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of volumes in the Ptolemæan Library at Alexandria are very various, ranging from 100,000, at which it is rated by Eusebius, to 700,000, at which it is fixed by Aulus Gellius.* Senecat gives the intermediate number, 400,000. The library of Attalus, king of Pergamus, is said by Plutarch to have contained 200,000 volumes. All these statements, however, are of a date long posterior to the time which they regard. Of the libraries of Greece and Rome, hardly anything in the way of contemporary enumeration is preserved. For the former, indeed, there is absolutely nothing on which to found a judgment. Of the latter there are but two-both private collections--the number of which is recorded; the first, that of Tyrannion—a contemporary of Cicero, and mentioned by him in one of his book-hunting letters to his brother Quintius-which, on the perhaps questionable authority of Suidas, is said to have consisted of 30,000 volumes; the other, that of Serenus Sammonicus, already referred to, of 62,000.
The first impression produced by these statements as to the large number of volumes in the ancient libraries, will be of incredulity, founded partly on the insufficiency of the evidence, partly on the notions which prevail regarding the comparative scarcity of books in ancient times. And unquestionably, as to the first objection, no one who considers how undeserving of implicit belief the most positive allegations as to the extent of the libraries of our own day have proved, when tested by actual enumeration, could think of accepting as conclusive evidence that the Alexandrian Library contained 700,000 volumes, the unsupported assertion of a single foreigner, writing long after the period to which he refers. But in reference to the second ground of incredulity, so much misconception has prevailed, that we think it necessary to say a few words in explanation.
The learned reader need not be reminded how wide is the difference between the ancient 'volumen,' or roll, and the volume' of the modern book-trade, and how much smaller the amount of literary matter which the former may represent. Any single 'book' or part of a treatise would anciently have been called ' volumen,' and would reckon as such in the enumeration of a collection of books. The Iliad' of Homer, which in a modern library may form but a single volume, would have counted as twenty-four volumina’ at Alexandria. We read of authors leaving behind them works reckoned,
• Noctes Atticæ, vi. p. 17.
not by volumes or tens of volumes, but by hundreds. The works of Epicurus, as enumerated with their titles by Diogenes Laertius," amount to 300 volumes. Varro--that homo Tolvrypa óratos't-reckons his own works at no less a sum than 490 volumes ; and the works of Chrysippus, Epicurus's well-known rival, are said to have reached the incredible total of more than 700 volumes! It is curious—we dare not say significant—that of the numerous works of these singularly prolific writers hardly anything has come down to our day, with the exception of Varro's treatise De Re Rusticâ' and the Herculanean fragments of Epicurus; so that we are unable to speak from positive knowledge of the extent of their socalled volumina.' But their number itself suggests the inference that they must have been very short; and the actual specimens of 'volumina’ discovered at Herculaneum fully justify the conclusion. Hence it will at once be understood that whereas a single modern volume might easily contain ten, or even more, ancient 'volumina,' the very largest assemblage of
volumina’ assigned as the total of the greatest of the ancient collections would fall far short, in its real literary contents, of the second-rate, or even third-rate, collections of the present day.
The question, therefore, turns entirely into an inquiry as to the extent of the circulation of books among the ancient bookreading public, and the actual degree of the multiplication of copies under the comparatively slow and expensive conditions of book-production before the use of printing. And upon this subject the opinions of the learned have been of late considerably modified. In Rome especially, the character of the booktrade appears on examination very different from what is popularly assumed; and, dissimilar as were the conditions of book-production from those of modern times, there are many points of analogy between what may be called the publishing trade of ancient Rome and that of our own day. Then, as now, there were wealthy and enterprising firms or individuals, who stood between the author and the public, and who employed the cheap although tedious resource of slave-labour for the transcription of books, in what it is impossible not to believe must have been, at least occasionally, large editions. Cicero's friend, Atticus, employed his slaves to transcribe books for sale; and Martial's bibliopola Tryphon’ would appear not only to have had a profitable trade in selling the
* Lib. x. c. 26.
† Cicero, Ep. ad Atticum, xiv. 18. Septuaginta hebdomadas librorum, Aulus Gellius, iii. p. 14.
copies of Martial's · Epigrams, but also to have possessed something analogous to the modern copyright in the works of
So at least we understand Martial's reply to the request of his friend Quintus for a presentation copy :
• Exigis ut donem nostros tibi, Quinte, libellos.
Non habeo, sed habet bibliopola Tryphon.' It would seem, too, that this work of transcription will carried on upon a very large scale. Pliny, in one of his letters,* speaks of his friend Regulus getting a thousand copies written of a book which he composed on occasion of the death of his son; and when Augustus confiscated and ordered to be destroyed all the copies of the false Sibylline Books, the number of copies destroyed was more than two thousand. † Indeed, it is hard to suppose that the general supply of books was otherwise than abundant, considering the comparatively low price at which copies of the works of even popular authors were sold. The first book of Martial's . Epigrams, which contains a hundred and nineteen epigrams, was sold in handsome binding for five denarii, within a fraction of three shillings; and in a cheaper binding for between six and ten sestertii, from a shilling to one and eight-pence. For the thirteenth book, which is about one-third shorter, the publisher charged four sestertii; but Martial, who had probably sold his copyright, complains that this price is too high, and that a fair proit might be had by selling it for half the sum :
Quatuor est nimium ;- poterit constare duobus,
Et faciet lucrum bibliopola Tryphon.' From these prices it may be fairly inferred that there was no scant supply of copies in the market; and, besides the copyists employed by the trade, each large household had among its slaves one or more (called • librarius ’), whose office was to copy books, and that even the ladies of the household had their • librariæ ' for the same purpose.
Antecedently, therefore, there need not be held to be any improbability even in the largest estimate of the number of books which are alleged to have been contained in the ancient libraries, and which in actual quantity of matter would perhaps equal a modern collection of 60,000 or 70,000 volumes; but unhappily these estimates themselves are entirely hypothetical.
On the transfer of his capital to its new seat upon the Bos
Ep. iv. 7, p. 93 (Buxhorn ed.)
† Suetonius, Octavius, 34.
phorus, Constantine was not slow to establish a library suitable to the character of his new city. The library of Constantinople is specially interesting as being probably the first in which the Christian literature obtained a footing. It may well be doubted, indeed, whether Constantine's new library was not mainly designed for Christian books. These he caused to be sought out diligently in all quarters after their dispersion and destruction under Diocletian. Now the number of books in the collection at the death of Constantine is reputed at only 6,900; and when we recollect the grandeur and munificence of the views of this emperor in the construction and decoration of his new city, it is hardly credible that, if the library had been intended as a general, and not merely or principally as a Christian collection, it would not have immeasurably exceeded this humble limit. But, whatever its original character, it grew beyond the limit of a class collection under the successors of Constantine. Constantius, Julian the Apostate, and Theodosius the Younger are specially enumerated as having added largely to its store of books, which advanced according to one account to 100,000, and according to another to 600,000 volumes. The library was, at least in part, destroyed by fire in the time of Leo the Isaurian; but notwithstanding this and several subsequent conflagrations, it was still maintained, though shorn of much of its earlier grandeur, down through the whole line of the Byzantine Cæsars; and the host of now unknown writers reviewed by Photius in his well-known Bibliotheca, would go far to prove that, down to the ninth century, the library of Constantinople contained numberless treasures of ancient learning which have disappeared in the general wreck of the Christian empire of Constantinople. This is perhaps even more plain from the Excerpta, or digested collections from various authors, made under Constantine Porphyrogenitus; at least if we may judge of that work from the specimens of it which are preserved, as the Excerpta de Legationibus and the so-called Historical Palimp
sest,' published by Cardinal Mai.* And, in addition to this merit, the libraries of Constantinople, mutilated as they were, must be regarded as the main source to which we are indebted for the preservation of one large and important branch of ancient Greek literature-that of the Greek fathers and historians of the Church.
It is clear from numberless evidences that, even before the
* In the Scriptorum Veterum nova Collectio,' vol. ii. 4to. Rome, 1837.
final disruption of the Roman Empire under the barbarian immigration, the cultivation of letters and the care and collection of books had notably declined, both in the West and in the East; and especially that each division of the empire had ceased to cultivate the literature of the other. Greek ceased to be spoken in Rome, and Latin came under ban in Constantinople. It could no longer be expected that the Roman libraries, such as they were at this date, would continue to add to their Greek collection, or the Greek libraries to their Latin ; hardly even that each should not treat the rival literature with neglect and disregard ; and the downward course which had thus spontaneously begun, was precipitated by the barbarian invasion, which, by successive revolutions, at last in part modified, in part obliterated, most of the distinctive characteristics of the old civilisation, and substituted in their stead the rude germs of what was ultimately to grow into a harder, but higher and holier civilisation of its own.
During the slow, and often all but stagnating progress of this remarkable revolution, ancient literature fell into disregard. The new phase of the human mind had not yet taken its form ; and for a considerable interval, the history of letters, and of their external representative, libraries, is almost a blank. The controversies about the history of learning and the diffusion of books in the medieval period, have naturally influenced the views of those who have written upon the medieval libraries, and especially upon the monastic libraries of the middle ages. Upon the one side, the enemies of the monks and clergy represent them as reckless destroyers, from mere contempt and hatred of knowledge, of the choicest treasures of the ancient learning. On the other, their apologists portray the monasteries, at one time as busy schools of enlightenment, at another as peaceful sanctuaries in which the lamp of classic learning never ceased to burn. Mr. Edwards has treated this portion of his subject with much judgment and moderation. That, as a consequence of the barbarian irruptions of the fifth and following centuries, ignorance and its kindred disregard of letters overspread for a time the rugged kingdoms which replaced the Greek and Roman civilisation, not even the sturdiest partisans of monasticism will deny; and it is equally plain that the first tendency of the young intellectual activity which succeeded this period of stagnation, was in the direction of the new Christian philosophy and of the theological speculations which arose therefrom, rather than of the Greek and Roman literature. But if it be false to represent the medieval monks as patrons and cultivators of classical literature for its own sake,