(Note: This is taken from W. Roberts' The Book-Hunter in London.)
The introduction of printing into Britain by Caxton during the latter half of the fifteenth century had very little immediate effect on book-collecting. The operations of the press were slow, its patrons few, and its work controlled by one man. The reproduction of MSS. was essentially a slow process, but when these transcriptions were finished, they rarely failed to find a purchaser. Caxton, like Sweynheim and Pannartz at Subiaco, soon learned the seriousness of over-printing an edition. Collectors were few, and the introduction of printing did not very materially add to their number. London, however, soon became a recognised centre of the trade in books, and Henry VII. patronized, in his curious fashion, the collecting of them. He read, according to Bacon, 'most books that were of any worth in the French tongue,' and one of the most commendable actions of this King was the purchase of the noble series of vellum copies of the works printed at Paris by Antoine Vérard, now in the British Museum—an act by which he may be said to have laid the foundation of our great national library. The value of books at this period is not without interest; but we must confine ourselves to one or two facts relating to Caxton's books. At his death in 1492, a copy of the 'Golden Legend' was valued at 6s. 8d. in the books of the Westminster churchwarden. From a note by Dibdin, it would seem that the price of Caxtons towards the end of the reign of Henry VII. was as follows:
'Godfray of Boulogne' (imperfect),
Virgil's 'Æneid' (perfect), xijd.
'Fait of Arms and Chivalry' (perfect), ijs. viijd.
'Chastising of God's Children,' viijd.
Henry VIII. was undoubtedly a book-lover as well as a book-collector. He established a library at St. James's. But perhaps it is rather as a book-disperser that Henry is entitled to notice in this place. The dissolution of the monasteries is the genesis of book-collecting in London. The first move in this respect is entitled 'An Act that all religious houses under the yearly revenue of £200 shall be dissolved and given to the King and his heirs,' and is dated 1535 (27 Henry VIII., cap. 28, ii. 134). The second is dated 1539. Whatever advantages in a general way the dissolution of the monasteries may have had, its consequences, so far as regards the libraries, which the monks considered as among their most cherished possessions, were disastrous beyond measure. Indeed, we have no conception of our losses. Addressing himself to Edward VI. in 1549, John Bale, afterwards Bishop of Ossory, who had but little love for Popery of any description, writes in this strain: 'Avarice was the other dispatcher which hath made an end both of our libraries and books . . . to the no small decay of the commonwealth. A great number of them who purchased those superstitious mansions [monasteries], reserved of these Library-books, some . . . to scour their candlesticks, and some to rub their boots; some they sold to the grocers and soap-sellers, and some they sent over sea to the bookbinders, not in small numbers, but at times whole shipsfull, to the wondering of the foreign nations. Yea, the universities of this realm are not all clear in this detestable fact. But cursed is that belly which seeketh to be fed with so ungodly gains, and so deeply shameth his natural country. I know a merchantman, which shall at this time be nameless, that bought the contents of two noble Libraries for forty shillings price: a shame it is to be spoken. This stuff hath he occupied in the stead of gray paper by the space of more than these ten years; and yet he hath store enough for as many years to come. . . . Our posterity may well curse this wicked fact of our age, this unreasonable spoil of England's most noble antiquities, unless they be stayed in time.' Fuller, in his 'Church History of Britain,' quotes Bale's lamentation, and adds his own testimony on the same subject: 'As brokers in Long Lane, when they buy an old suit buy the linings together with the outside, so it was considered meet that such as purchased the buildings of monasteries should in the same grant have the Libraries (the stuffing thereof) conveyed unto them. And now these ignorant owners, so long as they might keep a ledger-book or terrier by direction thereof to find such straggling acres as belonged unto them, they cared not to preserve any other monuments. The covers of books, with curious brass bosses and clasps, intended to protect, proved to betray them, being the baits of covetousness. And so many excellent authors, stripped out of their cases, were left naked, to be buried or thrown away. . . . What soul can be so frozen as not to melt into anger thereat? What heart, having the least spark of ingenuity, is not hot at this indignity offered to literature? I deny not but that in this heap of books there was much rubbish; legions of lying legends, good for nothing but fuel . . . volumes full fraught with superstition, which, notwithstanding, might be useful to learned men; except any will deny apothecaries the privilege of keeping poison in their shops, when they can make antidotes of them. But, beside these, what beautiful Bibles, rare Fathers, subtile Schoolmen, useful Historians—ancient, middle, modern; what painful Comments were here amongst them! What monuments of mathematics all massacred together; seeing every book with a cross was condemned for Popish; with circles for conjuring.'
The calamities bewailed in such picturesque language by Bale and Fuller would have been much more serious but for the labours of one of our earliest antiquaries and book-lovers, John Leland. 'The laboryouse Journey and serche of Johan Leylande for Englandes Antiquities geven of hym as a newe yeares gyfte to kynge Henry the viii in the xxxvij yeare of his Reygne,' 1549, is a remarkable publication, of great interest to the book-hunter and the antiquary.
But the fruits of Leland's researches cannot now be fully known, for he was too intent on accumulating material to draw up an adequate inventory. Much that he preserved from destruction is now in the British Museum, and some is in the Bodleian at Oxford. Some of the fragments which he had saved from the general destruction had been placed in the King's own library in Westminster.
The dissolution of the monasteries had among its many effects the creation, so to speak, of a large number of collectors. One of the most famous of the early sixteenth-century collectors, Sir Thomas More, however, died (in 1535) before he could have availed himself of the many treasures scattered to all quarters of the earth.
Dibdin records a bibliomaniacal anecdote which is well worth repeating here, as it shows how More's love of books had infected even those who came to seize upon him to carry him to the Tower, and to endeavour to inveigle him into treasonable expressions: 'While Sir Richard Southwell and Mr. Palmer weare bussie in trussinge upp his bookes, Mr. Riche, pretending,' etc., 'whereupon Mr. Palmer, on his deposition, said, that he was soe bussie abt the trussinge upp Sir Tho. Moore's bookes in a sacke, that he tooke no heed of there talke.'
