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than my feeble pen can write, so immeasurable have been the fruits of
this little unheeded circumstance. It gave birth to many a bright
independent declaration, involving pure lines of scripture
interpretation, which appear in the darkness of those times like fixed
stars before us; to this, in Saxon days, we are indebted for the labors
of √Жlfric and his anti-Roman doctrines, whose soul also sympathized with
a later age by translating portions of the Bible into the vulgar tongue,
thus making it accessible to all classes of the people. To this we are
indebted for all the good that resulted from those various heterodoxies
and heresies, which sometimes disturbed the church during the dark ages;
but which wrought much ultimate good by compelling the thoughts of men to
dwell on these important matters. Indeed, to the instability of the
fathers, as a sure guide, we may trace the origin of all those efforts of
the human mind, which cleared the way for the Reformation, and relieved
man from the shackles of these spiritual guides of the monks.

But there were many cloistered Christians who studied the bible
undisturbed by these shadows and doubts, and who, heedless of patristical
lore and saintly wisdom, devoured the spiritual food in its pure and
uncontaminating simplicity - such students, humble, patient, devoted, will
be found crowding the monastic annals, and yielding good evidence of the
same by the holy tenor of their sinless lives, their Christian charity
and love.

But while so many obtained the good title of an "_Amator Scripturarum_,"
as the bible student was called in those monkish days, I do not pretend
to say that the Bible was a common book among them, or that every monk
possessed one - far different indeed was the case - a copy of the Old and
New Testament often supplied the wants of an entire monastery, and in
others, as I have said before, only some detached portions were to be
found in their libraries. Sometimes they were more plentiful, and the
monastery could boast of two or three copies, besides a few separate
portions, and occasionally I have met with instances where besides
several _Biblia Optima_, they enjoyed Hebrew codices and translations,
with numerous copies of the gospels. We must not forget, however, that
the transcription of a Bible was a work of time, and required the outlay
of much industry and wealth. "Brother Tedynton," a monk of Ely, commenced
a Bible in 1396, and was several years before he completed it. The
magnitude of the undertaking can scarcely be imagined by those
unpractised in the art of copying, but when the monk saw the long labor
of his pen before him, and looked upon the well bound strong clasped
volumes, with their clean vellum folios and fine illuminations, he seemed
well repaid for his years of toil and tedious labor, and felt a glow of
pious pleasure as he contemplated his happy acquisition, and the comfort
and solace which he should hereafter derive from its holy pages! We are
not surprised then, that a Bible in those days should be esteemed so
valuable, and capable of realizing a considerable sum. The monk,
independent of its spiritual value, regarded it as a great possession,
worthy of being bestowed at his death, with all the solemnity of a
testamentary process, and of being gratefully acknowledged by the fervent
prayers of the monkish brethren. Kings and nobles offered it as an
appropriate and generous gift, and bishops were deemed benefactors to
their church by adding it to the library. On its covers were written
earnest exhortations to the Bible student, admonishing the greatest care
in its use, and leveling anathemas and excommunications upon any one who
should dare to purloin it. For its greater security it was frequently
chained to a reading desk, and if a duplicate copy was lent to a
neighboring monastery they required a large deposit, or a formal bond
for its safe return.[56] These facts, while they show its value, also
prove how highly it was esteemed among them, and how much the monks loved
the Book of Life.

But how different is the picture now - how opposite all this appears to
the aspect of bible propagation in our own time. Thanks to the
printing-press, to bible societies, and to the benevolence of God, we
cannot enter the humblest cottage of the poorest peasant without
observing the Scriptures on his little shelf - not always read, it is
true - nor always held in veneration as in the old days before us - its
very plentitude and cheapness takes off its attraction to irreligious and
indifferent readers, but to poor and needy Christians what words can
express the fulness of the blessing. Yet while we thank God for this
great boon, let us refrain from casting uncharitable reflections upon the
monks for its comparative paucity among them. If its possession was not
so easily acquired, they were nevertheless true lovers of the Bible, and
preserved and multiplied it in dark and troublous times.

Our remarks have hitherto applied to the monastic scribes alone; but it
is necessary here to speak of the secular copyists, who were an important
class during the middle ages, and supplied the functions of the
bibliopole of the ancients. But the transcribing trade numbered three or
four distinct branches. There were the Librarii Antiquarii, Notarii, and
the Illuminators - occasionally these professions were all united in
one - where perseverance or talent had acquired a knowledge of these
various arts. There appears to have been considerable competition between
these contending bodies. The notarii were jealous of the librarii, and
the librarii in their turn were envious of the antiquarii, who devoted
their ingenuity to the transcription and repairing of old books
especially, rewriting such parts as were defective or erased, and
restoring the dilapidations of the binding. Being learned in old writings
they corrected and revised the copies of ancient codices; of this class
we find mention as far back as the time of Cassiodorus and Isidore.[57]
"They deprived," says Astle, "the poor librarii, or common scriptores, of
great part of their business, so that they found it difficult to gain a
subsistence for themselves and their families. This put them about
finding out more expeditious methods of transcribing books. They formed
the letters smaller, and made use of more conjugations and abbreviations
than had been usual. They proceeded in this manner till the letters
became exceedingly small and extremely difficult to be read."[58] The
fact of there existing a class of men, whose fixed employment or
profession was solely confined to the transcription of ancient writings
and to the repairing of tattered copies, in contradistinction to the
common scribes, and depending entirely upon the exercise of their art as
a means of obtaining a subsistence, leads us to the conclusion that
ancient manuscripts were by no means so very scarce in those days; for
how absurd and useless it would have been for men to qualify themselves
for transcribing these antiquated and venerable codices, if there had
been no probability of obtaining them to transcribe. The fact too of its
becoming the subject of so much competition proves how great was the
demand for their labor.[59]

We are unable, with any positive result, to discover the exact origin of
the secular scribes, though their existence may probably be referred to a
very remote period. The monks seem to have monopolized for some ages the
"_Commercium Librorum_,"[60] and sold and bartered copies to a
considerable extent among each other. We may with some reasonable
grounds, however, conjecture that the profession was flourishing in Saxon
times; for we find several eminent names in the seventh and eighth
centuries who, in their epistolary correspondence, beg their friends to
procure transcripts for them. Benedict, Bishop of Wearmouth, purchased
most of his book treasures at Rome, which was even at that early period
probably a famous mart for such luxuries, as he appears to have journeyed
there for that express purpose. Some of the books which he collected were
presents from his foreign friends; but most of them, as Bede tells us,
were _bought_ by himself, or in accordance with his instructions, by his
friends.[61] Boniface, the Saxon missionary, continually writes for books
to his associates in all parts of Europe. At a subsequent period the
extent and importance of the profession grew amazingly; and in Italy its
followers were particularly numerous in the tenth century, as we learn
from the letters of Gerbert, afterwards Silvester II., who constantly
writes, with the cravings of a bibliomaniac, to his friends for books,
and begs them to get the scribes, who, he adds, in one of his letters,
may be found in all parts of Italy,[62] both in town and in the country,
to make transcripts of certain books for him, and he promises to
reimburse his correspondent all that he expends for the same.

These public scribes derived their principal employment from the monks
and the lawyers; from the former in transcribing their manuscripts, and
by the latter in drawing up their legal instruments. They carried on
their avocation at their own homes like other artisans; but sometimes
when employed by the monks executed their transcripts within the
cloister, where they were boarded, lodged, and received their wages till
their work was done. This was especially the case when some great book
was to be copied, of rarity and price; thus we read of Paulinus, of St.
Albans, sending into distant parts to obtain proficient workmen, who were
paid so much per diem for their labor; their wages were generously
supplied by the Lord of Redburn.[63]

The increase of knowledge and the foundation of the universities gave
birth to the booksellers. Their occupation as a distinct trade originated
at a period coeval with the foundation of these public seminaries,
although the first mention that I am aware of is made by Peter of Blois,
about the year 1170. I shall have occasion to speak more hereafter of
this celebrated scholar, but I may be excused for giving the anecdote
here, as it is so applicable to my subject. It appears, then, that whilst
remaining in Paris to transact some important matter for the King of
England, he entered the shop of "a public dealer in books" - for be it
known that the archdeacon was always on the search, and seldom missed an
opportunity of adding to his library - the bookseller, Peter tells us,
offered him a tempting collection on Jurisprudence; but although his
knowledge of such matters was so great that he did not require them for
his own use, he thought they might be serviceable to his nephew, and
after bargaining a little about the price he counted down the money
agreed upon and left the stall; but no sooner was his back turned than
the Provost of Sexeburgh came in to look over the literary stores of the
stationer, and his eye meeting the recently sold volume, he became
inspired with a wish to possess it; nor could he, on hearing it was
bought and paid for by another, suppress his anxiety to obtain the
treasure; but, offering more money, actually took the volume away by
force. As may be supposed, Archdeacon Peter was sorely annoyed at this
behavior; and "To his dearest companion and friend Master Arnold of
Blois, Peter of Blois Archdeacon of Bath sent greeting," a long and
learned letter, displaying his great knowledge of civil law, and
maintaining the illegality of the provost's conduct.[64] The casual way
in which this is mentioned make it evident that the "_publico mangone
Librorum_" was no unusual personage in those days, but belonged to a
common and recognized profession.

The vast number of students who, by the foundation of universities, were
congregated together, generated of course a proportionate demand for
books, which necessity or luxury prompted them eagerly to purchase: but
there were poor as well as rich students educated in these great
seminaries of learning, whose pecuniary means debarred them from the
acquisition of such costly luxuries; and for this and other cogent
reasons the universities deemed it advantageous, and perhaps expedient,
to frame a code of laws and regulations to provide alike for the literary
wants of all classes and degrees. To effect this they obtained royal
sanction to take the trade entirely under their protection, and
eventually monopolized a sole legislative power over the _Librarii_.

In the college of Navarre a great quantity of ancient documents are
preserved, many of which relate to this curious subject. They were
deposited there by M. Jean Aubert in 1623, accompanied by an inventory of
them, divided into four parts by the first four letters of the alphabet.
In the fourth, under D. 18, there is a chapter entitled "Des Libraires
Appretiateurs, Jurez et Enlumineurs," which contains much interesting
matter relating to the early history of bookselling.[65] These ancient
statutes, collected and printed by the University in the year 1652,[66]
made at various times, and ranging between the years 1275 and 1403, give
us a clear insight into the matter.

The nature of a bookseller's business in those days required no ordinary
capacity, and no shallow store of critical acumen; the purchasing of
manuscripts, the work of transcription, the careful revisal, the
preparation of materials, the tasteful illuminations, and the process of
binding, were each employments requiring some talent and discrimination,
and we are not surprised, therefore, that the avocation of a dealer and
fabricator of these treasures should be highly regarded, and dignified
into a profession, whose followers were invested with all the privileges,
freedoms and exemptions, which the masters and students of the university
enjoyed.[67] But it required these conciliations to render the
restrictive and somewhat severe measures, which she imposed on the
bookselling trade, to be received with any degree of favor or submission.
For whilst the University of Paris, by whom these statutes were framed,
encouraged and elevated the profession of the librarii, she required, on
the other hand, a guarantee of their wealth and mental capacity, to
maintain and to appreciate these important concessions; the bookseller
was expected indeed to be well versed in all branches of science, and to
be thoroughly imbued with a knowledge of those subjects and works of
which he undertook to produce transcripts.[68] She moreover required of
him testimonials to his good character, and efficient security, ratified
by a solemn oath of allegiance,[69] and a promise to observe and submit
to all the present and future laws and regulations of the university. In
some cases, it appears that she restricted the number of librarii, though
this fell into disuse as the wants of the students increased. Twenty-four
seems to have been the original number,[70] which is sufficiently great
to lead to the conclusion that bookselling was a flourishing trade in
those old days. By the statutes of the university, the bookseller was
not allowed to expose his transcripts for sale, without first submitting
them to the inspection of certain officers appointed by the university,
and if an error was discovered, the copies were ordered to be burnt or a
fine levied on them, proportionate to their inaccuracy. Harsh and
stringent as this may appear at first sight, we shall modify our opinion,
on recollecting that the student was in a great degree dependent upon the
care of the transcribers for the fidelity of his copies, which rendered a
rule of this nature almost indispensable; nor should we forget the great
service it bestowed in maintaining the primitive accuracy of ancient
writers, and in transmitting them to us through those ages in their
original purity.[71]

