BOOKS AND BOOKMEN
BOOKS AND BOOKMEN
To the Viscountess Wolseley
Ballade of the Real and Ideal
Curiosities of Parish Registers
The Rowfant Books
To F. L.
Some Japanese Bogie-books
Ghosts in the Library
Bibliomania in France
Old French Title-pages
A Bookman's Purgatory
Ballade of the Unattainable
TO THE VISCOUNTESS WOLSELEY
Madame it is no modish thing
The bookman's tribute that I bring;
A talk of antiquaries grey
Dust unto dust this many a day
Gossip of texts and bindings old
Of faded type and tarnish'd gold!
Can ladies care for this to-do
With Payne Derome and Padeloup?
Can they resign the rout the ball
For lonely joys of shelf and stall?
The critic thus serenely wise;
But you can read with other eyes
Whose books and bindings treasured are
'Midst mingled spoils of peace and war;
Shields from the fights the Mahdi lost
And trinkets from the Golden Coast
And many things divinely done
By Chippendale and Sheraton
And trophies of Egyptian deeds
And fans and plates and Aggrey beads
Pomander boxes assegais
And sword-hilts worn in Marlbro's days.
In this pell-mell of old and new
Of war and peace my essays too
For long in serials tempest-tost
Are landed now and are not lost:
Nay on your shelf secure they lie
As in the amber sleeps the fly.
'Tis true they are not "rich nor rare;"
Enough for me that they are--there!
The essays in this volume have for the most part already appeared
in an American edition (Combes New York 1886). The Essays on 'Old
French Title-Pages' and 'Lady Book-Lovers' take the place of 'Book
Binding' and 'Bookmen at Rome;' 'Elzevirs' and 'Some Japanese Bogie-
Books' are reprinted with permission of Messrs. Cassell from the
Magazine of Art; 'Curiosities of Parish Registers' from the
Guardian; 'Literary Forgeries' from the Contemporary Review; 'Lady
Book-Lovers' from the Fortnightly Review; 'A Bookman's Purgatory'
and two of the pieces of verse from Longman's Magazine--with the
courteous permission of the various editors. All the chapters have
been revised and I have to thank Mr. H. Tedder for his kind care in
reading the proof sheets and Mr. Charles Elton M.P. for a similar
service to the Essay on 'Parish Registers.'
The Countryman. "You know how much for some time past the
editions of the Elzevirs have been in demand. The fancy for them
has even penetrated into the country. I am acquainted with a man
there who denies himself necessaries for the sake of collecting
into a library (where other books are scarce enough) as many little
Elzevirs as he can lay his hands upon. He is dying of hunger and
his consolation is to be able to say 'I have all the poets whom the
Elzevirs printed. I have ten examples of each of them all with red
letters and all of the right date.' This no doubt is a craze
for good as the books are if he kept them to read them one
example of each would be enough."
The Parisian. "If he had wanted to read them I would not have
advised him to buy Elzevirs. The editions of minor authors which
these booksellers published even editions 'of the right date' as
you say are not too correct. Nothing is good in the books but the
type and the paper. Your friend would have done better to use the
editions of Gryphius or Estienne."
This fragment of a literary dialogue I translate from 'Entretiens
sur les Contes de Fees' a book which contains more of old talk
about books and booksellers than about fairies and folk-lore. The
'Entretiens' were published in 1699 about sixteen years after the
Elzevirs ceased to be publishers. The fragment is valuable: first
because it shows us how early the taste for collecting Elzevirs was
fully developed and secondly because it contains very sound
criticism of the mania. Already in the seventeenth century lovers
of the tiny Elzevirian books waxed pathetic over dates already they
knew that a 'Caesar' of 1635 was the right 'Caesar' already they
were fond of the red-lettered passages as in the first edition of
the 'Virgil' of 1636. As early as 1699 too the Parisian critic
knew that the editions were not very correct and that the paper
type ornaments and FORMAT were their main attractions. To these
we must now add the rarity of really good Elzevirs.
Though Elzevirs have been more fashionable than at present they are
still regarded by novelists as the great prize of the book
collector. You read in novels about "priceless little Elzevirs"
about books "as rare as an old Elzevir." I have met in the works
of a lady novelist (but not elsewhere) with an Elzevir
'Theocritus.' The late Mr. Hepworth Dixon introduced into one of
his romances a romantic Elzevir Greek Testament "worth its weight
in gold." Casual remarks of this kind encourage a popular delusion
that all Elzevirs are pearls of considerable price. When a man is
first smitten with the pleasant fever of book-collecting it is for
Elzevirs that he searches. At first he thinks himself in amazing
luck. In Booksellers' Row and in Castle Street he "picks up" for a
shilling or two Elzevirs real or supposed. To the beginner any
book with a sphere on the title-page is an Elzevir. For the
beginner's instruction two copies of spheres are printed here. The
second is a sphere an ill-cut ill-drawn sphere which is not
Elzevirian at all. The mark was used in the seventeenth century by
many other booksellers and printers. The first on the other hand
is a true Elzevirian sphere from a play of Moliere's printed in
1675. Observe the comparatively neat drawing of the first sphere
and be not led away after spurious imitations.
Beware too of the vulgar error of fancying that little duodecimos
with the mark of the fox and the bee's nest and the motto
"Quaerendo" come from the press of the Elzevirs. The mark is that
of Abraham Wolfgang which name is not a pseudonym for Elzevir.
There are three sorts of Elzevir pseudonyms. First they
occasionally reprinted the full title-page publisher's name and
all of the book they pirated. Secondly when they printed books of
a "dangerous" sort Jansenist pamphlets and so forth they used
pseudonyms like "Nic. Schouter" on the 'Lettres Provinciales' of
Pascal. Thirdly there are real pseudonyms employed by the
Elzevirs. John and Daniel printing at Leyden (1652-1655) used the
false name "Jean Sambix." The Elzevirs of Amsterdam often placed
the name "Jacques le Jeune" on their title-pages. The collector who
remembers these things must also see that his purchases have the
right ornaments at the heads of chapters the right tail-pieces at
the ends. Two of the most frequently recurring ornaments are the
so-called "Tete de Buffle" and the "Sirene." More or less clumsy
copies of these and the other Elzevirian ornaments are common enough
in books of the period even among those printed out of the Low
Countries; for example in books published in Paris.
A brief sketch of the history of the Elzevirs may here be useful.
The founder of the family a Flemish bookbinder Louis left Louvain
and settled in Leyden in 1580. He bought a house opposite the
University and opened a book-shop. Another shop on college
ground was opened in 1587. Louis was a good bookseller a very
ordinary publisher. It was not till shortly before his death in
1617 that his grandson Isaac bought a set of types and other
material. Louis left six sons. Two of these Matthew and
Bonaventure kept on the business dating ex officina Elzeviriana.
In 1625 Bonaventure and Abraham (son of Matthew) became partners.
The "good dates" of Elzevirian books begin from 1626. The two
Elzevirs chose excellent types and after nine years' endeavours
turned out the beautiful 'Caesar' of 1635.
Their classical series in petit format was opened with 'Horace' and
'Ovid' in 1629. In 1641 they began their elegant piracies of French
plays and poetry with 'Le Cid.' It was worth while being pirated by
the Elzevirs who turned you out like a gentleman with fleurons and
red letters and a pretty frontispiece. The modern pirate dresses
you in rags prints you murderously and binds you if he binds you
at all in some hideous example of "cloth extra" all gilt like
archaic gingerbread. Bonaventure and Abraham both died in 1652.
They did not depart before publishing (1628) in grand format a
desirable work on fencing Thibault's 'Academie de l'Espee.' This
Tibbald also killed by the book. John and Daniel Elzevir came next.
They brought out the 'Imitation' (Thomae a Kempis canonici regularis
ord. S. Augustini De Imitatione Christi libri iv.); I wish by
taking thought I could add eight millimetres to the stature of my
copy. In 1655 Daniel joined a cousin Louis in Amsterdam and John
stayed in Leyden. John died in 1661; his widow struggled on but
her son Abraham (1681) let all fall into ruins. Abraham died 1712.
The Elzevirs of Amsterdam lasted till 1680 when Daniel died and
the business was wound up. The type by Christopher Van Dyck was
sold in 1681 by Daniel's widow. Sic transit gloria.
After he has learned all these matters the amateur has still a great
deal to acquire. He may now know a real Elzevir from a book which
is not an Elzevir at all. But there are enormous differences of