Page images

feet by three. The binding was literally "in boards." It was the labor of six years.

As a set-off to the foregoing, we might refer to the no less curious piece of paper, once presented to Queen Bess, comprising the Decalogue Creed and Lord's prayer, all beautifully written in the compass of a finger-nail. Glasses were required here, and by their aid it is said the queen could easily read the extremely minute characters. The Iliad was once written on vellum so small that a nut-shell contained it; and an Italian monk wrote the Acts and gospel, in compass of a farthing! Even Schloss' Thumb Almanac hardly comes up to these.

Printing by blocks was an extension of the art of seal engraving, which had been carried to great perfection in broad seals. The first printed sheets were worked only on one side of the paper, and the impressions produced by a plane and mallet. The ordinary printing-press it may be remembered, was first made by Bleau, at Amsterdam; the first types cast in England, by Caslon in 1720, and the printing-machine originally suggested by Nicholson in 1790, who also invented the rollers for inking the types. Stereotype printing was first used in England and Holland in 1804.

"It is curious," observes an ingenious author," how writing has had to struggle against power. At first the feudal baron was ashamed of being able to write, and the signing his name, was like putting on his armour, a service to be done by his inferior." The invention of printing was in the time of Jack Cade, (1461,) denounced as contrary to the well-being of the state, and a conspiracy against "the king his crown and dignity, &c." To print a large folio was, however, more easily executed than a duodecimo;-a crime of less enormity from the inverse ratio of its extent; the reverse indeed of our own day, for we have a decided preference for the shortest method over the former ponderous and circuitous one of the olden time.

Antoine Zarot, an eminent printer at Milan, about 1470, was the first on record who printed the Missal. Among other works his execution in colors of the celebrated Missale Romanum in folio, afforded a beautiful specimen of the art. The MS. copy seems to have

been of a most dazzling description, its original date was MCCCCX.; every leaf is appropriately ornamented with miniatures surrounded with exquisitely elaborated borders; and its almost innumerable initials which are richly illuminated in gold and colors, render it unsurpassed by any known production of its class. It has been estimated at 250 guineas. The Complutensian Polyglott, otherwise known as Cardinal Ximenes, deserves a passing notice among the renowned books of by-gone times. This prodigious work was commenced under the auspices of the above named prelate in 1502, and for 15 years the labor was continued without intermission; its entire cost amounted to 50,000 golden crowns! Arnas Guillen de Brocar was the celebrated printer of this stupendous work. Of the four large vellum copies, one is said to be in the Vatican, another in the Escurial, and a third was bought by Herbets at the sale of the McCarthy library for 600 guineas. According to Gonzales, a Spanish historian, the earliest printed book of the "New World" was executed by Joannes Paulus in 1549-a folio, entitled "ordinationes legumque collectiones pro conventu juridico Mexicano.'

About 1572 we meet with another splendid production-the Spanish Polyglott, printed by Christopher Plantin. A most magnificent copy upon vellum, in the original binding, was sold in London some five and twenty years since for one thousund guineas! and enormous as was this price, the copy was actually wanting three out of the ten volumes-those being in the Bibliotheque Royale. One of the scarcest books in the language-for there are, according to Dibdin, but two known copies extant-is a little black letter tome of 1586, entitled, "A Discourse of Englishe Poetrie," &c., one of which was sold in the Duke of Roxburgh's collection for £64. We might amuse the reader by citing a few of the quaint and alliterative titles of some of the books of these times. Take the following for instance: "A Footpath to Felicitie," "Guide to Godlinesse," "Swarme of Bees," "Plante of Pleasure and Grove of Graces,”—1586. These were most rife in the days of Cromwell ;—there were many bordering closely on the ludicrous, such as the one styled, "A Pair of Bellows to Blow off the Dust

cast upon John Fry;" and a Quaker whose outward man the powers thought proper to imprison, published, "A Sigh of Sorrow for the sinners of Zion, breathed out of a hole in the Wall of an Earthen Vessel, known among men by the name of Samuel Fish." We might multiply the numbers ad libitum; but must content ourselves with adding one or two more. "A Reaping Hook well tempered for the stubborn Ears of the coming Crop, or Biscuits baked in the oven of Charity, carefully conserved for the Chickens of the Church, the Sparrows of the Spirit, and the Sweet Swallows of Salvation." To another we have the following copious description: "Seven Sobs of a Sorrowful Soul for Sin, or the Seven Penitential Psalms of the Princely Prophet David, whereunto are also annexed William Humuis's handful of Honeysuckles, and divers Godly and pithy Ditties now newly augmented."