In these times of free trade and unrestrained commercial policy, we shall
regard less favorably a regulation which they enforced at Paris,
depriving the bookseller of the power of fixing a price upon his own
goods. Four booksellers were appointed and sworn in to superintend this
department, and when a new transcript was finished, it was brought by the
bookseller, and they discussed its merits and fixed its value, which
formed the amount the bookseller was compelled to ask for it; if he
demanded of his customer a larger sum, it was deemed a fraudulent
imposition, and punishable as such. Moreover, as an advantage to the
students, the bookseller was expected to make a considerable reduction in
his profits in supplying them with books; by one of the laws of the
university, his profit on each volume was confined to four deniers to
student, and six deniers to a common purchaser. The librarii were still
further restricted in the economy of their trade, by a rule which forbade
any one of them to dispose of his entire stock of books without the
consent of the university; but this, I suspect, implied the disposal of
the stock and trade together, and was intended to intimate that the
introduction of the purchaser would not be allowed, without the
cognizance and sanction of the university.[72] Nor was the bookseller
able to purchase books without her consent, lest they should be of an
immoral or heretical tendency; and they were absolutely forbidden to buy
any of the students, without the permission of the rector.

But restricted as they thus were, the book merchants nevertheless grew
opulent, and transacted an important and extensive trade; sometimes they
purchased parts and sometimes they had whole libraries to sell.[73] Their
dealings were conducted with unusual care, and when a volume of peculiar
rarity or interest was to be sold, a deed of conveyance was drawn up with
legal precision, in the presence of authorized witnesses.

In those days of high prices and book scarcity, the poor student was
sorely impeded in his progress; to provide against these disadvantages,
they framed a law in 1342, at Paris, compelling all public booksellers to
keep books to lend out on hire. The reader will be surprised at the idea
of a circulating library in the middle ages! but there can be no doubt
of the fact, they were established at Paris, Toulouse, Vienna, and
Bologne. These public librarians, too, were obliged to write out regular
catalogues of their books and hang them up in their shops, with the
prices affixed, so that the student might know beforehand what he had to
pay for reading them. I am tempted to give a few extracts from these

St. Gregory's Commentaries upon Job, for reading 100 pages, 8 sous.
St. Gregory's Book of Homilies, 28 pages for 12 deniers.
Isidore's De Summa bona, 24 pages, 12 deniers.
Anselm's De Veritate de Libertate Arbitrii, 40 pages, 2 sous.
Peter Lombard's Book of Sentences, 3 sous.
Scholastic History, 3 sous.
Augustine's Confessions, 21 pages, 4 deniers.
Gloss on Matthew, by brother Thomas Aquinas, 57 pages, 3 sous.
Bible Concordance, 9 sous.
Bible, 10 sous.[74]

This rate of charge was also fixed by the university, and the students
borrowing these books were privileged to transcribe them if they chose;
if any of them proved imperfect or faulty, they were denounced by the
university, and a fine imposed upon the bookseller who had lent out the

This potent influence exercised by the universities over booksellers
became, in time, much abused, and in addition to these commercial
restraints, they assumed a still less warrantable power over the
original productions of authors; and became virtually the public censors
of books, and had the power of burning or prohibiting any work of
questionable orthodoxy. In the time of Henry the Second, a book was
published by being read over for two or three successive days, before one
of the universities, and if they approved of its doctrines and bestowed
upon it their approbation, it was allowed to be copied extensively for

