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[434] There are many volumes formerly belonging to duke Humphrey, in
the public libraries, a fine volume intitled "Tabulas Humfridi ducis
Glowcester in Judicus artis Geomantie," is in the Brit. Mus., MSS.
Arund. 66, fo. 277, beautifully written and illuminated with
excessive margins of the purest vellum. See also MSS. Harl. 1705.
Leland says, "Humfredus multaties scripsit in frontispiecis librorum
suorum, _Moun bien Mondain_," Script. vol. iii. 58.

[435] Bouvin, Mem. de l'Acad. des Inscrip., ii. 693.

[436] _Ibid._

[437] Printed in Todd's Illustrations to Gower and Chaucer, 8vo. p.
161, from a copy by Arch Sancroft, from Ashmole's Register of the
Earl of Ailesbury's Evidences, fol. 110. Lambeth, MSS., No. 577.
fol. 18 b.


_The Dominicans. - The Franciscans and the Carmelites. - Scholastic
Studies. - Robert Grostest. - Libraries in London. - Miracle
Plays. - Introduction of Printing into England. - Barkley's
Description of a Bibliomaniac_.

The old monastic orders of St. Augustine and St. Benedict, of whose love
of books we have principally spoken hitherto, were kept from falling into
sloth and ignorance in the thirteenth century by the appearance of
several new orders of devotees. The Dominicans,[438] the
Franciscans,[439] and the Carmelites were each renowned for their
profound learning, and their unquenchable passion for knowledge; assuming
a garb of the most abject poverty, renouncing all love of the world, all
participation in its temporal honors, and refraining to seek the
aggrandizement of their order by fixed oblations or state endowments, but
adhering to a voluntary system for support, they caused a visible
sensation among all classes, and wrought a powerful change in the
ecclesiastical and collegiate learning of the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries; and by their devotion, their charity, their strict austerity,
and by their brilliant and unconquerable powers of disputation, soon
gained the respect and affections of the people.[440]

Much as the friars have been condemned, or darkly as they have been
represented, I have no hesitation in saying that they did more for the
revival of learning, and the progress of English literature, than any
other of the monastic orders. We cannot trace their course without
admiration and astonishment at their splendid triumphs and success; they
appear to act as intellectual crusaders against the prevailing ignorance
and sloth. The finest names that adorn the literary annals of the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the most prolific authors who
flourished during that long period were begging friars; and the very
spirit that was raised against them by the churchmen, and the severe
controversal battles which they had between them, were the means of doing
a vast amount of good, of exposing ignorance in high places, and
compelling those who enjoyed the honors of learning to strive to merit
them, by a studious application to literature and science; need I do more
than mention the shining names of Duns Scotus, of Thomas Aquinas, of
Roger Bacon, the founder of experimental philosophy, and the justly
celebrated Robert Grostest, the most enlightened ecclesiastic of his

We may not admire the scholastic philosophy which the followers of
Francis and Dominic held and expounded; we may deplore the intricate
mazes and difficulties which a false philosophy led them to maintain, and
we may equally deplore the waste of time and learning which they lavished
in the vain hope of solving the mysteries of God, or in comprehending a
loose and futile science. Yet the philosophy of the schoolmen is but
little understood, and is too often condemned without reason or without
proof; for those who trouble themselves to denounce, seldom care to read
them; their ponderous volumes are too formidable to analyze; it is so
much easier to declaim than to examine such sturdy antagonists; but we
owe to the schoolmen far more than we are apt to suppose, and if it were
possible to scratch their names from the page of history, and to
obliterate all traces of their bulky writings from our libraries and
from our literature, we should find our knowledge dark and gloomy in
comparison with what it is.

But the mendicant orders did not study and uphold the scholastic
philosophy without improving it; the works of Aristotle, of which it is
said the early schoolmen possessed only a vitiated translation from the
Arabic,[442] was, at the period these friars sprung up, but imperfectly
understood and taught. Michael Scot, with the assistance of a learned
Jew,[443] translated and published the writings of the great philosopher
in Latin, which greatly superseded the old versions derived from the
Saracen copies.

The mendicant friars having qualified themselves with a respectable share
of Greek learning, then taught and expounded the Aristotelian philosophy
according to this new translation, and opened a new and proscribed
field[444] for disputation and enquiry; their indomitable perseverance,
their acute powers of reasoning, and the splendid popularity which many
of the disciples of St. Dominic and St. Francis were fast acquiring,
caused students to flock in crowds to their seats of learning, and all
who were inspired to an acquaintance with scholastic philosophy placed
themselves under their training and tuition.[445]

No religious order before them ever carried the spirit of inquiry to such
an extent as they, or allowed it to wander over such an unbounded field.
The most difficult and mysterious questions of theology were discussed
and fearlessly analyzed; far from exercising that blind and easy
credulity which mark the religious conduct of the old monastic orders,
they were disposed to probe and examine every article of their faith. To
such an extent were their disputations carried, that sometimes it shook
their faith in the orthodoxy of Rome, and often aroused the pious fears
of the more timid of their own order. Angell de Pisa, who founded the
school of the Franciscans or Grey Friars at Oxford, is said to have gone
one day into his school, with a view to discover what progress the
students were making in their studies; as he entered he found them warm
in disputation, and was shocked to find that the question at issue was
"_whether there was a God_;" the good man, greatly alarmed, cried out,
"Alas, for me! alas, for me! simple brothers pierce the heavens and the
learned dispute whether there be a God!" and with great indignation ran
out of the house blaming himself for having established a school for such
fearful disputes; but he afterwards returned and remained among his
pupils, and purchased for ten marks a corrected copy of the decretals,
to which he made his students apply their minds.[446] This school was the
most flourishing of those belonging to the Franciscans; and it was here
that the celebrated Robert Grostest[447], bishop of Lincoln, read
lectures about the year 1230. He was a profound scholar, thoroughly
conversant with the most abstruse matters of philosophy, and a great
Bible reader.[448] He possessed an extensive knowledge of the Greek, and
translated, into Latin, Dionysius the Areopagite, Damascenus, Suida's
Greek Lexicon, a Greek Grammar, and, with the assistance of Nicholas, a
monk of St. Alban's, the History of the Twelve Patriarchs. He collected a
fine library of Greek books, many of which he obtained from Athens. Roger
Bacon speaks of his knowledge of the Greek, and says, that he caused a
vast number of books to be gathered together in that tongue.[449] His
extraordinary talent and varied knowledge caused him to be deemed a
conjuror and astrologer by the ignorant and superstitious; and his
enemies, who were numerous and powerful, did not refuse to encourage the
slanderous report. We find him so represented by the poet Gower: -

"For of the grete clerk Grostest,
I rede how redy that he was
Upon clergye, and bede of bras,
To make and forge it, for to telle
Of suche thynges as befelle,
And seven yeres besinesse.
Ye ladye, but for the lackhesse
Of 'a halfe a mynute of an houre,
Fro fyrst that he began laboure,
Ye lost al that he had do."[450]

The Franciscan convent at Oxford contained two libraries, one for the use
of the graduates and one for the secular students, who did not belong to
their order, but who were receiving instruction from them. Grostest gave
many volumes to these libraries, and at his death he bequeathed to the
convent all his books, which formed no doubt a fine collection. "To these
were added," says Wood, "the works of Roger Bacon, who, Bale tells us,
writ an hundred Treatises. There were also volumes of other writers of
the same order, which, I believe, amounted to no small number. In short,
I guess that these libraries were filled with all sorts of erudition,
because the friars of all orders, and chiefly the Franciscans, used so
diligently to procure all monuments of literature from all parts, that
wise men looked upon it as an injury to laymen, who, therefore, found a
difficulty to get any books. Several books of Grostest and Bacon treated
of astronomy and mathematics, besides some relating to the Greek tongue.
But these friars, as I have found by certain ancient manuscripts, bought
many Hebrew books of the Jews who were disturbed in England. In a word,
they, to their utmost power, purchased whatsoever was anywhere to be had
of singular learning."[451]

Many of the smaller convents of the Franciscan order possessed
considerable libraries, which they purchased or received as gifts from
their patrons.[452] There was a house of Grey Friars at Exeter,[453] and
Roger de Thoris, Archdeacon of Exeter, gave or lent them a library of
books in the year 1266, soon after their establishment, reserving to
himself the privilege of using them, and forbade the friars from selling
or parting with them. The collection, however, contained less than twenty
volumes, and was formed principally of the scriptures and writings of
their own order. "Whosoever," concludes the document, "shall presume
hereafter to separate or destroy this donation of mine, may he incur the
malediction of the omnipotent God! dated on the day of the purification,
in the year of our Lord MCCLXVI."[454]

The library of the Grey Friars in London was of more than usual
magnificence and extent. It was founded by the celebrated Richard
Whittington. Its origin is thus set forth in an old manuscript in the
Cottonian library:[455]

"In the year of our Lord, 1421, the worshipful Richard Whyttyngton,
knight and mayor of London, began the new library and laid the first
foundation-stone on the 21st day of October; that is, on the feast of St.
Hilarion the abbot. And the following year before the feast of the
nativity of Christ, the house was raised and covered; and in three years
after, it was floored, whitewashed, glazed,[456] adorned with shelves,
statues, and carving, and furnished with books: and the expenses about
what is aforesaid amount to £556:16:9; of which sum, the aforesaid
Richard Whyttyngton paid £400, and the residue was paid by the reverend
father B. Thomas Winchelsey and his friends, to whose soul God be
propitious. - Amen."

Among some items of money expended, we find, "for the works of Doctor de
Lyra contained in two volumes, now in the chains,[457] 100 marks, of
which B. John Frensile remitted 20s.; and for the Lectures of Hostiensis,
now lying in the chains, 5 marks."[458] Leland speaks in the most
enthusiastic terms of this library, and says, that it far surpassed all
others for the number and antiquity of its volumes. John Wallden
bequeathed as many manuscripts of celebrated authors as were worth two
thousand pounds.[459]

The library of the Dominicans in London was also at one time well stored
with valuable books. Leland mentions some of those he found there, and
among them some writings of Wicliff;[460] indeed those of this order were
renowned far and wide for their love of study; look at the old portraits
of a Dominican friar, and you will generally see him with the pen in one
hand and a book in the other; but they were more ambitious in literature
than the monks, and aimed at the honors of an author rather than at those
of a scribe; but we are surprised more at their fertility than at their
style or originality in the mysteries of bookcraft. Henry Esseburn
diligently read at Oxford, and devoted his whole soul to study, and wrote
a number of works, principally on the Bible; he was appointed to govern
the Dominican monastery at Chester; "being remote from all schools, he
made use of his spare hours to revise and polish what he had writ at
Oxford; having performed the same to his own satisfaction, he caused his
works to be fairly transcribed, and copies of them to be preserved in
several libraries of his order."[461] But they did not usually pay so
much attention to the duties of transcribing. The Dominicans were fond of
the physical sciences, and have been accused of too much partiality for
occult philosophy. Leland tells us that Robert Perserutatur, a
Dominican, was over solicitous in prying into the secrets of
philosophy,[462] and lays the same charge to many others.

The Carmelites were more careful in transcribing books than the
Dominicans, and anxiously preserved them from dust and worms; but I can
find but little notice of their libraries; the one at Oxford was a large
room, where they arranged their books in cases made for that purpose;
before the foundation of this library, the Carmelites kept their books in
chests, and doubtless gloried in an ample store of manuscript

But in the fifteenth century we find the Mendicant Friars, like the order
religious sects, disregarding those strict principles of piety which had
for two hundred years so distinguished their order. The holy rules of St.
Francis and St. Dominic were seldom read with much attention, and never
practised with severity; they became careless in the propagation of
religious principles, relaxed in their austerity, and looked with too
much fondness on the riches and honors of the world.[464] This diminution
in religious zeal was naturally accompanied by a proportionate decrease
in learning and love of study. The sparkling orator, the acute
controversialist, or the profound scholar, might have been searched for
in vain among the Franciscans or the Dominicans of the fifteenth century.
Careless in literary matters, they thought little of collecting books, or
preserving even those which their libraries already contained; the
Franciscans at Oxford "sold many of their books to Dr. Thomas Gascoigne,
about the year 1433,[465] which he gave to the libraries of Lincoln,
Durham, Baliol, and Oriel. They also declining in strictness of life and
learning, sold many more to other persons, so that their libraries
declined to little or nothing."[466]

We are not therefore surprised at the disappointment of Leland, on
examining this famous repository; his expectations were raised by the
care with which he found the library guarded, and the difficulty he had
to obtain access to it: but when he entered, he did not find one-third
the number of books which it originally contained; but dust and cobwebs,
moths and beetles he found in abundance, which swarmed over the empty

The mendicant friars have rendered themselves famous by introducing
theatrical representations[468] for the amusement and instruction of the
people. These shows were usually denominated miracles, moralities, or
mysteries, and were performed by the friars in their convents or on
portable stages, which were wheeled into the market places and streets
for the convenience of the spectators.

The friars of the monastery of the Franciscans at Coventry are
particularly celebrated for their ingenuity in performing these pageants
on Corpus Christi day; a copy of this play or miracle is preserved in the
Cottonian Collection, written in old English rhyme. It embraces the
transactions of the Old and New Testament, and is entitled _Ludus Corpus
Christi_. It commences -


Now gracyous God groundyd of all goodnesse,
As thy grete glorie neuyr begynnyng had;
So you succour and save all those that sytt and sese,
And lystenyth to our talkyng with sylens stylle and sad,
For we purpose no pertly stylle in his prese
The pepyl to plese with pleys ful glad,
Now lystenyth us lowly both mar and lesse
Gentyllys and 3emaury off goodly lyff lad,
þis tyde,
We call you shewe us that we kan,
How that þis werd fyrst began,
And howe God made bothe worlde and man
If yt ye wyll abyde.

These miracles were intended to instruct the more ignorant, or those
whose circumstances placed the usual means of acquiring knowledge beyond
their reach; but as books became accessible, they were no longer needed;
the printing press made the Bible, from which the plots of the miracle
plays were usually derived, common among the people, and these gaudy
representations were swept away by the Reformation; but they were
temporarily revived in Queen Mary's time, with the other abominations of
the church papal, for we find that "in the year 1556 a goodly stage play
of the Passion of Christ was presented at the Grey Friers in London on
Corpus Christi day," before the Lord Mayor and citizens;[470] but we have
nothing here to do with anecdotes illustrating a period so late as this.

We have now arrived at the dawn of a new era in learning, and the slow,
plodding, laborious scribes of the monasteries were startled by the
appearance of an invention with which their poor pens had no power to
compete. The year 1472 was the last of the parchment literature of the
monks, and the first in the English annals of printed learning; but we
must not forget that the monks with all their sloth and ignorance, were
the foremost among the encouragers of the early printing press in
England; the monotony of the dull cloisters of Westminster Abbey was
broken by the clanking of Caxton's press; and the prayers of the monks of
old St. Albans mingled with the echoes of the pressman's labor. Little
did those barefooted priests know what an opponent to their Romish rites
they were fostering into life; their love of learning and passion for
books, drove all fear away; and the splendor of the new power so dazzled
their eyes that they could not clearly see the nature of the refulgent
light just bursting through the gloom of ages.

After the invention of the printing art, bibliomania took some mighty
strides; and many choice collectors, full of ardor in the pursuit, became
renowned for the vast book stores they amassed together. But some of
their names have been preserved and good deeds chronicled by Dibdin, of
bibliographical renown; so that a chapter is not necessary here to extol
them. We may judge how fashionable the avocation became by the keen
satire of Alexander Barkley, in his translation of Brandt's _Navis
Stultifera_ or Shyp of Folys,[471] who gives a curious illustration of a
bibliomaniac; and thus speaks of those collectors who amassed their book
treasures without possessing much esteem for their contents.

"That in this ship the chiefe place I gouerne,
By this wide sea with fooles wandring,
The cause is plain & easy to discerne
Still am I busy, bookes assembling,
For to have plentie it is a pleasaunt thing
In my conceyt, to have them ay in hand,
But what they meane do I not understande.

"But yet I have them in great reverence
And honoure, sauing them from filth & ordure
By often brushing & much diligence
Full goodly bounde in pleasaunt couerture
Of Damas, Sattin, or els of velvet pure
I keepe them sure, fearing least they should be lost,
For in them is the cunning wherein I me boast.

"But if it fortune that any learned man
Within my house fall to disputation,
I drawe the curtaynes to shewe my bokes them,
That they of my cunning should make probation
I love not to fall in alterication,
And while the commen, my bokes I turne and winde
For all is in them, and nothing in my minde.

"Ptolomeus the riche caused, longe agone,
Over all the worlde good bookes to be sought,
Done was his commandement - anone
These bokes he had, and in his studie brought,
Which passed all earthly treasure as he thought,
But neverthelesse he did him not apply
Unto their doctrine, but lived unhappily.

"Lo, in likewise of bookes I have store,
But fewe I reade and fewer understande,
I folowe not their doctrine nor their lore,
It is ynough to beare a booke in hande.
It were too muche to be in such a bande,
For to be bounde to loke within the booke
I am content on the fayre coveryng to looke.

"Why should I studie to hurt my wit therby,
Or trouble my minde with studie excessiue.
Sithe many are which studie right busely,
And yet therby thall they never thrive
The fruite of wisdome can they not contriue,
And many to studie so muche are inclinde,
That utterly they fall out of their minde.

"Eche is not lettred that nowe is made a lorde,
Nor eche a clerke that hath a benefice;
They are not all lawyers that pleas do recorde,
All that are promoted are not fully wise;
On suche chaunce nowe fortune throwes her dice
That though we knowe but the yrishe game,
Yet would he have a gentleman's name.

"So in like wise I am in suche case,
Though I nought can, I would be called wise,
Also I may set another in my place,
Whiche may for me my bokes exercise,
Or els I shall ensue the common guise,
And say concedo to euery argument,
Least by much speache my latin should be spent.

"I am like other Clerkes, which so frowardly them gyde,
That after they are once come unto promotion,
They give them to pleasure, their study set aside,
Their auarice couering with fained deuotion;
Yet dayly they preache and have great derision
Against the rude laymen, and all for couetise,
Through their owne conscience be blended with that vice.

"But if I durst truth plainely utter and expresse,
This is the speciall cause of this inconvenience,
That greatest of fooles & fullest of lewdness,
Having least wit and simplest science,
Are first promoted, & have greatest reverence;
For if one can flatter & bear a hauke on his fist,
He shall be made Parson of Honington or of Elist.

"But he that is in study ay firme and diligent,
And without all favour preacheth Christe's love,
Of all the Cominalite nowe adayes is sore shent,
And by estates threatned oft therfore.
Thus what anayle is it to us to study more,
To knowe ether Scripture, truth, wisdome, or virtue,
Since fewe or none without fauour dare them shewe.

"But O noble Doctours, that worthy are of name,
Consider oure olde fathers, note well their diligence,
Ensue ye to their steppes, obtayne ye suche fame
As they did living; and that, by true prudence
Within their heartes, thy planted their science,
And not in pleasaunt bookes, but noue to fewe suche be,
Therefore to this ship come you & rowe with me.

"The Lennoy of Alexander Barclay,
Translatour, exhorting the fooles accloyed
with this vice, to amende their foly.

"Say worthie Doctours & Clerkes curious,
What moneth you of bookes to have such number,
Since diuers doctrines through way contrarious,
Doth man's minde distract and sore encomber.
Alas blinde men awake, out of your slumber;
And if ye will needes your bookes multiplye,
With diligence endeuor you some to occupye."[472]


[438] Thirteen Dominicans were sent into England in the year 1221;
they held their first provincial council in England in 1230 at
Oxford, three years before St. Dominic was canonized by pope

[439] Four clercs and five laymen of the Franciscan order were sent
into England in 1224; ten years afterwards we find their disciples
spreading over the whole of England.

[440] Edward the Second regarded them with great favor, and wrote
several letters to the pope in their praise; he says in one,
"Desiderantes itaque, pater sancte ordinis fratrum prædicatorum

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