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may be fairly expected I should declare the cause to which I attribute this sad, and much to be deplored confusion, and to explain how it has, in my judgment been brought about.
To that inquiry I unhesitatingly answer, the "St. Christopher" called "of 1423"-that stumbling block upon which so many literary reputations are destined to be sacrificed-that "Will o' the wisp" which has enticed so much talent astray, and created so many credulous victims. Let us, however, hope that any further immolations on the altar of "St. Christopher may become unnecessary, by all future writers on "Early Engraving and Printing" (with a wholesome dread of their predecessors' errors) prominently exposing Heinecken's folly, as a beacon of warning to be hereafter carefully avoided, as well as by recommending that the admiration of the "St. Christopher" should be limited to the talent displayed in the engraving itself; which, for reasons I explained in 1864 at the Archæological Institute, I most firmly believe to be the work of Albrecht Dürer.
The mention of that illustrious name reminds me of the immediate cause which has led to these observations, viz. that, in the course of my remarks upon the painted windows in Fairford church, I ventured to declare that the same hand which painted the windows, produced the "Block Book" commonly known under the misnomer of the Biblia Pauperum, in which statement I have since been point-blank contradicted. If, therefore, I here expressly allude to the subject, it is for the purpose of repeating that statement; and of adding that, if any value whatever be attached to reason, common sense, and logical deduction, I intend to make good my declaration-all the dated or undated block or other books invoked against me non obstante. Although, therefore, my observations will in general apply to the whole series and range of "Block Books," my remarks will, for the reason I have stated, to some extent be especially directed to the Biblia Pauperum-which I may, in all fairness, state, I shall venture to insist was executed by the same artist as produced the Canticum and the Speculum-and that such artist was Albrecht Dürer, and none other. The apparent boldness of this declaration may make some smile and others sneer; but, borne up by the strongest belief in the correctness of my theory, I shall persevere to the end, and if fairly beaten, confer upon my conqueror all the glory which attaches to a hard-earned victory.
Prior to entering on the subject of the "Block Books as a "gradus" in the history of printing, it may here be convenient to introduce a few words upon the volume commonly described as the Biblia Pauperum. Meerman, in 1765, timidly proposed this senseless title; but fearing that possibly it might not be accepted, he suggested it
should be called "Figure Typica Veteris atque Antitypica Novi Testamenti, seu Historiæ Jesu Christi in figuris." This hesitation, however, did not suit the bolder Heinecken, who accordingly, in 1771, whilst basking in the seventh heaven of his infatuated pride, and the fulness of his self-constituted tinsel glory as the discoverer of "the oldest known engraving with a date," definitively decreed the volume should be thenceforth known as the Biblia Pauperum: and as anything in the shape of opposition to his fiat was then wholly out of the question, it was obeyed, and, as may reasonably be expected, gave rise to the most ludicrous conclusions, one of which was created by the well-known bibliographer, the Rev. T. H. Horne, who described it as
"A kind of catechism of the Bible, executed for the use of young persons, and of the common people (whence its name, The Bible of the Poor')!! who were thus enabled to acquire, at a low price, a knowledge of some of the events recorded in the Scriptures."
Bearing in mind that Mr. Noel Humphreys, in his History of Early Printing to the Middle of the Sixteenth Century (London, 1867, p. 39), has ventured to declare the Biblia Pauperum to be the work of Lawrence Coster (1410-1420);—and that the book is printed in Latin, with frequent abbreviations of the most difficult character, which it would puzzle good scholars at the present day to explain; and one of two things must be deduced therefrom, either that our estimate of the state of education of the poor throughout Holland and Germany, in the early part of the fifteenth century, has been sadly underrated, or, that which I think will be more readily believed, viz.: that the whole statement is a "nursery tale" from beginning to end, and only suited to the comprehension of that celebrated corps who are popularly imagined to be ready to swallow, without hesitation or difficulty, any 66 canard," however gross or improbable.
