« Prev Books and Libraries Next »

§ 89. Books and Libraries.

Literature: E. Edwards: Libraries and Founders of Libraries, Lond., 1865.—T. Gottlieb: Mittetalt. Bibliotheken, Leip., 1890.—F. A. Gasquet: Notes on Med. Libraries, Lond., 1891.—E. M. Thompson: Hd. book of Gr. and Lat. Palaeography, Lond., 1893. Contains excellent facsimiles of med. MSS., etc.—J. W. CLARK: Libraries in the Med. and Renaiss. Periods, Cambr., 1894.—G. R. Putnam: Books and their Makers, 476–1709, 2 vols. N. Y., 1896 sq. See his elaborate list of books on monastic education, libraries, etc., I. xviii. sqq.—Mirbt: Publizistik in Zeitalter Greg. VII., pp. 96 sqq. and 119 sqq.—*Maitland: The Dark Ages.—*W. Wattenbach: D. Schriftwesen in Mittelalter, 3d ed., Leip., 1896.—Art. Bibliothek in Wetzer-Welte, II. 783 sqq. Transl. and Reprints of Univ. of Pa. II. 3.

Books and schools go together and both are essential to progress of thought in the Church. The mediaeval catalogue of the convent of Muri asserts strongly the close union of the intellectual and religious life. It becomes us, so it ran, always to copy, adorn, improve, and annotate books, because the life of the spiritual man is nothing without books.12031203    Quia vita omnium spiritualium hominum sine libris nihil est, quoted by Wetzer-Welte, II. 792.

Happy was the convent that possessed a few volumes.12041204    Hurter, Innocent III. IV. 179.requent in the Middle Ages; and here they were accessible to the constituency which could read. It was a current saying, first traced to Gottfried, canon of St. Barbe-en-Auge, that a convent without a library is like a fortress without arms.12051205    Claustrum sine armario quasi est castrum sine armamentario. See Maitland, p. 230; Wattenbach, p. 570. early Middle Ages, there were small collections of books at York, Fulda, Monte Cassino, and other monasteries. They were greatly prized, and ecclesiastics made journeys to get them, as did Biscop, abbot of Wearmouth, who made five trips to Italy for that purpose. During the two centuries and more after Gregory VII., the use and the number of books increased; but it remained for the zeal of Petrarch in the fourteenth century to open a new era in the history of libraries. The period of the Renaissance which followed witnessed an unexampled avidity for old manuscripts which the transition of scholars from Constantinople made it possible to satisfy.

To the convents of Western Europe, letters and religion owe a lasting debt, not only for the preservation of books, but for their multiplication. The monks of St. Benedict have the first place as the founders of libraries and guardians of patristic and classical literature. Their Rules required them to do a certain amount of reading each day, and at the beginning of Lent each received a book from the cloistral collection and was expected to read it "straight through." This direction shines as a light down through the history of the monastic institutions, though many a convent probably possessed no books and some of them had little appreciation of their value.

A collection of several hundred books was relatively as large a library as a collection of hundreds of thousands of volumes would be now. Fleury, in the twelfth century, had 238 volumes, St. Riquier 258.12061206    Clark, p. 25.estruction of the English monastery of Croyland in the eleventh century involved the loss of "300 original and more than 400 smaller volumes." The conventual buildings were destroyed in the night by fire. The interesting letter of the abbot Ingulph, relating the calamity, speaks of beautiful manuscripts, illuminated with pictures and adorned with crosses of gold. The good abbot, after describing the loss of the chapel, infirmary, and other parts of the buildings, went on to say "our cellar and the very casks, full of beer, were also burnt up."12071207    Maitland, pp. 286 sqq.

Catalogues are preserved from this period. Edwards gives a list of thirty-three mediaeval catalogues of English libraries.12081208    Edwards, pp. 448-454.n,"12091209    Hauck, IV. 448.he writers of the Carlovingian age, Bede and Alcuin. The catalogue of Corbie, Picardy, dating from the twelfth century, gives 39 copies of Augustine, 16 of Jerome, 13 of Bede, 15 of Boethius, and 5 of Cicero, as well as copies of Terence, Livy, Pliny, and Seneca.12101210    Edwards, p. 52. work, the Meditations of Anselm. The Prüfening library had a copy each, of Anselm, Hugo, Abaelard, the Lombard and Gratian. Classical authors were common. The library at Durham had copies of Cicero, Terence, Virgil, Horace, Claudian, Statius, Sallust, Suetonius, Quintilian and other Latin authors.12111211    Edwards, p. 56. See also Sandys, pp. 500 sqq.