Stringent as the university rules were, as regards the bookselling trade,
they were, nevertheless, sometimes disregarded or infringed; some
ventured to take more for a book than the sum allowed, and, by
prevarication and secret contracts, eluded the vigilance of the laws.[75]
Some were still bolder, and openly practised the art of a scribe and the
profession of a bookseller, without knowledge or sanction of the
university. This gave rise to much jealousy, and in the University of
Oxford, in the year 1373, they made a decree forbidding any person
exposing books for sale without her licence.[76]

Now, considering all these usages of early bookselling, their numbers,
their opulence, and above all, the circulating libraries which the
librarii established, can we still retain the opinion that books were so
inaccessible in those ante-printing days, when we know that for a few
sous the booklover could obtain good and authenticated copies to peruse,
or transcribe? It may be advanced that these facts solely relate to
universities, and were intended merely to insure a supply of the
necessary books in constant requisition by the students, but such was not
the case; the librarii were essentially public _Librorum Venditores_, and
were glad to dispose of their goods to any who could pay for them.
Indeed, the early bibliomaniacs usually flocked to these book marts to
rummage over the stalls, and to collect their choice volumes. Richard de
Bury obtained many in this way, both at Paris and at Rome.

Of the exact pecuniary value of books during the middle ages, we have no
means of judging. The few instances that have accidentally been recorded
are totally inadequate to enable us to form an opinion. The extravagant
estimate given by some as to the value of books in those days is merely
conjectural, as it necessarily must be, when we remember that the price
was guided by the accuracy of the transcription, the splendor of the
binding, which was often gorgeous to excess, and by the beauty and
richness of the illuminations.[77] Many of the manuscripts of the middle
ages are magnificent in the extreme. Sometimes they inscribed the gospels
and the venerated writings of the fathers with liquid gold, on parchment
of the richest purple,[78] and adorned its brilliant pages with
illuminations of exquisite workmanship.

The first specimens we have of an attempt to embellish manuscripts are
Egyptian. It was a common practice among them at first to color the
initial letter of each chapter or division of their work, and afterwards
to introduce objects of various kinds into the body of the manuscript.

The splendor of the ancient calligraphical productions of Greece,[79] and
the still later ones of Rome, bear repeated testimony that the practice
of this art had spread during the sixth century, if not earlier, to these
powerful empires. England was not tardy in embracing this elegant art. We
have many relics of remote antiquity and exquisite workmanship existing
now, which prove the talent and assiduity of our early Saxon forefathers.

In Ireland the illuminating art was profusely practised at a period as
early as the commencement of the seventh century, and in the eighth we
find it holding forth eminent claims to our respect by the beauty of
their workmanship, and the chastity of their designs. Those well versed
in the study of these ancient manuscripts have been enabled, by extensive
but minute observation, to point out their different characteristics in
various ages, and even to decide upon the school in which a particular
manuscript was produced.

These illuminations, which render the early manuscripts of the monkish
ages so attractive, generally exemplify the rude ideas and tastes of the
time. In perspective they are wofully deficient, and manifest but little
idea of the picturesque or sublime; but here and there we find quite a
gem of art, and, it must be owned, we are seldom tired by monotony of
coloring, or paucity of invention. A study of these parchment
illustrations afford considerable instruction. Not only do they indicate
the state of the pictorial art in the middle ages, but also give us a
comprehensive insight into the scriptural ideas entertained in those
times; and the bible student may learn much from pondering on these
glittering pages; to the historical student, and to the lover of
antiquities, they offer a verdant field of research, and he may obtain in
this way many a glimpse of the manners and customs of those old times
which the pages of the monkish chroniclers have failed to record.

But all this prodigal decoration greatly enhanced the price of books, and
enabled them to produce a sum, which now to us sounds enormously
extravagant. Moreover, it is supposed that the scarcity of parchment
limited the number of books materially, and prevented their increase to

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