Henry, Earl of Arundel, was not slow to seize upon the advantages which the dissolution placed before everyone. At Nonsuch, in Surrey, he formed a library, which is described in a biography of him, written shortly after his death, as 'righte worthye of remembrance.' Besides his numerous MSS. and printed books, he acquired a considerable portion of the library of Cranmer, which was dispersed at the death of the Archbishop. His books passed to his son-in-law, Lord Lumley, at whose decease they were purchased by Henry, Prince of Wales, and are now in the British Museum. The Earl of Arundel's books are handsomely bound, and are known by his badge of the white horse and oak branch which generally occurs on the covers.
In Jeremy Collier's 'Ecclesiastical History' (vol. ii. 307) we get a glimpse of book-matters in London in the middle of the sixteenth century. At the end of February, 1550, we learn that the Council book mentions the King's sending a letter for the purging of the library at Westminster. The persons are not named, but the business was to cull out all superstitious books, as missals, legends, and such-like, and to deliver the garniture of the books, either gold or silver, to Sir Anthony Archer. These books were many of them plated with gold and silver and curiously embossed. This, as far as we can collect, was the superstition that destroyed them. 'Here avarice had a very thin disguise, and the courtiers discovered of what spirit they were to a remarkable degree.' Here is another picture of an almost contemporaneous event, equally vivid in its suggestiveness: 'John Tyndale, the translator's brother, and Thomas Patmore, merchants, were condemned to do penance by riding with their faces to their horses' tails, with their books fastened thick about them, pinned, or tacked, to their gowns or clokes, to the Standard in Cheap; and there with their own hands to fling them into the fire, kindled on purpose to burn them.'
As a book-collecting period the sixteenth century, from the accession of Henry VIII.—when books became the organs of the passions of mankind—to the death of Elizabeth, is full of intense interest. The old order had changed; the world itself had made an entirely fresh start. Men and events of the previous two or three centuries were almost as antique then as they are to-day, and perhaps in many respects they were infinitely less clearly understood. As the century grew in age, so the number of book-collectors increased. The hobby became first a passion with the few, and then the fashion with the many. Henry VIII. was perhaps a passive rather than an active collector, with a distinct leaning in favour of beautiful books. His three children, who followed him on the throne of England, were collectors of books, and the majority of their purchases must have been made in London. Many of these books have, at some time or other, drifted from private hands into the sale-rooms, but perhaps the majority of those now existing are to be found within the walls of our public institutions. For example, at the sale of Dr. Askew's MSS., in 1775, a very interesting item was purchased by a Mr. Jackson, a Quaker, and a dealer in wine and spirits, with whom book-collecting was a passion. The MS. proved to be in the handwriting of Edward VI.; it was in French, and dealt with his opinion of his right to the title of Supreme Head of the Church. At Jackson's sale the MS. became the property of the British Museum. As another illustration, we may refer to the copy of the 'Flores Historiarum per Matthæum Westmonasteriensem,' etc., 1570, in the British Museum (Cracherode Collection) which is the identical one presented by Archbishop Parker (by whose authority it was published) to Queen Elizabeth. It afterwards fell into the hands of Francis, Earl of Bedford, who bequeathed it, with the furniture of a little study, to his secretary. It was subsequently in the possession of Ritson. And yet again, in the Eton College Library, there is a copy of the 'Missale Romanum,' printed at Paris by Hardouyn, 1530, which belonged to Mary, with a sentence in her handwriting; this volume afterwards came into the possession of Mary of Este, Queen of James II., and subsequently into the hands of a London bookseller, from whom it was purchased for fifty-three shillings by Bishop Fleetwood, and presented to the college library. Indeed, a large volume might be compiled on the Adventures of Some Famous Books.
Interesting and important as is the phase of book-collecting which relates to royal personages, it falls into insignificance beside that of men who have achieved greatness through their own abilities. The books collected by Thomas Cranmer, for example, quite overshadow in interest anything which the whole reign of the Tudors could produce. It has been well said that his knowledge of books was wide, and his opportunities for acquiring them unrivalled. Cranmer was a generous collector, for his library was quite open for the use of learned men. Latimer spent 'many an hour' there, and has himself told us that he met with a copy of Dionysius 'in my Lord of Canterbury's library.' We have already seen that many of Cranmer's books passed into the possession of the Earl of Arundel, but many were 'conveyed and stolen awaie.' Cranmer's books have found an enthusiastic historian in Prebendary Burbidge, who has almost rehabilitated the great ecclesiastic's library in the first part of Mr. Quaritch's 'Dictionary of English Book-collectors.' Another book-collector of a very different type was amassing an extensive library at a somewhat later period than Cranmer: Dr. Dee, the famous necromancer, had collected '4,000 volumes, printed and unprinted, bound and unbound, valued at 2,000 lib.,' of which one Greek, two French and one High Dutch volumes of MSS. alone were 'worth 533 lib.' It occupied forty years to form this library. Most of his books passed into the possession of Elias Ashmole—who was another collector with an insatiable appetite—and now form a part of the Ashmolean Museum. Some of Dee's singular MSS. were found, long after his death, in the secret drawer of a chest, which had passed through many hands undiscovered. Reverting for a moment to Ashmole, he himself tells us that he gave 'five volumes of Mr. Dugdale's' works to the Temple Library. And further: 'My first boatful of books, which were carried to Mrs. Tradescant's, were brought back to the Temple.' In May, 1667, he bought Mr. John Booker's study of books, and gave £140 for them. In 1681 he bought 'Mr. Lilly's library of books of his widow, for £50.'
