The Booklover and His Books
by Harry Lyman Koopman
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Transcriber's Note: Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document.











The following chapters were written during a series of years as one aspect after another of the Book engaged the writer's attention. As they are now brought together, the result is not a systematic treatise, but rather a succession of views of one many-sided subject. In consequence there is considerable overlapping. The writer hopes, however, that this will be looked upon not as vain repetition but as a legitimate reinforcement of his underlying theme, the unity in diversity of the Book and the federation of all who have to do with it. He therefore offers the present volume not so much for continuous reading as for reading by chapters. He trusts that for those who may consult it in connection with systematic study a sufficient clue to whatever it may contain on any given topic will be found in the index.

Most of these chapters appeared as papers in "The Printing Art"; two were published in "The Graphic Arts," and some in other magazines. The writer expresses his thanks to the proprietors of these periodicals for the permission to republish the articles in their present collective form. All the papers have been revised to some extent. They were originally written in rare moments of leisure scattered through the busy hours of a librarian. Their writing was a source of pleasure, and their first publication brought him many delightful associations. As they are presented in their new attire to another group of readers, their author can wish for them no better fortune than to meet—possibly to make—booklovers.

BROWN UNIVERSITY LIBRARY, Commencement Day, 1916






The booklover is distinguished from the reader as such by loving his books, and from the collector as such by reading them. He prizes not only the soul of the book, but also its body, which he would make a house beautiful, meet for the indwelling of the spirit given by its author. Love is not too strong a word to apply to his regard, which demands, in the language of Dorothy Wordsworth, "a beautiful book, a book to caress—peculiar, distinctive, individual: a book that hath first caught your eye and then pleased your fancy." The truth is that the book on its physical side is a highly organized art object. Not in vain has it transmitted the thought and passion of the ages; it has taken toll of them, and in the hands of its worthiest makers these elements have worked themselves out into its material body. Enshrining the artist's thought, it has, therefore, the qualities of a true art product, and stands second only to those which express it, such as painting and sculpture; but no other art product of its own order, not the violin nor the jewel-casket, can compare with the book in esthetic quality. It meets one of the highest tests of art, for it can appeal to the senses of both beauty and grandeur, either separately, as in the work of Aldus and of Sweynheym and Pannartz, or together, as in that of Jenson.

Books have doubtless had their lovers in all ages, under all their forms. Even the Assyrian clay tablet, if stamped with the words of poet or sage, might have shared the affection which they inspired. So might the papyrus roll of the Egyptian, and so does even to-day the parchment book of the middle ages, whenever its fortunate owner has the soul of a booklover. From this book our own was derived, yet not without a break. For our book is not so much a copy of the Roman and medieval book as a "substitute" for it, a machine product made originally to sell at a large profit for the price of hand-work. It was fortunate for the early printed book that it stood in this intimate if not honored relation to the work of the scribes and illuminators, and fortunate for the book of to-day, since, with all its lapses, it cannot escape its heritage of those high standards.

Mr. John Cotton Dana has analyzed the book into forty elements; a minuter analysis might increase the number to sixty; but of either number the most are subsidiary, a few controlling. The latter are those of which each, if decided upon first, determines the character of the rest; they include size, paper, and type. The mention of any size, folio, quarto, octavo, twelvemo, sixteenmo, calls up at once a distinct mental picture of an ideal book for each dimension, and the series is marked by a decreasing thickness of paper and size of type as it progresses downward from the folio. The proportions of the page will also vary, as well as the surface of the paper and the cut of the type, the other elements conforming to that first chosen.

Next to size, paper determines the expression of a book. It is the printing material par excellence; but for its production the art could never have flourished. It is as much preferred by the printer as parchment was by the scribe. Its three elements of body, surface, and tint must all be considered, and either body or surface may determine the size of the book or the character of the type. A smooth surface may be an element of beauty, as with the paper employed by Baskerville, but it must not be a shiny surface. The great desideratum in modern paper from the point of view of the book-buyer is a paper that, while opaque and tough, shall be thin enough to give us our books in small compass, one more akin to the dainty and precious vellum than to the heavier and coarser parchment. It should also be durable.

Type gives its name to the art and is the instrument by which the spoken word is made visible to the eye. The aims in its design should be legibility, beauty, and compactness, in this order; but these are more or less conflicting qualities, and it is doubtful if any one design can surpass in all. Modern type is cleaner-cut than the old, but it may be questioned whether this is a real gain. William Morris held that all types should avoid hair-lines, fussiness, and ugliness. Legibility should have the right of way for most printed matter, especially children's books and newspapers. If the latter desire compactness, they should condense their style, not their types.

A further important element, which affects both the legibility and the durability of the book, is the ink. For most purposes it should be a rich black. Some of the print of the early masters is now brown, and there have been fashions of gray printing, but the booklover demands black ink, except in ornaments, and there color, if it is to win his favor, must be used sparingly and with great skill. We are told that the best combination for the eye is ink of a bluish tint on buff-tinted paper; but, like much other good advice, this remains practically untried.

Illustrations have been a feature of the book for over four hundred years, but they have hardly yet become naturalized within its pages. Or shall we say that they soon forgot their proper subordination to the type and have since kept up a more or less open revolt? The law of fitness demands that whatever is introduced into the book in connection with type shall harmonize with the relatively heavy lines of type. This the early black-line engravings did. But the results of all other processes, from copper-plate to half-tone, conflict with the type-picture and should be placed where they are not seen with it. Photogravures, for instance, may be put at the end of the book, or they may be covered with a piece of opaque tissue paper, so that either their page or the facing type-page will be seen alone. We cannot do without illustrations. All mankind love a picture as they love a lover. But let the pictures belong to the book and not merely be thrust into it.

The binding is to the book what the book is to its subject-matter, a clothing and protection. In the middle ages, when books were so few as to be a distinction, they were displayed sidewise, not edgewise, on the shelves, and their covers were often richly decorated, sometimes with costly gems. Even the wooden cover of the pre-Columbian Mexican book had gems set in its corners. Modern ornamentation is confined to tooling, blind and gilt, and inlaying. But some booklovers question whether any decoration really adds to the beauty of the finest leather. It should be remembered that the binding is not all on the outside. The visible cover is only the jacket of the real cover on which the integrity of the book depends. The sewing is the first element in time and importance. To be well bound a book should lie open well, otherwise it is bound not for the reader but only for the collector.

It cannot be too often repeated that properly made books are not extremely costly. A modern book offered at a fancy price means either a very small edition, an extravagant binding, or what is more likely, a gullible public. But most books that appeal to the booklover are not excessive in price. Never before was so much money spent in making books attractive—for the publisher always has half an eye on the booklover—and while much of this money is wasted, not all is laid out in vain. Our age is producing its quota of good books, and these the booklover makes it his business to discover.

In order to appreciate, the booklover must first know. He must be a book-kenner, a critic, but one who is looking for excellencies rather than faults, and this knowledge there are many books to teach him. But there is no guide that can impart the love of books; he must learn to love them as one learns to love sunsets, mountains, and the ocean, by seeing them. So let him who would know the joys and rewards of the booklover associate with well-made books. Let him begin with the ancients of printing, the great Germans, Italians, Dutchmen. He can still buy their books if he is well-to-do, or see them in libraries and museums if he belongs to the majority. Working down to the moderns, he will find himself discriminating and rejecting, but he will be attracted by certain printers and certain periods in the last four hundred years, and he will be rejoiced to find that the last thirty years, though following a decline, hold their own—not by their mean but by their best—with any former period short of the great first half-century, 1450-1500.

Finally, if his book-love develops the missionary spirit in him, let him lend his support to the printers and publishers of to-day who are producing books worthy of the booklover's regard, for in no other way can he so effectually speed the day when all books shall justify the emotion which more than five hundred years ago Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, expressed in the title of his famous and still cherished work, the Philobiblon.


