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many others of less note-all contained extensive libraries. Though in the absurd systems of Paganism there was much of superstition mingled with this practice of connecting libraries with temples, yet the idea in which it orignated—that of making literature tributary to Religion--was both beautiful and sublime.
From the days of Augustus to the fall of the Roman empire in the west, we read of many Roman Emperors munificently erecting libraries. Imperial Rome was full of them. They were found not only near the temples and in the imperial palaces, but also in the stately mansions of many of the Roman nobility. Cicero, and many of the other literati of the Augustain age, had their own private libraries richly furnished. The rich and luxurious Lucullus had one in his splendid palace, which, in the number and beauty of its volumes, seems to have surpassed any private collection of ancient Rome. His books were bound in the most costly style, and the apartments of his palace in which they were kept were fitted up in a style of regal magnificence. Paintings and statues by the first masters decorated those princely halls sacred to learning, while perennial fountains played there, to cool the atmosphere, and to refresh those who resorted thither to drink at the Pierian fountain. Cicero informs us, that he often passed his hours of leizure in this splendid library. Plutarch praises Lucullus for having thrown it open to all the Roman scholars, and says, that “he was more honourable in the use than in the acquisition of his books."*
The ancient library of Alexandria was founded by the Ptolemies. When Julius Cesar invaded Egypt, a little more than half a century before the Christian era, this ancient library was accidentally destroyed, the fire having communicated to it from the Roman fleet. Cleopatra is said to have been inconsolable for the loss; and to comfort her, the lavish Anthony made her a present of the library which formerly belonged to the kings of Pergamus, numbering about 200,000, volumes. This was a vast collection, when we reflect that all those books were manuscripts, written out by the hand of the copyist.
To account for the manner in which books were so greatly multiplied amongst the ancients, it may be well to remark here, that the labour of copying them was generally assigned to slaves who were specially trained to this duty. When we remember, that many of the ancient Greek and Roman nobles counted their slaves by hundreds and even by thousands, we may readily conceive how they were enabled to accumulate such large collections of books. Besides, volumes did not then, in general, comprise one half the amount of matter they do at present. And withal, it is more than probable, that, when the ancients reckoned their books by hundreds, we now reckon them by tens of thousands. Still it must appear, from the facts just alleged, that the ancient Greeks and Romans had vast collections of books.
• Plutarch's Lives-Lise of Lucullus.
It is a fact, no less undoubted than it is lamentable, that the great body of ancient books has been entirely lost. We are not perhaps at this day in possession of one tenth part of the standard works which were once classical in Greece and Rome. The writings of many of the ancients have disappeared altogether; and many of those which remain are imperfect and fragmentary. We will furnish a few of the more obvious instances of this, which happen to occur to our memory. Out of one hundred and forty books of history, which we know that Livy wrote, only thirty-five books are now extant. Varro, the most learned of the ancient Romans, is known to have written no less than 500 volumes, of which but two have come down to our day. Dionysius Hallicarnassus wrote twenty books of Roman Antiquities, of which but eleven are still extant. Of the forty books of history composed by Polybius, but five now remain : while of the same number composed by Diodorus Siculus, but fiteen are still extant. Who that has not read the charming Lives by Plutarch, has not regretted the entire loss of more than half of that beautiful collection? who has not entertained similar regrets in regard to the writings of Tacitus and Suetonius, not to mention many other classical writers?
It is curious to trace the causes which brought about the destruction of the ancient libraries, and which annihilated with them so many valuable works of classical antiquity. The corroding tooth of time gradually effected the destruction of many of those literary treasures; but old time is not fairly chargeable with all this work of destruction. The rude hand of revolution and of violence is more directly responsible for this incalculable and irreparable mischief. The ancient Roman libraries fell with the Roman empire itself: the same ruthless barbarians compassed the destruction of both. The fierce Northernmen, who overran Europe in the fifth and sixth centuries, destroyed libraries with the pagan temples to which they were attached, and the princely mansions in which they were contained. What cared the steel-clad, and the stell-hearted warrior, of the north, for the appliances of ancient Roman literature? Whal use could he find for those rare and precious volumes ? Perhaps he fancied the cover of the book if it were chased in gold or silver, or bedecked with jewels and pearls: but the work itself was for him a sealed treasure. To possess himself of the casket, he recklessly destroyed its precious contents !