A very distinguished book-collector of the Elizabethan period was Sir Francis Drake, the great Admiral. It did not seem to be at all known that the distinguished naval hero was also a bibliophile until 1883, when the collection of books was brought from the old residence of the Drakes, Nutwell Court, Lympstone, Devon, to Sotheby's. The sale comprised 1,660 lots, representing several thousand volumes, the total being £3,276 17s. 6d. It was especially rich in books and old tracts of the early seventeenth century relating to the English voyages to America, and some of these realized very high figures. Although the library was undoubtedly founded by Drake, it was evidently continued by his descendants. Bacon, Baron of Verulam, was a distinguished book-collector, as the shelves of his chambers in Gray's Inn would have testified. Archbishop Parker, than whom 'a more determined book-fancier never existed in Great Britain,' and Gabriel Harvey, the friend of Spenser, and the object of Tom Nash's withering scorn, were among the most inveterate book-collectors of Elizabethan London. Had Harvey—whose books usually contain his autograph on the title-page, and not a few of which were given him by Spenser—studied his books less, and the proper study of mankind a little more, he might have shown his talents off to a better advantage than in his conflicts with Nash. In the Bodleian there is a set of old tales and romances which Spenser lent Harvey, taking as a hostage, apparently, Harvey's copy of Lucian in four volumes. Harvey had a very poor opinion of such 'foolish' books, but he does not seem to have returned them to their rightful owner. The fire which destroyed Ben Jonson's MSS. undoubtedly consumed many of his printed books, but examples from his library, with 'Sum Ben Jonson' inscribed, are sometimes met with. Shakespeare may have had a library, but we have no evidence that he possessed even a copy of his own plays in quarto. The Elizabethan poets and dramatists were prodigious contributors to the press, but very poor patrons of booksellers. From various sources we get some highly-coloured and unflattering pictures of the typical booksellers of the period. Tom Nash has limned for us a vivid little portrait in 'Pierce Penilesse' (1592), in which he declares that if he were to paint Sloth, 'I swear that I would draw it like a stationer that I know, with his thumb under his girdle, who, if ever a man come to his stall to ask him for a book, never stirs his head, or looks upon him, but stands stone still, and speaks not a word, only with his little finger points backward to his boy, who must be his interpreter; and so all day, gaping like a dumb image, he sits without motion, except at such times as he goes to dinner or supper, for then he is as quick as other three, eating six times every day.'
From start to finish the Stuart dynasty ruled England for close on three-quarters of a century. That book-collecting should have existed at all under it is a marvel. But the hobby no longer depended upon the patronage of courts and courtiers. From the Wise Fool, James I., to the Foolish Fool, the second James, collectors pursued their hobby in London and out of it. James I. began to collect books at a very early age, and a list of his library was published for the first time in the Athenæum in 1893. It has, however, but little interest to us in this place, for doubtless most of the books were imported into Scotland from the great book centre, Paris. The library which he acquired after his accession to the throne of England is of little consequence, for he was not the person to purchase books when he had the means, and doubtless many of his bookish possessions were gifts. In the library at Eton College there is his copy of Captain John Smith's 'History of Virginia,' 1624, which was rescued by Storer from a dirty bookseller's shop in Derby, and the existence of many others might be traced. It is certain that 'he gave them shabby coverings, and scribbled idle notes on their margins.' Had his son Henry lived, he might have developed into a respectable book-collector. We know for certain that he 'paid a Frenchman that presented a book, £4 10s.'; and that he paid 'Mr. Holyoak for writing a catalogue of the library which the Prince had of Lord Lumley, £8 13s. 4d.' Charles II., like his forbears, was not a book-buyer, and so far as he is concerned we must content ourselves with repeating a little anecdote after Dibdin, who refers to an 'old and not incurious library at Workingham, in Suffolk,' where there was a very fine ruled copy of Hayes's Bible, published at Cambridge, 1674, in two volumes folio; on the fly-leaf it contains the following memorandum: 'N.B.—This Bible belonged to K. Charles IId. and [was] given by him to Duke Lauderdale and sold by auction wth ye rest of his Books.' In a comparatively modern hand, below, is written in pencil:
The most distinguished Metropolitan book-collector of the period was Sir Robert Cotton, who began as early as 1588, and who had assistance from such antiquaries as William Camden and Sir Henry Spelman. This library, after being closed on account of the treasonable character of the documents contained in it, passed into the possession of Cotton's son, Sir Thomas, whose house was almost adjoining Westminster Hall. Anthony à Wood gives a curious account of a visit he paid it, when he found its owner practising on the lute. The key of the library was in the possession of one Pearson, who lodged with a bookseller in Little Britain. Wood was 'forced to walk thither, and much ado there was to find him.' This library was removed to Essex Street, and again back to Westminster to Ashburnham House in Little Dean's Yard, where it suffered greatly from a fire in 1731, and what remains of it is now in the British Museum. Sir Thomas Bodley was another collector, but few of his accumulations appear to have come from London. The extraordinary collection of pamphlets got together by Tomlinson, and now stored in the British Museum, is too well known to need more than a passing reference. It is not so generally known that Narcissus Luttrell was a very voracious collector of broadsides, tracts, and so forth. To nearly every one of the items he affixed the price he paid for it. In 1820, at the Bindley sale, this extraordinary collection, ranging in date from 1640 to 1688, and comprising twelve volumes, realized the then large amount of £781.
Sir Julius Cæsar, Master of the Rolls under James I., was a book-collector of the right sort, and his box of charming little editions of the classics, with which he used to solace himself on a journey, is now in the safe keeping of the British Museum. Sir Julius was born in 1557, and died in April, 1636; he possessed a fine collection of highly interesting manuscripts, which had the narrowest possible escape from being destroyed at the latter part of the last century. The collection was rescued in time by Samuel Paterson, the auctioneer, and it is now in the British Museum.
Robert Burton (the author of the 'Anatomy of Melancholy') was, like Luttrell, also a great collector of tracts, and his library, now in the Bodleian, is peculiarly rich in historical, political, and poetical pamphlets, and in miscellaneous accounts of murders, monsters, and accidents. He seems to have purchased and preserved a copy of everything that came out. 'There is no nation,' says Johnson, 'in which it is so necessary as in our own to assemble the small tracts and fugitive pieces.' 'The writers of these' frequently have opportunities 'of inquiring from living witnesses, and of copying their representations from the life, and preserve a multitude of particular incidents which are forgotten in a short time, or omitted in formal relations, and yet afford light in some of the darkest scenes of state.' 'From pamphlets,' says the same writer, 'are to be learned the progress of every debate, and of every opinion.' And he compares the impression produced on the mind of him who shall consult these tracts, and of another that refers merely to formal historians, to the difference of him who hears of a victory, and him who sees the battle. Archbishop Laud collected from far and wide. John Selden, like Laud, had a distinct weakness for learned books, and consequently could have found little to satisfy his cravings in London. Selden, when disturbed, put his spectacles into the book he was busy with by way of marking the place; and after his death numbers of volumes were found with these curious book-markers. John Felton, who murdered Buckingham, was also a book-collector in a small way. In Lilly's catalogue for 1863 there was a copy of Peacham's 'Compleat Gentleman,' 1622, with the following on the fly-leaf: 'John Felton, vicessimo secundo die Junii, 1622.'
A few glances, at this point, at the more material phases of book-collecting may not be without interest. The following is one of the earliest bookseller's statements of accounts with which we are acquainted. It was rendered to 'the Right Honourable the Lord Conway,' on May 31, 1638, by Henry Seile, whose shop was at the sign of the Tiger's Head, Fleet Street:
|1 Nash's Ha' wee you to Saffron Walden||00||02||06|
|1 Greene's Arcadia
1 Farewell to Folly
1 Tullies' Love
1 Lady Fitzwater's Nightingale
1 Never too Late
1 Groatesworth of Wit
1 Mourning Garment
1 Peers pennylesse supplication
|These nine Bookes
were delivered to
your Lordship at
In a letter addressed to Evelyn by Dr. Cosin (afterwards Bishop of Durham) during his exile, and dated July 18, 1651, we get a delightful glimpse of two book-lovers doing 'a deal.' Mr. Evelyn was apparently a man who could drive a bargain with Hebraic shrewdness. 'Truly, sir,' expostulated mildly the excited ecclesiastic, 'I thought I had prevented any further motion of abatement by the large offer that I made to you. . . . If you consider their number, I desire you would be pleased to consider likewise, that they are a choice number, and a company of the best selected books among them all. . . . There is in your note Pliny's "Natural History" in English, priced at 36s., which is worth £3; Camden's "Errors," priced at 5s. 6d., for which I have seen £1 given; Paulus Jovius at £1, which sells now in Paris at 4 pistoles; and Pol. Virgil at 10s., which sells here for £10; William of Malmesbury at 15s., for which they demand here £30, and Asser Menev, etc., at 14s., which they will not part with here nor elsewhere abroad for £20.'
It is highly probable that the book-market was never so bad in London as during this period; for, in addition to the above illustration, and at about the same time, Isaac Vossius came over to this country with a quantity of literary property, some of which had belonged to his learned father, in the hopes of selling it; but he 'carried them back into Holland,' where 'a quicker mercate' was expected.
Sic transit gloria mundi might well be the motto of a History of Book-Collectors, for in by far the majority of cases great private libraries have been formed in one generation by genuine bookworms, only to be scattered in the next by needy legatees or in consequence of impoverished estates. There can be no doubt that several famous libraries have derived their origin from the mere vanity of emulating a fashionable pursuit. Into this matter, however, it is not necessary for us to enter, except to hazard the suggestion that if the money had not been spent in that direction it would doubtless have been squandered in some less worthy and enduring manner. One of the most interesting and valuable contributions to the history of private collections of the seventeenth century is embedded in the long and entertaining letter which John Evelyn addressed to Mr. Pepys in August, 1689. This letter is so accessible that it may seem superfluous to quote any part of it; but a few of the leading points are necessary to the proper sequence of our story. 'The Bishop of Ely has a very well-stored library, but the very best is what Dr. Stillingfleet has at Twickenham, ten miles out of town. . . . Our famous lawyer, Sir Edward Coke, purchased a very choice library of Greek and other MSS., which were sold him by Dr. Meric Casaubon, son of the learned Isaac; and these, together with his delicious villa, Durdens, came into the possession of the present Earl of Berkeley from his uncle, Sir Robert Cook. . . . I have heard that Sir Henry Savill was master of many precious MSS., and he is frequently celebrated for it by the learned Valesius, almost in every page of that learned man's Annotations on Eusebius, and the Ecclesiastical Historians published by him. The late Mr. Hales, of Eton, had likewise a very good library; and so had Dr. Cosin, late Bishop of Duresme [and afterwards of Durham], a considerable part of which I had agreed with him for myself during his exile abroad, as I can show under his own hand; but his late daughter, since my Lady Garret, thought I had not offered enough, and made difficulty in delivering them to me till near the time of his Majesty's restoration, and after that the Dean, her father, becoming Bishop of that opulent See, bestowed them on the library there. But the Lord Primate Usher was inferior to none I have named among the clergy for rare MSS., a great part of which, being brought out of Ireland, and left his son-in-law, Sir Timothy Tyrill, was disposed of to give bread to that incomparable Prelate during the late fanatic war. Such as remained yet at Dublin were preserved, and by a public purse restored and placed in the college library of that city. . . . I forbear to name the late Earl of Bristol's and his kinsman's, Sir Kenelm Digby's, libraries, of more pompe than intrinsic value, as chiefly consisting of modern poets, romances, chymical, and astrological books. . . . As for those of Sir Kenelm, the catalogue was printed and most of them sold in Paris, as many better have lately been in London. The Duke of Lauderdale's is yet entire, choicely bound, and to be sold by a friend of mine, to whom they are pawned; but it comes far short of his relation's, the Lord Maitland's, which was certainly the noblest, most substantial and accomplished library that ever passed under the speare, and heartily it grieved me to behold its limbs, like those of the chaste Hippolytus, separated and torn from that so well chosen and compacted a body. The Earl of Anglesey's, and several others since, by I know not what invidious fate, passed the same fortune, to whatever influence and constellation now reigning malevolent to books and libraries, which can portend no good to the future age.'
It is interesting to note that of the several libraries enumerated by Evelyn three have become, partly or wholly, public property. That of Dr. John Moore, Bishop of Ely, was purchased after his death by George I. for £6,000, and presented to the University of Cambridge, where it now is. Evelyn himself was, as will have been gathered, an ardent book-collector. He began forming a library very early in life, whilst that of his brother came to him by bequest. At the time of his death he had a very extensive collection of books at Wotton, which has been considerably augmented by his successors. In the early part of the present century William Upcott, of the London Institution, drew up a complete catalogue. Upcott's appearance on the scene synchronized with the disappearance of a number of volumes from the Evelyn Library; it has been suggested that Lady Evelyn presented them to him 'or something of that sort,' although the circumstance has never been officially explained. Certain it is that a large number of books formerly in the possession of the diarist have at times appeared in the auction-room. The most important which occurred during the last few years are two beautifully-written MSS., the work of Richard Hoare, one having the title 'Instructions Œconomiques,' 1648, with a dedication 'To the present mistress of my youth, the hopeful companion of my riper years, and the future nurse of my old age, Mrs. May Evelyn, my deare wife,' etc. The second was a book of Private Devotions, 1650. Evelyn was also unfortunate in his lifetime, inasmuch as the Duke of Lauderdale 'came to my house, under pretence of a visit,' but in reality to borrow 'for a few days' certain valuable MSS., which this aristocratic thief never returned. So, too, he lent Burnet a quantity of MS. material for his 'History of the Reformation,' which, like other borrowed books, never came back. A large number of first editions of the works of J. Evelyn, together with some books from his library, illustrated with his autograph notes, occurred in the sale of the library of the late Arthur Davis, of Deptford and East Farleigh, July, 1857, many of which were doubtless purloined at some time or other.
Of all the seventeenth-century book-collectors, perhaps the most interesting is that other diarist, Samuel Pepys. Samuel was not a man of great learning, but his wit, his knowledge of the world, and his humanity were unbounded. He welcomed almost anything in the shape of a book, from a roguish French novel to a treatise on medals, from a loose Restoration play to a maritime pamphlet, and from lives of the saints to books on astrology or philosophy. Not a great man, perhaps, but one of the most delightful and entertaining that one could wish. The Secretary's 'Diary' is full of allusions to men and events of bookish interest, and gives frequent illustrations of his amiable passion for book-collecting. Fortunately, we have not to grope in the dark to get an accurate portrait of the genial Samuel as a book-collector, for his entire library is preserved, almost in the same state as he left it, at Magdalen College, Oxford, 'as curious a medley of the grave and gay' as any person of catholic tastes could wish for. The library consists of almost 3,000 volumes, preserved in eleven mahogany bookcases. The books are all arranged in double rows, the small ones in front being sufficiently low to permit of the titles of the back row of larger ones being easily read. The library is a remarkably accurate reflection of the tastes of the founder. In addition to what is termed ordinary useful books, there are many rarities, including no less than nine Caxtons, and several from the press of Wynkyn de Worde and Pynson. The celebrated collection of ballads, commenced by Selden and continued by Pepys, is second only in importance to the famous Roxburghe collection now in the British Museum. The manuscripts of various kinds form a very valuable part of this celebrated collection.
John Bagford, the biblioclast (1675-1716), also finishes us, like Evelyn, with a list of book-collectors who were contemporaneous with him. Besides Bishop Moore, already mentioned, there were Sir Hans Sloane, Lords Carbery (Duke of Kent), Pembroke, Somers, Sunderland, and Halifax. Among the commoners who emulated their 'betters' were Messrs. Huckle, Chichely, Bridges, Walter Clavell, Rawlinson, Slaughter, Topham, Wanley, Captain Hatton, 'Right Hon. Secretary Harley,' and Dr. Salmon, whose collection is said to have consisted of 1,700 folios. Edwards, in his most valuable work on libraries, mentions yet a third list, which is anonymous, and is apparently almost contemporaneous with Bagford's. The list is introduced with the remark that 'the laudable emulation which is daily increasing amongst the nobility of England, vying with each other in the curiosities and other rich furniture of their respective libraries, gives cheerful hope of having the long-hidden monuments of ancient times raised out of their present dust and rubbish,' and then makes special mention of the libraries of the Duke of Kent, Lords Derby, Denbigh, Longueville, Willoughby de Broke, Sunderland, Somers, and Halifax.
When good Mr. Evelyn described Sir Kenelm Digby's library as 'of more pomp than intrinsic value,' and as 'chiefly consisting of modern poets, romances, chemical and astrological books,' he did not contemplate the future possibility of such despised trifles becoming fashionable and in greater request than the accumulations of the collectors to whom the classics were daily food. As Edwards has pointed out, the portion which Digby gave to the Bodleian was in reality the fruit of the researches of his tutor, Thomas Allen. The portion which was of his own collecting, and consequently the only portion which accurately mirrored his own tastes, he took with him to France when driven into exile. When he died there, it apparently passed into the possession of Digby, Earl of Bristol, on whose account it was sold in London in 1680, fifteen years after its owner's death. The catalogue enumerated 3,878 items, of which 69 were manuscripts, the total of the sale being £904 4s.
Among the most famous of the seventeenth-century collectors were the two brothers Francis, Baron Guilford, Lord Keeper (1637-1685), and Dr. John North, master of Trinity College (1645-1683). Of these two there are some very entertaining facts in Roger North's 'Lives of the Norths' (1742-44). Dr. John North, we are told, 'very early in his career began to look after books and to lay the foundation of a competent library . . . buying at one lift a whole set of Greek classics in folio, in best editions. This sunk his stock [of money] for the time; but afterwards for many years of his life all that he could (as they say) rap or run went the same way. But the progress was small, for such a library as he desired, compared with what the pittance of his stock would purchase, allowing many years to the gathering, was of desperate expectation. . . . He courted, as a fond lover, all best editions, fairest characters, best-bound and preserved. . . . He delighted in the small editions of the classics by Seb. Gryphius, and divers of his acquaintance, meeting with any of them, bought and brought them to him, which he accepted as choice presents, although, perhaps, he had one or two of them before. . . . His soul was never so staked down as in an old bookseller's shop. . . . He was for the most part his own factor, and seldom or never bought by commission, which made him lose time in turning over vast numbers of books, and he was very hardly pleased at last. I have borne him company in shops for many hours together, and, minding him of the time, he hath made a dozen proffers before he would quit. By this care and industry, at length he made himself master of a very considerable library, wherein the choicest collection was Greek.' At his death the collection came to his brother, the Lord Keeper.
As with Dr. John North, book-hunting was the consuming passion of the life of a very different man—Richard Smyth or Smith (of whom there is a very fine and rare engraving by W. Sherwin), one of the Secondaries or Under-Sheriffs from 1644 to 1655. Having sufficient wealth, he resigned his municipal appointment, which was worth £700 a year, in order to devote himself entirely to book-hunting. Anthony à Wood describes him as 'infinitely curious and inquisitive after books,' and states that 'he was constantly known every day to walk his rounds amongst the booksellers' shops (especially in Little Britain).' Richard Chiswell, the bookseller who drew up a catalogue of Smith's books, which subsequently came into his possession en bloc, tells us that his skill and experience enabled him 'to make choice of such books that were not obvious to every man's eye. . . . He lived in times which ministered peculiar opportunities of meeting with books that were not every day brought into public light, and few eminent libraries were bought where he had not the liberty to pick and choose. Hence arose, as that vast number of his books, so the choiceness and rarity of the greatest part of them, and that of all kinds, and in all sorts of learning.' This collection was sold by auction in May, 1682, the catalogue of it occupying 404 closely-printed pages in large quarto. There were fourteen Caxtons, 'the aggregate produce' of which was £3 14s. 7d.; the Godfrey of Bulloigne' selling for 18s., 'being K. Edwarde the IVth's owne booke,' and the 'Booke of Good Manners,' for 2s.; the highest price in the entire sale being given for Holinshed's 'Chronicle,' 'with the addition of many sheets that were castrated, being . . . not allowed to be printed,' £7. Smith left an interesting and valuable obituary list of certain of his bibliopolic friends (which is reprinted in Willis' Current Notes, February, 1853), one of whom, according to him, was 'buried at St. Bartholomew's, without wine or wafers, only gloves and rosemary.'
Dr. Francis Bernard, chief physician to James II., was an indefatigable book-hunter; being 'a person who collected his books, not for ostentation or ornament, he seemed no more solicitous about their dress than his own, and, therefore, you'll find that a gilt back or a large margin was very seldom an inducement for him to buy. 'Twas sufficient for him that he had the book.' His library was sold in 1698, and realized the then enormous sum of £2,000. John Bridges, of Lincoln's Inn, the historian of Northamptonshire, was a collector who read as well as bought books; his collection was sold at auction in 1726, when 4,313 lots realized £4,001. Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, was a collector with comprehensive tastes and almost unlimited means. His collection is now in the British Museum, and is computed to have numbered about 26,000 volumes, on the binding of only a portion of which he is said to have expended £18,000, besides a mass of 350,000 pamphlets. Thomas Baker (1625-1690) bequeathed a portion of his library to St. John's College, Cambridge, notwithstanding the fact that he was ejected therefrom. He was an unceasing collector, but his finances were scanty, and, worst of all, he had to contend with collectors of greater wealth, or 'purse-ability' as Bodley calls it. Writing to Humfrey Wanley, he says: 'I begin to complain of the men of quality who lay out so much for books, and give such prices that there is nothing to be had for poor scholars, whereof I have found the effects. When I bid a fair price for an old book, I am answered, the "quality" will give twice as much, and so I have done. I have had much ado to pick up a few old books at tolerable prices, and despair of any more.' About 2,000 of his books went to St. John's College, and the others were sold by auction, many bearing the inscription 'Thomas Baker, socius ejectus,' etc. The library of another collector who, like Baker, had more of the kicks than of the ha'pence of this life, Thomas Hearne (1678-1735), may be mentioned briefly in this paragraph, for both were men of great learning. Hearne's collection was sold in February, 1736, by Osborne the bookseller, 'the lowest price being marked in each book.' On the title-page of the catalogue, and beneath a poor portrait of Hearne, is the well-known couplet:
Humphrey Dyson is another book-collector of this period, and is described by Hearne as 'a very curious man in collecting books.' The Wesleys were book-lovers and readers, but have perhaps but little claim to rank as collectors pur sang. However, it is interesting to point out that Lilly's catalogue for 1863 included a copy of Purcell's 'Orpheus Britannicus,' 1706, with an inscription on the fly-leaf: 'C. Wesley, junior. The valuable gift of his much-honor'd Father.'
The Restoration poets, like those of the Elizabethan period, had a sufficiently hard fight to keep themselves in food; books were luxuries which they could only venture to enjoy at long and uncertain intervals. Dryden and Congreve, however, appear to have been addicted to the pleasant pastime.
An exceedingly interesting copy of Spenser's 'Works,' folio, 1679, was once in the possession of Mr. F. S. Ellis. On the fly-leaf occurred this note: 'The corrections made in this book are of Mr. Dryden's own handwriting. J. Tonson.' The volume occurred in an auction, where its value was not detected. The 'corrections,' Mr. Ellis states, extend through the whole of the volume, and bear witness to the care and diligence with which Dryden had studied Spenser's poems. Several of the notes are in explanation of the text, but for the most part are careful and curious corrections of the text and press. The pedigree of this volume is well established by its having in the cover the bookplate of Thomas Barrett, of Lee, celebrated by Dibdin as a 'bibliomaniacal and tasteful gentleman.' Though Barrett died in 1757, his library was not dispersed till a few years since. Izaak Walton was a collector, and took the wise precaution of writing his autograph in each volume, as the very interesting score of examples now at Salisbury prove. His friend, Charles Cotton, of cheerful memory, was much more of a book-collector, although from the 'Angler' it would seem that his whole library was contained in his hall window. Like Walton, Cotton wrote his autograph in most of his books, which occur in the auction-room at irregular intervals. The extent or variety of the Cotton correction may be gathered from the following 'epigram' which Sir Aston Cokaine wrote (1658) 'To my Cousin, Mr. Charles Cotton the Younger':
When you have more such books, I pray
Me their perusal, I'll return them safe.
Yet for the courtesy, the recompense
That I can make you will be only thanks.
But you are noble-soul'd, and had much rather
Bestow a benefit than receive a favour.'
One of the most remarkable collections of books ever made by a private individual was that known as the Sunderland Library. It was formed, not only in the short space of twelve years, but at a time when many books, now of almost priceless value, and scarcely to be had at any price, were comparatively common, and certainly not costly. Neither money nor pains was spared, 'and the bibliographical ardour of the founder soon began to be talked of in the bookshops of the chief cities of Europe.' The founder, Charles, third Earl of Sunderland, lived at Althorp, his town house being in Piccadilly, on the site of which the Albany now stands. At the latter place this library was lodged for several years. In Macky's 'Journey through England,' 1724, Sunderland House is there described as being separated from the street of Piccadilly 'by a wall with large grown trees before the gate. . . . The greatest beauty of this palace is the library, running from the house into the garden; and I must say is the finest in Europe, both for the disposition of the apartments, and of the books. The rooms, divided into five apartments, are fully 150 feet long, with two stories of windows, and a gallery runs round the whole in the second story for the taking down books. No nobleman in any nation hath taken greater care to make his collection complete, nor does he spare any cost for the most valuable and rare books. Besides, no bookseller in Europe hath so many editions of the same book as he, for he hath all, especially of the classicks.' The founder of this famous library died on April 19, 1722. Evelyn has left a few very interesting facts concerning this collection. Under the date March 10, 1695, we read: 'I din'd at the Earl of Sunderland's with Lord Spencer. My Lord shew'd me his library, now again improv'd by many books bought at the sale of Sir Charles Scarborough, an eminent physician, which was the very best collection, especially of mathematical books, that was I believe in Europe, once design'd for the King's library at St. James's, but the Queen dying, who was the greate patroness of the designe, it was let fall, and the books were miserably dissipated.' Four years later, April, 1699, we have another entry, to the effect that Lord Spencer purchased 'an incomparable library,' until now the property of 'a very fine scholar, whom from a child I have known,' whose name does not transpire, but in whose library were many 'rare books . . . that were printed at the first invention of that wonderful art.' In reference to Macky's incidental allusion to the Earl of Sunderland's indifference to cost in forming his library, Wanley confirms this. Writing in December, 1721, the diarist observes that the books in Mr. Freebairn's library 'in general went low, or rather at vile rates, through a combination of the booksellers against the sale. Yet some books went for unaccountably high prices, which were bought by Mr. Vaillant, the bookseller, who had an unlimited commission from the Earl of Sunderland.' Among the items was an edition of Virgil, printed by Zarothus circa 1475: 'It was noted that when Mr. Vaillant had bought the printed Virgil at £46, he huzza'd out aloud, and threw up his hat, for joy that he had bought it so cheap.' When this famous book-collector died, Wanley observes that 'by reason of his decease some benefit may accrue to this library [Lord Oxford's], even in case his relations will part with none of his books. I mean, by his raising the price of books no higher now; so that, in probability, this commodity may fall in the market; and any gentleman be permitted to buy an uncommon old book for less than forty or fifty pounds.' The third son of this famous book-collector, Charles, fifth Earl of Sunderland, and second Duke of Marlborough, greatly enlarged the collection formed by his father; and it was removed to Blenheim probably in 1734. This famous library remained practically intact until it came under the hammer at Puttick and Simpson's, occupying fifty-one days in the dispersal at intervals from December 1, 1881, to March 22, 1883, the total being £55,581 6s. It is stated that the library originally cost about £30,000.
Dr. David Williams, who from 1688 to the end of his life was minister of a Presbyterian congregation which met at Hand Alley, Bishopsgate Street, was a contemporary book-collector and book-hunter. His special line was theology, and his library, which absorbed that of Dr. Bates, once Rector of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East, is still preserved intact, and is now, to a certain degree, a free library. Archbishop Tenison was another great book-hunter of this period, and his library was preserved more or less intact until 1861, when it was dispersed at Sotheby's, under an order of the Charity Commissioners.
The brothers Thomas and Richard Rawlinson were, probably, the most omnivorous collectors of the earlier part of the last century. Everything in the shape of a book was welcomed. The former (1681-1725), whose 'C. & P.' (collated and perfect) appears on the frontispiece, title-page, or fly-leaf of books, when he lived in Gray's Inn, had so filled his set of four rooms with books that he was obliged to sleep in the passage. He is said to be the original study for the 158th Tatler, in which 'Tom Folio' and other soi-disant scholars are trounced. 'He has a greater esteem for Aldus and Elzevir than for Virgil and Horace.' It is very doubtful whether Addison (who wrote this particular Tatler) really had Thomas Rawlinson in mind, whom he describes as 'a learned idiot.' Swift has declared that some know books as they do lords; learn their titles exactly, and then brag of their acquaintance. But neither description is applicable to Rawlinson, who, for all that, may have known much more about Aldus or the Elzevirs than about Virgil or Horace. With a pretty taste for epithets, in which our forefathers sometimes indulged, Hearne has defended his friend from Addison's sarcasms by declaring that the mistake could only have been made by a 'shallow buffoon.' That Rawlinson was a bibliomaniac there can be no question, for if he had a score copies of one book, he would purchase another for the mere gratification of possessing it. When he removed to the large mansion in Aldersgate Street, which had been the palace of the Bishops of London, and which he shared with his brother, 'the books still continued to be better lodged than their owner.' He died, at the comparatively early age of forty-four, as he had lived, among dust and cobwebs, 'in his bundles, piles and bulwarks of paper.' The catalogue of his huge mass of books was divided into nine parts; the sale of the MSS. alone occupied sixteen days. Richard Rawlinson (died 1755) survived his brother thirty years, and continued to collect books with all his brother's enthusiasm, but without his sheer book-greed. His MSS. are at Oxford, and the extent and richness of his accumulations may be gathered from the fact that the collector laid nearly thirty libraries under contribution. His printed books were sold in 1756 by Samuel Baker (now Sotheby's), the sale occupying forty-nine days, and the total amounting to £1,155 1s.; a second sale included 20,000 pamphlets, and a third sale consisted of prints.
Among the wisest and most distinguished book-collectors of the first half of the last century is Dr. Richard Mead (1673-1754), a physician by profession, but a bibliophile by instinct, and whom Dr. Johnson described as having 'lived more in the broad sunshine of life than almost any other man.' As Dr. Mead's fine library was 'picked up at Rome,' it scarcely comes within our purview; but it may be mentioned that so long as this fine collection remained intact in London, it was ipso facto a free library; it was especially rich in the classics, sciences and history. The first part was sold by Samuel Baker in 1754, and the second in the following year, the 6,592 lots occupying fifty-seven days, the total of the books being £5,496 15s. Dr. Mead's mantle descended to his great friend and pupil, Dr. Anthony Askew (1722-1774), who had an exceedingly fine library; his career as a collector began in Paris in 1749, and nearly all his choicest treasures appear to have been gathered on the Continent, and chiefly it seems by Joseph Smith, the English Consul at Venice. Askew's first library was purchased by George III. in 1762, and now forms an integral part of the British Museum. His subsequent accumulations were dispersed in two sections, the books in 1775, and the MSS. ten years later. We shall have occasion to refer again to the Askew sale. Dr. Richard Farmer appears to have imbibed his taste for book-collecting from Askew, and became an indefatigable haunter of the London and country bookstalls, his special line being Early English literature, then scarcely at all appreciated; it is stated that the collection, which cost him less than £500, realized, when sold by auction by King in 1798, upwards of £2,000. Dr. Farmer is better remembered by posterity as a Shakespearian critic or commentator. He was a Canon Residentiary of St. Paul's, and appears to have had what Dibdin describes as 'his foragers, his jackalls, and his avant-couriers,' who picked up for him every item of interest in his particular lines. As becomes the true bibliophile, he was peculiarly indifferent to his dress, but he was a scholar of great abilities. A glance at a priced copy of his sale catalogue is enough to turn any book-lover green with envy. For example, his copy of Richard Barnfield's 'Encomion of Lady Pecunia, or the Praise of Money' (1598), sold for 19s., Malone being the purchaser. That copy is now in the Bodleian. In 1882, the Ouvry copy of the same book realized 100 guineas! A copy of Milton's 'Paradise Lost' (1667), with the first title-page, sold for 11s.; a volume of twelve poems, chiefly printed by Wynkyn de Worde and Pynson, realized 25 guineas. Each item would probably realize the amount paid for the whole, should they again occur for sale, which is most unlikely. Both his friends, George Steevens and Isaac Reed, were equally zealous collectors, and each had a strong weakness for the same groove of collecting. The library of Steevens was sold, also by King, in 1800, and the 1,943 items realized £2,740 15s.; whilst that of Reed, sold seven years later, contained 8,957 articles, and realized £4,387.
Both Steevens and Isaac Reed call for a much more extended notice than it is possible to give them here. Many of Steevens' books realized twenty times the amount which he paid for them. Steevens, who was born in 1736, resided in a retired house 'just on the rise of Hampstead Heath,' so Dibdin tells us, the house being formerly known as the Upper Flask Tavern, to which 'Richardson sends Clarissa in one of her escapes from Lovelace.' Here, as Dibdin further tells us, Steevens lived, embosomed in books, shrubs, and trees. 'His habits were indeed peculiar; not much to be envied or imitated, as they sometimes betrayed the flights of a madman, and sometimes the asperities of the cynic. His attachments were warm, but fickle, both in choice and duration.' Several of his letters are printed in Dibdin's 'Bibliomania' (edit. 1842), in which will also be found a long series of extracts from the sale catalogue of his library. There were nearly fifty copies of the first or early quartos of the Shakespearian plays, which were knocked down at prices varying from 5s. to, in a few instances, over £20. The first, second, third and fourth folios realized £22, £18 18s., £8 8s., and £2 12s. 6d., respectively! Isaac Reed was in many ways a remarkable man. He was the son of a baker in the parish of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West. Born in 1742, he commenced professional life as a solicitor, which he soon abandoned for the more congenial pursuit of literature. His knowledge of English literature was unbounded, and the dispersal of his remarkable library was one of the wonders of the year 1807. He was for over forty years a diligent collector, and few days passed in that period which did not witness an addition to his library. He died at his chambers in Staple Inn. 'I have been almost daily at a book-auction,' writes Malone—'the library of the late Mr. Reed, the last Shakespearian, except myself, where my purse has been drained as usual. But what I have purchased are chiefly books of my own trade. There is hardly a library of this kind now left, except my own and Mr. Bindley's, neither of us having the least desire to succeed the other in his peculiar species of literary wealth.'
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