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No. CCLXXXIII. .
ART. I.-1. Memoirs of Libraries, including a Handbook of
Library Economy. By EDWARD EDWARDS. 2 vols. 8vo.
London : 1858. 2. Catalogue de l'Histoire de France. 4to.
4to. Vols. 1.-X. Paris: 1855-1870. 3. Catalogue des Nouvelles Acquisitions de la Bibliothèque Im
périale Publique. I.-XII. 8vo. St. Petersburg: 1863–71. 4. Ein Gang durch die St. Petersburger k. öffentliche Biblio
thek. Von Dr. R. MINTZLAFF, Oberbibliothekar an der
k, öffentliche Bibliothek. 8vo. St. Petersburg : 1870. 5. La Biblioteca Vaticana, dalla sua Origine fino al Presente.
Per DOMENICO ZANELLI. 8vo. Roma: 1857. IN n the year 1471, when Louis XI. wished to borrow a book
from the Medical Faculty of Paris, he was required to deposit plate in pledge, and to get one of his nobles to join him in a guarantee for the safe return of the book. In the Paris of 1873 there is not one among the priceless volumes that fill untold kilomètres of shelves in the Bibliothèque Nationale that is not at the command of the humblest applicant of honourable reputation. And in our own national library, at its first reorganisation, so easy were the conditions of access, that, notwithstanding the lavish provision of space in its noble reading-room, it became necessary, in the interest of that higher class of readers whose wants mainly a great library must aim at supplying, to exclude, by fixing a limit of age, the
rush of young men from University and King's Colleges to the presses that contain the Latin Dictionaries and Greek
VOL. CXXXIX. NO. CCLXXXIII.
· Lexicons and Bohn's cribs.' Both these extremes, no doubt, especially the first, are exaggerated types of the relative degree of accessibility of books in their respective periods ; but, even when every due allowance has been made, the two periods are found to be separated from each other by a vast interval.
The intellectual history of that interval is in some degree represented by the History of Libraries, and Mr. Edwards has rendered an acceptable service to letters by bringing together in his - Memoirs of Libraries,' and the two works, 'Libraries and
Founders of Libraries,' and Founders of the British Museum,' which form its complement,
the materials of that history. It has been our wont in this Journal to review at intervals the progress of our own national library. Perhaps it will not be uninteresting to our readers, if we prefix to our present periodical survey of the progress within the last few years of the library of the British Museum and its great rivals abroad, a summary account of the libraries of other times, and of the nature and circumstances of book-collecting under the very different conditions of literature which then prevailed. These conditions, it is true, were so different as almost to render comparison impossible; but the very contrast of the conditions will itself be interesting, and will at all events be comforting to us in view of the advantages which we enjoy. Mr. Edwards supplies ample particulars for the purpose; but we shall freely combine with the materials which he has brought together, information drawn from the various bibliographical publications, periodical and otherwise, in every country of Europe, which have of late years elevated the study of books almost to the condition of a science.
The history of libraries is divided by Mr. Edwards into three periods, the ancient, the medieval, and the modern.
The history of the ancient period, like most other branches of early inquiry, has its region of legend ; and in its historical period itself, it is difficult, even where precise statements of facts are found, to separate the true from the apocryphal. No ancient writer has treated the subject of libraries professedly. Of the detailed notices of libraries which we find in the ancient authors, very few are contemporary, or regard libraries personally visited and known by the writers themselves. Thus Aulus Gellius, Seneca, Josephus, Eusebius, and others, tell us many seemingly precise particulars about the famous library of Alexandria; Plutarch is tolerably minute as to the collection of Attalus, King of Pergamus; and Strabo relates very circumstantially the fortunes of the so-called library of Aristotle, from
its first formation at Athens to its transportation to Rome under Sylla. But it is worthy of note that, neither in these nor in any other ancient writers, however minute and circumstantial regarding foreign collections, is there to be found a precise account, such as might be expected from an observant scholar, of any one of the numerous libraries, public and private, which are known to have existed in Rome during their time, and to which they themselves not unfrequently refer by name. Aulus Gellius, for instance, speaks of meeting friends in the Tiberian Library,* of making researches in the library of Trajan,† and of finding a book, after a long search, in the Library of Peace. † But he does not say a word as to the number of volumes, as to the class or character of the books, as to the order of their arrangement, or as to the conditions on which they were made accessible to the public, whether in these or in any other contemporary Roman libraries. Suetonius records what each of the emperors did in founding or enlarging the libraries of his time, but he leaves us in ignorance as to the nature and extent of the collections themselves. Flavius Vopiscus actually gives the very press-mark of a book to which he refers in the Ulpian Library, § but of the Ulpian Library itself he tells absolutely nothing. And it is a curious fact that the only Roman library of whose contents any enumeration is preserved, is not a public but a private one—that which Serenus Sammonicus, preceptor of the younger Gordian, bequeathed to his imperial pupil, and which is said to have contained 62,000 volumes.