"A woman's fitness comes by fits," said slanderous Cloten; but to say as much of fitness in book design would be on the whole a compliment. Fitness as applied to book design means, of course, that the material form of the book shall correspond to its spiritual substance, shall be no finer and no meaner, and shall produce a like, even if a slighter, esthetic impression. At the outset we have to surrender to commercialism more than half our territory. All agree that our kings should be clothed in purple and our commoners in broadcloth; but how about the intellectual riffraff that makes up the majority of our books? Are our publishers willing that these should be clothed according to their station? Hardly; for then would much of their own occupation be gone. It is recognized that for a large proportion of our publications the design—the outward appearance—is in great measure counted on to sell the book; and printers and publishers will not consent to send the paupers of literature forth upon the world in their native rags, for so they would find no one to welcome them. It will be useless to quarrel with the fact that the design of many books is meant as a bait and not as a simple interpretation of their meaning and worth. Design of this character, however, is relatively easy; it is really not design at all, but millinery. It is when his work becomes genuinely interpretative that the designer's difficulties begin.

The first business of the designer, therefore, is to understand the book he is treating. Here, of course, his judgment, however sincere, may be mistaken or misled. A classical instance of this is found in connection with one of the most famous books in the history of modern printing,—Barlow's "Columbiad." This work, which first appeared in 1787 under a different title, was enlarged to epic proportions during the next twenty years, and was finally given to the world in 1807 in the belief on the part of its author and in the hope at least on the part of its publisher that it would take rank and be honored for all time as the great American epic. Under this misconception the book was clothed in a form that might worthily have enshrined "Paradise Lost." Its stately quarto pages were set in a type specially designed for the work and taking from it the name of Columbian. The volume was embellished with full-page engravings after paintings in the heroic manner by Smirke; in short, it was the most pretentious book issued in America up to that time, and it still ranks, in the words of Professor Barrett Wendell, "among the most impressive books to look at in the world." But alas for the vanity of human aspirations! "The Columbiad" is now remembered as a contribution to typography rather than literature. The designer overshot his author.

We have tacitly assumed that a book has but one interpretation and therefore but one most appropriate design. This, however, is far from the truth. When, after various more or less successful editions of Irving's "Knickerbocker" had appeared, Mr. Updike brought out some twenty years ago his comic edition, with the whole make-up of the book expressive of the clumsy and stupid Dutchmen depicted in Irving's mock-heroic, we felt at the moment that here was the one ideal "Knickerbocker." Yet, much as we still admire it, does it wholly satisfy us? Is there not as much room as ever for an edition that shall express primarily not the absurdity of its subject-matter, but the delicate playfulness of Irving's humor and the lightness and grace of his exuberant style? Has there ever been a final "Don Quixote"? Certainly not in the recent monumental editions with their quagmire of footnotes. Moreover, if we had a final edition of the great romance it would not remain final for our children's children. Every age will make its own interpretations of the classics and will demand that they be embodied in contemporary design. Thus every age in its book design mirrors itself for future admiration or contempt.

Obviously, in giving form to a single work a designer is freer than in handling a series by one or by various authors. In such cases he must seize upon more general and therefore less salient characteristics. The designer of "Hiawatha" or "Evangeline" has a fairly clear task before him, with a chance of distinct success or failure; but the designer of an appropriate form for the whole series of Longfellow's works, both prose and poetry, has a less individualized problem, and must think of the elements that run through all,—sweetness, grace, gentleness, dignity, learning. Yet, though general, these qualities in a series may be far from vague. We have only to consider the absurdity of a handy-volume Gibbon or a folio Lamb. On looking at the bulky, large-type, black-covered volumes of the Forman edition of Shelley and Keats one instinctively asks, "What crime did these poets commit that they should be so impounded?" The original edition of the life of Tennyson by his son, in two lumbering, royal octavo volumes, comes near to what Thackeray called the Farnese Hercules, "a hulking abortion." Contrast with it the dignity linked with charm of the original edition of Longfellow's life by his brother. But of all monstrosities of book design the British three-volume novel mania is responsible for some of the worst. Henry Ward Beecher's one novel, "Norwood," which appeared in America becomingly clad in a single volume, received in England the regulation three-volume dress, in which it looks as ridiculously inflated as did a slender miss of that period in the crinoline then in vogue. There is one abomination in book design for which I owe a personal grudge to commercialism, and that is the dropsical book form given to Locker-Lampson's "My Confidences." If ever there was a winsome bit of writing it is this, and it should have made a book to take to one's heart, something not larger than a "Golden Treasury" volume, but of individual design. My comfort is that this will yet be done, and my belief is that art will justify itself better in the market than commercialism did. A more modern instance of expansion for commercial reasons defeating fitness in design is furnished by Waters' translation of "The Journal of Montaigne's Travels." Here we have three small volumes outwardly attractive, but printed on paper thick enough for catalogue cards, and therefore too stiff for the binding, also in type too large to be pleasant. The whole should have been issued in one volume of the same size in smaller type, and would then have been as delightful in form as it is in substance.

It is not enough that all the elements of a book be honest, sincere, enduring; otherwise the clumsy royal octavos of Leslie Stephen's edition of Fielding would be as attractive as "the dear and dumpy twelves" of the original editions. Royal octavo, indeed, seems to be the pitfall of the book designer, though there is no inherent objection to it. Where in the whole range of reference books will be found a more attractive set of volumes than Moulton's "Library of Literary Criticism," with their realization in this format of the Horatian simplex munditiis? For extremely different treatments of this book size it is instructive to compare the slender volumes of the original editions of Ruskin with the slightly shorter but very much thicker volumes of the scholarly definitive edition, which is a monument of excellence in every element of book design except the crowning one of fitness. Our libraries must have this edition for its completeness and its editorship; its material excellence will insure the transmission of Ruskin's message to future centuries; but no one will ever fall in love with these volumes or think of likening them to the marriage of "perfect music unto noble words."

Granted that the designer knows the tools of his trade,—grasps the expressional value of every element with which he has to deal, from the cut of a type to the surface of a binder's cloth,—his task, as we said, is first to know the soul of the book intrusted to him for embodiment; it is next to decide upon its most characteristic quality, or the sum of its qualities; and, lastly, it is so to use his physical elements as to give to the completed book an expression that shall be the outward manifestation of its indwelling spirit. This is all that can be asked of him; but, if he would add a touch of perfection, let him convey the subtle tribute of a sense of the value of his subject by reflecting in his design the artist's joy in his work.


The invention of printing, we have often been told, added to book production only the two commercial elements of speed and cheapness. As regards the book itself, we are assured, printing not only added nothing, but, during the four and a half centuries of its development, has constantly tended to take away. These statements are no doubt historically and theoretically true, yet they are so unjust to the present-day art that some supplementary statement of our obligations to printing seems called for, aside from the obvious rejoinder that, even if speed and cheapness are commercial qualities, they have reached a development—especially in the newspaper—beyond the dreams of the most imaginative fifteenth-century inventor, and have done nothing less than revolutionize the world.

Taking the service of printing as it stands to-day, what does it actually do for the reader? What is the great difference between the printed word and even the best handwriting? It is obviously the condensation and the absolute mechanical sameness of print. The advantage of these differences to the eye in respect to rapid reading is hardly to be overestimated. Let any one take a specimen of average penmanship and note the time which he consumes in reading it; let him compare with this the time occupied in reading the same number of printed words, and the difference will be startling; but not even so will it do justice to print, for handwriting average in quality is very far from average in frequency. If it be urged that the twentieth-century comparison should be between typewriting and print, we may reply that typewriting is print, though it lacks most of its condensation, and that the credit for its superior legibility belongs to typography, of which the new art is obviously a by-product. But we are not yet out of the manuscript period, so far as private records are concerned, and it still is true, as it has been for many generations, that print multiplies the years of every scholar's and reader's life.

At this point we may even introduce a claim for print as a contributor to literature. There are certainly many books of high literary standing that never would have attained their present form without the intervention of type. It is well known that Carlyle rewrote his books in proof, so that the printer, instead of attempting to correct his galleys, reset them outright. Balzac went a step further, and largely wrote his novels in proof, if such an expression may be allowed. He so altered and expanded them that what went to the printing office as copy for a novelette finally came out of it a full-sized novel. Even where the changes are not so extensive, as in the proof-sheets of the Waverley Novels preserved in the Cornell University Library, it is interesting to trace the alterations which the author was prompted to make by the sight of his paragraphs clothed in the startling distinctness of print. Nor is this at all surprising when one considers how much better the eye can take in the thought and style of a composition from the printed page than it can even from typewriting. The advantage is so marked that some publishers, before starting on an expensive literary venture, are accustomed to have the copy set up on the linotype for the benefit of their critics. If the work is accepted, the revisions are made on these sheets, and then, finally, the work is sent back to the composing room to receive the more elaborate typographic dress in which it is to appear.

But to return to the advantages of type to the reader. Handwriting can make distinctions, such as punctuation and paragraphing, but print can greatly enforce them. The meaning of no written page leaps out to the eye; but this is the regular experience of the reader with every well-printed page. While printing can do nothing on a single page that is beyond the power of a skillful penman, its ordinary resources are the extraordinary ones of manuscript. It might not be physically impossible, for instance, to duplicate with a pen a page of the Century Dictionary, but it would be practically impossible, and, if the pen were our only resource, we never should have such a marvel of condensation and distinctness as that triumph of typography in the service of scholarship.

In ordinary text, printing has grown away from the distinctions to the eye that were in vogue two hundred years ago—a gain to art and perhaps to legibility also, though contemporary critics like Franklin lamented the change—but in reference books we have attained to a finer skill in making distinctions to the eye than our forefathers achieved with all their typographic struggles. Nor are our reference pages lacking in beauty. But our familiarity with works of this class tends to obscure their wonderful merit as time-savers and eye-savers. It is only when we take up some foreign dictionary, printed with little contrast of type, perhaps in German text, and bristling with unmeaning abbreviations, that we appreciate our privilege. Surely this is a marvelous mechanical triumph, to present the words of an author in such a form that the eye, to take it in, needs but to sweep rapidly down the page, or, if it merely glances at the page, it shall have the meaning of the whole so focused in a few leading words that it can turn at once to the passage sought, or see that it must look elsewhere. The saving of time so effected may be interpreted either as a lengthening of life or as an increased fullness of life, but it means also a lessening of friction and thus an addition to human comfort.

We have been speaking of prose; but print has done as much or more to interpret the meaning of poetry. We have before us a facsimile of nineteen lines from the oldest Vatican manuscript of Vergil. The hexameters are written in single lines; but this is the only help to the eye. The letters are capitals and are individually very beautiful, indeed, the lines are like ribbons of rich decoration; but the words are not separated, and the punctuation is inconspicuous and primitively simple, consisting merely of faint dots. Modern poetry, especially lyric, with its wealth and interplay of rhyme, affords a fine opportunity for the printer to mediate between the poet and his public, and this he has been able to do by mere indention and leading, without resorting to distinction of type. The reader of a sonnet or ballad printed without these two aids to the eye is robbed of his rightful clues to the construction of the verse. It seems hardly possible that a poem could have been read aloud from an ancient manuscript, at sight, with proper inflection; yet this is just what printing can make possible for the modern reader. It has not usually done so, for the printer has been very conservative; he has taken his conception of a page from prose, and, not being compelled to, has not placed all the resources of his art at the service of the poet. Accents, pauses, and certain arbitrary signs might well be employed to indicate to the reader the way the poet meant his line to be read. Milton curiously gave us some metric hints by means of changes in spelling, but we have to read all our other poets in the light of our own discernment, and it is not to be wondered at if doctors disagree. Even the caesura, or pause in the course of a long line, is not always easy to place. Francis Thompson, in his poem "A Judgement in Heaven," has indicated this by an asterisk, giving an example that might well be followed by other poets and their printers. The regularity of eighteenth-century verse made little call for guide-posts, but modern free meter, in proportion to its greater flexibility and richness, demands more assistance to the reader's eye, or even to his understanding. For instance, to read aloud hexameters or other long lines, some of which have the initial accent on the first syllable and some later, is quite impossible without previous study supplemented by a marking of the page. Yet a few printed accents would make a false start impossible. Poetry will never require the elaborate aid from the printer which he gives to music; but it seems clear that he has not yet done for it all that he might or should.

It is surely not an extreme assumption that the first duty of the printer is to the meaning of his author, and his second to esthetics; but shall we not rather say that his duty is to meet both demands, not by a compromise, but by a complete satisfaction of each? A difficult requirement, surely, but one that we are confident the twentieth-century printer will not permit his critics to pronounce impossible.


In the following paper some account will be given of five book sizes that have taken rank as favorites. It should excite no surprise that all are small sizes. Nature's favorites are always small; her insect jewels outnumber her vertebrates a millionfold; and book-loving human nature takes the same delight in daintiness.

There is, to be sure, a general impression that the first centuries of printing were given up to folios, the eighteenth century to quartos and octavos, and that only the present period has been characterized by twelvemos and sixteenmos. We think of the Gutenberg Bible, the Nuremberg Chronicle, the mighty editions of the Fathers, the polyglot Bibles of Paris, London, and Antwerp,—fairly to be called limp teachers' Bibles,—the 1611 Bible, the Shakespeare folios; then of the quarto editions of Addison, Pope, Walpole, and their contemporaries, and the stately octavo editions of the same writers; and finally of the myriad infra that have swarmed from the press during the last century. But, when we walk through a library that offers a representative collection of books from the invention of printing to the present, we realize that the bigness of the folios and quartos has deceived us as to their relative number, all forms of literature being considered.

The parent of our present book form, the Roman codex, split from an actual block of wood, had a surface hardly as large as the cover of a Little Classic. The vellum Books of Hours were dainty volumes. Even in the period between Gutenberg and Aldus, books of moderate size were not uncommon, and continuously, from the days of the great Venetian popularizer of literature to the present, the small books have far outnumbered their heavy-armed allies. Common sense, indeed, would tell us that this must be so, even if it had not inspired Dr. Johnson, its eighteenth century exponent, to declare: "Books that you may carry to the fire, and hold readily in your hand, are the most useful after all."

Our account properly begins with Aldus. From 1494, the date of his first productions, until 1501 he printed his books in folio and quarto. But in the first year of the new century he began to use his famous cursive type, now called italic. The fineness of the new type, as has been suggested, called for a smaller size of book, which was also favored by considerations of economy and convenience; and so Aldus made up his sheets in a form which the fold compels us to call octavo, but which to-day would be called sixteenmo. Says Horatio F. Brown, in his "The Venetian Printing Press": "The public welcomed the new type and size. The College granted Aldus a monopoly for ten years for all books printed in this manner. The price of books was lowered at once. Didot calculates that an octavo of Aldus cost, on an average, two francs and a half, whereas a folio probably cost about twenty francs. These two innovations on type and on format constituted a veritable revolution in the printing press and in the book trade, which now began to reach a far more extensive market than it had ever touched before. With this wide diffusion of books came the popularization of knowledge at which Aldus aimed. Scholarship began to lose its exclusive and aristocratic character when the classics were placed within the reach of any student who chose to study, meditate, and interpret them for himself. And to Aldus belongs the credit of having, through his new type and size, opened the way to the democratization of learning."