Gifts of books were regarded as worthy benefactions. Peter, bishop of Paris, before starting out for the Holy Land, gave 300 works over to the care of the convent of St. Victor.12121212    Hurter, III. 314. A list of books is preserved which the archbishop of far Northern Lund gave to the cathedral.12131213    Stevenson, Life of Gross., p. 86.12141214    Ep., 44; Migne, 139. 214.dmiring chronicler treats it as a claim to fame, that Theodoric secured, for his abbey of St. Evroult, the books of the Old and New Testaments and an entire set of Gregory the Great. Others followed his good example and secured the works of Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, and other Fathers.12151215    Order. Vit., III. 3.12161216    Libri maxime Augustiniani, ut nosti, apud nos auro pretiosiores. sunt.

Libraries were sometimes given with the stipulation that the books should be loaned out. This was the case with Jacob of Carnarius who, in 1234, gave his library to the Dominicans of Vercelli on this condition. In 1270, Stephen, at one time archdeacon of Canterbury, donated his books to Notre Dame, Paris, on condition of their being loaned to poor theological students, and Peter of Joigny, 1297, bequeathed his collection directly to poor students.12171217    Chart. Univ. Paris., I. 493. Translated in the Univ. of Penn. Translations and Reprints.nce.

Manuscripts were sometimes offered at the altar or at the shrines of saints as offerings for the healing of the giver’s soul,—pro remedio animae suae.12181218    Maitland, pp. 98 sq., 238 sqq. William of Longchamps, bishop of Ely, 1190, pawned 13 copies of the Gospels for the redemption of Richard I.12191219    Maitland, p. 250.12201220    Wattenbach, p. 546.ere and there, a tax was levied for the benefit of a library, as in the case of Evesham, 1215, and the synod of Lyons the same year adopted a like expedient.12211221    Wattenbach, p. 582.f which were to be used for the needs of the library.12221222    Putnam, I. 159.

Of all books, copies of the Scriptures were held in highest esteem. They were often bound in covers, inlaid with gold and silver, and sometimes ornamented with precious stones and richly illuminated. Paul, abbot of St. Albans, placed in the abbey-library eight Psalters and two Gospels highly ornamented with gold and gems, as well as a copy of the Collects, a copy of the Epistles, and 28 other books. In 1295, the dean of St. Paul’s found in the cathedral 12 copies of the Gospels adorned with jewels, and a thirteenth copy kept in a case with relics.12231223    Maitland, p. 242.

Books were kept first in armaria or horizontal presses and the librarian was called armarius. About the fourteenth century shelves were introduced along the cloistral walls.12241224    Clark, p. 24, and Gasquet, pp. 20-28.12251225    Such chained books were, in the Sorbonne from 1289 on "for the common use of the brethren"—in communem sociorum utilitatem.ry, chained to their places, for the use of the fellows. This custom was still in vogue in England in the sixteenth century, when copies of the English Bible were kept chained to the reading desks in the churches. The old Benedictine rule was still enforced for the distribution of books. Lanfranc’s statutes for the English Benedictines, 1070, required the return of the books by the monks the first Sunday in Lent. They were then to be laid out on the floor and distributed for the ensuing year, one book to each monk. Any one failing to read his book was obliged to fall on his face and confess his neglect.12261226    Putnam, I. 152. The statutes of Oriel College, Oxford, 1329, ordered the books taken out once a year, Nov. 2, each person, according to age, taking out a single volume. Clark, p. 34.12271227    Ep., 88; Migne, 182. 219. See Coulton’s Salimbene, p. 167. and the synod of Paris, 1212, insisted that convents should not recede from this good practice which it pronounced a work of mercy.

The book-room, or scriptorium, was part of a complete conventual building. It served as a place of writing and of transcribing manuscripts. Sometimes a monk had his own little book-room, called scriptoriolum, or kept books in his cell. Nicholas, Bernard’s secretary, described his little room as next to the infirmary and "filled with choice and divine books."12281228    Ep., 35; Migne, 196. 1626. successor to John of Salisbury in the see of Chartres, spoke of his scriptoriolum as filled with books, where he could be free from the vanity and vexations of the world. The place had been assigned to him, he said, for reading, writing, meditating, praying, and adoring the Lord.12291229    Maitland, p. 442.

Abbots themselves joined to their other labors the work of the copyist. So it was with Theodoric of St. Evroult, 1050–1057, a skilful scribe who, according to Ordericus Vitalis,12301230    III. 3; Engl. trans., I. 406. Ordericus frequently refers to copyists. III. 5, IV. 19, etc. skill," in copies of the Collects, Graduale, and Antiphonary which were deposited in the convent collection. Theodoric also secured the services of others to copy commentaries and the heptateuch.12311231    The heptateuch included the first seven books of the Old Testament. Copying was made a special feature of St. Albans by the abbot Paul, 1077–1093. He secured money for a scriptorium and brought scribes from a distance. In the latter part of the eleventh century, Hirschau in Southern Germany was noted for this kind of activity, through its abbot William, who saw that twelve good copyists were trained for his house. These men made many copies and William is said to have presented books to every convent he reformed. The scribe, Othlo of Emmeram, of the same century, has left us a list of the books he gave away.12321232    See his own description, Maitland, pp. 454 sqq.

Diligence as a copyist sometimes stood monks in good stead when they came to face the realities of the future world. Of such an one, Ordericus makes mention.12331233    III. 3; Engl. trans., I. 407. of Scripture, but he was a man of many moral offences. When the evil spirits laid claim to his soul, the angels produced the holy volume which the monk had transcribed. Every letter was counted and balanced against a sin. At last, it was found the letters had a majority of one. The devils tried to scrape up another sin, but in vain, and the Lord permitted the fortunate monk to return to the body and do proper penance.

Copying was sometimes prescribed as a punishment for cloistral offences and the Carthusian rules withheld wine from the monk who was able to copy and would not ply his art. It seems at times to have been a most confining and wearisome task. Lewis, a monk of Wessobrunn in Bavaria, had some of this feeling when he appended to a transcription of Jerome’s commentary on Daniel the following words and claimed the prayers of the reader: —

Dum scripsit friguit, et quod cum lumine solis

Scribere non potuit, perfecit lumine noctis.

"When he wrote he froze, and what he could not complete by the light of day, he finished by the light of the night."12341234    Maitland, p. 444.

The price of books continued to be high till the invention of the printing-press. A count of Anjou paid for a copy of the homilies of Haimo of Halberstadt 200 sheep and a large quantity of provisions. In 1274, a finely written Bible sold for 50 marks, about $l70, when labor cost a shilling a day. Maitland computed that it would take a monk ten months to transcribe the Bible and that the labor would be worth to-day £60 or £70.12351235    p. 232. The prices, however, were often greatly reduced, and Richard of Bury, in his Philobiblion, says that he purchased from the convent of St. Albans 32 volumes for £50.

The copyists, like the builders of the cathedrals, usually concealed their names. It was a custom with them to close their task by appending some pious or, at times, some witty sentiment. A line, frequently appended, ran, finito libro, sit laus et gloria Christo. "The book is finished. Praise and honor be to Christ." The joy authors often feel at the completion of their writings was felt by a scribe when he wrote, libro completo, saltat scriptor pede leto. "Now the book is done, the scribe dances with glad foot." Another piously expressed his feelings when he wrote, dentur pro penna scriptori caelica regna. "May the heavenly reward be given to the scribe for his work with the quill."12361236    Wattenbach., pp. 471-534, gives a number of subscriptions.

The pleasures of converse with books in the quiet of a library are thus attractively set forth by a mediaeval theologian, left alone in the convent when the other monks had gone off for recreation: —

"Our house is empty save only myself and the rats and mice who nibble in solitary hunger. There is no voice in the hall, no footstep on the stairs .... I sit here with no company but books, dipping into dainty honeycombs of literature. All minds in the world’s literature are concentrated in a library. This is the pinnacle of the temple from which we may see all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. I keep Egypt and the Holy Land in the closet next to the window. On the side of them are Athens and the empire of Rome. Never was such an army mustered as I have here. No general ever had such soldiers as I have. No kingdom ever had half such illustrious subjects as mine or subjects half as well disciplined. I can put my haughtiest subjects up or down as it pleases me .... I call Plato and he answers "here,"—a noble and sturdy soldier; "Aristotle," "here,"—a host in himself. Demosthenes, Pliny, Cicero, Tacitus, Caesar. "Here," they answer, and they smile at me in their immortality of youth. Modest all, they never speak unless spoken to. Bountiful all, they never refuse to answer. And they are all at peace together .... All the world is around me, all that ever stirred human hearts or fired the imagination is harmlessly here. My library cases are the avenues of time. Ages have wrought, generations grown, and all their blossoms are cast down here. It is the garden of immortal fruits without dog or dragon."

« Prev Books and Libraries Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection