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The elegant and ingenious author, from whom we have taken our motto, has made much research concerning the nature and origin of Albums. The information he gives us shews how great are their antiquity and dignity; and as we, of course, are rather chary on these points, we shall draw from the stores of his erudition to give our readers proper ideas on the subject.
In the infancy of the art of Albuming, “the virgin page," destined to receive the contributions of all comers, instead of being bound in morocco, edged with gold, and secured with an ornamented lock, was no more than the surface of the wall of a frequented place, on which those who thought they had wit, and were fond of shewing it, gave vent to their cacoethes scribendi. This, the rude origin of all Albums, is of very ancient date; so much so, indeed, that the Antiquaries tell us, it gave rise to the work of Hippocrates, which was but a medical Album. The sick, who thronged to the temple of Esculapius, used to write on the walls their maladies, and the means by which they had been cured ; these inscriptions were collected by Hippocrates, who from them formed his book, which may thus be considered the
VOL. I. Part I.
earliest Album on record. This practice of writing on walls also obtained among the Romans; for in the ruins of Herculaneum is a guard-house, the walls of which are covered with this sort of inscriptions. The traces which remained were, unfortunately, too imperfect to permit much to be taken down from them, but they were still amply sufficient to shew what had been their cause. We can conceive few things more interesting than the transcript of these writings would have been. The discovery of Herculaneum has shewn us more of the interior economy of Roman life than any author who has come down to us: and it is natural it should be so; for authors would scarcely write of what to them must have been vulgar or common-place. But in the scribblings of the soldiers on the walls of their guardhouse, would, probably, have been traced some of the passing topics of the moment: or, at all events, the general spirit and manners of the Roman soldiery of that period. These things give a freshness and reality to the times they tell of, which will scarcely permit us to believe that so many ages have since passed ; though it is that very lapse of time which gives interest and dignity to what in themselves were, probably, but the overflowings of indecency and coarseness.
In more modern days, the invention of glass has, in some degree, superseded the custom of which we have been speaking; for ambitious spirits reflect, that writing on the window, instead of on the wall, not only proves the possession of a diamond, but prevents the erasure of their wit, unless it be attended with the destruction of the glass itself on which it is inscribed.
To this succeeded the custom of travellers leaving traces of their having been on spots to which some strong interest is attached, or at which there is difficulty or