Mr. Edwards has collected most of the details which have been preserved regarding the libraries of remote antiquitythe libraries of ancient Egypt; the more modern library of the Ptolemies at Alexandria (B.C. 290); the library of the kings of Pergamus; the libraries of Pisistratus, of Aristotle, and of Apellicon at Athens; and the much more numerous libraries of Rome, both republican and imperial, which, in the time of Constantine, amounted to twenty-nine in number. Interspersed with these notices are many curious details regarding the founders, beginning with the perhaps legendary Osymandyas, King of Egypt, fourteen centuries before Christ. But the only questions as to ancient libraries which are important for this inquiry are those which regard the character
Noctes Atticæ, lib. xvii. c. 17, p. 714. † Ibid. xi. c. 17, p. 637.
Ibid. xvi. c. 4, p.
859. $ . Habet Bibliotheca Ulpiana in armario sexto librum elephantinum.' (Historia Augusta, Probus. c. 2.)
of the books, and the probable number of the volumes which they contained.
It has been conjectured that the books of the early libraries of Egypt were chiefly sacred, such as Lepsius' · Book of the
Dead, and Brugsch's Sai-an-Sinsin;' but no doubt can be entertained of the cosmopolitan character of the Ptolemæan Library at Alexandria, and in its Roman period we may be sure that the Latin authors were not unrepresented. This is highly improbable, however, of the purely Greek libraries.
Roman librarians, on the contrary, considered a series of the Greek poets, philosophers, and rhetoricians as indispensable in their collections. The Palatine Library, according to Suetonius,* had two distinct collections, Greek and Latin, with a distinct librarian for each; † and Tiberius ordered copies even of obscure Greek poets to be placed in all the public libraries of Rome. I The same is true of private collections at Rome. It is clear from what Cicero writes, both of himself and of his brother Quintius, that, although there was no regular market for Greek books at Rome, yet the Roman collectors eagerly sought to acquire them for their libraries, partly by purchase, partly by giving Latin books in exchange. Augustan age, the relative proportions of the two literatures were, perhaps, somewhat modified; but Greek still continued to be the fashionable literature.
A more curious inquiry, suggested by allusions to Christian writings in the Greek and Roman poets and humourists, would be, whether in the libraries of pagan Rome was to be found any representation of the uncouth and semi-barbarous literature of that despised sect, which was destined before long to displace the established religion of the empire, in the world of letters as well as of social influence. Our means of judging are too scanty to warrant a positive conclusion ; but we are not aware of a single, ancient authority from which it appears that even the Christian Scriptures themselves, not to speak of the Christian apologists or polemic writers, were admitted to the honour of a place in any of the libraries of Greece or Rome.
The question as to the number of books contained in the ancient collections has been much discussed, but with results very little more satisfactory. The statements as to the number
In the post
* Suetonius, Octavius, 34, vol. i. p. 240. + See Geraud, · Essai sur les Livres dans l'Antiquité.' Paris, 1840.
Suetonius, Tiberius, 70, vol. i. p. 522. Ś Ep. lib. iii. p. 4.