A melancholy interest attaches to everything connected with the history and fate of Mary, Queen of Scots; and we accordingly find great store has been put on the Missal presented to her by Pius V., and which accompanied her to the scaffold, as well as another, now in the Imperial Library at St. Petersburg; they each are described as being of extreme and even regal beauty. An amusing anecdote is recorded of Sixtus V., proving the solecism of Pontifical infallibility;-it ascribes to the pompous edition of the Bible printed under the immediate inspection of the Pope, in 1590, over two thousand typographical errors, notwithstanding every sheet was submitted to the careful revision of his holiness' infallible eye! Moreover, a severe anathema was by himself appended to the first volume, against any person who should alter or change any portion of the supposed immaculate text, yet so glaring and notorious became the errors aforesaid in process of time, that his successor, Clement VII., first had corrected slips pasted over them, and afterwards actually had the temerity to correct and thoroughly revise the whole in a new edition, thereby virtually ensuring his own excommunication; in addition to which he also annexed another anathema to the like effect.

ered to be the very first book ever printed with metal types. The first Bible, of 1462, is an edition which exhibits a matchless effort in the art of printing. The first English Bible allowed by royal authority, and also the first translation of the whole of the Scriptures printed in our language, is the edition of Myles Coverdale. Only one perfect copy is known to exist, which is in the library of the Earl of Jersey, another nearly perfect is in the British Museum. A copy, with the title and the following two leaves in facsimile, once produced at auction £89 5s.

The earlier printers perpetrated some curious and unfortunate blunders in printing some of their Bibles. In one edition we remember, which emanated even from the Clarendon press at Oxford, no less than six thousand errata ornament its pages. In another, the negative is omitted in the 7th clause of the Decalogue, which instance of high treason against morals was visited with the penalty of three thousand pounds sterling. There is another known as the "Vinegar Bible," from the insertion of that word in the parable of the Vineyard, instead of its appropriate term. These are but a sample of the well known erratic Bibles, for which bibliomaniacs sometimes used to barter many a golden guinea.

The first book which bears the name of the place where it was printed, and those of the printers, (Faust and Shoffer, 1457,) was the celebrated Psalter, printed from large cut type. The Litera Indulgentiarum Nicholai V., on a single piece of parchment, was issued two years previously, and is the first instance of a printed book, bearing date: a copy of this work, which is said by Dr. Dibdin to be of inconceivable beauty, is to be found in the celebrated Library at Blenheim.

We read of a magnificent missal, nearly three feet in height, still extant in the library at Rouen, supposed to be the latest specimen of illuminated manuscripts, which occupied the labor of a monk thirty long years in its fabrication. The renowned Ibrahim Effendi, who not only acquired the Latin and other tongues by his own unaided industry, and who established a press at Constantinople in the beginning of the The Mazarin Bible, so called, on eighteenth century, produced some costaccount of its having been found in ly and curious specimens; among othCardinal Mazarin's library, is considers a Turkish grammar, every sheet of



which was printed on paper of a different color.

It may be news to the reader that the book written by Henry VIII., which procured for him from the Pope the title still retained, of "Defender of the Faith," but which strictly applied is now most inappropriately used,-was stolen from the Vatican about the close of the past century, and coming into the possession of Payne the bookseller, it produced for the worthy bibliopole the reversion of a life annuity from the Marquis of Douglas.

Dibdin speaks in his Bibliographical Tour of Vestigia delle Terme de Tito, e loro interne Pitture, which comprises fifty-nine very large plates of the Arabesque decorations and paintings in the baths of Titus, most elaborately and exquisitely printed in opaque colors, like highly finished miniatures, &c. It is considered that no work was ever executed which can compete with this in the extraordinary brilliancy and beauty of its embellishments, which are said to be perfect. But one or two copies exist, and are worth about two hundred guineas each.

But it is quite time we noticed some of the beautiful specimens of the typographic art of our own times. The names of John Nicholls and John Boydell, who died about 1804, take prominent rank among the producers of splendid books;-they have the credit of having expended the princely sum of £350,000 in fostering and improving the sister arts of painting and engraving. Their magnificent "Shakspeare Gallery" is even to this day a noble monument of their enterprise and skill, as it was in their own, the delight of all true lovers of books. The gigantic speculation unfortunately failed, superinducing a loss to its projectors of over £100,000. Every one has heard of Dugdale's "Monasticon Anglicanum," in eight huge folios, which was originally published in fiftyfour parts; the entire cost of a large paper copy was £238 10s. Latham's History of Birds" was also a very splendid work in eleven royal quarto volumes, comprising descriptions of above four thousand specimens, illustrated by a series of over two hundred richly colored embellishments: the original publication price was about £50. Murphy's "Arabian Antiquities of Spain" was a beautiful specimen


of art; its exquisite line engravings discover wonderful finish: it cost ten thousand guineas in its execution. Again, the splendid ceremonial of the coronation of George IV., under the superintendence of the late Sir George Naylor of the Herald's College, furnishes another illustrious instance of costly bibliography. Notwithstanding the grant of the government of £5000 towards the expenses, the undertaking also was a great pecuniary failure.

It contained a series of magnificent paintings of the royal procession, banquet, &c., comprehending faithful portraits of the leading personages, all gorgeously tinted and emblazoned : the subscription price of the work was fifty guineas. We might allude to the progresses of Queen Elizabeth and James the First, the former in three, and the other four, volumes, royal quarto, both works of repute but the magnificent work of Pistolesi on the Vatican, in seven royal folios, containing seven hundred large and beautiful engravings, is a still more stupendous affair: as also Napoleon's great work on Egypt, which is in fact a noble monument of art, there being no other work of the same description in Europe which will bear any comparison with it. The size and execution of the engravings are such as must always excite admiration; many of the plates being the largest ever produced, and at no other establishment in Europe than the Imperial printing-press at Paris, could it have been brought out on the same gigantic scale.

The bibliographic connoisseur will remember the immaculate and unique copy of Valdarfer's edition of Il Decamerone di Boccaccio of the Roxburgh collection, which once produced the almost incredible sum of over two thousand guineas; the celebrated edition of Livy, exquisitely printed on vellum by Sweynheim, in 1469, which was sold for four hundred and fifty guineas; and the far-famed Greek Testament of Erasmus, printed at Basil, 1519, of which but one copy is now known to exist, being in the cathedral of York, and of which that renowned collector, Sir Mark Sykes, was refused the purchase at the prodigious offer of one thousand guineas. Bodini, the great Italian printer, produced some splendid specimens of his art; some of which are said to be unexcelled by

any subsequent efforts. His edition of Walpole's" Castle of Otranto," is one of the loveliest little gems extant; the plates are worked on white satin, and the text on the purest vellum. His chef d'œuvre was his "Homer," in three folio volumes: it was the work of six years.

Young's Museum Worsleyanum cost £27,000 in its production; it was never published, although a copy has been purchased at £400. A few years ago, a typographical wonder was exhibited in London, being a sumptuous edition of the New Testament printed in gold on porcelain paper of most immaculate beauty, and, for the first time, on both sides. Two years were occupied in perfecting the work. Only one hundred copies were taken off-one, superbly bound, was presented to William IV.

An interesting specimen, which may be known to very few, and which is, for its kind, unsurpassed in the annals of literature, is the great historical work which has recently been completed by the late Mr. Wiffen, the admirable translator of Tasso, and other popular works, which comprises the Family Records of every descendant of the ancient and distinguished House of Russell, compiled from authentic sources, chiefly in the possession of the family. This very beautiful production, which includes the Portraits of every member of that Peerage, direct and collateral, painted by one of the most prominent artists of the age, (Harding,) is comprised in one folio volume, printed in a style of sumptuous magnificence; only one single copy of which was printed off. The unique bequest by the late Duke of Bedford, under whose personal superintendence it was commenced and completed, was designed by him as an hierloom in the family, and to be deposited in the Library at Woburn Abbey, from whence it was on no account to be removed. It cost the Duke three thousand gui


The most costly undertaking ever attempted by a single individual, of a literary character, which unquestionably the world has yet seen, is the magnificent work on the aborigines of Mexico, by the late Lord Kingsborough. This stupendous work is said to have been produced at the enormous cost to the author of £30,000,

or $150,000. It is comprised in seven immense folio volumes, embellished by about one thousand superb illustrations, coloured so exquisitely as to represent the originals with the most faithful exactness. These volumes are of such extraordinary dimensions as to be almost importable. This unprecedented instance of munificence in the patronage of literature, is rendered the more astonishing from the lamentable fact of its having proved the ultimate ruin of its projector. Not only did this enthusiastic nobleman undertake to defray the entire expense attending the publication, in every item of which, as it might have been expected, he had to meet the most exorbitant charges, but he actually determined on having but a very limited number of copies printed, we believe only fifty, after which the lithographic drawings from. which the plates were taken, were erased. These copies were appropriated for gratuitous presentation to the several Royal and Public Libraries of Europe. It is painful to add that this noble patron of literature and the arts, actually died in debt, a few years since, a sad instance of self-immolation to his munificence, in a prison in Dublin. A copy of this gorgeous work is in the Philadelphia Library.

Humboldt's Mexico is another splendid work: the same may be said of Merrick's Ancient Armour, Mayer's Egypt, and many others: indeed, to cite all under the category would require a space far exceeding that allotted us for the present paper.

We have said scarcely anything about binding as yet, and we fear our restricted limits will necessarily forbid much allusion to that department which has, in former times, as in our own, always constituted an important feature in book-making. There have been many names among the bibliopegistic brotherhood justly celebrated these, however, we cannot stay to notice.

A rage for illustrating formerly obtained to a great extent. It is noted by Granger, a great collector, that a certain female of his acquaintance commenced the illustrating the Bible, and that before she had reached the 25th verse of the 1st chapter of Genesis, the number of her prints had reached seven hundred! Perhaps the most illustrious of all illustrated works, is the extraordinary copy of Shakspeare in posses

sion of Earl Spencer, a work which owes its existence to the wonderful perseverance and taste of the Dowager Lady Lucan, his mother-in-law. For sixteen years, this herculean and pleasurable task was in progress. It is unnecessary to attempt a description of this costly work, as it contains whatever of taste, beauty and refinement in decoration it was possible to combine in the embellishment of Bulmer's beautiful folio edition of the great poet. This superb work is enclosed in rich velvet binding, surmounted with silver gilt clasps, corners, &c. "It is kept," to adopt the enthusiastic language of Dibdin, who has enjoyed the advantage of personally inspecting it, "inviolate from the impurities of bibliomaniacal miasmata, in a sarcophagus-shaped piece of furniture of cedar and mahogany."

The largest work ever yet attempted, is the "Encyclopédie Methodique," ," commenced at Paris in 1782, being a collection of dictionaries on the several departments of science and knowledge which has already extended to upwards of 220 quarto volumes. A somewhat similar work publishing in Germany, has reached to 146 volumes.

In Thibet, there is said to be a Cyclopedia in forty-four volumes. The largest work ever undertaken in Russia is the great national Encyclopædia on which several hundred library men have been long engaged; we have not at hand the extent to which this gigantic production has already reached, although it cannot be very inferior in numbers to the voluminous works of Germany and France. We need scarcely refer to the many similar productions of our own tongue-such as Rees's Cyclopædia, forty volumes quarto; the "Encyclopædia Metropolitana," in forty-two volumes quarto; Encyclopædia Britannica in twenty-two vols.; the Penny Cyclopædia, just completed, in twenty-seven folio volumes, and as affording no equivocal evidence of the intrinsic worth of this great work, we may state, on undoubted authority, that Charles Knight, the truly enterprising publisher, has disbursed, "for contributions alone, a sum exceeding ten thousand pounds sterling."

We cannot consistently close our desultory chapter without a brief glance of a few of the splendidly embellished works of modern times. The astonish

ing improvements in the arts of printing and engraving, especially the latter, form quite an epoch in the history of books. The present high degree of perfection to which these have attained, is mainly attributable to the long continued success which has attended the issue of those Pleasure books yclept annuals. This splendid class of pictorial publications have brought into requisition the highest order of talent of the age, and the result has been the present wonderful perfection to which the art has attained. To attempt criticism where all is so excellent, is no easy task, nor does it, indeed, fall within the scope of our present design, we shall merely cite therefore two or three of the numerous successful specimens with which the lover of beautiful books will of course be familiar: such, for instance, as the exquisitely beautiful Book of Gems, the first two volumes of which comprise a centenary of poets, painters and engravers-all presenting a rich galaxy of beauty and artistic excellence which the connoisseur could scarcely hope to see surpassed. A similar meed of praise should be awarded to the elaborately finished and lavish embellishments of Rogers's "Italy" and "Poems," produced at the cost to the author of £20,000. Campbell's Poetical Works in a similar style, and the recent edition of Childe Harold of truly regal beauty might be alluded to.

Before passing we must pay tribute to a forth-coming volume, a specimen of which we have seen and which will unquestionably be pronounced the gem of the season-being as novel in style as it is felicitous in its designs and execution. We refer to the new edition of Moore's Melodies, beautifully illustrated from the designs of the celebrated Maclise, in number about fifty; the feature which is new in this work, is that of the text being also engraved and incorporated with the embellishments: the effect of which is very pleasing.

Now a word about wood-engraving, and cuts. We have not to abate or qualify a single expression of our enthusiastic praise in reference to this department of art.

Knight's pictorial works, especially his elaborate edition of Shakspeare, afford abundant evidence of the high claims of merit which wood-engraving now present. The ideal designs of

« PreviousContinue »