Believing that the class of readers who study "N. & Q." renders it wholly unnecessary I should enter upon any explanation as to what are meant by "Block Books," I will simply refer to the singularly limited number of which we have any knowledge, and remark that all were confined to religious subjects.
Among the tests by means of which I purpose to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to the possibility of the "Block Books" having existed, as alleged, in the latter part of the fourteenth century or indeed at any time before printing with moveable types-I invite a careful consideration of the state of education, both here and abroad, during that time.
The end of the fourteenth and the commencement of the fifteenth century was a period of intellectual darkness in England. Schools were very rare, and the system of education as defec
tive as it is well possible to imagine. The young men received such instruction as they could pick up in monasteries, or at the universities then existing. In those times writing, and a smattering of Latin, formed the staple accomplishments in learning; but the general ignorance was so great, that Fitzherbert recommended to gentlemen unable to commit notes to writing the practice of "notching a stick" to assist their memory.
On the Continent education fared no better than here, notwithstanding the universities at Prague, Vienna, Heidelberg, Cologne, Erfurt, Leipzig, Rostock, Louvain, &c.; which, by the way, were far more appropriated to the use of the professors, doctors, &c., than for resident pupils. The immense disadvantage under which learning then laboured may be mainly ascribed to the want of books, whereby every student was compelled to go the pace dictated by the master, or be altogether distanced. Thus, on the pupils being assembled, the preceptor took from the college or university library the MS. required (which in all probability was the only one available for the purpose), and read therefrom such portion as constituted the lesson for the moment. As a matter of course, he who could not write fast enough, and well enough to read it when written, had no chance. Hence the value of Fitzherbert's recommendation, to which I have alluded-"If you cannot write rapidly and clearly, cut your stick," and afterwards get some goodnatured fellow student to help you with the rest. With but one MS. between master and pupils, what greater boon could possibly be imagined, under such circumstances, than a book containing the lesson to be learned, and which each pupil could study in his own manner? It was by the system I have described, that law, physic, theology, classics, and the other branches of learning, were doled out in homoeopathic doses to the rising generation: and yet, if the advocates of the gradations which led to "printing with moveable types" are to be believed, a ready means then existed, under their very eyes, by which all those disadvantages and drawbacks could have been effectually overcome, and their every want supplied without difficulty, with the certainty that the most beneficial results would be instantly attained. I, of course, mean the system of the "Block Books." As Mr. Ottley has told us:
proper size, of course took much longer in the first instance than the writing and drawing by hand of a single page on parchment or paper; but, when once executed, a number of impressions to any extent could be rapidly taken from it."
I will here invite my readers to accompany me for a few moments into that "region of fancy" in which our instructors in early printing and engraving have so delighted to disport themselves, and let us imagine we have turned back the hand of Time and arrived at Heidelberg (any other university will do as well) on the first of April, 1410, and there found a goodly assemblage of students in law, physic, and divinity. Let us enter for a moment the class-room of Dr. Quibble, Professor of Law, and there we shall find him reading aloud from the MS. required for the lesson, and his pupils all busily engaged in writing to his dictation as fast and as legibly as they can, with an occasional notch on a stick to make up for lost time. Let us go thence to the lecture-room of Dr. Bolus, Professor of Physic, and we shall witness a similar scene; but on entering the study of Dr. Cant, Professor of Divinity, we shall find the worthy man quietly engaged on his own occupations (probably correcting one of those "editions of the Biblia or Speculum upon which Heinecken, Sotheby, et hoc genus omne, have since so furiously disputed), and every pupil learning his lesson from a printed paper, an impression taken from a "block." Would you not immediately set down Doctors Quibble and Bolus as a couple of blockheads? and, entre nous, do you not think those who have so zealously endeavoured to make us believe that such a state of things could possibly have existed have dealt with us on that footing, whilst in reality the shoe should have been on the other foot?
