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AMONG MY BOOKS.-THE BINDINGS OF Books.
BY G. MOULTON PIPER.
Let me confess at once to being one of those who like to see books well bound. Paper covers, even on a rare Dickens, do not attract me. If I am going to read a book, I would far rather have a volume bound in leather to handle than one "in boards as issued." There is, however, another point of view. A fine book finely bound is a volume in regard to which the art of book-making has reached its highest level. In the sum total of attractiveness the binding may not stand for much, but it has a function to serve which is not dissimilar from that of a gilded frame of a picture
-it sets off that which it encloses to the best advantage. Here, for instance, is a copy of the "Strozii Poetæ, Pater et Filius," printed by Aldus in 1513, with its eulogistic dedication to Lucrezia Borgia, which reads very curiously in the light of recent historical research. This volume was doubtless bound in the workshop whence it issued, for it is decorated with the curious little fleurons and the beautiful, though simple, strap-work design frequently used by Aldus. There it stands in the sober garb so well befitting its age, and time has mellowed the book and its cover so equally that it is impossible to conceive a more appropriate and pleasing union.
There have been times when the desire for fine bindings has become a mania, and their possessors little better than crazed on this particular point. Such a man was Rawlinson, who went so far as to order, in his will, that his coffin should be "whole bound" in Russia leather. These excesses deserve the contempt they receive, but, in a general way, a man need no more be treated with a mild benevolence because he wants his books well bound than a man need be jeered at for preferring fine wines. As a matter of fact, the former is in the end better off, for fine wines will not last, whereas fine books will. The majority of books, like the majority of people in the world, have to be content to get along by being only clothed, not dressed. And yet dress itself stands for something. Distinction in dress betokens a spirit of refinement. Fine clothes do not make a man, but they go some way toward making a gentleman. And the same may be said in regard to books. The binding does not make the book; indeed, comparatively worthless volumes are often preserved simply on acconnt of their splendid covers. On the other hand, many books, fine as literature or rare as specimens of typographic splendor, have had the good fortune to be handsomely dressed, and on my shelves stand a few of these favorites of fortune. Here is a copy of "The Sonnets of John Milton," edited by Mark Pattison--an excel
lent specimen of the best English printing, and no inconsiderate book of its class. It has been bound in white by Ongania, of Venice. The vellum is beautifully tooled with gold and adorned at the corners and centres with exquisite inlays of various colored leathers. Another such dainty book is the Elzevir Horace of 1676, printed when the famous Amsterdam press was doing its best work. This book has been bound in the elaborate style made famous by Padeloup, the covers being inlaid with colored leathers, and the whole richly tooled with gold, Near to it stands "L'Office de la Quinzaine de Pasques," printed in Paris 1742, bound in green morocco by Derome and tooled in gold with his celebrated dentelles a l'oiseau design. In close proximity is "Le Nouveau Testament," with the Psalms "mis en rime Francoise par Clement Marot," a choice volume in crimson, with silver clasps and bound by Le Gascon with his inimitable pointille toolings. From the point of view of fine bindings, Le Gascon's works are the pivots around which all such collections turn. There is no name more famous in the history of book-binding, nor is there any other so elusive. Who was Le Gascon, and whence he came, we shall probably never know, for certain; indeed, whether that was his real name or not is equally undecided. All we know for certain is that he was binding books between 1622 and 1641, and probably later, for, on the first day of the last named year, "La Guirlande de Julie" was presented by the Duc de Montausier to Julie Lucine d'Angennes. This volume of verses was the joint production of all the notable French poets of the day, including Corneille. It was written on vellum by Jarry, the pages being adorned with paintings by Nicolas Robert, and the whole bound by Le Gascon in his most sumptuous style. By many good judges this volume is regarded as the finest example of book-binding extant, not excepting the magnificent Grolier, now in the possession of Mr. Robert Hoe.
