Obrázky stránek

gen, 400,000 ; St. Petersburg, 400,000 ; Berlin, 320,000; Vienna, 300,000; the British Museum, 270,000; Dresden, 250,000; the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, at Paris, 200,000; the Bibliothèque de St. Geneviève, at Paris, 200,000; the Brera Library, at Milan, 200,000; Göttingen, 200,000. These are vague numbers, and, be it remembered, not of works, but of volumes. We may assume with certainty that each of these libraries contains a proportion of its number, perhaps one-tenth, which is not to be found in the other eleven; and we may assume with equal certainty that a vast number of works do not exist in any of the twelve which are to be found in the many libraries of Europe below the number of 200,000. If we take 2,500,000 of works or volumes, to express the number which have been printed—and in our opinion this is far below the actual truth-we find that no library contains much more than a quarter of the books which have issued from the press during the four centuries in which the art of printing has flourished. As there is no published catalogue of any one of these libraries which at all represents its actual state, it is not surprising that such an estimate as we have made should be so vague as it is; but it does surprise us that the amounts of their numbers should also be, as they in fact are, nearly as vague. Whatever difficulty there may be in ascertaining the literary contents of a library, one would suppose it to be a comparatively easy task to ascertain, with some degree of accuracy, the numerical amount of volumes, -a purely mechanical process. But such is not the case ; and it is therefore very difficult to institute a positive comparison between any two libraries. At all times tens and hundreds of thousands have been spoken of familiarly. To what is said of the 700,000 volumes in the Alexandrian Library, founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus, we attach just so much faith as we do to the legend of the 11,000 virgins of Cologne. The Göttingen Library has been quoted repeatedly by the number of 300,000.* We have now before us, in the writing of the librarian, Dr. Benecke, that in 1835, though it had 300,000 works, it had but 200,000 volumes, the number which we have used in our statement. The Bibliothèque du Roi, at Paris, professes to have 650,000 or 700,000 volumes. Now we have seen the rooms in the Rue Richelieu, from the ground floor, where the books on vellum, the editiones principes, and the incunabula of the typographic art, are secluded from the profane eyes of vulgar readers, to the showrooms on the first floor, where the public wander and wonder, and the dismal garrets above, full of masses of unbound and uncatalogued books “in dire confusion piled:' we have also seen the

* In a very inaccurate puff of the Göttingen Library in a defunct publication of the Useful Knowledge Society, the Quarterly Journal of Education, No. iy.

B 2


[ocr errors]

British Museum Library, and its well-packed and well-orderer: shelves, and we find it difficult to reconcile the relative number: given with the relative space of each library, and to believe tha one is less than one-half of the other. Great allowance must be made for modes of enumeration. If every brochure and every pamphlet, and every volume of every novel, every German thesis, and every one of the 60,000 pamphlets on the French Revolution alone, which the British Museum contains, were severally enumerated, as we suspect to be the case in France and elsewhere, the number would be, perhaps, 400,000, an amount which, though large, is still vastly inferior to 700,000. We have lately seen in the newspapers an amusing statement, which we believe to be nearly accurate, that the printed books in the British Museum Library occupy ten miles of shelf. We are not about to give here the mileage, nor the superficial nor the cubic contents of the European libraries ; for even if they were measured or squared, or cubed with tolerable accuracy, their relative length, or surface, or bulk, would be no criteria by which to judge of their relative value. Munich might well afford to part with its disposable 100,000 volumes, rejected even of America, for a portion of the collection of a private English gentleman, Mr. Grenville. Our purpose in mentioning these numerical details is, that our readers may be able to form some idea of what a catalogue of books on a large scale must really be. If the number of printed books and brochures in the British Museum be 400,000, the titles or entries would be at least 500,000. In the first volume of the new catalogue, of which we have given the title at the head of this article, we find about 1000 entries or titles under the single name of Aristotle.

At what period catalogues, such as we now mean by the word, were first formed, it would be difficult to determine. Some early inventories of the MSS. possessed by monasteries and by sovereigns serve chiefly to show how small an amount of real learning was within their means, and how few of the great authors of antiquity were known to them in any purity of text. When we read of Chaucer's clerk that

him was lever han at his beddes hed
A twenty bokes, clothed in black and red,
Of Aristotle and his philosophie,

Than robes riche, or fidel, or sautrie,'
we must remember that they were but translations of translations.
The chief purpose of these inventories was the identification of the
MSS., which were treasures of great value; and a

simple but effectual means to this end was afforded by the practice of quoting a few words from the commencement of the second leaf. The


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

invention of typography, which multiplied copies closely resembling each other, rendered this precaution unnecessary. There was little value attached to a book printed upon paper in rude black type, with coarsely rubricated initial letters, written by a common scribe, as compared with the elegant writing upon fine rellum, gorgeously illuminated in gold and colours, of such magnificent volumes as yet remain to indicate the high point to which the art had reached. There is no dearth of catalogues now, they may be reckoned by thousands.

The rapid multiplication of printed books was followed by various attempts to arrange them, until at length bibliography arose into the rank of a science, and De Bure, Panzer, Maittaire, Placcius, Morelli, Audiffredi, Fontanini, Zeno, Gamba, Barbier, Brunet, Ebert, Watt, Hain, and a host of other writers, have become familiar to all who claim to be bibliographers. The variety of modes into which the authors whom we have just named have cast their labours will somewhat illustrate our point.

De Bure's Bibliographie Instructive is a classed catalogue raisonné of the best books. Brunet’s Manuel du Libraire is an alphabetical catalogue raisonné of books selected for their intrinsic value, their rarity, or curiosity, with a classed index. Panzer's Annales Artis Typographice contain an account of early-printed books, arranged chronologically under the places where they were printed; whilst Hain's Repertorium Bibliographicum is a descriptive catalogue of all books printed before the year 1500, arranged in one alphabetical series. The works of Placcius and Barbier are dictionaries of anonymous and pseudonymous books; that of Barbier is arranged on a plan which at first sight appears to outrage common sense, but which has nevertheless deservedly obtained the sanction of recent bibliographers, many of whom have adopted it as the most generally useful. The credit of originating this simple plan belongs to Audiffredi. He arranges anonymous books alphabetically-not under the subject matter, nor under any prominent word, but under the first word of the title-page, whatever it may be, articles and prepositions excepted. Watt's Bibliotheca Britannica is a general alphabetical catalogue of authors, with an index of matters; but it is not, as the title would lead us to suppose, confined to Britain or British authors. Not the least remarkable circumstance attending it is this, that it was begun and coinpleted at Glasgow, far from any large public library. It is founded upon the catalogues of the British Museum, the Bodleian, and Sion College libraries, with some others; to which are added many modern books and names from periodical publications, and from catalogues of sales. Such a work repeats of course all the errors of its sources, with the addition of many


others arising from the mode of compilation. We shall neve forget the horror expressed in the countenance and words of th revered Bishop Jebb, on finding himself in Watt's Bibliothec identified with his uncle, the Unitarian writer. It is, howeve one of the most useful books of its class. We have been credibl informed that the labour bestowed upon it proved fatal to thi two authors, father and son.

And here we may as well say, that the difficulties necessarily attendant upon the compilation of an alphabetical catalogue of a large public library cannot be estimated by the compiler of a list of an elegant selection of books. His judgment, if founded upon liis own experience, would be as valuable as that of the musician who declined to go to the commemoration of Handel : * He had played all Handel, choruses and all, upon his flute !' To such we recommend a consideration of the ninety-one · Rules for the Compilation of the Catalogue' prefixed to the first volume of the new work published by order of the trustees of the British Museum. Into the consideration of these rules we cannot enter in the course of a brief and rapid review ; but they will convince, we think, every one who reads them, that the compilation of a large catalogue requires rare and various knowledge, and muclı critical discrimination. We are not about to trouble our readers with the beauties of bibliography in the form of quotations from the Catalogue of Printed Books in the British Museum,' nor to make elegant extracts from the some 20,000 or 30,000 title-pages beginning with letter A; but upon a first examination of this volume we were certainly startled by various things which appeared strange to our ideas. We remembered, however, that in order to judge fairly of an author's work, his preface should be considered ; and accordingly, on turnirig to the Rules' which are prefixed, we found that what we so noticed was in conformity with them, and that all objections, except as to merely clerical errors or mistakes in execution, must be brought against the ninety-one rules, and not against the workmen. What most strikes us as objectionable, is the collocation, under one general head, viz.,

Academies,' of all acts, memoirs, transactions, journals, minutes, &c. of academies, institutes, associations, universities, or societies, learned, scientific, or literary, by whatever name known or designated-as well as works by various hands, forming part of a series of volumes edited by any such society,' arranged alphabetically under places. This produces strange results: it brings together under one head Oxford and Cambridge, the Army Medical Board, the Record Commission, and all the Book Clubsthe Académie des Inscriptions, and the Camden Society, which prints Latin rubbish from manuscripts which it cannot read, with


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]



English translations for which a school-boy should be flogged * and the Percy Society, which prints books it cannot circulate, as being contra bonos mores. The Society for the Suppression of Vice does not appear in the list. By another rule, all . Periodical Publications' are to appear under that head, and all almanacs, calendars, &c. under . Ephemerides.' This exemplifies the difficulty which we mentioned : it is classification in an alphabetical arrangement. We confess that it is easier to raise the objection than to point out a way by which the fault may be avoided.

It was natural that, when observing these difficulties and compiling these observations, we should open the catalogues of some of those institutions and societies in whose learning the world reposes confidence, and whose names we are accustomed to consider as carrying authority with them ; we can disguise neither our surprise nor our regret at the result of our researches. We turned to the law; we took up the catalogue of the Lincoln's Inn Library:—it is alphabetical, and we find in it King James I.'s works under King; in fact, he appears as James King. Another entry is in these words, · Museo Britannico Librorum, 8 vols.' In the catalogue of the MSS. belonging to the same learned body, drawn up by Mr. Hunter, a Unitarian minister, two Latin Bibles are described, one of them of the fourteenth century, as 'probably the Vulgate;' the other of later date, as · Jerome's version.' It is quite clear that the compiler did not know whether or not the two were the same, nor wherein the difference between them consists. Charles Butler's · Horæ Biblicæ ' might have informed him; and the · Horæ Juridicæ' of the same member of Lincoln's Inn might also have spared the benchers the disgrace of finding the work of our great English canonist set down in their catalogue as · A manuscript on vellum, of the fifteenth century, in small quarto, lettered Lindwood.' It would seem as if the dissenting minister supplied the legal knowledge, the lawyers the theology. Yet this catalogue is embodied in a report to the king in council, from the Commissioners of Records, and the author is so pleased with the performance that he has published it in a separate form. There is no disputing about tastes. The catalogue of the library of the Hon. Society of the Inner Temple is on a par with that of * Horace is thus read :

Fungar tamen vice totis'-
and thus translated, Yet I will fulfil all characters in turn.'
A poem beginning with the line :-

Calamus velociter scribæ sit scribentis,'
being a slight alteration of the text (Ps. xliv. 1), · Lingua mea calamus scribæ velociter
scribentis,' is thus read:

• Calamus velociter scribe sic scribentis,' and thus translated ? Write quickly, o pen of one who writing such things as follow!'


« PředchozíPokračovat »