Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

lized the typographical annals of Elizabeth's reign; and even those who are accustomed to the productions of ancient artists, may probably receive some gratification in observing the spirit and truth with which they are executed. How far some of them may be copies of foreign productions, has been slightly questioned in the preceding note: that their intrinsic merit, both in design and engraving, is sufficient to put a number of modern performances to the blush, must be admitted by the most careless observer. At the same time, it must be allowed, that the talents of many eminent living artists, in this department of engraving, have not yet been fairly put to the test; otherwise we might have seen a portable edition of the Bible, which would have equalled, in graphic illustrations, the beauty of the cuts executed by Bernard.” (p. xvii.-xviii. vol. i.)

The fac-similes which follow these remarks are admirably executed. It cannot be denied, that the art of engraving on wood has of late years attained a degree of perfection equal to the efforts in that kind at any former period : what is technically called cross-hitching, was never better executed than in some cuts contained in Mr. Singer's work upon card-playing; but the reason why it does not now appear to such great advantage, excepting in these copies from old works, is on account of the defective designs from which modern wood-engravers are required to exe. cute their blocks. Those who compare the two will find, that the principal difference is in the freedom and grace with which the drapery is disposed : in delicacy our engravers even exceed all their predecessors, but the drawings are generally by very inferior artists. The designs for the cuts to many ornamented books printed at Basle, were the production of no less a pencil than that of Holbein. We cannot omit the following note upon the importance of a general history of printing :

« A complete General History of Printing is a great desideratum. In this country we have nothing that deserves the name of it. He who shall undertake this arduous and instructive task, will do. well to read the treatises of his predecessors; to compare their accounts of books with the books themselves ; to lop away their tedious digressions; and to substitute, in many instances, something like reason and fact for chimera and fiction. A free admission into the cabinets of the curious, and an honest use of the privilege granted an inspection, probably, of the chief libraries upon the Continent, and especially of those in the Low Countries, would also be requisite to the success of such an undertaking. The great error, as I humbly submit, in almost all preceding treatises upon the origin and progress of printing, has been the determination of each writer to support, through the most formidable objections, the claims of that country, and of that typographical artist, in whose cause he sat out as the avowed chanıpion. The strong attachment of Junius to Hol. land and Coster, in aid of which he exercised a poetical fancy, has been even exceeded by the enthusiasm (or, as some might call it, obstinacy) of Meerman towards the same objects. When the latter comnienced his inquiries, it is certain that he had no very extensive information upon the subject. Dr. Ducarel threw out some bints relating to the claims of Holland, which, as Meerman was a native of that country, he seized with avidity, and resolved to expand and consolidate them into a systematic history. Accordingly, after publishing a small octavo volume as a specimen of his large work, he appeared before the public, with his portrait, in his Origines T. pographicæ, in two quarto volumes, along with a fictitious head of his beloved Coster, beautifully engraved by Houbraken. Meerman's is a learned and valuable work, and is in the hands of every bibliographer. The author had himself a fine library, and was exceedingly kind and liberal in giving the curious permission to see it. But though it be absolutely necessary to possess bis performance, yet it is not free from gross errors; which have been attacked perhaps with too much severity, by the acute and experienced Heinecken. This latter was a German, and a like patriotic ardour induced him to give the palm of having discovered the art of printing to the cities of Mentz and Strasburg. Heinecken, as now seems to be allowed, has paid too Jittle attention to the antiquity of the claims of Haarlem, and Meerman ipfinitely too much : thus, although both sat out with professing to adhere to truth, both have described her not as she really was, but as they had conceived or wished her to be.” (p. xxxi. vol. i.)

This great work could scarcely be accomplished with any degree of perfection by one man, more especially if he proceeded upon the extended plan of Mr. Dibdin, who will occupy six quarto volumes on the Origin and Progress of Typography in Great Britain and Ireland, and who allows an interval of four years between each volume. From the life of Caxton we make the following quotation :

“The particular spot where Caxton at first exercised his business, or the place where his press was fixed, cannot now be exactly known. Bagford says, that'he erected his office in some of the side chapels of the Abbey, supposed by some of our historians to be the Ambry, Eleemosynary.' He quotes Newport's Repertorium;* wbich autho.

• The passage is as follows; both in Stow and Newcourt (Repertorium, vol. i. 711.)-“ St. Ann's, in the parish of St. Margaret. This was an old chapel, over against which the Lady Margaret, mother to King Henry VII. erected an alms-house for poor women, which is now (in Stow's time) turned into lodgings for the singing men of the College, The place wherein this chapel and alms-house stood, was called Eleemosinwy, or Almory, now corruptly the Armbry, for that the alms of the abby were there distributed to the

rity is, in this particular, only a transcript from Stow. Whoever authorised Caxton (says Oldys), it is certain that he did there, at the entrance of the Abbey, exercise the art, from whence a printingroom is to this day called a Chapel.' In regard to the information to be gleaned from Caxton's own colophons, we find that the edition of The Dictes and Sayinges of the Philosophers' (the first book in wbich the specification of the place where it was printed occurs), mentions • Westminster generally; that the Chronicles of 1480 first notice his printing at the ‘Abbey;' and that the Romance of Arthur, printed in 1485, is the last book wbich mentions both the one and the other in the same colophon. The greater number of the works, printed by him, specify only the date of their execution. According to Bagford, Caxton's office was afterwards removed into King Street: but whereabouts, or what sign, is not known. He might have removed his office (continues Bagford) without breach of friendship with the abbot, for that printing being much admired, all people of curiosity would be thronging into the Abbey for to see this new-invented art of printing ; so that it became at last very troublesome, not only to Caxton's servants, in the hindrance of their work, but a further cause was, the monks were disturbed at their devotion by the people coming in and out in such crouds.'—This reasoning, it must be confessed, is sufficiently ridiculous; as if the ardor of curiosity would not have equally driven the people in crouds' to another spot- not connected with the offices of religion—and where the absence of ecclesiastical respect or discipline would rather have increased their number, and encouraged their intrusion !

“ It is most probable, that Caxton, after the manner observed in other monasteries, erected his press near one of the chapels attached to the aisles of the Abbey; and his Printing Office might have superseded the use of what was called the Scriptorium of the same. No remains of this once interesting place can now be ascertained: indeed, there is a strong presumption that it was pulled down in making alterations for the building of Henry VII's chapel; for if Henry made no scruple to demolish · The Chapel of the Virgin,' in order to carry into effect his own plans for erecting the magnificent one which goes by his own name, the Office of Printer stood little chance of escaping a similar fate!" (p. xcix-cii. vol. i.)

This life is concluded by Mr. Dibdin in the following rhapsodical strain, perhaps not very well suited to the gravity and sobriety of his task. **" That our typographer met death with placidity and resignation there is every reason, from tbe testimony of his own pious ejacula.

poor; and therein, Islip (Milling), Abbot of Westminster, erected the first press of book printing that ever was in England, about the year of Christ 1471, where William Caxton, citizen and mercer of London, who first brought it into England, practised it."

tions, but more from the evidence of a usefully-spent life, to believe. If his funeral was not emblazoned by the pomp of heraldry,' and the great ones of rank' were not discoverable among his pallbearers; yet Caxton descended into his grave in full assurance of a MONUMENT, which, like the art that he bad practised, would bid defiance to decay. Accept, O VENERABLE and VIRTUOUS SHADE! this tribute of unfeigned respect to thy memory! Thou shalt be numbered hereafter, not with the witty, the vain, or the profligate

the Nashes, Greens, and Rochesters of the day!—but with the wise, the sober, and the good; with those who have unceasingly strove to meliorate the condition of mankind. (p. cxi.-cxiv. vol. i.)

The rest of the volume is made up of long notices of 64 works printed by Caxton, in the accumulation of which, and the particulars regarding them, the editor has bestowed great labour, with proportionate success. Passages from this part of the work, or from the unavoidably scanty accounts of other printers and their labours, could afford but little information to our readers, although, taken as a whole, it is important and not uninteresting.

We have before observed upon the decrease of the embellishments in the third volume of these Typographical Antiquities; of course not many of the scarce originals can have come under our eye, or that of any single individual who has not had Mr. Dibdin's object before him ; but we have sometimes found, that by the re-engraving the figures are transposed; an instance of this error occurs in giving a fac-simile of the title-page of Sir Thomas More's works, 1557. In the third volume we have noticed, that the editor has several times been contented with hearsay information regarding a work, when he might have consulted it with his own eyes, without any great additional trouble: we refer particularly to pages 156 and 589, and we might multiply them without much difficulty. This is an indication of a little carelessness as the work proceeds, and as Mr. Dibdin grows tired of it; which will not be very pleasing to his subscribers, who have not yet urged him to inconvenient speed.

Considering the immense number of volumes to which allusion is made, it cannot be wondered that the editor should not have been able to consult all: the titles and contents of some he has taken on the authority of Ames and Herbert, and others are entirely omitted, or only binted at in a note, as a work in existence. Among these, is a small 18mo, volume, in our possession, under the following title: “ The lyfe of prestes. This present treatyse concernyage the state and lyfe of Chanons, prestes, clerkes, and minystres of the church, was fyrst cõpyled in Latyne by the reuerend and deuoute father Dyonisius, some tyme one of the Charter-house in Ruremond, and taken and exemplifyed with greate diligence out of an originall copy, ye which he wrote with his owne hande, and nowe againe beynge dili. gently corrected, is trāslated into the Englyshe tonge vnto the honour of god, and for the vtilite and soule helth of Clerkes & other studentes of the same."- It proceeds as far as sig. L.v., and is without date : at the end is this colophon: “ Imprentyd at London in the Fletestreete, by me Robert Redman: Cum priuilegio.

Mr. Dibdin also sometimes mentions as rare and valuable, works that are neither the one nor the other: thus he states that Thomas Wilson's “ Arte of Rhetorique," printed by Grafton in 1553, is in Mr. Heber's collection, as if only to be found in the most stupendous library of that great Bibliomaniac: we have ourselves Ames's copy, with his own sig. nature and arms, to which Kingston's edition of Wilson's « Rule of Reason” is annexed, and for the whole we only gave a guinea.

ART. V.--The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, a

Cornish Man: taken from his own mouth, in his Passage to England from off Cape Horn, in America, in the Ship Hector. By R. S., a Passenger in the Hector. London, T. and J. Allman; Edinburg, John Fairbairn; 2 vols,

12mo. new edit. 1816. To some of our readers, we are persuaded that, not only the title, but the body of this book, will be new; and others who have heard of it, have derived their knowledge merely from the notes to Mr. Southey's very striking poem, “ The Curse of Kehama,” where he admits that the Glendoveer, the description and actions of whom form the most delights ful part of his production, is borrowed from “ the neglected story of Peter Wilkins, a work of great genius;" and he subjoins, “ whoever the author was, his winged people are the most beautiful creatures of imagination that ever were devised.” The addition of the Ship of Heaven, so delicately described in the 7th canto, is, however, the invention of Mr. Southey.

Probably the eulogy above quoted (whicb, however, is not referred to in the new edition) led to the republication of this very original and romantic novel. We do not exactly

« ElőzőTovább »