The names of the masters of binding in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are names to conjure with, and their decided superiority is never better exemplified than when their work is contrasted with that of other binders of contemporary date. Here before me lies a Psalterium of 1674 bound in the well-known German monastic binding, in richly stamped pigskin, the binding looking to-day more like carved ivory than leather. And yet, fine as it is, the effect is far from pleasing. The designs of the cameos and borderings are heavy, and, for the most part, meaningless, a remark which applies to the greater proportion of German book-binding of the seventeenth century. Another volume whose binding is equally disappointing is a copy of the "Sacrum Sancuarium Crucis et Patientæ," issued from the Plantin press in 1634. This quarto, grand in
regard to both typography and copper-plate illus. trations, is one of the finest books ever issued by the celebrated Antwerp house, but its binding in the contemporary German style is heavy and insipid. When one buys such a book as this for its binding one buys it in much the same mood as a collector buys the crude work of an old Italian painter; it serves to illustrate the style and growth of an art rather than the ultimate stage of perfection which that art can attain.
From such over-elaboration and, in a measure, meaningless, toil, it is pleasant to turn to work whose leading motive is a restrained, an almost severe scheme of design. Here are two specimens of the work of Roger Payne, both in his favorite red Russia leather. The first is a "Demetrius Phalereus de Elocutione Græce," formerly in the possession of Michael Woodhull, a name which of itself stands to any volume in much the same relation as a hallmark to the precious metals. Most books that were in Woodhull's library were choice as well as perfect. This is no exception, and Payne's fine binding keeps the book in good countenance. The other volume is Hanway's "Seaman's Friend," bound for a seafaring member of the Spencer family. Some of the very finest of Roger Payne's work was executed for the Althorp collection, and the general public will now, for the first time, have an opportunity of seeing these books when the Rylands library is opened in Manchester. The mention of Payne naturally recalls the names of the men who endeavored to carry out his traditions and to perpetuate the modern
English school of book-binding which Roger Payne may be said to have founded. Here is a fine piece of work by Kalthoeber, who openly, but not slavishly, copied many of the peculiarities of Payne's style. This copy of the "Life of Petrarch" is bound in red-ribbed morocco beautifully tooled with a fine Etruscan border, the backs bearing the familiar stars and circular ornaments so generally used by Kalthoeber. The chief feature of the latest work, both French and English, is brilliance of color. Here is a notable specimen, "Les Œuvres de Philon Juif," Paris, 1612, bound by Chambolle-Duru. The bookseller's own description of this book, "magnificently full-bound in dark green morocco super-extra, with raised bands, most elegantly tooled on the back, and with broad dentelle inside borders, rough edges gilt," is a fair statement of the points at present aimed at. But, like most French binding of to-day, this work suffers from being bound too tightly in the back, though it is a good example of the splendid moroccos that French binders use. Their leathers are softer, and appear to possess more body, than those generally used by English workmen. Of examples of the work of modern English binders. my shelves can show not a few; here is a "Shelley"
bound by Bedford, a "Keats" bound by Riviere, while an exquisite piece of work by Zaehrsdof encloses a copy of the first edition of Ruskin's "Political Economy of Art."
And now let me return to my first point. The value of a book, as such, is in no way affected by its binding, but who will deny that such books as I have mentioned have not their interest increased by the associations called up by the covers in which they are enwrapped? Every little bit of decoration on these volumes, illustrates, in a way, the effect of human temperament, and this it is which gives to hand work the superior attraction over machine work. Here are deviations from the exact line, they are only trifling even where they exist, but they serve to show something of the individuality of the binder as much as the minute variations in the tone of a violin exhibit the temperament of the artist who is playing the instrument. There is something about all direct handicraft that has a peculiar fascination for me, and as I sit here musing among my books, the craftsmen who made them come in and join the assemblage of men who wrote them.-Literature.
NEW LIGHT ON KEATS.
Mr. Alfred Ainger describes in The Athenæum a volume of Keats which has lately come into his possession. It is Keats' "Lamia, Isabella, and Other Poems," published in 1820, and it was certainly a presentation copy given by the poet to some friend in Hampshire. The name of the re
cipient is not written on the title page, only “with J. Keats' compliments." But what is most noteworthy is this, that with his own hand Keats has scored out in strong ink lines "the publisher's preface, in which a true explanation purports to be given as to their responsibility for the publication."
The publishers, the Messrs. Taylor & Hessey, state that they are responsible "for 'Hyperion' being printed, the author having very reluctantly given his consent; and furthermore, that the reason for the poem remaining unfinished was the unfavorable reception already accorded to 'Endymion.'"
Keats' comments in his own hand-writing are protests. At the head of the preface he writes: "I had no part in this; I was ill at the time." Where 'Endymion' is noticed in the preface he writes bluntly, "This is a lie!" Critics, Mr. Ainger intimates, have differed as to the causes of "Keats' dissatisfaction with 'Hyperion.'" Mr. Sydney Colvin does not credit Keats' malady as the case of his, the poet's, dissatisfaction with his work, but that he was "ill at ease with the Miltonic vein to which he had committed himself."
This copy of Keats does, then, clear up what has been a doubtful matter, for the Taylor & Hessey preface has been much discussed as to its precise significance.
A recent Bronte incident reminds one that happily for the collector of autographs, the literary forger is not usually a person of high intelligence. In the Nineteenth Century for July Sir Algernon West has published an alleged letter of Charlotte Bronte. If there is one circumstance in the pathetic story of Haworth Parsonage better known than another, it is that Emily and Anne Bronte both died before their more famous sister, whose father survived her. Yet the writer of this letter, which is treasured among a collection of autographs, was actually ignorant enough to compose an epistle in which Charlotte Bronte describes the death of her "poor father," who passed away "full of ailments, but surrounded by his daughters."
These little details have always been stumblingblocks in the ways of literary forgers. The famous Simonides was first exposed when it turned out that his very ancient Homer, written on lotus leaves, reproduced all the errata of Wolff's then recent edition. So also his palimpsest history of the Kings of Egypt, by Uranius, broke down ignominiously just because he had not taken the trouble to do more then turn scraps of Bunsen and Lepsius verbatim into Greek. One would think that a man who had the brilliant idea of resurrecting Uranius of Alexandria would have written a nice simple little chronicle for him.
It is extraordinary that, when a man wants to forge a letter from a deceased celebrity, it never seems to occur to him to look up a few simple facts of their lives in the "Dictionary of National Biography"-not necessarily for publication, but as a guarantee of good faith. Unfortunately, his customer is usually in an even more childlike frame of mind. Thus Ireland candidly tells us that when he wished to produce a correspondence between Shakespeare and Lord Southampton he "had not the smallest conception" that any autographs of Southampton were in existence, and so wrote the Peer's letter with his left hand, in order to differentiate it from Shakespeare's MS.; the odd thing is that it occurred to nobody to look up a genuine autograph of Southampton until Malone exploded the whole imposture. The manner of detection of the forged Shelley letters, to which Browning wrote an introductory essay, similarly illustrates the carelessness of the average forger. Some of the letters were full of personal details, which were glaringly inaccurate throughout. But what first revealed the truth was the fact that one letter was taken direct from an article of Palgrave's in the Quarterly; how the writer of the letters can have hoped that this would not be recognized is hard to guess.
The same oversights occur in other branches of the forger's art; for instance, there is the well
known story of the Rembrandt which Mr. Hope, of Amsterdam, bought for $10,000, and which proved to be painted on mahogany-a wood that did not exist in Europe in Rembrandt's time. It is as well for the student that the forger's intelligence so often proves inferior to his audacity.
THE STORY OF A BOOK.
On the 18th of March, 1864, Thackeray's library was dispersed by auction. From a book-collector's point of view the most attractive item in the catalogue was lot 70, a copy of Dickens' "Christmas Carol," which was presented by the author to his brother novelist, and contained the following autograph inscription: "W. M. Thackeray, from Charles Dickens (whom he made very happy once a long way from home). Seventeenth December, 1843." The bidding for this volume attained the modest sum of £25 10s. It was generally believed that the Queen was the purchaser, and that her Majesty, entertaining a strong desire to possess the little book with which the two most notable romancers of her reign were thus pleasantly associated, had given an unlimited commission, in order that it might be secured for her private library.
The fate of the book is somewhat obscure, but it would seem that the belief that Queen Victoria purchased it is not correct. The history of it, so far as it can be traced, is given in a letter sent us by Mr. F. G. Kitton, who says that in 1895 he inquired of the authorities at Windsor, who under
took to make research.
"While the matter was undergoing investigation, I discovered a footnote in a later issue (library edition) of Forster's 'Life,' where the author pointed out that after the publication of his statement (quoted from Hotten), he was informed by Mr. Bumpus, a London bookseller, that he had purchased the book 'for a private gentleman,' and 'it is now in America.' Imagine my surprise, therefore, on receiving (subsequent to this discovery) an authoritative intimation from a prominent official at Windsor Castle that the book was in the Queen's library at Osborne! Immediately on receipt of this startling information, I communicated with the Master of the Household (Lieut.Colonel Sir Flood wood Edwards), who promptly replied that, after a careful search, the volume
could not be found at Osborne nor could it be met with either at Windsor or Balmoral."
Further inquiries in likely quarters elicited the fact that, after passing through the hands of Mr. Bumpus, the book had in 1870 been offered for sale to Mr. Francis Harvey, of St. James' street, who stated that he did not purchase the volume, but that shortly afterward he observed an advertisement in the Athenæum announcing that it was for sale, since which time he had not heard of it. Mr. Kitton discovered this advertisement under date July 9, 1870. It stated that this copy of
Dicken's "Christmas Carol," "which has Mr. Thackeray's book-mark" [book plate?], "and was purchased by its present owner for £25 10s at his sale, forms a touching souvenir of these two great authors."
"Replies were to be addressed to 'B. G. L.,' care of a firm of solicitors in Lincoln's Inn, and of this still existing firm I ventured to inquire if they would forward a letter from me to their anonymous client, their affirmative reply inducing me to believe that I was at length on the right track. The result, alas! proved to be less gratifying than I anticipated. 'B. G. L.' informed me that the book he had secured at the sale of Thackeray's library in 1864 was sold by him in 1870 or 1871 to an American for £17, who said that he was taking it back to America. 'My purchase of the book,' added my correspondent, 'was accidental.' I was ill at the time and wanted a little souvenir of Thackeray. My bookseller had not sent me a copy of the catalogue, but told me there was a copy of the 'Christmas Carol,' and I directed him to buy it for me as he was attending the sale. It turned out to be a presentation copy from Dickens to Thackeray, with an interesting inscription. I do not seem to have kept any record of the name or address of the gentleman who purchased the book of me, and cannot, I fear, help you further.' Should these lines greet the eye of the fortunate owner of this unique copy of the 'Carol,' I trust he will reveal his identity, and assure us of the safety of that precious relic of two great men."
SOME RARE FIRST EDITIONS.
Of the first editions of notable writers the Congressional library possesses a few of the rarest. The first folio of Shakespeare, 1623 (a sound copy), with the three following folios (original editions) of 1632, 1664 and 1685; first issue of "Midsummer Night's Dream," 1600; Milton's "Paradise Lost," first edition, 1667; Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy," first edition, 1620; the first five editions of Walton's "Compleat Angler;" Painter's "Palace of Pleasure;" "Piers Plowman's Vision," first edition, 1550; King James Folio Bible, first issue 1611 (a very fine copy); the Bishop's Bible, 1569; Cranmer's Version, various editions, 1540, etc. Coverdale's Version; Matthew's Version, 1551; the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Alexandrinus each in four volumes folio, in fac-simile; many black-letter Bibles of various early dates; Luther's German Version of the Bible, Christopher Saur, Germantown, Pa., first edition, and Aitken's Bible two volumes, Philadelphia, 1782.
There are numerous early printed books of the fifteenth century, beginning with an edition of the "Constitutions of St. Clement," 1467, and representing every year since that date, and in some cases by numerous examples. The library has no original Caxton, but there are two fine examples of Wynkyn de Worde. Among its other treasures it possesses George washington's Bible,
Si non mortuus sum,
So let it be lost
As much as it cost (vis., 5s.).
The following admonition is full of salutary advice to book borrowers:
Neither blemish this book, nor the leaves double down, Nor lend it to each idle friend in the town, Return it when read; or, if lost, please supply Another as good to the mind and the eye, With right and with reason you need but be friends, And each book in my study your pleasure attends. Of the warning and menacing kind are the following:
This book is one thing, My fist is another;
Touch this one thing,
Si quis furetur;
Per collum pendetur,
Similis huic pauperi animali.
Ne me prend pas;
Small is the wren,
Great is the sinner
That steals this book.
This is Thomas Jones' book
You may just within it look;
But you'd better not do more,
For the Devil's at the door,
Si quis quis furetur,
Per Bacchum per Jovem!
In venturum illus,
I'll stick my scalpellum
Here follows a figure of an unfortunate individ Experience." Every Blake lover will sympathize ual suspended "in malem crucem."
with it and partially, at least, endorse its truth. It was a cheap and easy thing to speak of Blake as "an unfortunate lunatic whose personal inoffensiveness secures him from confinement," and to treat his work with the scorn that is born of ignorance. It required a more penetrating critic to recognize, amid all the daring unconventionality, the perversity and perplexity that pervaded Blake's creations, a genius which could hardly have existed in a perfectly sane mind. The strange thing is that Wordsworth should have made so unqualified a statement about Blake's madness with the data before him of his early poetic work alone. It is hard to find any symptoms in these of a disordered imagination, however ready we may be to admit that such exist in his later work. They possess an undefinable sweetness and fascination; there had been nothing like them in English literature since Elizabethan days; the frigidity and formality of the eighteenth century are altogether absent; they are redolent of that spirit which once made England a "nest of singing birds." The beauty of childhood pervades the Songs of Innocence. We hardly need to be told that Blake loved children dearly, and that his childlessness was a bitter sorrow to him. In some respect he remained a child to the end of his days.
The outward course of his life was singularly uneventful, not to say prosaic. But his "shaping spirit of imagination" enabled him to escape into a world of his own, away from the petty details of his every-day existence. The man who could speak of a visit from the spirit of Socrates, or Moses, or Julius Cæsar as an ordinary event had certainly resources of his own which rendered him independent of ordinary society! Nor did his
This pretty presentation verse is occasionally genius suffer from the uncongenial atmosphere of
eighteenth-century thought. Its light was kindled from within, or, as he would have said himself, from above. He could have learned little or nothing from his fellows, had they been Dante or Shakespeare themselves. Truth, for such as he, comes direct from heaven, and must be apprehended alone. Angry and indignant as he often was at the thought of the general indifference to his work, it never for one moment shook his confidence in himself. The artist who could unhesitatingly compare his work to Raphael's was not likely to be daunted by the want of that sympathy and encouragement upon which more fragile souls.
In village schools the following are common:
This is Giles Wilkinson, his book;
God gave him grace therein to look;
Nor yet to look, but understand
That learning's better than house and land,
Then learning is most excellent.
John Smith is my name,
England is my nation,
London is my dwelling place,
And Christ is my salvation.
And when I'm dead and in my grave,
And all my bones are rotten.
When this you see, remember me,
Take it 'tis a gift of love
That seeks thy good alone;
On the fly-leaf of a Bible may sometimes be
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole