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POVERTY OF THE LEARNED.
eyes like eastern beauties peering (1) through their jealousies!
Forlunale are those who only consider a book for the utility and pleasure they may derive from its possession! Those students who, though they know much, still thirst to know more, may require this vast sea of books; yet in that sea they may suffer many shipwrecks. Great collections of books are subject to certain accidents besides the damp, the worms and the rats; one not less common, is that of the borrowers, not to say a word of the purloiners (2).
POVERTY OF THE LEARNED.
The great Tasso, author of Jerusalem Delivered, was reduced to such a dilemma (3), that he was obliged to borrow a crown from a friend to subsist through the week (4). He alludes to his distress in a pretty sonnel, which he addresses to his cat, entreating her to assist him during the night with the lustre of her eyes, “ Non avendo candele per iscrivere i suoi versi ! ” Having no candle to see to write his verses !
(1) To peer, regarder furtivement, (2) Purloiners, qui prennent sans en demander la permission.
(3) Dilemma , embarras.
DESTRUCTION OF BOOKS. The Caliph Omar proclaimed throughout the kingdom, at the taking (1) of Alexandria, that the Koran contained every thing that was useful to believe, and to know : he therefore ordered all the books in the Alexandrian library to be distributed to the masters of the baths amounting to 4000, to be used in heating their stoves (2) during a period of six months.
PERSEVERANCE AND MISFORTUNE.
About the year 1700, Hudde, an opulent burgomaster of Middleburgh, animated solely by literary curiosity, devoted himself and his fortune to the acquisition of knowledge. He went to China to instruct himself in the language, and in whatever was remarkable in this singular people. He acquired the skill of a mandarine in that difficult language, nor did the form of his Dutch face undeceive (3) the physiognomists of China. He succeeded (4) to the dignity of mandarine; he travelled through the provinces under this character (5), and returned to Europe with a collection of observations, the cherished labour of thirty years, but lost them all by shipwreck on the coast.
(1) At the taking, à la prise.
(4) To succeed. Quand ce mot est suivi de la préposition to, ou d'un nom ou pronom, il signifie succéder ; autrement on l'emploie dans le sens de réussir.
(5) Under this character, en celte qualité.
LOSS OF A LIBRARY
The great Pinellian library, after the death of its illustrious possessor, was to be conveyed to Naples. It filled three vessels. They were pursued by corsairs, and one of the vessels was taken; but the pirates finding nothing on board but books, threw them all into the sea. Such was the fate of a great portion of this famous library. National libraries have often perished at sea in consequence of conquerors transporting them into their own kingdoms; robbers by wholesale (1).
The tradition of the Devil and Dr. Faustus was derived from the odd (2) circumstance under which the Bibles of the first printer, Fust, appeared to the world. When he had discovered this new art, and printed off (3) a considerable number of copies (4) of the Bible, to imitate those which were commonly sold in MS. (5), he undertook the sale of them at Paris. It was his interest to conceal this discovery, and to pass off (6) his printed copies for MSS. But as he was enabled to sell his Bibles at sixty crowns, while the others scribes (7) demanded
(1) By wholesale , en gros.
five hundred, this raised universal astonishment; and still more when he produced copies as fast as they were wanted, and even lowered (1) his price. Theuniformity of the copies increased the wonder. Informations (2) were given the magistrates against him as a magician; and in searching his lodgings a great number of copies were found. Thered ink (and Fust's red ink is peculiarly brilliant) which embellished his copies was said to be his blood; and it was solemnly adjudged that he was in league with the Devil. Fust was at length obliged , in order to save himself from fire (3), to reveal (4) his art to the Parliament of Paris, who discharged him from all prosecution, in consideration of this useful invention.
A printer's wife in Ger y, while a new edition of the Bible was printing at her house, one night took an opportunity of going into the office, to alter that sentence of subjection (5) to her husband, pronounced against Eve in Genesis, chap. 3, V. 16. She took out the two first letters of the word HERR, and substituted Na in their place, thus altering the sentence from “ and he shall be thy Lord” (Herr), to“ and he shall be thy FOOL” (NARR). It is said that her life paid for this
(1) To lower, baisser.
ORIGIN OF THE MATERIALS FOR WRITING.
intentional erratum; and that some secreted copies of this edition have been bought up (1) at enormous prices.
ORIGIN OF THE MATERIALS FOR WRITING. Before the use of parchment and paper passed to the Romans, they employed the thin peel (2) found between the wood and the bark (3) of trees. This skinny (4) substance they called liber, whence the Latin word liber, a book, and library and librarian, and their derivatives in the European languages; but we of the North derive our word book , from the Danish bog, the beech-tree (8), because that being the most plentiful in Denmark, was used to engrave on. Anciently, instead of folding this bark, parchment, or paper, as we fold ours, they rolled it as they wrote on it; and the Latin name which they gave these rolls, has passed into our languages as well as the others. We say a volume, or volumes, although our books are composed of pages, cut and bound together. The books of the ancients on the shelves of their libraries were rolled up on a pin (6) and placed erect, titled on the outside, in red letters, or rubrics, and appeared like a number of small pillars (7) on the shelves.
(1) Bought up , passé de to buy up, acheter, accaparer.