof' of the great church, our book-hunter's thoughts turned once more to King Arthur and his knights. For was it not upon this very day that the vision of the Holy Grail was vouchsafed to them as they sat at meat within the castle hall?
'And thenne the kynge and al estates wente home unto Camelot, and soo wente to evensonge to the grete mynster. And soo after upon that to souper. . . . Thenne anone they herd crakynge and cryenge of thonder, that hem thought the place shold alle to dryve. . . . Not for thenne there was no knyght myghte speke one word a grete whyle. . . . Thenne ther entred in to the halle the holy graile coverd with whyte samyte, but ther was none myghte see hit, nor who bare hit. . . . And whan the holy grayle had be borne thurgh the halle thenne the holy vessel departed sodenly, that they wyste not where hit becam: thenne had they alle brethe to speke.'
So the man of books climbed the hill and presently stood within the beautiful hall with its glorious black marble pillars, sole remnant of the ancient stronghold. The round table (barbarously painted) now hangs upon the western wall, but it needed little imagination to picture it set down in the midst, covered with a fair silken cloth ('the Kynge yede unto the syege Peryllous and lyfte vp the clothe, and fonde there the name of Galahad'), and on it set rich flagons and dishes, strangely wrought and worked with precious stones, and all about the table the famous knights in costumes strange to our eyes. . . . Launcelot upon the king's left, now glancing with fatherly pride upon the youthful Galahad (occupying the Siege Perilous), now smiling up at Queen Guenevere seated in the gallery with her maidens . . . . the walls hung with coarse dull-red cloth and bundles of sweet-smelling herbs hanging here and there, the floor strewn with fresh green rushes, gathered early that morning in the meadows below . . . . by the king's side a snow-white brachet, a golden collar about its neck . . . . and so on and so on. Imagination forsooth! He must be dull indeed who, reading the book and standing in the hall, cannot picture the scene for himself.
It is useless to declaim that the great hall of the castle was not completed until the time of Henry the Third, that it did not exist at all before the Norman Conquest, that the castle occupied by King Arthur is more likely to have been on the site of the more ancient one which stood near the river (now known as Wolvesey), and that the great round table (eighteen feet in diameter, of stout old English oak, cunningly bolted together) was made during the former king's reign and was never used by Arthur at all. What are such crude exactitudes to us? As well object to the heavy plate-armour worn by the knights—everybody knows this to be an anachronism of nigh a thousand years. Romantic phantasy and scientific data are as far apart as the poles, and none but a fool would try to reconcile them. King Arthur feasted in the castle hall, says Malory, and so far as our book-hunter is concerned he shall feast there as often and as long as he likes.
There is a romance, too, about the name of this older castle. Wolvesey its scanty ruins are called to-day, and the antiquarians tell us that this was originally WULF'S EY, or 'the wolf's isle.' Was it once the scene of a battue by the young bloods of the tribe to drive out some wolves that had established themselves there, a fierce fight with axes and spears at close quarters whilst the rest of the tribe lined the opposite banks and prevented any escape? Or was it the scene of some homeric combat seul a seul? Perhaps some day a wolf's skull will be dug up there, with a stone axe sticking in it. But the history of it has gone for ever, had gone, probably, long centuries before King Kynegils found it a strong site for his castle.
It was at Wolvesey that King Alfred himself is said to have penned some part of the Saxon Chronicle now treasured in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He was a true book-lover, this great English king, and it is to the school of illuminators which arose later in the 'new minster' by St. Swithun's that we are indebted for some of the most beautiful examples of mediaeval art that have come down to us. The Golden Book of Edgar, Bede's 'Ecclesiastical History'—in the Cathedral library—and the exquisitely illuminated 'benedictional' of St. AEthelwold possessed by the Duke of Devonshire, all these were produced before the end of the tenth century by the artists who laboured so patiently in the Scriptorium beside those peaceful meadows. For two centuries the Winchester school of illuminators was renowned throughout the western world.
It is a pleasant spot, this ancient city of Camelot, and I like to read that among the aldermen who assembled at the Tun Moot in bygone days were a pinder, a mole-catcher, and an ale-conner. A stout fellow, this last, for without his permission not a single barrel of beer could be broached. The business transacted at the Moot, we are told, was little more than to receive taxes, provide for the defence of the city, and settle disputes. After which the aldermen (with the permission of the ale-conner, it is to be presumed) proceeded to consume the ale allowed to them by custom immemorial at the rate of two gallons a man at each sitting. O tempora, O mores!
At one time, however, that kill-joy Edgar came near to causing an insurrection, for he ordained that all drinking-horns should have pegs set in them at regular intervals and that no man might drink below his peg. Thus were practically abolished those friendly drinking-bouts between Danes and English that did so much to rid the town of its northern intruders. Floreat Wintonia, and may it stand for ever to book-lovers and lovers of romance as the ideal of all that is knightly and kingly and romantic—and hospitable.
It is to be feared, however, that the Spirit of Romance is now moribund—if, indeed, it has not already passed away; and with it we are losing one of the most ennobling qualities in our nature. We pride ourselves nowadays in living in a 'matter-of-fact' age, by which we mean a practical, unromantic age. But is it a matter for so much pride after all? Granted that the benefits which have accrued to mankind during the past century and a half are worth all the Romance in the world; but is the relegation of Romance to the domain of History a sine qua non so far as progress is concerned? In our haste to get on we have tried to drive Romance and Progress in tandem, with steady-going Progress in the shafts; but having found that together they need skilful handling, we have unharnessed the leader and hitched him on behind, to be dragged along anyhow in our wake.
There must be many who regard the loss of romantic ideals as a matter for more than passing regret. Reverence, too, not only for our elders and betters but even for the great works of our predecessors, is going the way of its cousin, Romance. Recently, rambling over the Hampshire downs, our bookman toiled up the grassy bosom of this rolling land to a still loftier height whence on a clear day the Isle of Wight, nigh thirty miles away, can be distinguished. As he neared the top a mound came into view, one of those unmistakable monuments raised o'er the graves of the great chieftains of our ancient race. It was a most impressive spot, the highest point for many miles round, and the book-hunter wondered who he was that lay there in solemn majesty keeping watch through the long centuries over the land that once was his. On approaching closer the wayfarer was horrified to see that on the top of the mound, in the centre, there was a deep hole. Its import was obvious. The mortal remains of one who had lain for centuries in a grandeur befitting his lordly rank had been torn from their sepulchre, probably by some irreverent commoner, and were now doubtless exhibited to the vulgar gaze, in a glass case.
Doubtless the ghoul (for he that rifles tombs is none other) who perpetrated this enormity described himself as an archaeologist. Possibly he was of gentle birth and had received a University education. If so, so much the greater his crime, for he could not plead ignorance. Surely no seriously minded person can urge that the knowledge thus gained as to ancient methods of burial, age of the remains, and so on, warranted such sacrilege. We can only hope that the chieftain was granted five minutes with the archaeologist when that individual at length entered the land of shadows. Doubtless the archaeologist had no qualms whatever, and slept soundly in the belief that by his 'researches' he had wrought great things for mankind; but when he encountered the chieftain it is unlikely that they would see eye to eye. 'Happy are they who deal so with men in this world that they are not afraid to meet them in the next,' and happier still are they who deal so reverently with the earthly memorials of the dead, that there may be many to speak in their favour when they approach the Great Tribunal.
This particular form of irreverence, however, has been a byword throughout all the ages; civilisation and education have done little to check it, possibly because the romantic spirit which forbids such crimes is born, not made. King Arthur's bones were dug up in the twelfth century. 'Mummie is become Merchandise, Mizraim cures wounds, and Pharoah is sold for balsoms,' wrote Sir Thomas Browne five hundred years later. In 1788 the massive stone coffin which held the remains of our illustrious King Alfred was discovered facing the High Altar at Hyde Abbey, Winchester, whither they had been translated in 1110. The coffin was broken in pieces, the bones found in it were scattered, and the lead enveloping the remains was sold by the workmen. A stone from the wrecked tomb, bearing the name AELFRED, was carried off to Cumberland as a curio. Hyde Abbey was razed to make way for a county Bridewell. 'At almost every stroke of the mattock,' relates an eye-witness, 'some antient sepulchre or other was violated.' Examples of such desecrations can be multiplied without number. The Great Alaric was wise indeed when he had the course of a river changed so that his bones, when lying at the bottom of it, might never be disturbed.
