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thousands upon thousands of bulky volumes, every one of which has been composed of separate types, separately set by the ceaseless finger of man ! And when we consider the vast numbers of new books which annually teem from the press, we may well wonder what another period of 400 years, with the multiplied facilities for printing which we now possess, may be expected to produce. A fine field this for such as delight in curious statistical computations ; and one much more interesting than the frivolous speculation, how long it will take to sow the earth's surface with pins, or when the corn-fields are likely to produce a Cadmean crop of leaden pellets, from the numbers of shot annually dispersed over them by sportsmen : both which calculations are said to have engrossed the attention of persons troubled with a superfluous knowledge of arithmetic, and a corresponding deficiency of intellectual employment.
But neither the bright snowy hue, nor the clear sharp type, nor the graceful regularity of the typography, have any charms for your genuine bibliomaniac. He considers all the recent productions of the press as pretenders, usurpers, ephemerals. No book of less than 300 years' standing in the world finds a place among his select treasures.
He triumphantly compares the thickness and durability of the brown and sombre paper of 1470, with the filmy and glossy texture of 1830 ; and asks whether that will ever survive to so healthy and stout an old age? The black and glittering Aldine ink -- the preparation of which is an art now lost—he disparagingly contrasts with the jaundiced and evanescent appearance of a page of 1750, looking for all the world as if it were sick of its existence, and anxiously expecting the aid of friendly moths to commence their welcome havoc.
The finest private collection in the world of old classical volumes, is unquestionably that of the Earl Spencer. The late lamented Bishop of Lichfield possessed an exceedingly valuable library of the same description, and is said to have made the best conquisition of Alduses in existence. These unrivalled stores are soon to part company again, and be let once more loose upon the world. We well remember being shewn a small cabinet of the Bishop's, which contained books valued by him at £1000. We trust many will be found to appreciate their value.
The various College libraries in our University are, as might be expected, more or less richly stocked with precious volumes of antiquity. In the very rare editions of the classics, we have little hesitation in pronouncing St. John's College library to surpass all the rest. Its treasures are, it is to be feared, very little known or regarded : an observation which by no means exclusively applies to that College, for we cannot help remarking, with a feeling almost approaching indignation, the utter carelessness with which MŠS. of exceeding value, and books of the greatest scarcity and beauty, are (or very lately were), in several of our libraries which we could name, almost rotting in damp, dirt, and neglect. We are surprised, too, at the general want of interest displayed by the librarians in the treasures committed to their charge -a charge which none but a bibliographer is competent to undertake. But the interesting study of bibliography is one of those which have yet to find a friendly reception in our University; and we hope ere long to see a flourishing society established therein, under the auspices of some Hartshorne, or Dibdin, or Horne, for the Prevention of Cruelty to, and Restoration of, old Books,--the respectability of which society may effectually rebut the charges of the ignorant, and entail upon its members the more courteous and deserved title of connoisseurs, instead of maniacs.
But to leave such unworthy frivolities, for a few concluding words of a graver tone. Is there no truth to be learned, no moral to be inculcated, by a visit to one of those vast repositories of literature,—the libraries of the land ? Are they mere matter for the curiosity of the bibliomaniac, the researches of the scholar, or the peculations of the plagiarist? Are no better emotions than mere wonder and interest awakened in the mind by contemplating the collective product of the learning and intellect of all ages ? Does not an indescribable sense of something like awe pervade the spectator, whenever he enters the almost unsearchable regions, and breathes the hallowed atmosphere, of learning? Does he not painfully feel his own nothingness, when he sees, at one view, all the profound lore to which the mighty throes of giant-minds have given birth, and then passed away in silence, leaving the treasures of unrivalled intellect an available inheritance to posterity for ever? A library is a type and symbol of humanity. As in life, so we there find the great mingled with the small, the costly with the mean, the good with the bad, the popular and esteemed with the neglected and despised. We see some enjoying a transient fame, and then sinking into oblivion. Others, of more sterling worth, but less showy appearance, long outlive their ephemeral neighbours,—nay, will not have their remembrance blotted out for ages upon ages of succeeding years. Some are dismal, some gay; some are proud, some meek; some are foolish, some wise. Again : a library is a living record of departed spirits — a churchyard of imperishable monuments - a concentration of all the wit and dulness, and piety and wickedness, and modesty and presumption, of man - a kaleidoscope, displaying all the vivid hues and varying shapes of genius — a mirror, reflecting the undisguised realities of human feelings and human infirmities, bringing into one view the otherwise invisible stream of intellect which has rolled on through the space of time; and so amalgamating and identifying the past with the present, that we seem to be contemplating but one inseparable and entire entity-MIND.
A humiliating lesson may ambition learn within the same walls ! What is it to be the author-even the celebrated author-of any one of these countless works? Is it for an inch of shelf-room here, that we toil and meditate and labour our lives away? Do we shun the light and airs of heaven, and hide ourselves from our fellow-creatures, that we may be extolled by them after our death, when we can neither know nor enjoy our notoriety ? that a few paltry pages of our own may be added to the hundred thousand volumes already accumulated in this store-house of learning,-pages, alas ! never destined to attain the immortality which we too fondly anticipated, and to secure which we sacrificed all, health, pleasure, riches, society — life itself ? Strange, fatal infatuation. As a grain of sand on the shore, as a drop of water in the sea,--such, 0 vain man, is the produce of thy toil ; lost, lost, even in its own insignificance ; but an utter nothing when contrasted with the ocean of literature amid which it claims a place — to be but overwhelmed by it! Go, then ; visit the destined grave of thy dreary labours ;--think of the great spirits with whom thou art claiming communion ;-feel thine own nothingness and be wise !
"Ήφαισετος, "Ιδης λαμπρον εκπέμπων σέλας.
It started forth from Ida's peak, that beacon's ruddy glow,
pyre stood built on Athos, -and from Athos next went forth
For they swerved not from their service, but heaped the faggots high,
ALEXANDER ON THE SHORES OF THE INDIAN OCEAN.
Unus Pellæo juveni non sufficit orbis :
To Ocean's shores the warrior came,
Was bounded by a world ;-
Should never be unfurld !
In glitt'ring panoply,
Nor heard the battle's cry;
strange, dark phantom, wildly dream'de
A demon, that could joy
To breathe but to destroy !
Brought ruin like a flood;
And left its print in blood.
Tho' strange a curse to hear !
To stay his mad career !
Scorn'd, pitied by the good!
Steep'd, as were thine, in blood.
'Tis not-as then—for fame ;
Of thy bad deeds and name,
Stoop'd from his azure throne: