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any extent; but I am prone to doubt this assertion, for my own
observations do not help to prove it. Mr. Hallam says, that in
consequence of this, "an unfortunate practice gained ground of erasing a
manuscript in order to substitute another on the same skin. This
occasioned, probably, the loss of many ancient authors who have made way
for the legends of saints, or other ecclesiastical rubbish."[80] But we
may reasonably question this opinion, when we consider the value of books
in the middle ages, and with what esteem the monks regarded, in spite of
all their paganism, those "heathen dogs" of the ancient world. A doubt
has often forced itself upon my mind when turning over the "crackling
leaves" of many ancient MSS., whether the peculiarity mentioned by
Montfaucon, and described as parchment from which former writing had been
erased, may not be owing, in many cases, to its mode of preparation. It
is true, a great proportion of the membrane on which the writings of the
middle ages are inscribed, appear rough and uneven, but I could not
detect, through many manuscripts of a hundred folios - all of which
evinced this roughness - the unobliterated remains of a single letter. And
when I have met with instances, they appear to have been short
writings - perhaps epistles; for the monks were great correspondents, and,
I suspect, kept economy in view, and often carried on an epistolary
intercourse, for a considerable time, with a very limited amount of
parchment, by erasing the letter to make room for the answer. This,
probably, was usual where the matter of their correspondence was of no
especial importance; so that, what our modern critics, being emboldened
by these faint traces of former writing, have declared to possess the
classic appearance of hoary antiquity, may be nothing more than a
complimentary note, or the worthless accounts of some monastic
expenditure. But, careful as they were, what would these monks have
thought of "paper-sparing Pope," who wrote his Iliad on small pieces of
refuse paper? One of the finest passages in that translation, which
describes the parting of Hector and Andromache, is written on part of a
letter which Addison had franked, and is now preserved in the British
Museum. Surely he could afford, these old monks would have said, to
expend some few shillings for paper, on which to inscribe that for which
he was to receive his thousand pounds.

But far from the monastic manuscripts displaying a scantiness of
parchment, we almost invariably find an abundant margin, and a space
between each line almost amounting to prodigality; and to say that the
"vellum was considered more precious than the genius of the author,"[81]
is absurd, when we know that, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,
a dozen skins of parchment could be bought for sixpence; whilst that
quantity written upon, if the subject possessed any interest at all,
would fetch considerably more, there always being a demand and ready sale
for books.[82] The supposition, therefore, that the monastic scribes
erased _classical_ manuscripts for the sake of the material, seems
altogether improbable, and certainly destitute of proof. It is true, many
of the classics, as we have them now, are but mere fragments of the
original work. For this, however, we have not to blame the monks, but
barbarous invaders, ravaging flames, and the petty animosities of civil
and religious warfare for the loss of many valuable works of the
classics. By these means, one hundred and five books of Livy have been
lost to us, probably forever. For the thirty which have been preserved,
our thanks are certainly due to the monks. It was from their unpretending
and long-forgotten libraries that many such treasures were brought forth
at the revival of learning, in the fifteenth century, to receive the
admiration of the curious, and the study of the erudite scholar. In this
way Poggio Bracciolini discovered many inestimable manuscripts. Leonardo
Aretino writes in rapturous terms on Poggio's discovery of a perfect copy
of Quintillian. "What a precious acquisition!" he exclaims, "what
unthought of pleasure to behold Quintillian perfect and entire!"[83] In
the same letter we learn that Poggio had discovered Asconius and Flaccus
in the monastery of St. Gall, whose inhabitants regarded them without
much esteem. In the monastery of Langres, his researches were rewarded by
a copy of Cicero's Oration for Cæcina. With the assistance of Bartolomeo
di Montepulciano, he discovered Silius Italicus, Lactantius, Vegetius,
Nonius Marcellus, Ammianus Marcellus, Lucretius, and Columella, and he
found in a monastery at Rome a complete copy of Turtullian.[84] In the
fine old monastery of Casino, so renowned for its classical library in
former days, he met with Julius Frontinus and Firmicus, and transcribed
them with his own hand. At Cologne he obtained a copy of Petronius
Arbiter. But to these we may add Calpurnius's Bucolic,[85] Manilius,
Lucius Septimus, Coper, Eutychius, and Probus. He had anxious hopes of
adding a perfect Livy to the list, which he had been told then existed in
a Cistercian Monastery in Hungary, but, unfortunately, he did not
prosecute his researches in this instance with his usual energy. The
scholar has equally to regret the loss of a perfect Tacitus, which Poggio
had expectations of from the hands of a German monk. We may still more
deplore this, as there is every probability that the monks actually
possessed the precious volume.[86] Nicolas of Treves, a contemporary and
friend of Poggio's, and who was infected, though in a slight degree, with
the same passionate ardor for collecting ancient manuscripts, discovered,
whilst exploring the German monasteries, twelve comedies of Plautus, and
a fragment of Aulus Gellius.[87] Had it not been for the timely aid of
these great men, many would have been irretrievably lost in the many
revolutions and contentions that followed; and, had such been the case,
the monks, of course, would have received the odium, and on their heads
the spleen of the disappointed student would have been prodigally


[40] Martene Thesaurus novus Anecdot. tom. iv. col. 1462.

[41] See Du Cange in Voc., vol. vi. p. 264.

[42] Anglia Sacra, ii. 635. Fosbrooke Brit. Monach., p. 15.

[43] Martene Thes. Nov. Anec. tom. iv. col. 1462. Stat. Ord.
Cistere, anni 1278, they were allowed for "_Studendum vel

[44] Hildesh. episc apud Leibuit., tom. i. Script. Brunsvic, p. 444.
I am indebted to Du Cange for this reference.

[45] King's Munimenta Antiqua. Stevenson's Suppl. to Bentham, p. 64.

[46] Matt Paris, p. 51.

[47] Warton's Hist. Eng. Poetry, p. cxiv. Regest. Nig. St. Edmund.

[48] Stevenson's Sup. to Bentham's Church of Norwich, 4to. 1817, p.

[49] Martene de Ant. Eccl. Ritib., cap. xxi. tom. iii. p. 263.

[50] _Ibid._

[51] Alcuini Opera, tom. ii. vol. i. p. 211. Carmin xvii.

[52] Preface to Ælfric's Homilies MS. Lansdowne, No. 373, vol. iv.
in the British Museum.

[53] Const. Can. Reg. ap. Martene, tom. iii. p. 263.

[54] MS. Harl. 6395, anecdote 348. - I am indebted to D'Israeli for
the reference, but not for the extract.

[55] The monks were strictly enjoined by the monastic rules to study
the Bible unceasingly. The Statutes of the Dominican order are
particularly impressive on this point, and enforce a constant
reading and critical study of the sacred volume, so as to fortify
themselves for disputation; they were to peruse it continually, and
apply to it before all other reading _semper ante aliam lectionem_.
_Martene Thesan. Nov. Anecdot._, tom. iv. col. 1932. See also cols.
1789, 1836, 1912, 1917, 1934.

[56] About the year 1225 Roger de Insula, Dean of York, gave several
copies of the bible to the University of Oxford, and ordered that
those who borrowed them for perusal should deposit property of equal
value as a security for their safe return. - _Wood's Hist. Antiq.
Oxon._ ii. 48.

[57] Muratori Dissert. Quadragesima tertia, vol. iii. column 849.

[58] Astle's Origin of Writing, p. 193. - See also Montfaucon
Palæographia Græca, lib. iv. p. 263 et 319.

[59] In the year 1300 the pay of a common scribe was about one
half-penny a day, see Stevenson's Supple. to Bentham's Hist. of the
Church of Ely. p. 51.

[60] In some orders the monks were not allowed to sell their books
without the express permission of their superiors. According to a
statute of the year 1264 the Dominicans were strictly prohibited
from selling their books or the rules of their order. - _Martene
Thesaur. Nov. Anecdot._ tom. iv. col. 1741, et col. 1918.

[61] Vita Abbat. Wear. Ed. Ware, p. 26. His fine copy of the
Cosmographers he bought at Rome. - _Roma Benedictus emerat._

[62] Nosti quot Scriptores in Urbibus aut in Agris Italiæ passim
habeantur. - Ep. cxxx. See also Ep. xliv. where he speaks of having
purchased books in Italy, Germany and Belgium, at considerable cost.
It is the most interesting Bibliomanical letter in the whole

[63] Cottonian MS. in the Brit. Mus. - _Claudius_, E. iv. fo. 105, b.

[64] Epist. lxxi. p. 124, Edit. 4to. His words are - "Cum Dominus Rex
Anglorum me nuper ad Dominum Regum Francorum nuntium distinasset,
libri Legum venales Parisius oblati sunt mihi ab illo B. publico
mangone librorum: qui cum ad opus cujusdam mei nepotis idoner
viderentur conveni cum eo de pretio et eos apud venditorem
dismittens, ei pretium numeravi; superveniente vero C. Sexburgensi
Præposito sicut audini, plus oblulit et licitatione vincens libros
de domo venditories per violentiam absportauit."

[65] Chevillier, Origines de l'Imprimerie de Paris, 4to. 1694, p.

[66] "Actes concernant le pouvoir et la direction de l'Université de
Paris sur les Ecrivains de Livres et les Imprimeurs qui leur ont
succédé comme aussi sur les Libraires Relieurs et Enlumineurs," 4to.
1652, p. 44. It is very rare, a copy was in Biblioth. Teller, No.
132, p. 428. A statute of 1275 is given by Lambecii Comment. de
Augus. Biblioth. Cæsarea Vendobon, vol. ii. pp. 252-267. The
booksellers are called "Stationarii or Librarii;" _de Stationariis,
sive Librariis ut Stationarus, qui vulgo appellantur_, etc. See also
_Du Cange_, vol. vi. col. 716.

[67] Chevillier, p. 301, to whom I am deeply indebted in this branch
of my inquiry.

[68] Hist. Lit. de la France, tom. ix. p. 84. Chevillier, p. 302.

[69] The form of oath is given in full in the statute of 1323, and
in that of 1342, Chevillier.

[70] Du Breuil, Le Théâtre des Antiq. de Paris, 4to. 1612, p. 608.

[71] _Ibid._, Hist. Lit. de la France, tom. ix. p. 84.

[72] Chevillier, p. 303.

[73] Martene Anecd. tom. i. p. 502. Hist. Lit. de la France, ix. p.

[74] Chevillier, 319, who gives a long list, printed from an old
register of the University.

[75] Chevillier, 303.

[76] Vet. Stat. Universit. Oxoniæ, D. fol. 75. Archiv. Bodl.

[77] The Church of Norwich paid £22, 9s. for illuminating a Graduale
and Consuetudinary in 1374.

[78] Isidore Orig., cap. ii. - Jerome, in his Preface to Job, writes,
"_Habeant qui volunt veteres libros, vel in membranes purpurus auro
argentique colore purpuros aurum liquiscit in literis._" Eddius
Stephanus in his Life of St. Wilfrid, cap xvi., speaks of "Quatuor
Evangeliæ de auro purissimo in membranis de purpuratis coloratis pro
animæ suæ remidis scribere jusset." Du Cange, vol. iv. p. 654. See
also Mabillon Act. Sanct., tom. v. p. 110, who is of opinion that
these purple MSS. were only designed for princes; see Nouveau Traité
de Diplomatique, and Montfaucon Palæog. Græc., pp. 45, 218, 226, for
more on this subject.

[79] See a Fragment in the Brit. Mus. engraved in Shaw's Illuminated
Ornaments, plate 1.

[80] Middle Ages, vol. ii. p. 437. Mr. Maitland, in his "Dark Ages,"
enters into a consideration of this matter with much critical
learning and ingenuity.

[81] D'Israeli Amenities of Lit., vol. i. p. 358.

[82] The Precentor's accounts of the Church of Norwich contain the
following items: - 1300, 5 _dozen parchment_, 2_s._ 6_d._, 40 lbs. of
ink, 4_s._ 4_d._, 1 gallon of vini decrili, 3_s._, 4 lbs. of
corporase, 4 lbs. of galls, 2 lbs. of gum arab, 3_s._ 4_d._, to make
ink. I dismiss these facts with the simple question they naturally
excite: that if parchment was so _very scarce_, what on earth did
the monk want with all this ink?

[83] Leonardi Aretini Epist. 1. iv. ep. v.

[84] Mehi Præfatio ad vit Ambrosii Traversarii, p. xxxix.

[85] Mehi Præf., pp. xlviii. - xlix.

[86] A MS. containing five books of Tacitus which had been deemed
lost was found in Germany during the pontificate of Leo X., and
deposited in the Laurentian library at Florence. - _Mehi Præf._ p.
xlvii. See Shepard's Life of Poggio, p. 104, to whom I am much
indebted for these curious facts.

[87] Shepard's Life of Poggio, p. 101.


_Canterbury Monastery. - Theodore of
Tarsus. - Tatwine. - Nothelm. - St.
Dunstan. - Ælfric. - Lanfranc. - Anselm. - St. Augustine's
books. - Henry de Estria and his
Catalogue. - Chiclely. - Sellinge. - Rochester. - Gundulph, a Bible
Student. - Radulphus. - Ascelin of Dover. - Glanvill, etc._

In the foregoing chapters I have endeavored to give the reader an insight
into the means by which the monks multiplied their books, the
opportunities they had of obtaining them, the rules of their libraries
and scriptoria, and the duties of a monkish librarian. I now proceed to
notice some of the English monastic libraries of the middle ages, and by
early records and old manuscripts inquire into their extent, and revel
for a time among the bibliomaniacs of the cloisters. On the spot where
Christianity - more than twelve hundred years ago - first obtained a
permanent footing in Britain, stands the proud metropolitan cathedral of
Canterbury - a venerable and lasting monument of ancient piety and monkish
zeal. St. Augustine, who brought over the glad tidings of the Christian
faith in the year 596, founded that noble structure on the remains of a
church which Roman Christians in remote times had built there. To write
the literary history of its old monastery would spread over more pages
than this volume contains, so many learned and bookish abbots are
mentioned in its monkish annals. Such, however, is beyond the scope of my
present design, and I have only to turn over those ancient chronicles to
find how the love of books flourished in monkish days; so that, whilst I
may here and there pass unnoticed some ingenious author, or only casually
remark upon his talents, all that relate to libraries or book-collecting,
to bibliophiles or scribes, I shall carefully record; and, I think, from
the notes now lying before me, and which I am about to arrange in
something like order, the reader will form a very different idea of
monkish libraries than he previously entertained.

The name that first attracts our attention in the early history of
Canterbury Church is that of Theodore of Tarsus, the father of
Anglo-Saxon literature, and certainly the first who introduced
bibliomania into this island; for when he came on his mission from Rome
in the year 668 he brought with him an extensive library, containing many
Greek and Latin authors, in a knowledge of which he was thoroughly
initiated. Bede tells us that he was well skilled in metrical art,
astronomy, arithmetic, church music, and the Greek and Latin
languages.[88] At his death[89] the library of Christ Church Monastery
was enriched by his valuable books, and in the time of old Lambarde some
of them still remained. He says, in his quaint way, "The Reverend Father
Mathew, nowe Archbishop of Canterburie, whose care for the conservation
of learned monuments can never be sufficiently commended, shewed me, not
long since, the Psalter of David, and sundrie homilies in Greek; Homer
also and some other Greeke authors beautifully wrytten on thicke paper,
with the name of this Theodore prefixed in the fronte, to whose librarie
he reasonably thought, being thereto led by shew of great antiquitie that
they sometimes belonged."[90]

Tatwine was a great book lover, if not a bibliomaniac. "He was renowned
for religious wisdom, and notably learned in Sacred Writ."[91] If he
wrote the many pieces attributed to him, his pen must have been prolific
and his reading curious and diversified. He is said to have composed on
profane and sacred subjects, but his works were unfortunately destroyed
by the Danish invaders, and a book of poems and one of enigmas are all
that have escaped their ravages. The latter work, preserved in our
National Library, contains many curious hints, illustrative of the
manners of those remote days.[92]

Nothelm, or the Bold Helm, succeeded this interesting author; he was a
learned and pious priest of London. The bibliomaniac will somewhat envy
the avocation of this worthy monk whilst searching over the rich
treasures of the Roman archives, from whence he gleaned much valuable
information to aid Bede in compiling his history of the English
Church.[93] Not only was he an industrious scribe but also a talented
author, if we are to believe Pits, who ascribes to him several works,
with a Life of St. Augustine.[94]

It is well known that St. Dunstan was an ingenious scribe, and so
passionately fond of books, that we may unhesitatingly proclaim him a
bibliomaniac. He was a native of Wessex, and resided with his father near
Glastonbury Abbey, which holy spot many a legendary tale rendered dear to
his youthful heart. He entered the Abbey, and devoted his whole time to
reading the wondrous lives and miracles of ascetic men till his mind
became excited to a state of insanity by the many marvels and prodigies
which they unfolded; so that he acquired among the simple monks the
reputation of one holding constant and familiar intercourse with the
beings of another world. On his presentation to the king, which was
effected by the influence of his uncle Athelm, Archbishop of Canterbury,
he soon became a great favorite, but excited so much jealousy there, that
evil reports were industriously spread respecting him. He was accused of
practising magical arts and intriguing with the devil. This induced him
to retire again into the seclusion of a monastic cell, which he
constructed so low that he could scarcely stand upright in it. It was
large enough, however, to hold his forge and other apparatus, for he was
a proficient worker in metals, and made ornaments, and bells for his
church. He was very fond of music, and played with exquisite skill upon
the harp.[95] But what is more to our purpose, his biographer tells us
that he was remarkably skilful in writing and illuminating, and
transcribed many books, adorning them with beautiful paintings, whilst in
this little cell.[96] One of them is preserved in the Bodleian Library at
Oxford. On the front is a painting of St. Dunstan kneeling before our
Saviour, and at the top is written "_Pictura et Scriptura hujus pagine
subtas visi est de propria manu sei Dunstani_."[97] But in the midst of
these ingenious pursuits he did not forget to devote many hours to the
study of the Holy Scriptures, as also to the diligent transcription and
correction of copies of them,[98] and thus arming himself with the sacred
word, he was enabled to withstand the numerous temptations which
surrounded him. Sometimes the devil appeared as a man, and at other times
he was still more severely tempted by the visitations of a beautiful
woman, who strove by the most alluring blandishments to draw that holy
man from the paths of Christian rectitude. In the tenth century such
eminent virtues could not pass unrewarded, and he was advanced to the
Archbishopric of Canterbury in the year 961, but his after life is that
of a saintly politician, and displays nothing that need be mentioned

In the year 969,[99] Ælfric, abbot of St. Alban's, was elected archbishop
of Canterbury. His identity is involved in considerable doubt by the many
contemporaries who bore that name, some of whom, like him, were
celebrated for their talent and erudition; but, leaving the solution of
this difficulty to the antiquarian, we are justified in saying that he
was of noble family, and received his education under Ethelwold, at
Abingdon, about the year 960. He accompanied his master to Winchester,
and Elphegus, bishop of that see, entertained so high an opinion of
Ælfric's learning and capacity, that he sent him to superintend the
recently founded monastery of Cerne, in Devonshire. He there spent all
his hours, unoccupied by the duties of his abbatical office, in the
transcription of books and the nobler avocations of an author. He
composed a Latin Grammar, a work which has won for him the title of "_The
Grammarian_," and he greatly helped to maintain the purity of the
Christian church by composing a large collection of homilies, which
became exceedingly popular during the succeeding century, and are yet in
existence. The preface to these homilies contain several very curious
passages illustrative of the mode of publication resorted to by the
monkish authors, and on that account I am tempted to make the following

"I, Ælfric, the scholar of Ethelwold, to the courteous and venerable
Bishop Sigeric, in the Lord.

"Although it may appear to be an attempt of some rashness and
presumption, yet have I ventured to translate this book out of the Latin
writers, especially those of the 'Holy Scriptures,' into our common
language; for the edification of the ignorant, who only understand this
language when it is either read or heard. Wherefore I have not used
obscure or unintelligible words, but given the plain English. By which
means the hearts, both of the readers and of the hearers, may be reached
more easily; because they are incapable of being otherwise instructed,
than in their native tongue. Indeed, in our translation, we have not ever
been so studious to render word for word, as to give the true sense and
meaning of our authors. Nevertheless, we have used all diligent caution
against deceitful errors, that we may not be found seduced by any heresy,
nor blinded by any deceit. For we have followed these authors in this
translation, namely, St. Austin of Hippo, St. Jerome, Bede, Gregory,
Smaragdus, and sometimes Haymo, whose authority is admitted to be of
great weight with all the faithful. Nor have we only expounded the
treatise of the gospels;... but have also described the passions and
lives of the saints, for the use of the unlearned of this nation. We have
placed forty discourses in this volume, believing this will be sufficient
for one year, if they be recited entirely to the faithful, by the
ministers of the Lord. But the other book which we have now taken in hand
to compose will contain those passions or treatises which are omitted in
this volume." ... "Now, if any one find fault with our translation, that
we have not always given word for word, or that this translation is not
so full as the treatise of the authors themselves, or that in handling of
the gospels we have run them over in a method not exactly conformable to
the order appointed in the church, let him compose a book of his own; by
an interpretation of deeper learning, as shall best agree with his
understanding, this only I beseech him, that he may not pervert this
version of mine, which I hope, by the grace of God, without any boasting,
I have, according to the best of my skill, performed with all diligence.
Now, I most earnestly entreat your goodness, my most gentle father
Sigeric, that you will vouchsafe to correct, by your care, whatever
blemishes of malignant heresy, or of dark deceit, you shall meet with in
my translation, and then permit this little book to be ascribed to your
authority, and not to the meanness of a person of my unworthy character.
Farewell in the Almighty God continually. Amen."[100]

I have before alluded to the care observed by the scribes in copying
their manuscripts, and the moderns may deem themselves fortunate that
they did so; for although many interpolations, or emendations, as they
called them, occur in monkish transcripts, on the whole, their integrity,
in this respect, forms a redeeming quality in connexion with their
learning. In another preface, affixed to the second collection of his

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