Our ancient laws dealt sternly with this matter. 'If any man shall dig up a body that has already been buried,' ruled Henry the First, 'he shall be WARGUS,' that is, banished from his district as a rogue. 'Malice provoketh not to dig up tombes and graves,' wrote an unknown Elizabethan scholar, commenting on this; 'and though it should, yet religion doth now restraine it, by reason it is counted sacriledge to violate anythinge in churches or churchyards. Covetousness made some to dig up the dead, because ornaments, jewels, or money, were in times past buried with many; but now that custome seasing, no man for desire of gaine is invited to commit this offence, and it now being generally reputed a most vile acte, no man will presume to transgresse these lawes, and every man is a law to himself therein.' But in this 'enlightened' age, when we are held to be above the need of such legislation, there is nothing to prevent the archaeologist from practising his hobby where and when he please—so long as he avoids the churchyards. 'Tush,' he cries, 'here lies an ancient heathen who was not even buried in consecrated ground. We may find some curious relics buried with him. Up with his bones.'
'Freedom for all men' may be a glorious motto, yet when we view these crimes (and the carved initials which deface so many of our most sacred monuments) we cannot but muse that there are many who should never be free—at least from the restraint of discipline. 'None can love freedom heartily, but good men: the rest love not freedom, but licence.'
 There are 242 pages in this editio princeps, after which should come a leaf with (a) blank (b) device of John Hervey or Hervagius. It was english'd by Thomas Underdowne, and published in small octavo by Frauncis Coldocke, at the sign of the greene Dragon in Paules churchyeard, in 1587.
 "Il estoit bon musicien, tres-bon Poete Francois et Italien, se delectant singulierement a lire les belles et naifues rithmes de nos Poetes Prouencaux . . . . . . . tellement qu'il a compose en son temps plusieurs beaux et gracieux Romans comme La conqueste de la douce mercy, et Le mortifiement de vaine plaisance . . . . . Mais sur toutes choses aimoit il d'un amour passionnez la peinture . . . . . qu'il estoit en bruit et reputation entre les plus excellents Peintres et Enlumineurs de son temps." (Nostradamus). He had a fine library which contained all the most celebrated compositions of the Provencal poets and troubadours.
 It was quite a dramatic scene. Bertrand taunted the Prince until the latter named a sum; and to his surprise De Guesclin at once cried "Done!" and all at the table sprang to their feet. "Oh Sir," they cried to the Prince, "what have you done!" "I hold you to your word," cried Du Guesclin—and so it was. See Hay du Chastelet, Claude Menard, and other biographers, also the Inventaire des Chartres, tome VI. (See also footnote on page 216.)
 This great romance does not appear ever to have been translated into English, which is somewhat strange, for its hero, Perceforest, was King of England, and we are told at the outset that the volume had an English origin. Philippe Comte de Hainault having accompanied Marguerite daughter of Philippe III. (le hardi) to England in order to be present at her nuptials with Edward I. (1299), the Count made an excursion to the north of England. Chancing to harbour at a monastery 'on the banks of the Humber,' he was shown an ancient manuscript which had been discovered in a vault under the ancient (? Saxon) part of the building. One of the monks had translated it into Latin. Philippe borrowed it and took it back with him to Hainault, where it was reduced into French. It is every whit as good as the Morte d'Arthur, and still awaits its Malory. The 1531 Paris edition consists of six folio volumes, the page in double columns of black letter type, with 53 lines to the column. The whole book contains rather more than six hundred thousand words. Here is a chance for some enthusiast! At the least he would learn patience, carefulness—and a deal of mediaeval French.
 O. Fr. pierron.
 That there is a distinct crack on its upper side, you may see from the photograph here reproduced.
 Sir J. Rhys, 'Studies in the Arthurian Legend,' Oxford, 1891, pp. 300-327.
 In the list of books at the Louvre belonging to Charles V. of France, drawn up by Gilles Malet, his librarian, in 1373, there is a volume 'Du roy Artus, de la Table Ronde, et de la Mort dudit roy, tres bien escript et enlumine.' It would be interesting to compare this manuscript (if it is still in existence) with Malory's work, and to see whether the incident of the peron is described therein.
 i.e. the golden vessel, because of the samite (silken) covering.
 As the table is painted at present, 'S. Galahallt' is upon the King's immediate left.
 Of one of these enterprising antiquaries (a clergyman) it is proudly related that in the course of three years "he opened no less than a hundred and six tumuli and graves, and obtained from them a large proportion of that valuable collection of antiquities now in possession of Mr. Meyer, of Liverpool." See A Corner of Kent, by J. R. Planche, 1864, page 115.
THE CARE OF BOOKS
'Wher so ever y be come over all I belonge to the Chapell of gunvylle hall; He shal be cursed by the grate sentens That felonsly faryth and berith me thens. And whether he bere me in pooke or sekke For me he shall be hanged by the nekke, (I am so well beknown of dyverse men) But I be restored theder agen.' (Written in a breviary in the Library of Gonville and Caius College.)
WHEREIN lies the charm of an old book? In its contents? Not altogether, for then would the reprint be just as acceptable; perhaps more so, for it would be possibly more legible, probably cleaner, certainly in a more convenient shape. In its scarcity, then? Partly, perhaps; yet not necessarily, for there are many 'old' books that are always eagerly bought up by collectors, though quite frequent in occurrence. Then wherein lies the old book's charm? It is chiefly in its appearance.
It is the spiritual appearance rather than the material aspect of a book, however, that draws the book-lover to it. To the true bibliophile there is an intangible something about an old book which it is impossible to describe. That this feeling is closely akin to the impressive influence of antiquity there can be no doubt; for you may prove it by taking your book-lover successively to a modern free library and to a collection of ancient books, and noting carefully his expression in each. Though he be surrounded by thousands of volumes issued from the press during the last half-century, rich and luxurious works even, yet the probability is that he will be merely bored. But watch him as he stands before the thick oak shelves eagerly scrutinising the dim lettering on ancient calf and vellum back! See how his eye flashes as he takes down an ancient quarto, gently and reverently lest the headband be grown weak with age, and, carefully blowing the dust from its top edge, turns eagerly to title-page and colophon!
And this feeling is not influenced by the surroundings which one is accustomed to associate with old books. Whether they be in a cathedral or college library, in a bookshop or the most modern of cases, it is all one to your true collector. It is the books and the books only about which he cares. No sooner does he feel the ancient tome within his hands than his soul is borne rapidly away upon the wings of fancy, far far back into the dim ages, high above all worldly considerations; caring, understanding, feeling, in tune with the magic so wondrously locked up in this ancient volume, to which his love of books alone has provided the key.
It is no wonder that he is impressed, for the soul of the true book-collector is ever in communion with the manes of those who gave birth to his books. He is brother to author, paper-maker, compositor, publisher, and binder, understanding all their hopes, doubts, and fears, in sympathy with all the thoughts that gave his volumes their shape, size, and appearance. Have you not often realised, brother collector, the spirit that is hidden in every old book, the concentrated thoughts that have been materialised in giving it birth? Surely thoughts never die. 'Our thoughts are heard in heaven' wrote a neglected poet, and are not books 'sepulchres of thought'?
Happier is the book-collector than he who acquires ancient pieces of furniture, old vases, or pewter mugs. For, unlike the old book, these things can be reproduced in facsimile so that you may not tell the difference between old and new, and the reproduction may be stronger and more serviceable than the original. Moreover he is not troubled with qualms as to their genuineness, undergoing agonies of apprehension while each treasure—or otherwise—is submitted to the scrutiny of friends and experts.
There is a lasting charm about a book of our choice which the antique-collector can never hope to experience. His treasure may be grotesque or it may be beautiful, in either case it may please the eye every time that he behold it, through many years. But beyond pleasure to the eye and perhaps a smug complacency in its possession, there is nothing else. He knows it inside-out, as it were, within a few minutes of its acquisition. Very different, however, is the case with a book. After the attraction exercised by its ancient appearance, the exterior aspect is in reality but a secondary consideration, and when we have expressed ourselves as to whether it be a fine or a poor copy, we turn at once to its contents. The very wording of the title-page gives us an inkling of the writer's character, places us upon his plane, and tunes our thoughts in harmony with his.
What book-lover does not sympathise with that great man Lenglet du Fresnoy? Perhaps few men have come so completely under the spell of books; for he devoted a long life entirely to consuming the fruits of the master minds that had gone before him. In spite of the gossip concerning him, not always to his credit, that has come down to us, it is undeniable that by sheer love and knowledge of books he piled up a monument that will ever keep his name in memory among bibliophiles for he is numbered with such giants as Hain, Brunet, and Lowndes. The 'Methode pour etudier l'Histoire' alone is sufficient to show his extraordinary knowledge of books; indeed, they were the very inspirers of his being and though his paths led him to high places, 'a passion for study for ever crushed the worm of ambition.' Having spent the greater part of his eighty-two years among old books, it was a modern one which caused his end; for, slumbering over its dulness, he fell into the fire and was burned to death!
It is said of him that he refused all the conveniences offered by a rich sister, that he might not endure the restraint of a settled dinner-hour; preferring to browse undisturbed among his beloved tomes. His immense knowledge of ancient books is shown by the vast number of diverse works which he wrote and edited; but so forcible and controversial were his writings that he was sent to the Bastille some ten or twelve times. It is even related of him that he got to know the prison so well, that when Tapin (one of the guards who usually conducted him thither) entered his chamber, he did not wait to hear his commission but began himself by saying 'Ah! Bonjour, Monsieur Tapin,' then turning to the woman who waited on him, 'Allons vite, mon petit paquet, du linge et du tabac,' and went along gaily with M. Tapin to the Bastille. Verily the true bibliophile is not as other men, and a modern world looks upon him askance. Yet his portion is a happiness that riches cannot purchase, for his soul has found lasting comfort and contentment in a knowledge of the innermost recesses of human thought. There is no aspect or phase of the human mind with which he is unacquainted; and it is a knowledge that books alone can impart.
Yet our true book-lover is not of those whose very religion is the preservation of the pristine appearance of their books, who deem it sacrilege to destroy one jot of the contemporary leather in which their treasures are clothed: liking rather to glue, varnish, and patch, preferring even a grotesque effect rather than sacrifice an inch of decayed calf. Their point of view is wholly admirable: that the only form in which we are justified in possessing a book is that in which it was originally issued to the world: that the men who bestowed great thought in giving it birth, to wit, author and publisher, know better what is meet and seemly for it than can any man of a different age: that one man's choice is another man's abhorrence: and so on, and so on. Granted these things are so; but surely he who possesses the volume may have some say in its appearance, since it exists upon his shelf solely for his own delight and for no other man's?
'It is mine,' says Praktikos, 'may I not clothe it in the colours of the rainbow if it please me?'
'Then you are a vandal,' replies Phulax, 'for you will ruin your book, and it will not be worth ten shillings when it returns from the binder.'
And there's the rub: rebind your book and—in nine cases out of ten—you will lower its market value. Therefore, if the book-collector have any eye to the purely commercial value of his library, he will do well to become an 'original-boards-uncut' man at once. Handsome his library will never be, for here there will be a whole set of paper-bound volumes lacking backs, here a folio strangely patched and mended, there a book in rather dirty vellum somewhat cockled by damp, and so on. But he will have the satisfaction of knowing that his volumes retain, in their appearance at least, something of the spirit of the time in which they first saw light. Perhaps they will create for him the more easily that stimulating yet peaceful atmosphere imparted by a collection of old books.
Is there not, then, any alternative to preserving one's volumes in a disreputable condition? Assuredly there is—there are two alternatives. Either the collector will be so wise (and, incidentally, so wealthy) as never to purchase a dilapidated book, or else he must exercise great common sense and much good taste, putting fancy entirely to one side.
You possess a copy of Cotton's translation of the Commentaries of Messire Blaize de Montluc, folio 1674. It is a good, clean, tall copy, but clothed in tattered contemporary brown calf. Half of the back is missing, two of the corners are badly broken, and a piece of the leather upon the under cover is torn off. Perchance you elect to send it to your binder, with strict instructions that it is to be repaired with plain calf. In due course the volume is returned to you, and it now presents a fearful and marvellous appearance. It is the proud possessor of a new back, nearly but not quite matching the sides in colour, and upon this the remaining upper half of the original back has been pasted. The corners bulge strangely, and you can discern new leather underneath the old and wherever the old was deficient. The sides shine with polishing, and a patch—again not quite matching the original, for it is next to impossible to do this—has been inserted on the under cover. The whole volume shines unnaturally, and has rather a piebald appearance. In short, it reminds one of Bardolph's face—'all bubukles and whelks and knobs.'
But perchance you possess another copy in precisely the same condition inside and out, and this you have decided must be rebound. It goes to your binder, always with your very definite instructions, and in due course returns, modestly attired in morocco of, let us say, a dark sage-green hue. On each side there is a plain double panel, 'blind' tooled; the back is simply lettered
BLAIZE DE MONTLUC
and there are 'blind' lines at the sides of each band; but, beyond the lettering, there is no gilding whatever on the back. The edges have not been trimmed, much less cut, but have been left precisely as they were originally.
Suppose now for an instant that you do not possess either copy, but that both are offered to you by a bookseller at precisely the same price. What will be your feelings as you handle the repaired copy? It is more than probable that you will sigh 'Poor thing' as you open it gently for fear of cracking the old piece pasted on to the back. But, 'What a nice clean copy' you will say as you take up the other; and it is improbable that you will hesitate long in making choice.
The repairing of moderately old bindings is an excellent thing so long as it is not carried to extremes. Obviously there are many cases where it would be sheer foolishness to rebind the volume, slight repairs at the hands of an experienced binder being all that is necessary to enable the book to be described as a fine, tall, clean copy, in the original binding, neatly repaired. And this is where one's carefully considered judgment and good taste must be exercised.
But advice is easier to give than to follow. If our purse be a slender one, it is next to impossible to confine our purchases to perfect copies in choice condition. And so it is unavoidable that a certain number of our volumes should be in a more or less dilapidated state. A book that we have long sought for crops up; it is a perfect copy, more or less clean inside, but in a sad state of decay as regards the binding. On this account it is offered to us at one-half the price which a sound copy would fetch, perhaps even less. Of course we buy it, and many others like it; so that at length we are faced with the choice between a formidable binder's bill and the alternative of harbouring a collection of wrecks.
This temptation to acquire imperfect books and poor copies is a most insidious one, and few collectors can withstand it altogether. Andrew Lang, than whom there was never a more genuine book-lover, seems to have been as susceptible as most of us. 'I believe no man,' he writes in 'Books and Bookmen,' 'has a library so rich in imperfect works as the author of these pages.' Yet although the purchasing of a volume in a state of decay (externally, that is) is sometimes unavoidable, it should be every collector's endeavour, however modest his means, to avoid buying dilapidated books. If a book be at all frequent in occurrence it is far better to bide our time until a better copy turns up, even though we may have to pay a few shillings more for it, than to rest content with the possession of a sorry example in which we can take no pride, and one that will never be worth a penny more than we gave for it until it has passed through the binder's hands. Remember also that although the choicest binder in Europe may lavish his art upon our volume, yet a taller and cleaner copy in the original, or contemporary, binding, and in perfect condition, will ever command a better price in the sale-room. Our choice in binding—however appropriate to the book—may not be the choice of him who next possesses the volume.
As an example of this discretion which one must exercise in rebinding one's volumes, here is an incident that occurred in a London sale-room a few years ago. A copy of Jane Austen's 'Mansfield Park' in three volumes, 1814, was put up for auction and realised L20. It was bound in boards and was entirely uncut. Nevertheless it was not in the original binding, but it had been rebound in precisely the same style as that in which it was originally published. The paper labels had been reprinted in facsimile, and the edges had not been tampered with in any respect, not even 'trimmed.' The best price that had been realised previously for an uncut copy in the original boards was L18 10s.
The owner was indeed wise in his generation. Had he sent the volumes to his binder to be bound in full morocco 'extra,' at a cost of, perhaps, twenty shillings apiece, the work would have realised, probably, seven or eight pounds. But by good judgment (and, in the writer's opinion at least, good taste) his expenditure would not exceed fifteen shillings for the three, his profit being four times as great. Not long ago two copies of the first edition of Keats' 'Endymion' appeared at an auction-sale in London. Both were 'uncut,' but one was in the original form in which it issued from the press, the other was bound in morocco. The former realised L41, the latter L17, 5s. Dictum sapienti sat est.
Old books, by which I intend sixteenth and early seventeenth century volumes, are always best left alone as regards the binding. If they be at all dilapidated, it is as well to have a case made for them which can be lettered on the back, and they can then stand upon the shelf among one's other books. Nothing is more unseemly and incongruous than an ancient volume in a modern cover, and, try as the most skilful binder may, it is impossible to imitate an ancient binding so closely as to deceive the eye even momentarily. Do not seek to make them presentable by patching and repairing, unless they be too far gone for their value to be of any consideration.
In the case of early-printed books and works of great rarity, never, upon any account, tamper with your copy or seek to improve it in any way. Not only, as I have said, is it quite impossible to impart a contemporary appearance to a fifteenth-century book however famous and skilful the binder, but age leaves its mark upon the constitutions of books as surely as it does upon mankind. No volume of that age will stand the handling of a casual reader, still less the pulling, patting, and pressing that re-sewing and re-covering necessitate, however gently such processes be carried out.
There is a terrible story (I hope it is untrue) told of a certain peer who decided to send to the auction-room the six or seven Caxtons which had descended to him with a noble library from his ancestors. As, however, the volumes were bound in fifteenth-century sheepskin (probably in Caxton's house) he thought that their appearance would be rendered rather more attractive if they were rebound first of all. So he sent them forthwith to the local binder; and on their return, now gorgeously clothed in 'calf gilt extra' (a la school prize), he despatched them to the London sale-room. The result may be imagined. His foolishness must have robbed him of a sum running well into four figures!
There is another point also to be considered, and that is the pedigree of a volume. The solitary impression of a binder's tool upon a fragment of binding may identify a volume and its previous owners. Some years ago the writer purchased an ancient folio without title-page and colophon, bound in tattered fragments of ancient calf covering stout oak boards. There was, apparently, nothing to indicate when, where, or by whom the volume was printed or bound, or whence it came. But from a certain peculiarity in the type (which he noticed when studying the early printers of Nuernberg) he now knows the name of the printer and the town in which he plied his trade; while from a certain woodcut which that printer used also in two other dated works only, both printed the same year, he discovered when the volume in all probability was printed.
A scrutiny of the remains of the binding revealed the blind impressions of four different stamps. As these occur frequently in conjunction upon the bindings executed by the monks at a certain monastery in Germany in the sixteenth century, there is little difficulty in assigning a provenance to the volume. Furthermore the initial H in a heart-shaped impression identifies the binder as a monk whose initials H.G. (on two heart-shaped tools) are of frequent occurrence on contemporary volumes at that time in the possession of the monastery.
Needless to say, it has not been rebound. The tattered pieces of skin have been carefully pasted down, and a case—lettered on the back—now contains the book upon his shelf.
In the case, however, of more recent books bound in tattered or perished calf, books of which one may obtain duplicates at any time, except they be works of extreme value there is no reason why they should not be re-bound. Even here, however, the collector must tread warily; for should he send his copy of Tim Bobbin's Lancashire dialogue of Tummus and Meary to the binders with brief instruction that it is to be bound in full morocco, it may be returned to him in all the splendour of a sixteenth-century Florentine binding.
With regard to books published in cardboard covers with paper backs and paper labels, what is to be done with these when the backs are dirty or torn off, the labels of some volumes missing? Must they be re-bound in leather or cloth? Not necessarily, and I for my part maintain that the delightful ease which one experiences in handling them when reading the early editions of Byron, Scott, or Irving, and those writers who flourished in the first few decades of the nineteenth century when books were commonly issued in this form, is sufficient excuse for retaining them in their original shape. Such volumes may easily be made presentable at the cost of a little time and trouble, as I shall presently show.
An appearance of antiquity is never a desideratum to the honest book-collector. I say 'honest' advisedly, for there have been—and doubtless are—persons so misguided as to stoop to the fabrication of certain small and excessively valuable books. To such, an appearance of age is no doubt indispensable in their wares. But these are torments which afflict the wealthy only; and for this I at least am sincerely thankful.
There is no doubt, however, that in the collection of many things antiquity in appearance is desirable: witness the modern fabrication of 'antique' furniture and pottery. Our book-hunter was once acquainted with a certain country gentleman, a learned man and most excellent companion, whose passion for rare things once got the better of his judgment. It was not books that he collected, but butterflies; and he was inordinately proud of a rather seedy-looking 'Large Copper' which his cabinet contained. For the benefit of his admiring entomological friends he would recite how his grandfather had caught it with his hat when on a holiday in the Fens. It grew to be quite an exciting tale. One day, however, in the course of a country ramble they fell to discussing the romancer, or man who resorts to fiction that his adventures may be the more interesting. And as (for the sake of argument) the man of books affected to praise him, remarking that any soulless fool can tell the bald truth whereas it requires an artistic temperament to adorn a tale with realistic embellishment (!), his friend turned to him eagerly. Being encouraged, he confessed that his Large Copper was not all that it appeared to be. In short, the bookman discovered that he had secured it himself while on a summer tour in Switzerland, and with the aid of a camel's-hair brush had succeeded in reducing it to a venerable state.
'Of course,' the entomologist hastened to explain, 'no one could possibly tell that it was not my grandfather's. He had a very fine collection, and probably there was more than one Large Copper in it, though there was only the one in the cabinet that came to me. I shall never forget my feelings when it happened. I had taken it out of the drawer to show to a friend, when we both saw, outside the window, what we thought was an Antiopa. We rushed out, and when we came back we found that the cat. . . . Dear me; I was quite overcome. . . . But that summer I caught the one you have seen in Switzerland; and as my dear friend was no more and nobody else knew of the catastrophe, I thought there would be no harm in merely restoring a specimen to my grandfather's collection.'
But the bookman pointed out to him that when he died and his collection was sold his family would benefit by some pounds through his indiscretion; for it was now known to all his friends as a genuine English specimen. This troubled the entomologist greatly, for it was a point of view that had never occurred to him, and, like the rich young man, 'he went away grieved.'
So it is sometimes in book-collecting: there is a temptation to 'restore' an incomplete book. Should the collector find that his copy of a certain work lacks a portrait, what is more natural than to go to the print-shop and purchase a portrait of the same individual for insertion in his copy? And in this there may be little harm, provided that the book is of no value and that he makes a note in ink inside the front cover as to what he has done. But occasionally some unscrupulous book-fiend—he is, of course, no true book-collector—substitutes for a damaged page a page from another copy, or perhaps of a later edition; sometimes he supplies his volume with a spurious title-page or other leaf; and, worst of all, substitutes in his copy of the second edition, whereof the title-page is damaged, the title-page of a first edition, of which he possesses an incomplete copy.
And here let me utter a word of warning. Apparently it is the practice of certain cheap second-hand booksellers to abstract the engraved plates from folio books, occasionally also removing the 'List of Plates' that the theft may remain undiscovered, and to sell the works thus mutilated as sound and perfect copies. Needless to say to the print collector such plates are invariably worth a shilling or two apiece, if portraits considerably more. I know to my cost one London bookseller who habitually removes the engraved portraits with which certain seventeenth-century folios, especially historical ones, are wont to be embellished. How many rare volumes this ghoul has ruined it is impossible to say, probably some hundreds. Our book-hunter confesses to having been caught by him three times, discovering the reason for the cheapness of his bargains (!) some time later. A friend has also suffered from his attentions. I need hardly add that his shop is now avoided, by two book-hunters at least, as something unclean.
Occasionally, also, one comes across scarce volumes bereft of title-pages, these having been torn out by some vampire to adorn his scrapbook. Surely no fate can be too bad for the man who dismembers books. His proper place is certainly in the Inferno, where, in company with Bertrand de Born, he will be condemned for ever to carry his own head, after it has been separated from his body, in the shape of a lantern.
As soon as ever you reach home with your purchases from a ramble along the bookstalls, and whenever you receive books that you have ordered through a bookseller's catalogue, collate your acquisitions carefully. Whenever it is possible refer to a bibliography to see that your copy is all that it should be. Nothing is more annoying than to discover, perhaps years afterwards, that your copy of a rare book, which you fondly imagined to be a fine one in every respect, lacks a page or so, or a leaf of index or errata, or a plate. It is a good plan to make a point of keeping books upon your table until they have been properly collated and catalogued, when—and not before—they may be placed upon the shelves.
Frequently you will discover that a second book, or even a third, has been bound up with your volume, and you would have overlooked these but for collating. It was a common practice at one time (as, indeed, it is with some collectors nowadays) to bind up thin books with thicker ones to save the expense of binding. Probably this is the reason why certain sixteenth and seventeenth century works which consist of but fifty or sixty leaves are so hard to find, being bound at the end of larger works and thus commonly escaping the cataloguer's eye.
It is necessary for the collector to exercise the greatest caution in acquiring a valuable old book from any but a reputable bookseller. The fabrication of a page or so—especially a title-page—is a comparatively small matter to the nefarious dealer who hopes by this means to obtain for his copy the price which a perfect one would command. 'Perfect' copies of rare fifteenth-century works are made up from two or more imperfect ones, title-pages and leaves are reproduced in facsimile, blank leaves and engravings are inserted: for all these the collector must be continually upon his guard. Other books there are which have certain passages frequently mutilated, or a genealogical tree or a table generally missing.
Hazlitt gives two examples of this species of knavery. One, in which a reproduction of the scarce portrait of Milton usually attached to the first edition of his 'Poems,' 1645, had been actually split and laid down on old paper to make it resemble the original print: the other, a case in which a copy of Lovelace's 'Lucasta,' 1649, lacked a plate representing Lucy Sacheverell (which makes a good deal of the value of the book), and a copy of the modern reproduction of this plate to be found in Singer's 'Select Poets' had been soaked off and 'lined' to give it the appearance of a genuine impression mounted, and then bound in.
And these mutilations are not the only things of which the collector must beware. Early in the history of books, the reputation that hall-marked the publications of certain famous presses became a source of envy to less fortunate printers. Type and imprints were soon counterfeited, and the fine editions of the Classics printed at Venice by the great Aldine press were reproduced at Lyons and elsewhere. In this matter of forgery and pirated reprints, you will find Gustave Brunet's 'Imprimeurs Imaginaires et Libraires Supposes' of value. It is a catalogue of books printed with fictitious indication of place or with wrong dates, an octavo volume published in 1866.
These things, however, cannot be learnt at once, and it is only by the continual study of catalogues and bibliographies that one comes to know them. Needless to say, however, all reputable booksellers will take back a work which is discovered to be imperfect, provided that the volume be returned without delay.
Books, like those who gave them birth, are of all conditions; but from the collector's point of view they may be divided conveniently into five classes. To the First Class belong those volumes which are described by booksellers and auctioneers as 'fine copies.' Ever since their publication they have been in the possession of wealthy men, often peers, and (sometimes like their owners!) have passed their lives for the most part undisturbed amid luxurious surroundings. They are invariably richly bound, often in historic bindings, and are clean and fresh inside. Frequently they are sumptuous works and presentation copies, and they always command high prices. In a word, they are aristocrats among books. They are not necessarily rare volumes, though frequently they are large-paper copies, and for the true collector they do not offer so much attraction as the Second Class, in which we place those books that are more eagerly sought after. These are generally rare books, such as incunabula and the higher class English literature of the seventeenth century, and are to be found in the libraries of wealthy collectors who are also learned men. They are always well bound and in good condition, though sometimes they have their headlines shaved, occasionally they are slightly imperfect, or have been cleaned and repaired. But they are always desirable books, and evoke spirited bidding whenever they appear in the auction-room.
Class Three comprises the great army of what may be termed 'middle-class books.' They are bound usually in half-bindings, when they are not in the publisher's cloth, and are good, clean, sound, copies of such works as county histories, antiquarian books, sets of the learned societies' publications and of 'standard authors.' They are such stable and solid books as you will usually find in the libraries of the well-to-do middle classes. In short they are gilt-edged securities, and command a steady price in the market.
To Class Four may be assigned the volumes contained in the average second-hand bookseller's shop in this country. They are the [Greek: hoi polloi] among books, and for the most part they include the more frequent and more modern English works. Usually they are quite desirable copies, though frequently they lack a portrait or other plate, sometimes they have a torn or mounted title-page, or other imperfection. They are generally in cloth or calf bindings which are almost invariably somewhat decrepit, being either rubbed or perished, or cracked at the joints. They are dusty and rather unkempt, and fox-marks are common, for such volumes have passed through many hands and have not always been accorded the care that is due to good books. But it is here that one comes across books 'in the original boards uncut,' and, if expense be no object to you, you may often raise such purchases to a higher class.
Books in Class Five are the outcasts of the book-world, being those decrepit volumes which stack the bookstalls and barrows in the larger towns. They are the weedings of auction sales and shops, books that are not worth cataloguing by the dealer. Like human beings they have drifted through life with all its vicissitudes, knowing many masters and earning the gratitude of none. And so at length, deprived even of a home, they find their way into the streets, where they are soon reduced to wreckage.
At first sight it would seem that they owe their situation to their quality, both intrinsic and extrinsic—that they are valueless either as literature or as specimens of book-production, or that they are imperfect or odd volumes. In many cases this may be true, but in general it is not so. The wrecks of handsomely produced books of high-class literature are common on the bookstalls and barrows, as all collectors of modest means are aware. They owe their situation chiefly to inconsiderate handling and to the carelessness of their successive owners.
As to the practice of inserting illustrations in books that are published without them, 'Grangerising,' as it is called, it is perhaps best left alone. At first sight there appears to be small harm in providing, let us say, a volume of travels or the description of a town with an appropriate engraved frontispiece, or adorning your biography of So-and-so with a portrait. But the temptation to overstep the bounds of seemliness is so great that it is seldom the collector stops at a mere frontispiece. In most cases the Grangerite soon loses his self-control, and develops an acute mania for embellishing his volume with all and every print upon which he can lay his hands, apposite in the slightest degree to the subject of the book. Every year the sale-rooms witness these monstrosities. Biographies issued in a single volume are 'extended' ('rended asunder' would be a better term) to fifteen or twenty volumes by the insertion of hundreds of engravings depicting every place mentioned in the text and every man or woman that the subject of the biography ever met. I have seen an octavo volume multiplied into twenty-five folio ones in this fashion, the leaves being inlaid to suit the size of the huge portraits and views stuffed into the disjointed sections of the wretched book. Nor is it only engravings that are used. Play-bills, lottery-tickets, tradesmen's advertisements, autograph letters, maps, charts, broadsides, street ballads, bills even, all are grist for the Grangerite's mill.
It is a singularly futile hobby, and it is certainly a pernicious form of bibliomania, for it is responsible for the destruction of many good books. Whether its devotee imagines that any one is ever going to wade through his twenty monstrosities, turning, perhaps, six illustrations between page and page of text, we have not discovered. His completed labours form a compilation about as valuable as a scrap-book. If it were possible to gather into one volume, or rather portfolio, every portrait, let us say, of a certain celebrity that has ever been published, one would possess a valuable storehouse for reference purposes; and such a volume, from its completeness, would be invaluable in the British Museum. But these limits are too narrow for the true Grangerite. He desires a wider field of action. So he embarks upon a task which he can never hope to complete. Though he labour all his life there will always be some one or more engravings that he has failed to secure; and so far from being 'invaluable,' his collection becomes merely of passing interest. As a book it is, of course, grotesque.
The fate of most of these collections is probably the same. So long as the binding remains in good condition they are ensured a niche on some neglected shelf; but once the marks of age or wear and tear manifest themselves their fate is sealed. They come speedily into the hands of those booksellers who deal also in prints, and beneath such ruthless hands the labour of years is undone in a few minutes. At least it is pleasant to think that the poor pages, separated for so many years, come together again if only for a few hours before they reach the paper-mill!
Whether the sober-minded collector whose pride is the well-being of his books is justified in adding a frontispiece and, say, half-a-dozen good engravings to a book that he appreciates, is a moot question. Doubtless the correct view is that books should not be meddled with by amateur book-producers, that both publisher and author know best what is most fitting for the volume they produce, that any book which has been tampered with internally in any way becomes a monster and is to be avoided. But this brings up again the old question, 'May we not do what we like with our own volumes?'
Personally I am of opinion that the judicious and extremely moderate adornment of certain books is justified by the result. There is no doubt that the insertion in an unillustrated volume of travel of, let us say, six engraved plates depicting scenes mentioned in the text, adds a charm to the volume and enhances both its appearance and the pleasure of its perusal. Similarly the addition of an authentic portrait to a biography certainly lends an added interest, whilst the addition of a map is often of the greatest assistance to the reader. But that books should be mutilated, torn apart, and stuffed with play-bills, lottery-tickets, and the like, no sane book-lover will admit.
There are some books that seem to ask for illustration. Who has handled the three folio volumes which comprise the first edition of Clarendon's 'History of the Rebellion' without feeling that by rights they should contain fine mezzotint portraits of the chief actors in that great drama? But they must be mezzotints, mark you—mere line engravings would be out of place among those bank-note paper leaves with their handsome great-primer type. This question of seemliness, too, must be considered carefully ere we add a single plate to any volume. Not every engraving, however beautiful in design and impression, is at once suitable to every book that treats of the subject it depicts. That the illustrations be contemporary with the text goes without saying. No one would be so foolish as to insert modern 'half-tone' illustrations in a seventeenth-century book.
That heading 'Extra-illustrated,' so dear to certain booksellers, must send a shudder through many of the discerning readers of their catalogues. Books that are extra-illustrated should be avoided by the collector on principle. There is something foolishly egotistical in seeking (by those who have no knowledge of book-production) to 'improve' the work of other men whose business is the making of books. There can be no necessity for it; the author is quite sure to have added the illustrations that are requisite for the volume. It is only books that were published without illustrations that we are justified in attempting to embellish. Illustrations in a book are invariably a question of the author's and publisher's tastes; the cost of their production is not usually an all-important item: it is the setting up of the type, the paper, and the binding that count—not the illustrations.
It was the fashion in the early decades of the last century to issue volumes of engravings suitable for illustrating the works of contemporary writers, such as Byron and Scott: and these illustrations can be used when you have your editions rebound. There is no particular merit about the greater part of them, but they depict incidents described in the text, so at least they are apposite. Each to his taste; our book-hunter for his part needs no second-rate illustrations to help him visualise the glories of Childe Harold or Don Juan; and he has long since confined his Grangerising to the sparing addition of finely engraved portraits to biographical volumes.
 With regard to these cases, the collector will use his own judgment as to whether they be of the 'slip-in' variety, by which means the binding is rubbed every time that he withdraws and inserts his volume; whether such cases be lined with velvet, and roomy enough to obviate this friction; or whether they shall open with a flap at the side.
 If you are interested in the pedigrees of your volumes (by which we mean the identification of their previous owners) you will find M. Guigard's 'Nouvel Armorial du Bibliophile,' octavo, Paris, 1890, useful where armorial bindings are concerned. It is an interesting volume, and appeared first of all in four parts (large octavo, Paris), between 1870 and 1872. There are cuts of every coat of arms identified, but these are almost entirely French. Mr. Cyril Davenport's 'English Heraldic Book-stamps' was published in large octavo, in 1909. For early book-plates you must consult the numerous works upon this subject that have appeared in recent years. An excellent series of articles entitled "Books on Book-plates," by F.C.P., appeared in 'The Bookman's Journal and Print Collector' between February and July, 1920 (Nos. 15-18, 20-23, 25, 34, and 40). There is also 'A Bibliography of Book-Plates,' by Messrs. Fincham and Brown, in which the plates are arranged chronologically. The Ex-Libris Society issues a journal, and there are numerous other volumes upon this subject, which you will find mentioned in Mr. Courtney's 'Register of National Bibliography.'
 Canto xviii.
THE CARE OF BOOKS—(Continued)
'In the name of Christ all men I pray, No wight this book doth carry away, By force or theft or any deceit. Why not? Because no treasure so sweet As my books, which the grace of Christ display.' (Written in Latin hexameters at the end of the Leechbook of Bald.)
THERE can be no subject of such prime importance to the collector as the housing of his books. In most cases the books themselves have small say in the matter, for a certain room in the house is allotted to them without any consideration as to its suitability for storing books, and there they must abide, making such shift as their possessor shall determine. This must always be the case where their owner is in lodgings or in any temporary abode, where it is not considered worth while going to the expense of putting up permanent shelves for his books. But, after careless handling, there is nothing that ruins books more quickly than an indifference to their well-being; and unless our volumes are constantly placed in their proper position, that is upon their feet, they will age speedily and visibly both inside and out.
'The surest way to preserve your books in health is to treat them as you would your own children,' wrote that great bibliophile, William Blades; and the care which should ever be bestowed upon ancient volumes cannot be too strongly emphasised. And it is not only 'ancient' volumes that require attention. Cloth bindings are hardly so durable as leather, and without proper care a library of modern books can be reduced to wreckage in a year. It is just as easy to provide proper accommodation for one's books, wherever one may be living, as it is to provide comforts for oneself. Treat your books well and they will last you all your life, giving pleasure every time that you may take them in your hands. Remember also that although one may judge the propensities of a collector from the titles of his volumes and his character from their contents, yet there is nothing which indicates his habits so surely as the external appearance of his books. Whenever our book-hunter enters the library of a fellow-bookman he can gauge at once the depths of his feelings towards books, let alone the extent of his bibliographical knowledge.
Surely no man is such a giant among his fellows that he may allow the life-works of the greatest geniuses of this world to be spurned underfoot? 'Take thou a book into thine hands,' wrote Thomas a Kempis, 'as Simeon the Just took the Child Jesus into his arms to carry him and kiss him.'
What true book-lover could find it in his heart wantonly to injure a good book? '. . . as good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book,' wrote Milton in that oft-quoted passage in his Areopagitica; 'who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, God's Image; but hee who destroyes a good Booke kills Reason itselfe, kills the Image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the Earth; but a good Booke is the pretious life-blood of a master spirit, imbalm'd and treasur'd up on purpose to a Life beyond Life.'
It is not only the critic who destroys books, for neglect may approach dangerously near to wanton destruction. At the least, he who regards not the welfare of his books is an accessory before the fact of their destruction. 'Books,' says that veteran bibliophile M. Octave Uzanne, 'are so many faithful and serviceable friends, gently teaching us everything through their persuasive and wise experience.' Surely if good books are so much to us, such a great part of our lives, it behoves us to respect them not a little. Have they not taught us, guided us, advised us, soothed us, and amused us from our youth up? And is it meet that we should repay their constant friendship with indignity?
'Thou, whosoever thou art that studiest in this book,' wrote an unknown book-lover many centuries ago upon the margin of a favourite volume, 'take heed to turn the leaves lightly and smoothly, that thou mayest avoid tearing them on account of their thinness; and seek to imitate the example of Jesus Christ who, when He had gently opened the book of Isaiah and read it with attention, at length closed it reverently and returned it to the minister.'
On this subject of shelving our book-hunter can speak from experience, for he has provided proper accommodation for a thousand to three thousand volumes in three temporary abodes. It takes a little time, a fair amount of trouble, and an outlay of three or four pounds; but when once accomplished such shelving is a thing of no small pride to oneself, and the object of a good deal of admiration by one's friends. Briefly, the plan he has always adopted is to erect shelves of pine or deal stained brown, nine inches wide and five-eighths or three-quarters of an inch thick, along the entire walls of his sanctum. It is firmly made and will last a lifetime, yet it can readily be taken to pieces in a few minutes.
In erecting such shelving the first thing to do is to estimate how many feet of it you will require. On an average one foot will contain ten octavo or quarto volumes or six folio ones. There should be ten inches between the shelves for octavos, twelve inches for quartos, and fourteen inches for folios: while at the bottom you may have a shelf sixteen inches in height for such large folios as you may acquire or already possess. Should the huge folios (almost folissimos) published by the Record Commission in the early years of the nineteenth century fall within the category of your collecting activities, you will require one shelf at least no less than nineteen inches in height. If only for the sake of your peace of mind I would strongly advise you not to begin collecting early Spanish antiphonaries, such as you may see in the Escurial; for these are frequently six feet high and four feet wide, and are really out of place in the small domestic library. I forget for the moment their precise dimensions in millimetres.
It is a mistake to have the top shelves too high. Not to speak of the inconvenience of having to stretch upon tip-toe or mount a chair in order to obtain a volume, your books will be subjected to a higher temperature the nearer they are to the ceiling. Blades, in his 'Enemies of Books,' is emphatic upon this point. 'Heat alone,' he says, 'without any noxious fumes is, if continuous, very injurious to books; and, without gas, bindings may be utterly destroyed by desiccation, the leather losing all its natural oils by long exposure to much heat. It is, therefore, a great pity to place books high up in a room where heat of any kind is used, for it must rise to the top, and if sufficient to be of comfort to the readers below is certain to be hot enough above to injure the bindings.'
Gas is one of the greatest enemies of books, the sulphur in the gas fumes attacking the leather bindings readily, so that in time they are reduced to tinder. So if gas be the illuminant in your study, see to it that no volume of yours be above the level of the burner. In any case, if space will permit, the highest shelf should not be more than six feet from the ground. For similar reasons of temperature, the bottom shelves should be six inches above the floor.
As to the actual length of the shelves, if constructed of wood five-eighths of an inch thick when planed, they should not exceed two feet two inches in length between supports. If made longer they will gradually bend in the middle under the weight of the books and soon look unsightly. But if made of three-quarter-inch wood, they may well be three feet long.
Now as to the actual construction of the cases. We will suppose that the entire case, that is shelves and uprights, is to be made of planks five-eighths of an inch thick when planed. The first thing to do is to estimate how many feet of timber you will require. Measure your wall space. In calculating the length of shelving remember that each upright is five-eighths of an inch thick; and in estimating the height of the uprights, don't forget to add the thicknesses of the shelves to the spaces between them. Perhaps the following example will be useful.
To find height of upright:— Top shelf space 91/2in. 2nd shelf space 10 in. 3rd shelf space 10 in. 4th shelf space 10 in. 5th shelf space 12 in. 6th shelf space 14 in. Height of lowest shelf from floor 6 in. Thickness of 6 shelves, each 5/8in. 33/4in. ——— Height of upright—6ft., 31/4in. ———
The top shelf will be 5ft. 5in. from the ground.
The uprights must be two inches wider than the shelves in order that the latter may not rest against the wall. There must always be a space between shelves and wall to allow a free circulation of air about the books. Therefore, let your uprights be eleven inches and your shelves nine inches in width. In estimating the amount of timber required, don't forget the top.
The manner in which the shelves are supported by the uprights is as follows. Strips of wood five-eighths of an inch square and nine inches long are screwed across the uprights, and on these the shelves rest. So when you order the wood from your carpenter or timber merchant see that he sends you also a sufficiency of these strips, two for each shelf.
The fixing of these strips will entail a certain amount of carpentry, and in addition to bradawl, screwdriver, and footrule you will need a hard pencil and a carpenter's square, as well as some stout iron screws one inch long. Two screws are sufficient for each strip. If you are anything of a carpenter you will countersink the holes for the heads of the screws; this will also prevent a possible splitting of the strip.
When your carpentering is completed, the whole case must be stained to your taste. For this purpose our book-hunter has found nothing so good as the solution known as 'Solignum,' which may be purchased at any ironmonger's. In addition to being a wood-preservative, it has the advantage of being obnoxious to insects. It dries a pleasing brown, not unlike old oak. The only objection to its use that he has discovered is that it smells strongly, though not unpleasantly, for about a fortnight. One coat is quite sufficient, and after a few days you may rub the shelves with an old duster to remove any of the solution that has not yet been absorbed.
The case should now be put together, the tops (which are in one piece, the entire width of the case) and lowest shelves being screwed to the uprights. The other shelves are merely rested on the strips. You will find that if your floor be level, and you have sawn the bottoms of the uprights squarely, there will be no necessity to affix the case to the wall: the weight of the books alone will keep it in position. If the floor proves uneven, small wedges underneath the uprights will be sufficient.
You will find it an advantage to cover the shelves and their sides with green baize. This protects the bindings of the books considerably, and it is easily stuck on with glue. It has also the advantage of holding the dust which collects, and with the aid of a small 'vacuum-cleaner' such as most households possess nowadays, the cases may be cleaned thoroughly without removing a single shelf. Felt would be better, but it is, of course, much more expensive. Sir John Cheke, tutor to Edward the Sixth, that learned man who, says Milton, 'taught Cambridge and King Edward Greek,' used buckram. 'Among other lacks,' he writes from Cambridge in 1549 to a friend in London, 'I lack painted bucram to lai betweyne bokes and bordes in mi studi, which I now have trimd. I have need of XXX yardes. Chuse you the color.' But the buckram of his day was probably a very different material from the cloth which we are accustomed to associate with the binding of books. At all events I certainly should not recommend its use when you trim your studi.
On no account must you paint or varnish your shelves, unless, of course, you intend to cover them with baize or felt. However good the paint, however hard the varnish, heavy leather-bound books will adhere to them in course of time. So that when you come to remove a volume which you have treasured in its ancient calf, you will find that the leather at the bottom edges of the boards remains behind with the shelf. Therefore, unless you intend to line them, let your shelves be stained or sparingly polished only.
Care must be taken not to place any volume near wet or even damp 'Solignum.' Make sure that it is thoroughly dry or covered with baize before you place a single volume on the shelves. Should you wish your work to look particularly neat, you may putty over the heads of the screws before you begin staining operations. An additional 'finish' is given by numbering the cases with Roman numerals in gold upon small stained blocks (about 2 inches by 11/4 inches) affixed to the top of each case. The shelves may also be lettered with letters of the alphabet cut out of gold paper.
But perhaps you may prefer to designate the cases of your library by the names of ancient Rome, as was the practice followed notably in these days in the library of Sir Robert Cotton. It is a pleasant conceit, and there is certainly something more dignified about 'Vespasian, VII, 7,' or 'Cleopatra, IV, 26' than there is about a mere 'B, VI, 8,' or 'XIV, C, 16.' Asinius Pollio, that great warrior, historian, and book-lover of the Augustan age, is said to have been the first to adorn his library with portraits and busts of celebrated men as well as with statues of Minerva and the Muses, an example that was soon followed by others. Pollio was the first to found a public library at Rome, which he endowed with the money obtained in his Illyrian campaign, says Pliny: but in how many public libraries at the present day will you find a memorial of this great patron of Virgil and Horace?
The effect of placing statuettes of marble or plaster, about sixteen inches high, on the top of one's book-cases is singularly pleasing; and there is an appropriateness about it to the eye that it is impossible to describe. One may have beautiful reproductions of all the most famous classical statues and busts for a few shillings. What can be more appropriate than for Calliope to preside over your case containing Homer and Virgil, Dante and Milton; or that Euterpe should be enthroned above Theocritus and Horace, Shelley and Swinburne? You may carry your fancy on these lines as far as you like, and you may include any figure that pleases you, from the well-known 'Discobolus' (over your case of sporting books!) to the exquisite statue which many still persist in calling the 'Venus de Milo.'
A friend of our book-hunter has adopted a somewhat similar plan. Above each case in his library he has placed an oaken shield on which are emblazoned the arms of one of the ancient historic families of England, such as Warren, Clare, Mortimer, or Doyly. The effect is striking, and the bold colouring of fesses and chevrons lightens the sombre tone of the mahogany cases. The shields are chosen for their distinctive features, and, once learnt, it would be impossible in seeking 'Warr. C, 21' to mistake the scarlet chevrons of Clare for the blue and white chess-board coat of Warren.
On the matter of cases with glass doors we need not touch here; it has been thoroughly debated by such masters as Blades and Lang. For the storing of valuable books and bindings such cases are excellent, provided always that there is a free circulation of air about the volumes, or that the doors are opened every day. But for one who is at work continually in his library, and is referring constantly to his books, the repeated opening and closing of glass doors would be something more than irritating. Charles V. of France had grilles of brass wire put in the windows of his library in the Louvre, to preserve the books from the attacks of 'birds and other beasts.' The document recording the payment for this work makes the sinister remark that the books were in the tower 'devers la Fauconnerie.' Precisely what the clerk of the works thought we shall never know; possibly he pictured a goshawk pouncing upon the 'veluyau ynde' in which some chubby duodecimo was clothed. In the end, however, the 'oyseaux et autres bestes' had to make room for the books; and the Tour de la Fauconnerie, known thenceforth as the Tour de la Librairie, was panelled throughout with 'bois d'Irlande,' carved and inlaid (as it seems) with cypress wood. However, this was so long ago as 1368.
We must now turn to another important matter—perhaps the most important subject to the collector after the housing of his volumes—namely, the binding of his books. It is a subject that is naturally of the greatest moment to the bibliophile, for it is as essentially a part of his volumes as are their leaves and print. It is constantly before him, and will continue to occupy his thoughts to the end of his book-collecting career. So often, however, has it been treated, so many are the books upon it by skilled craftsmen, that it were needless (and, indeed, presumptuous for the writer) to enter into any details here concerning its methods. I would strongly urge every young collector, however, to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the craft so far as can be done without actually becoming apprentice to a bookbinder. Bookbinding is taught nowadays at most of the County Council Schools of Technics throughout the kingdom; and there are opportunities in this direction for the young bibliophile to-day which his elder brethren regard with envy.
Even where such practical instruction is unobtainable it is possible to acquire a quite considerable knowledge of the craft by a diligent study of practical text-books and the scrutinous handling of volumes bound in all ages. As he reads each page, each section of his manual, the collector should examine repeatedly the volumes lying by his side. Our book-hunter began his study of bookbinding with a small and excellent text-book by Mr. Joseph Zaehnsdorf, a member of the well-known firm of binders (sm. 8vo, 3rd ed. 1897); but it has perhaps been superseded by the more recent work of Mr. Douglas Cockerell, namely, 'Bookbinding and the Care of Books,' a perfectly invaluable little book to the collector (sm. 8vo, 4th ed. 1915, published by Mr. John Hogg, Paternoster Row). A diligent application to this book and constant reference to bound volumes during his perusal will teach the collector sufficient about the binding of books for his purpose. He will be able to distinguish between a cased and a bound book, a well-bound and a badly-bound volume, good and bad sewing, tooling, etc.; and he will learn the advantages of the solid back.
Now he may turn to the valuable work by Mr. H. P. Horne entitled 'The Binding of Books' (8vo, 1894) from which he will learn a great deal that is of interest concerning the history of binding. An excellent pamphlet on bookbinders and the history of their craft, by Mr. W. H. J. Weale, was issued in 1898 by the authorities of the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington. It was published at one shilling, and consists of 130 pages with illustrations of binders' stamps and tools, and has an excellent index. At the time of writing it is still in print. But you will find valuable lists of works on the history and practice of bookbinding in Mr. Cyril Davenport's delightful volume 'The Book: its History and Development' (8vo, 1907, Messrs. Constable and Co.). And there are two small volumes on the qualities of the modern book-binding leathers which the collector will do well to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest at the outset of his bibliopegic studies. They are 'Leather for Libraries' (8vo, London 1905), by a committee of the Library Association, and the Report of the Committee of the Society of Arts on Leather for Bookbinding, also octavo, London 1905.
Now as to the practical application of his knowledge of bookbinding. He will have realised at the outset of his career that unless a book be strongly bound in leather at the first, much use will quickly reduce it to the condition of a wreck. The British Museum authorities, recognising this, wisely rebind in leather certain volumes published in cloth covers which are to be placed on the shelves of the Reading Room. Where much use is accorded to the volumes doubtless the ideal way, if one were possessed of sufficient means, would be to purchase new books in quires only, and to have them bound in vellum, pigskin or morocco straight away. With regard to second-hand books (by which I mean old-time literature) these would be rebound, similarly, before they were assigned places on the shelves.
Fortunately, however, in the private library our volumes are immune from that careless handling usually accorded to books by those who love not learning for learning's sake, but look upon it as a necessary part of their worldly education. Usually there is no need to rebind these ancient tomes whose 'joints' are so delicately described by the bookseller as 'tender': their very infirmity will ensure that they be accorded careful handling. But there comes a time when the old fellow succumbs to his arthrodial trouble, and there is nothing for it but to send him to the binder that he may acquire a second youth. Then it is that the collector's learning in the art of binding will prove of the greatest use. He will take the patient in his hands, examine him minutely, and write a long prescription which he will slip into the volume opposite the title-page, before proceeding to wrap him up for the journey. It will run something like this:
M. PASQUIER'S 'Recherches de la France' Fo: Paris 1633. To be bound in full Niger, dark brown (as I usually have it). Solid back, big round bands. All edges untouched. Old marbled endpapers, cloth joints. Blind panel and lozenge tooling on sides (like the pattern you have of my big Menestrier). On the back a broad gold line either side of each band. Panels plain. To be lettered (thick fount) RECHERCHES DE LA FRANCE and in the middle panel PASQUIER. The engraved portrait facing the title-page to be washed and sized. Tears on pp. 721, 723 to be mended.
Pigskin, vellum, and morocco (by which I intend goatskin): there are no alternatives if durability be our aim; calf, of course, we have learnt long ago to eschew. No leather, except Russia, perishes more quickly or more easily. Rather have a book bound in cloth than in calf any day. Buckram is good and stands fairly rough handling; it is useful for binding catalogues and cheap books. See that your binder gives you good thick boards when he clothes your books in buckram.
Years ago, when books were most commonly bound in calf, a custom arose of stamping the lettering on thin pieces of leather of a different colour from the binding, and these were stuck on to the back of the book. There is no doubt that these leather labels have sometimes a pleasing effect, and for a time the custom was very popular. But it is a bad habit. Besides the meretricious effect generally produced, the paste which holds the label to the back of the book perishes in time, and the label drops off. A visit to any large second-hand bookshop will afford an admirable illustration of the result of this habit. Here one may see sets of Shakespeare's works and other classics which present a most woebegone appearance owing to several of the volumes having shed their labels. The only excuse for this custom that I have ever heard urged, is that one always knows when to rebind volumes so adorned: it is when the labels begin to fall.