That the taste which Aldus so successfully hit was no merely temporary one, any person will be convinced if he will stand before a shelf full of these little Aldus classics, handle the light, well-proportioned volumes, and take in the esthetic charm of their type and page and form, which, in spite of their four hundred years, by no means savors of antiquity. In these books Aldus achieved one of the greatest triumphs possible in any art, a union of beauty and utility, each on so high a plane that no one is able to decide which is pre-eminent. In a copy which I have before me of his "Rhetoricorum ad C. Herennium Libri IIII," 1546, the fine proportions of the page appear in spite of trimming. Very noticeable are the undersized roman capitals; more curious is the letter printed in the otherwise blank square to indicate what initial the illuminator should insert in color, and the irregular use of capitals and small letters after a period. The catchword appears only on the last page of the signature, not on every page, as was the later practice. Modern usage wisely consigns italic to a subordinate place, but in point of beauty combined with convenience, it may well be questioned if four centuries of printing have made any advance upon this page.

In nearly every library for scholars is to be found a row of plump little books that never fail to catch the eye of the sightseer. If the visitor does not know beforehand what they are, he is little enlightened on being told that they are "Elzevirs," and the attendant must needs supply the information that the Elzevirs were a family of Dutch printers who flourished during the century that closed with the arrival of William III in England, and that these tiny volumes represent their most popular productions. Says George Haven Putnam in his "Books and their Makers during the Middle Ages": "The Elzevirs, following the example set a century and a half earlier by Aldus, but since that time very generally lost sight of by the later publishers, initiated a number of series of books in small and convenient forms, twelvemo and sixteenmo, which were offered to book buyers at prices considerably lower than those they had been in the habit of paying for similar material printed in folio, quarto, or octavo.... These well-edited, carefully printed, and low-priced editions of the classics won for the Elzevirs the cordial appreciation of scholars and of students throughout Europe."

Among the authors who acknowledged their indebtedness to the Elzevirs may be mentioned Galileo, the elder Balzac, and the poet Menage. I have before me more than six feet of shelving filled with these tiny books. They are nearly all bound in vellum, and thus retain their antique appearance without as well as within. Their subject-matter is in the fields of literature, ancient and contemporary, and the history, geography, and political constitution of the principal countries. The books of the latter division are known as "Respublicae Variae." It is impossible to resist the conclusion that this book form was chosen not more to supply cheap books which could be sold to impecunious scholars than to provide portable volumes for travelers. The Elzevir "Commonwealths" were the predecessors of our "satchel guides," and the literary publications in this form were evidently designed to be pocket editions. It was to such books that Dr. Johnson referred when he advised his friends "never to go out without some little book or other in their pocket. Much time is lost by waiting, by travelling, etc., and this may be prevented by making use of every possible opportunity for improvement." When the positive doctor, on his journey to the Hebrides, paid his tribute to George Buchanan at St. Andrews, his acquaintance with the Latin poetry of the Scotch professor may well have arisen from his having thus made a pocket piece of one of the several Elzevir editions of the poet.

The characteristics of the "Elzevirs" are that they range from about four to about five inches in height, are always narrow, 2-1/4 to 2-3/4 inches in width, and are usually thick, in some cases even 1-1/2 inches. It is hardly necessary to say that the esthetic impression of these "jewels of typography" is wholly different from that produced by the "Alduses." It is the beauty of an infant compared with that of a youth, and, as in the case of the infant, plumpness is a part of the charm. The thinnest of the "Elzevirs" (about three-fourths of an inch thick) lack much of the characteristic quality. It is of course granted that no small portion of the charm exerted by these volumes is due to their type, which in artistic excellence and practical effectiveness has hardly been surpassed before or since.

When William Pickering, in 1830, began to issue his Aldine edition of the British Poets in the most beautiful and appropriate form that he could devise, the design which he placed upon the title-page, a dolphin and an anchor, with the words "Aldi discip. Anglus," was an expression at once of pride and of obligation. He had gone back to Aldus for his model, and the book which he produced was in all but its change of type from italic to roman a nearly exact reproduction of the form which Aldus had employed so successfully three centuries before. Even the relative thinness of the volumes was preserved as an important element of their attractiveness to eye and hand. Whoever would learn what an enormous difference in esthetic effect can be produced by slight differences in style and size, especially in thickness, should compare the Pickering "Aldines" with the rival set of British Poets published by Little and Brown. The latter series is a noble one, often showing better presswork than Pickering's, and it was deservedly popular, but it is many degrees removed from the totality of esthetic charm that would entitle it to rank as a favorite.

We said that Pickering went back to Aldus for his model, but he did not travel a lonely road. The book size in question had never ceased to be used, and in the eighteenth century it was in full favor. The writings of the novelists and essayists found ready buyers in this form, as witness, among others, the Strahan Fielding of 1783, the Rivington Idler of the same year, and the Rivington Sterne of 1788. The size of the printed page is usually larger, but that of the Sterne corresponds as closely to that of the two "Aldines" as the difference in the size of type will permit. Pickering's contemporaries and successors in the publishing field recognized the attractiveness of this book size, and the works of the poets generally were issued in this form; hence we have, for example, the Longman Southey, the Moxon Wordsworth, and the Murray Crabbe. The latest series to appeal for popular favor by the use of this book form is Everyman's Library, in which, though much has been sacrificed to cheapness, the outward proportions of the volumes are almost identical with those adopted by Aldus and Pickering.

Go, little book, whose pages hold Those garnered years in loving trust; How long before your blue and gold Shall fade and whiten in the dust?

This stanza from Dr. Holmes's introduction to his "Poems" of 1862 may well be claimed by the Blue and Gold edition of the poets as its passport to the recognition of future generations. But it will need no passport; its own enduring charm is sufficient. The volumes of this dainty series, while larger in all but thickness than the "Elzevirs," yet make their appeal by much the same qualities, compactness and portability, with a suggestion of the Elzevirian plumpness. To the attraction of the size is added the contrasted charm of the blue cover and the gilt stamp and edges. That a Blue and Gold edition, in the absence of its name qualities, becomes something far inferior may be seen from a copy that has lost them in rebinding. In spite of the hardness of their blue and the crudeness of their stamped designs, these little volumes attract every reader and never remain long on the shelves of the second-hand bookstores. We should not expect a publisher to succeed were he now to put them upon the market for the first time or in an exact reproduction. But the publisher who shall so recombine their elements as to produce upon his public the effect which they made upon theirs, and which they still make as reminiscent of an earlier taste, will be the envy of his fellows. It is interesting to note that after fifty years these volumes show no sign of fading, so that Dr. Holmes might well have made his stanza an exclamation instead of a question. They seem likely to last as long as the "Elzevirs" or even the "Alduses" have already lasted, and possibly to outlast the fame, though hardly the memory, of the poet who sang them. The dimensions of the cover are 5-5/8 by 3-3/8 inches; the thickness is about an inch. There was a larger Blue and Gold format, as well as several smaller, but only the standard is now valued.

We cannot bring our list of favorite book sizes much nearer the present without running the risk of confusing the temporary and the permanent in popular approval. We will, therefore, close with a mention of the Little Classics. At about the time when the Blue and Gold series ceased to be published, more exactly in 1874, Mr. Rossiter Johnson designed for the now famous series which he was then editing a book form that sprang at once into a favor that it still retains. In this form, which appears to have no near counterpart in either earlier or later bookmaking, the volumes are closely six by four inches by three-quarters of an inch in thickness. The edges are colored red, whatever the color of the sides. The printed page is relatively wide, and the whole effect of the book is that of a tiny quarto, though in reality the dimensions are those of a rather small sixteenmo of normal proportions. Thus the volume produces upon the eye the charm of daintiness, while the page contains a sufficient amount of matter to make the volume profitable to the purchaser.

This series naturally suggests comparison with the Tauchnitz editions, which consist of volumes only slightly larger. But really no comparison is possible. The Tauchnitz editions are merely convenient carriers of letterpress. The Little Classics are a genuine art product. That the latter book size has not been more widely used than it has, by its own and by other publishers, is perhaps due to commercial reasons. But there can be no question of the esthetic appeal which it makes upon the reader who is looking for compactness and beauty rather than for the greatest bulk for his money. With the modern demand for the saving of space in private libraries we may reasonably look for a revival of this condensed and charming book size.

The adoption of a few standard sizes for all books was urged some years ago at a meeting of American librarians. Commenting on this proposal, a New York publisher remarked that he should be glad to have such standard sizes adopted by others, but he should take pains to avoid them in his own publications in order to gain the distinction of difference. The discussion stopped suddenly under the impact of this unexpected assault. But a second thought shows that the publisher's comment leaves the question still open. It is obvious that if we were to adopt standard sizes based upon nothing more fundamental than the librarian's desire for uniformity or the printer's mechanical convenience, without regard to the tastes and preferences of the reader, who is the final judge, the publisher might well find his gain in disregarding them. But if the standards adopted all represented sizes long tested and approved by popular favor, the publisher who should avoid them would display a confidence in the Spirit of the Perverse as sublime as it would be hazardous. Fortunately no formal standardization of book sizes is likely to be attempted. But, keenly as a publisher would resent any limitation upon his freedom in book design, he is just as keenly desirous that his books shall be favorites. To attain his coveted end he has two resources, experience and experiment, or a mixture of both. While the book sizes that have been discussed in this chapter do not include all the favorites, they certainly include some of the first favorites, and are worthy of study by everyone who is seeking public favor in the design of that complex art product known as a Book.


Of what value is it to a community to contain—still more to be composed of—well-read people? We can best answer this question by picturing its opposite, a community without readers; this we are unfortunately able to do without drawing upon our imaginations, for we have only to turn to certain districts of countries like Spain or Russia. There we shall meet whole communities, large enough to form cities elsewhere, which are little more than aggregations of paupers. Shall we find in any of these homes a daily or a weekly paper, or a monthly magazine, or even a stray book? Not one, except perhaps in the house of a priest. These masses of people live on the earth, to be sure, but they do not live in the world. No currents of the great, splendid life of the twentieth century ever reach them; and they live in equal isolation from the life of the past. "The glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome" have for them simply no existence. They are truly the disinherited of all the ages. Though they may not be unhappy, they can be called nothing less than wretched. Is the fault one of race, or government, or religion? Much could be said on all these points, both for and against; but one fact remains indisputable—these people do not read.

Let us turn now to a different type of community, that represented by the ordinary New England village. How stands the cause of reading there? If there is any person of sound mind in the community who has never learned to read, he is pointed out as a curiosity. There is not a home in the length and breadth of the town that is without its paper, its magazine, or its books. In other words, literacy is taken for granted. Is it any wonder that in progress, wealth, and influence the one community starts where the other leaves off? In the illiterate towns just described there is often no man who has the slightest capacity for business or who can represent the interests of his community before even the humblest government official. But from towns of the other type come men who represent with honor their state and their nation; men who widen the bounds of freedom and who add new stars to the celestial sphere of knowledge. Is all this wholly a matter of reading? One would not dare to assert it absolutely, remembering the advantages of race, government, and religion enjoyed in New England. And yet we have only to fancy the condition of even such a town after one generation, supposing all its printed matter and its power to read were taken away, if we would realize what an impulse to progress and prosperity is given by the presence of the volumes that line the shelves of our public libraries.

If the fortunes of a community in the modern world are bound up with the use that it makes of books and libraries, no less are those of the individual. This is true whether we refer to his private satisfaction or to his public advancement. The animal is endowed with instinct, which is sufficient for the guidance of his life, but it permits of no development. Man must depend upon judgment, experience, reason—guides that are often only too blind; but at least they admit of progress. In fact it is only in the field of knowledge that human progress appears to be possible. We have no better bodies than the ancient Greeks had—to put the case very mildly. We have no better minds than they had—to make an even safer assertion. But we know almost infinitely more than they did. In this respect the ancient Greeks were but as children compared with ourselves. What makes this tremendous difference? Simply the fact that we know all that was known by them and the Romans and the men of the middle ages, and through this knowledge we have learned more by our own discovery than they knew, all put together. The path to success for men and races lies through the storehouse where this vast knowledge is garnered—the library. But it is something more than a storehouse of knowledge; it is an electrical battery of power. This knowledge, this power, can be obtained in its fullness only through books. The man, therefore, who aspires to lead his fellows, to command their respect or their votes, must not rely on native talent alone; he must add to it the stored-up talent of the ages.

There is an old proverb: "No man ever got rich with his coat off." This is a puzzling assertion, for it seems to contradict so many accepted ideas. General Grant, for instance, when asked for his coat-of-arms, replied: "A pair of shirt sleeves." The answer showed an honorable pride in labor; but we must remember that it was not General Grant's arms but his brain that won his victories. Does not our proverb mean simply this: that the great prizes of life—of which riches is the symbol, not the sum—cannot be won by main strength and ignorance; that they can be won only by energy making use of knowledge? But it is not only in the public successes of life that books have a value for the individual. Public successes are never the greatest that men win. It is in the expansion and uplift of the inner self that books render their grandest service. Emily Dickinson wrote of such a reader:

He ate and drank the precious words, His spirit grew robust; He knew no more that he was poor, Nor that his frame was dust. He danced along the dingy days, And this bequest of wings Was but a book. What liberty A loosened spirit brings!

A final word on values. The philosophers make two great classes of values, which may be entitled respectively Property and Possessions. Under Property come money, houses, lands, carriages, clothing, jewels; under Possessions come love, friendship, morality, knowledge, culture, refinement. All are good things. There never were any houses or carriages or clothes too good for a human being. But these obviously belong to a different type of values from the other group—to a lower type. What is the test, the touchstone, by which we can tell to which class any value belongs? We shall find the test clearly stated in the Sermon on the Mount. Is the treasure in question one that moth and rust can corrupt or that thieves can break through and steal? If so, it belongs to the lower class, to Property. But if it is one that cannot be taken away, then it is a Possession and belongs to the higher type. There is another test, which is really a part of this: Can you share it without loss? If I own a farm, and give to another a half of it or a year's crop from it, I deprive myself of just so much. But, if I have knowledge or taste or judgment or affection, I can pour them all out like water for the benefit of my fellows, and yet never have any the less. On the contrary, I shall find that I have more; for they grow by sharing. But we have not yet done with the superiority of Possessions over Property. "Shrouds have no pockets," says the grim old proverb; and all Property must be laid down at the edge of the grave. But if man be immortal, as the wise in all ages have believed, then we do not have to lay down our Possessions with this mortal body. For, if the soul when freed from the flesh is to remain the soul, the self—and only so can immortality have any meaning—then it must keep all those inner acquisitions of knowledge, culture, and character which it has gathered on earth; nay, it then for the first time truly comes into the enjoyment of them. What were our earthly Possessions become Treasures laid up for ourselves in Heaven.


The book of to-day is not necessarily the parent of the book of to-morrow, just as it is itself not necessarily the child of the book of yesterday. The relation is apt to be one of succession and influence rather than anything suggesting biological evolution. Nature, according to Linnaeus's famous maxim, never goes by leaps, but the book is a human product, and human nature takes its chief pride in its leaps, calling them inventions and discoveries. Such a leap in book production was the substitution of parchment for papyrus, of paper for parchment, of mechanical for manual processes when writing was displaced by typography, of higher for lower mechanism in the creation of the power perfecting press. These inventions had behind them, to be sure, the impetus of economic demand, but no such partial explanation can be given for the advent of William Morris among the printers of the late nineteenth century, unless an unrecognized artistic need may be said to constitute an economic demand.

The book of to-day in its best examples resembles not so much the book of yesterday as that of some earlier days, and we may count this fact a fortunate one, since it relegates to oblivion the books made in certain inartistic periods, notably of the one preceding the present revival. It is rather the best of the whole past of the book, and not the book of to-day alone, that influences the character to be taken by the book of to-morrow. This element is a historical one and a knowledge of it may be acquired by study; it is the possible inventions that baffle our prophecies. We know that any time some new process may be discovered that will transform the book into something as unlike its present character as that is unlike the papyrus roll. But because the element of invention is so uncertain we can only recognize it, we cannot take it into account. Our advantage in considering the book of to-day in connection with the book of to-morrow will be chiefly a negative one, in making the book as it is, so far as we find it defective, our point of departure in seeking the book as it ought to be.

To-day, for our present purposes, may be taken as beginning with the great work of Morris. But its book includes the worst as well as the best. It is not only the book by which we in our jealousy for the reputation of our age should like to have our age remembered, but also the more frequent book that we have to see and handle, however much against our will, and sometimes even to buy. We may congratulate ourselves that this book will perish by its own defects, leaving after all only the best book to be associated with our age; but this does not alter the fact that in the present the undesirable book is too much with us, is vastly in the majority, is, in fact, the only book that the great mass of our contemporaries know. How bad it is most book buyers do not realize; if they did, a better book would speedily take its place. But, until they do, our only chance of relief is the doubtful one of an invention that shall make good books cheaper to make than poor ones, or the difficult one of educating the public in the knowledge of what a book should be. The latter is obviously our only rational hope; but before we turn to consider it, let us first look at the book of to-day to see exactly what it is.

The book of to-day is first of all a novel. It has other forms, to be sure,—poetry, essays, history, travels, works of science and art,—but these do not meet the eye of the multitude. We may disregard them for the moment, and, in reply to the question, What is the book of to-day? we may say: It is a one-volume novel, a rather clumsy duodecimo, with a showy cover adorned with a colored picture of the heroine. It is printed on thick paper of poor quality, with type too large for the page, and ugly margins equal all around. Its binding is weak, often good for only a dozen readings, though quite as lasting as the paper deserves. For merits it can usually offer clear type, black ink, and good presswork. But its great fault is that in addressing the buyer it appeals to the primitive instinct for bigness rather than to the higher sense that regards quality. Such is the book of to-day, emphatically what Franklin over a hundred years ago called a "blown" book.

But though the novel fills the multitude's field of vision, it is after all not the only contemporary book; there are others from which we may be able to choose one worthier to be the book of to-day than the self-elected novel. But we shall not find it where commercialism is rife. In the presence of that element we find still only an appeal to the many—which, if successful, means large profits—by an appearance of giving much while really giving little. In this game of illusion the sound principles of bookmaking are forsaken. Books are not designed on the basis of what they are, but on the basis of what they can be made to seem. The result is puffery, not merely in advertising, but still earlier in the dimensions of the book itself—the most modern and profitable instance of using the east wind for a filler.

But at this point a new element is introduced, the public library. The ordinary buyer carries home the distended book, and after he and his family have read it, he cares not if it falls to pieces after the next reading. Neither does he care if it takes up thrice the room that it should, for he no longer gives it room. But the public library, under the existing inflationism, must not only pay too much for its popular books; it must also house them at a needless outlay, and must very early duplicate a serious percentage of their first cost in rebinding them. So burdensome has this last item become that our libraries are consenting to pay a slightly larger first cost in order to avoid the necessity of rebinding; and enterprising publishers, following the lead of a more enterprising bookbinder, are beginning to cater to this library demand, which some day, let us hope, may dominate the entire publishing world for all books worth preserving, and may extend to all the elements of the book.

But fortunately there is here and there the uncommercial publisher and now and then an uncommercial mood in the ordinary publisher. To these we owe a small but important body of work of which no previous age need have been ashamed. Of these books we may almost say that they would be books if there were nothing in them. They have come into being by a happy conjunction of qualified publisher and appreciative buyers. They show what most books may be and what all books will strive to be if ever the majority of book buyers come to know what a good book is. This brings us finally to the book of to-morrow, what we hope it will be and how we can make it so.

The book of to-morrow, the book as it ought to be, will be both better and cheaper than the book of to-day. It can afford to be cheaper, for it will have a large and appreciative public, and for the same reason it will have to be better. The question of supreme importance now, if this public is ever to exist, is: How to educate our book buyers. The answer is not easy, for our book buyers do not realize that they are untrained, and, even if they realized it, the task of training them in the knowledge and love of the well-made book would be difficult. But we can do at least three things: agitate—proclaim the existence of a lore to be acquired, an ignorance and its practices to be eschewed; illustrate—show the good book and the bad together, and set forth, point by point, why the good is superior; last and most important, we must vindicate—back up our words by our deeds, support the publisher who gives the world good books, and leave to starvation or reform the publisher who clings to the old unworthy methods of incapacity or fraud. Even now, if every enlightened booklover in America would carry out this plan as a matter of duty merely where he could do so without inconvenience, nothing less than a revolution would be upon us, and we should have the Book of To-morrow while it is still To-day.


At the meeting of the British librarians at Cambridge in 1882 a bomb was thrown into the camp of the book producers in the form of the question: Who spoils our new English books? In the explosion which followed, everybody within range was hit, from "the uncritical consumer" to "the untrained manufacturer." This dangerous question was asked and answered by Henry Stevens of Vermont, who, as a London bookseller, had for nearly forty years handled the products of the press new and old, had numbered among his patrons such critical booklovers as John Carter Brown and James Lenox, and had been honored with the personal friendship of William Pickering the publisher and Charles Whittingham the printer. He had therefore enjoyed abundant opportunity for qualifying himself to know whereof he spoke. If his words were severe, he stood ready to justify them with an exhibit of sixty contemporary books which he set before his hearers.[2]

The truth is, however unwilling his victims may have been to admit it, that his attack was only too well timed. The men of creative power, who had ennobled English book production during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, had passed away, and books were being thrown together instead of being designed as formerly. The tradition of excellence in English bookmaking still held sway over the public, and, as their books sold, most producers saw no reason to disturb themselves. What to them was progress in other lands, or the claims of a future that could not be enforced? But after Mr. Stevens's attack they could at least no longer plead ignorance of their faults. It is certain that an improvement soon began, which culminated in the present great era of book design throughout the English world. If the famous bookseller's address were not the cause of the change, it at least marked a turning point, and it deserves to be studied as one of the historic documents of modern printing. It is more than this, however; it is a piece of creative criticism, and though teaching not by example but by contraries, it forms one of the best existing brief compends of what a well-made book must be.

The critic of books as they were made a generation ago begins with the assertion of a truth that cannot be too often repeated: "The manufacture of a beautiful and durable book costs little if anything more than that of a clumsy and unsightly one." He adds that once a handsome book and a new English book were synonymous terms, but that now the production of really fine books is becoming one of England's lost arts. He indulges in a fling at "the efforts of certain recent printers to retrieve this decadence by throwing on to the already overburdened trade several big, heavy, and voluminous works of standard authors termed 'editions de luxe.'" He assures his hearers that his judgments were not formed on the spur of the moment, but were based partly on long personal observations—Stevens was the author of that widely influential piece of selective bibliography, "My English Library," London, 1853—and on the results of the international exhibitions since 1851, especially those of Vienna (1874), Philadelphia (1876), and Paris (1878), in the last of which he was a juror. His conclusion is "that the present new English, Scotch, and Irish books, of a given size and price, are not of the average quality of high art and skill in manufacture that is found in some other countries." He reminds his hearers that "it is no excuse to say that the rapidity of production has been largely increased. That amounts merely to confessing that we are now consuming two bad books in the place of one good one."

Mr. Stevens now comes to the direct question: Who spoils our new English books? He answers it by naming not less than ten parties concerned: (1) the author, (2) the publisher, (3) the printer, (4) the reader, (5) the compositor, (6) the pressman or machinist, (7) the papermaker, (8) the ink maker, (9) the bookbinder, and (10), last but not least, the consumer. There is no question of honesty or dishonesty, he says, but there is a painful lack of harmony, the bungling work of one or the clumsy manipulation of another often defeating the combined excellence of all the rest. The cure he foresees in the establishment of a school of typography, in which every disciple of these ten tribes shall study a recognized grammar of book manufacture based on the authority of the best examples.

He now returns to the charge and pays his respects to each member of the "ten tribes" in turn. The author's offense is found to consist largely of ignorant meddling. The publisher is too often ignorant, fussy, unskilled, pedantic, shiftless, and money-seeking, willing to make books unsightly if their cheapness will sell them. The printer is the scapegoat, and many books are spoiled in spite of his efforts, while he gets all the blame. But he is apt to have faults of his own, the worst of which is a failure in the careful design of the books intrusted to him. "It was not so," says Mr. Stevens, "with our good old friends William Pickering and Charles Whittingham, publisher and printer, working for many years harmoniously together. It was their custom, as both used repeatedly to tell us, to each first sit upon every new book and painfully hammer out in his own mind its ideal form and proportions. Then two Sundays at least were required to compare notes in the little summer house in Mr. Whittingham's garden at Chiswick, or in the after-dinner sanctuary, to settle the shape and dress of their forthcoming 'friend of man.' It was amusing as well as instructive to see each of them, when they met, pull from his bulging side pocket well-worn title-pages and sample leaves for discussion and consideration. When they agreed, perfection was at hand, and the 'copy' went forward to the compositors, but not till then. The results, to this day, are seen in all the books bearing the imprint of William Pickering, nearly all of which bear also evidence that they came from the 'Chiswick Press.'"

The reader, Mr. Stevens holds to be, under the printer, the real man of responsibility; but he too is often hampered by want of plan and due knowledge of the proportions of the book that he is handling. He also should go to the school of typography, and the readers of different offices should learn to agree. The compositor is pronounced "a little person of great consequence." His moral responsibility is not great, but too much is often thrust upon him; in fact he is, in many cases, the real maker of the book. "He ought to have a chance at the school of typography, and be better instructed in his own business, and be taught not to assume the business of any other sinner joined with him in the manufacture of books." Between the compositor and the pressman is a long road in which many a book is spoiled, but the responsibility is hard to place. Few people have any idea what constitute the essentials of a book's form and proportions. Yet our old standards, in manuscript and print, demand "that the length of a printed page should have relation to its width, and that the top should not exceed half the bottom margin, and that the front should be double the back margin."

The papermaker comes in for a large share of blame, but the remedy lies only in the hands of the consumer, who must insist on receiving good and durable paper. "The ink-maker is a sinner of the first magnitude." The first printing inks are still bright, clean, and beautiful after four hundred years; but who will give any such warrant to even the best inks of the present day? Mr. Stevens pronounces the sallow inks of our day as offensive to sight as they are to smell. The bookbinder is adjudged equal in mischief to any other of the ten sinners, and the rest are called upon to combine to prevent their books from being spoiled in these last hands.

The consumer, after all, is the person most to blame, for he has the power to control all the rest. Or, in the critic's closing words: "Many of our new books are unnecessarily spoiled, and it matters little whether this or that fault be laid to this or that sinner. The publisher, the printer, or the binder may sometimes, nay, often does, if he can, shift the burden of his sins to the shoulders of his neighbor, but all the faults finally will come back on the consumer if he tolerates this adulteration longer."

The great constructive feature of Mr. Stevens's address, which is one that brings it absolutely up to date, is his call for a school of typography, which shall teach a recognized grammar of book manufacture, especially printing, a grammar as standard as Lindley Murray's. He believes that the art of bookmaking cannot be held to the practice of the laws of proportion, taste, and workmanship, which were settled once for all in the age of the scribes and the first printers, without the existence and pressure of some recognized authority. Such an authority, he holds, would be furnished by a school of typography. This, as we interpret it, would be not necessarily a school for journeymen, but a school for those who are to assume the responsibility too often thrown upon the journeymen, the masters of book production. With a large annual output of books taken up by a public none too deeply versed in the constituents of a well-made book, there would seem to be much hope for printing as an art from the existence of such an institution, which would be critical in the interest of sound construction, and one might well wish that the course in printing recently established at Harvard might at some time be associated with the name of its prophet of a generation ago, Henry Stevens of Vermont.


The librarian is in a position more than any one else to know the disabilities of books. The author is interested in his fame and his emoluments, the publisher in his reputation and his profits. To each of these parties the sales are the chief test. But the librarian's interest in the book begins after the sale, and it continues through the entire course of the book's natural life. His interest, moreover, is all-round; he is concerned with the book's excellence in all respects, intellectual, esthetic, and physical. He is the one who has to live with it, literally to keep house with it; and his reputation is in a way involved with its character. He may, therefore, be allowed for once to have his say as to how he would like to have books made.

If a book is worth writing at all, it is worth writing three times: first to put down the author's ideas, secondly to condense their expression into the smallest possible compass, and thirdly so to arrange them that they shall be most easily taken into the mind, putting them not necessarily into logical order, but into psychological order. If the author will do this and can add the touch of genius, or—shall we say?—can suffuse his work with the quality of genius, then he has made an addition to literature. That, among all the books which the librarian has to care for, he finds so few that he can call additions to literature is one of his grievances. The three processes may, indeed, by a practiced hand be performed as one. The librarian is only anxious that they be performed and that he have the benefit.

With the publisher the librarian feels that he can speak still more bluntly than with the author, for it is against the publisher that the librarian cherishes one of his greatest grievances, the necessity of supplying four times the amount of storage room that ought to be required. I have before me two books, one larger than the other in every way and four times as thick. Yet the smaller book is printed in larger type, has twice as many words on a page, and has twice as many pages. This is, of course, an exceptional contrast, but a difference of four times between the actual and the possible is by no means unusual. When one considers that in most of our libraries it costs, all told, a dollar to shelve a volume, one realizes that the librarian has against the publisher a grievance that can be put into the language of commerce. If every book is occupying a dollar's worth of space, which ought to accommodate three others, then, gentlemen publishers, in swelling your books to catch the public eye, you have taken from us far more than you put into your own pockets from your sales to us. You have made our book storage four times as costly and unwieldy as it ought to be; but you have done worse than this, you have sold us perishable instead of durable goods. You have cheapened every element of the book—paper, ink, and binding—so that, while we begin the twentieth century with some books on our shelves that are over four hundred years old and some that are less than one, the only books among them that have any chance of seeing the twenty-first century are those that will then be five hundred years old; the books that might have been a century old will then, like their makers, be dust. It seems to the librarian that you, who have taken it upon yourselves to direct the service to be rendered to men by the "art preservative of all arts," have assumed very lightly your responsibility for the future's knowledge of our time. You may and do answer that, as the records begin to perish, the most important of them will be reprinted, and the world will be the better off for the loss of the rest. To this it may be rejoined that you give the distant future no chance to revise the judgments of a rather near future, and that vast quantities of material which would be read with eagerness by future generations and which would be carefully preserved if it were durable, will not be reprinted, whatever its value. We may be sure that the daily papers of the present year will never be reprinted; the world of the future will be too busy, not to speak of the cost; yet what a series of human documents will disappear in their destruction! If a part of the professional obligation which you assumed in making yourselves responsible for the issues of the press is to transmit the record of this generation to later time, then it seems to me that you have in great measure betrayed your trust and have so far brought to naught the labors of your comrade, the librarian, in the conservation of literature. Also you compel him to pay for unnecessary rebindings which can hardly be made, so poor is the stock you furnish the binder; yet on this point you have shown some indications of a change of heart, and I will pass it over. Perhaps you have finally come to realize that every cent paid for rebinding is taken out of your gross receipts. I will not speak of the books that you ought never to have published, the books that are not books; most of these the librarian can avoid buying, but sometimes a book is just "ower gude for banning," and he has to take it and catalogue it and store it, and take account of it and rearrange it, and, after all, get scolded by his authorities or ridiculed by the public for housing so much rubbish. The author is responsible with you here, but your own individual responsibility is enough for any shoulders to bear.

To the printer the librarian would say: since wishing is easy, let us imagine that what ought always to happen is happening regularly instead of rarely, namely, that the author produces a book worth printing and that the publisher leaves you free to put it into a worthy form. This is the opportunity that you have always been looking for. How are you going to meet it? Do you know all the elements that you deal with and can you handle them with a sure touch practically and esthetically? If so, you will not need any hints from the librarian, and he will order your book "sight unseen." But still, among the good and right ways of making books, there may be some that he prefers, and he will ask you, when you are making books for him and not for private buyers, at least to give his preferences a hearing. He wants his books no bigger physically than they need be, and yet he would like to have them of a convenient height, from seven to nine inches. He would rather have their expansion in height and width and not in thickness, for the former dimensions up to ten and a half inches by eight mean no increased demand upon shelf room, while the thickness of every leaf is taken out of his library's capacity. He would like to have no wasteful margins and no extreme in the size of type. If it is too large, the book takes up too much room; if it is too small, his readers will ruin their eyes over it or, what is more likely, refuse to read it and so make its possession a useless expense. For the sake of rapid reading he would like to have every wide page printed in columns. For the same reason he would like to have every possible help given to the eye in the way of paragraphs, headlines, and variation of type, so far as it can be given in consonance with the esthetic rights of the book. With these points observed, and the book printed on paper as thin and as light in weight as can be conveniently used and is consistent with opacity and strength, with clear type, clear and durable ink, and good presswork, the printer will have done his part, and a book will go to the binder that is worthy of his best treatment.

What that treatment is the binder knows better than I can tell him. When he has applied it, the book will come out of his hands at once solid and flexible; unmutilated, either on the outer edges where mutilation can be seen, or at the back where it cannot be seen, but where it nevertheless hurts the integrity of the book; covered with honest boards that will stand use, and clad with a material, cloth or leather, that is both strong to resist wear and also contains within itself no seeds of deterioration. Besides this let it have a character, however unobtrusive, befitting the contents of the book, and the binder will have paid his full debt to the present and the future.

While the librarian's ideals of bookmaking are not the only ones, they are in harmony with the best, and there cannot be progress in bookmaking without approaching his ideals. He is, therefore, by his very office committed to every undertaking for the improvement of the book, and because of the efforts of librarians and other booklovers there is ground for belief that the books of the present decade will be better than those of the last.


We who use books every day as tools of trade or sources of inspiration are apt to overlook the fact that the book, on its material side, is an art object. Not, indeed, that it ranks with the products of poetry, painting, sculpture, and other arts of the first grade; but it has a claim to our consideration on the level of the minor arts, along with jewelry, pottery, tapestry, and metal work. Moreover, its intimate association with literature, of which it is the visible setting, gives it a charm that, while often only reflected, may also be contributory, heightening the beauty that it enshrines.

Using the word beauty for the result of artistic mastery, we may say that in the other arts beauty is the controlling factor in price, but in the book this is the case only exceptionally. As a consequence beautiful books are more accessible for purchase or observation than any other equally beautiful objects. For the price of a single very beautiful rug one can obtain a small library of the choicest books. Except in the case of certain masterpieces of the earliest printing, in which rarity is joined to beauty, high prices for books have nothing to do with their artistic quality. Even for incunabula one need pay only as many dollars as for tapestries of the same grade one would have to pay thousands. In book collecting, therefore, a shallow purse is not a bar to achievement, and in our day of free libraries one may make good progress in the knowledge and enjoyment of beautiful books without any expense at all.

Public taste is probably as advanced in the appreciation of the book beautiful as of any other branch of art, but it is active rather than enlightened. This activity is a good sign, for it represents the first stage in comprehension; the next is the consciousness that there is more in the subject than had been realized; the third is appreciation. The present chapter is addressed to those—and they are many—who are in the second stage. The first piece of advice to those who seek acquaintance with the book beautiful is: Surround yourself with books that the best judges you know call beautiful; inspect them, handle them; cultivate them as you would friends. It will not be long before most other books begin to annoy you, though at first you cannot tell why. Then specific differences one after another will stand out, until at last you come to know something of the various elements of the book, their possibilities of beauty or ugliness, and their relations one to another. No one should feel ashamed if this process takes a long time—is indeed endless. William Morris pleaded to having sinned in the days of ignorance, even after he had begun to make books. So wide is the field and so many and subtle are the possible combinations that all who set out to know books must expect, like the late John Richard Green, to "die learning." But the learning is so delightful and the company into which it brings us is so agreeable that we have no cause to regret our lifelong apprenticeship.

The first of all the qualities of the book beautiful is fitness. It must be adapted to the literature which it contains, otherwise it will present a contradiction. Imagine a "Little Classic" Josephus or a folio Keats. The literature must also be worthy of a beautiful setting, else the book will involve an absurdity. Have we not all seen presentation copies of government documents which gave us a shock when we passed from the elegant outside to the commonplace inside? But the ideal book will go beyond mere fitness; it will be both an interpretation of its contents and an offering of homage to its worth. The beauty of the whole involves perfect balance as well as beauty of the parts. No one must take precedence of the rest, but there must be such a perfect harmony that we shall think first of the total effect and only afterwards of the separate elements that combine to produce it. This greatly extends our problem, but also our delight in its happy solutions.

The discerning reader has probably noticed that we have already smuggled into our introduction the notion that the book beautiful is a printed book; and, broadly speaking, so it must be at the present time. But we should not forget that, while the printed book has charms and laws of its own, the book was originally written by hand and in this form was developed to a higher pitch of beauty than the printed book has ever attained. As Ruskin says, "A well-written book is as much pleasanter and more beautiful than a printed book as a picture is than an engraving." Calligraphy and illumination are to-day, if not lost arts, at best but faint echoes of their former greatness. They represent a field of artistic effort in which many persons of real ability might attain far greater distinction and emolument than in the overcrowded ordinary fields of art. Printing itself would greatly benefit from a flourishing development of original bookmaking, gaining just that stimulus on the art side that it needs to counterbalance the pressure of commercialism. At present, however, we shall commit no injustice if, while remembering its more perfect original, we accept the printed book as the representative of the book beautiful; but, as a matter of fact, most that we shall have to say of it will apply with little change to the manuscript book.

A final point by way of preface is the relation of the book beautiful to the well-made book. The two are not identical. A book may be legible, strong, and durable, yet ill-proportioned and clumsy, ugly in every detail. On the other hand, the book beautiful must be well made, else it will not keep its beauty. The point where the two demands tend most to conflict is at the hinge of the cover, where strength calls for thickness of leather and beauty for thinness. The skill of the good binder is shown in harmonizing these demands when he shaves the under side of the leather for the joint. Let us now take up the elements of the book one by one and consider their relations to beauty.

To one who never had seen a book before it would seem, as it stands on the shelf or lies on the table, a curious rectangular block; and such it is in its origin, being derived from the Roman codex, which was a block of wood split into thin layers. When closed, therefore, the book must have the seeming solidity of a block; but open it and a totally new character appears. It is now a bundle of thin leaves, and its beauty no longer consists in its solidity and squareness, but in the opposite qualities of easy and complete opening, and flowing curves. This inner contradiction, so far from making the book a compromise and a failure, is one of the greatest sources of its charm, for each condition must be met as if the other did not exist, and when both are so met, we derive the same satisfaction as from any other combination of strength and grace, such as Schiller celebrates in his "Song of the Bell."

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