The Saracens and Iconoclasts of the East conspired with the fierce Northmen of the west for the distruction of ancient books. Every one knows the famous order of the Caliph Omar in regard to the splendid library of Alexandria. Every one has read of the manner in which that order was executed; how more than 500,000 volumes were sacrificed to the insatiable Moloch of Mohammedanism; and how the baths of Alexandria were warmed for months with the fuel of those books which contained the accumulated treasures of the past.* This one wanton act of destruction, stimulated by the basest fanaticism,
* This fact, generally related by historians, has been recently questioned by some who cherish a TENDER feeling for Mohammedanism.-Cf. Art. in Encyclop. Americana.
has perhaps wholly deprived the world of hundreds of ancient works of priceless value.
The Iconoclasts of the East, in the eighth century, under pretence of zeal for Religion, destroyed vast collections, not only of valuable paintings and sculptures, but also of books. To furnish one instance out of many which might be alleged, that illiterate tyrant, Leo the Isaurian, ordered 50,000 books to be destroyed in Constantinople, under the specious pretext that they fostered superstition! A popular insurrection completed the destruction of the large collection of books which the early Greek Emperors had accumulated in the imperial city of Constantine.
2. Thus Goth, Vandal, Iconoclast, and Saracen, all conspired for the destruction of ancient literature and learning; and it was not surely their fault, if any vestige of it was suffered to remain.* Can we wonder that, with all these untoward circumstances combined, many works of the ancients should have perished: or should we not rather be surprised that any portion of them should have been preserved? We know of no means by which to account for this preservation, except that the Christian Church, which grew up amid the ruins of the old Roman Empire, undertook the guardianship of what still remained of the old Roman and Greek learning. The church is the only connecting link between ancient and modern literature and civilization. But for her agency-and she was sustained by Divine power, while every thing human was crumbling around her--it is not possible to conceive, how any vestige of classical learning could have survived to the present day. Learning was on the eve of perishing from the face of the earth; civilization was about to be swallowed up by one overwhelming deluge of barbarism: ihe church alone survived the universal wreck, and she alone, by her powerful influence, stemmed the rushing torrent, and prevented the torch of learning from being utterly and hopelessly extinguished. She gathered up with eager solicitude the miserable remnant of the books which still remained, carefully copied and multiplied them, added to them her own treasures of ecclesiastical writings, and placed the new Christian libraries, for greater safety, under the protection of her priesthood, and the shadow of her churches.
The christian, thus rose on the ruins of the ancient classical, libraries. The former contained all that was still remaing of the latter, to which it superadded its own peculiar literary treasures. If the middle ages deserved no other credit than that of having carefully preserved the remnant of ancient learning, they would, as a literary epoch, be entitled to the eternal gratitude of mankind. Men of all shades of opinion have at length agreed to award this tardy measure of justice to that much abused period. But for the indefatigable zeal of the Catholic priesthood-of popes, bishops, priests, and monks-in collect
• See an able article on the ancient classical libraries in a number of the New York Review, a few years ago. The writer of this article, however, with much learning, has not a little flippant assertion tainted with bigotry.
ing, preserving and transcribing books during the middle ages, what would have become of the ancient classics ? The great Protestant philosopher Leibnitz tells us, that they would have perished altogether; and many other enlightened Protestants, such as Burke, Ellendorf, and Bishop Tanner, pronounce the same opinion. And if they had been silent, all history would have still proclaimed this great leading fact.
Under the auspices of the Church, the Christian libraries of the middle ages sprang into existence, and were cherished in their growth. The popes were pre-eminent in this zeal for the preservation of learning. And it is a remarkable fact, that the Vatican library, founded by pope Hilary in the sixth century, continued throughout the middle ages to be the most famous of all the Christian libraries; and that it is, even at this day, the one precisely which is the most rich in old manuscripts. The literary antiquary, who wishes to search for old books, must still make a pilgrimage to the Vatican, in despite of its dreaded thunders. But the other day, a Roman Cardinal, Mai, drew forth from the shelves of this time-honoured collection the famous work of Cicero de Republica; and this is but one of many works which this indefatigable pioneer of learning has rescued from the tomb of ages !*
Next to the popes comes the Catholic bishops of the middle ages, in zeal for the establishments of libraries. Libraries were founded under the shadow of all the principle Cathedral Churches; and many of them subsist to this day. The zeal of many of the bishops in collecting books is almost incredible. They made long and repeated journeys over Europe ; they employed large numbers of copyists; they entered into diplomatic negociations for this purpose. Many prized their books so highly as to have their favourite authors carried along with them whithersoever they went. Wherever an episcopal See of any note was established, there was also founded a library and a school.
Next to the Cathedral, came the monastic libraries. The monks did more, perhaps, than any other class of men to multiply books, and to establish libraries throughout Christendom. The monasteries were Oases smiling in the midst of the desert—and they were generally located in some retired and desert place, which they literally made to simile with verdure. The indefatigable labour of the monks in collecting and copying books almost surpasses belief. Their lives were often entirely devoted to this darling occupation. In it they patiently laboured, day after day, and year after year; and when one generation had been spent in this labour, the next took up the task where it had been left off; and thus the work of transcription, and of the consequent accumulation of books, went on from century to century, without any intermission. Each monastic order, and, in fact each monastery, was a perpetual
He has published some twenty rolumns quarto of new works, hitherto inedited, and almost entirely unknown.
and undying body, the members of which laboured in concert as one man, under a common rule and a common superior. The advantages to literary efforts of this unity and permanency are obvious; and there is no other way of accounting for the otherwise incredible results of monastic labour and enterprise. Difficulties which would appal the stoutest modern heart were by them set at nought; they removed mountains with the vigour and alacrity of their faith, which was the absorbing principle of their actions.
The result of all this patient labour was the accumulation of extensive libraries in all the principal monasteries; and these were scattered over the whole face of Christendom. The books which constituted these collections were, almost all of them, copied out by the monks. They were the fruits of their patient industry: and as such, they were the more dearly prized. If a horde of barbarians dared disturb the sanctuary solitude of the monastery, the first thing thought of was to save the books of the library; and often, while the enemy was entering the monastic abode, the monks might be seen climbing the neighbouring mountain heights, heavily laden with the books they had rescued from destruction.
We cannot pause, to give a detailed account of the monastic libraries of the middle ages. Yet we must mention a few, as specimens of the rest. The monastic library of Novalese in Piedmont reckoned more than 6000 volumes ; that of St. Benedict Sur Loire in France, counted 5000; while that of Spanheim, in Germany, had upwards of 2000 volumes. These numbers will not appear so small, when we bear in mind that they were all written out by hand, that many of them were quarto and folio volumes of the largest size. They comprised works of all ages and countries, and on all subjects; as appears from the catalogues of many of them still extant.*
From the very rapid sketch we have given of the Christian libraries of the middle ages, we gather the following leading facts : 1st, that those libraries gathered together and preserved the remnant of the ancient classical libraries, which otherwise must have entirely perished : 2nd, that to the Catholic Church, with her popes and bishops, are we mainly indebted for this wonderful preservation of such of the ancient classics as are still extant: and 3rd, that the patient labour and systematic industry of the monks were also mainly instrumental in bringing about this good result. No impartial man, who has even glanced at the literary history of the middle ages, will be inclined to question the accuracy of any of these conclusions.
3. But we must hasten on to the third great epoch of bibliographical history-that of modern libraries since the Art of Printing. The first feature which strikes us in this epoch, is a painful one to every lover of learning. The modern libraries have been erected on the ruins of the christian libraries of the middle ages, especially in those countries where the reformation, so called,
As, for example, that of the library of the York, written in Latin verse by Alcuin.