Fortunate divinity, have the good things of this life always fallen to your share, and your peas been carefully boiled, whilst your fellowpilgrims have had to plod on in pain and distress at each step? Did you really have the exclusive use of such blessings in 1410 as Biblia Pauperums for the poor, who could not read them-Canticums, Speculums, Donatuses, and all the ready appliances of education? and was there any legisÎative enactment which would have prevented Quibble and Bolus from having the same advantage? Was the system of printing from blocks the exclusive privilege of your order? Many other equally pertinent questions readily present themselves, but it is needless to put them or to ruffle Dr. Cant's amour propre in the slightest degree, and for the simple reason that the worthy doctor had them not, and that both he and his pupils stood exactly on the same footing as his learned brothers Quibble, Bolus, and their classes. Like Joe Miller's Cornish parson and his flock, they all started fair.
Exchanging the land of dreams for that of fact, we find that if the writers upon the History of Printing be correct, there existed in the early part of the fourteenth century a mode of printing readily available to all who desired it, expeditiously produced, and in any quantity, admirably adapted for educational purposes, and above all, capable of being supplied at a mere nominal price as compared with all their existing sources of knowledge. That mode was indeed the very thing of all others able to satisfy a great and growing want of the utmost urgency, and yet what do our teachers tell us was the nature and extent to which such unbounded resources were made available? merely the production of a very limited number of books on purely religious subjects, every one of them being wholly useless to the poor and uneducated. Are we, in the second half of the nineteenth century, to be content with such puerile reasoning, and to be bound by it? Does not our common sense at once convince us that if books could have been produced from engraved blocks prior to 1450, they would have been immediately made available, and multiplied in sufficient quantity to supply every existing want? Would the numerous students at the universities and schools have been content to be without them? Would the monasteries have permitted their library shelves to remain void of such desirable productions? It is most difficult to believe it. The thirst for knowledge was great, the means of readily supplying it at a cheap rate were at hand, and yet we are asked to conclude that professors and students went without, and above all, that publishers and engravers on wood were so blind to their own interest as to limit the supply in half a century to a few books on one subject!
Again, we are seriously assured both by Mr. Ottley and Mr. Noel Humphreys, in the plainest imaginable terms, that printing by moveable types practically extinguished "Block Books"; that is to say, that cheap printing was superseded by dear printing, a maxim of all others the most repugnant to modern ideas, and a gross violation of our common understanding.
Such a theory being incredible to the extent of impossibility, should it any longer be tolerated, or rather ought it not to be henceforth denounced as false and deceptive, and as such be uprooted and destroyed?
In further support of the views I have ventured to express, let me draw attention, by way of contrast, to the consequences which very soon flowed from the invention of printing with moveable types-viz. expensive as it undoubtedly was, every branch of learning eagerly sought to avail itself of the bounteous gift; and before the year 1500 there were published in Latin, German, French, Italian, and Greek, grammars, lexicons, treatises on agricultural, military, and epistolary
subjects, as well as learned works upon history, classics, theology, medicine, law, and the sciences. From this the fact is self-apparent, that no sooner had the means of disseminating knowledge and instruction presented itself than, irrespective of cost, it was instantly appealed to with an earnestness and energy altogether fatal to the supposition that, with the existence of a system of printing by means of engraved blocks for half a century previous to printing with moveable types, the only result should have been a few pictorial representations with accompanying text explana
As the crowning absurdity of all existing systems, our sense of reason is outraged by being asked to believe there was but one stride between the rude class of printing from blocks and the perfection of the art in the Psalmorum Codex, 1457; no intervening steps-nothing in the shape of gradual improvement; but that absolute perfection was attained at once, and a standard of costly production thereby established which altogether swamped the useful productions of the more modest blocks.
If any further argument be needed to complete the extinction of the existing theories, it will be readily found in the incontrovertible and conclusive facts, that no trace of the existence of a block book, can be found in the catalogues of any European library, college, or monastery, prior to 1485; and lastly, that no writer or author of any country ever described or alluded to the existence of such a thing as a "Block Book" until long after that date-two circumstances in themselves so highly important and significant as to effectually give the coup de grace to the absurd pretentions hitherto set up by the advocates of all existing systems, who pretend that "Block Books" preceded printing with moveable types.
Having thus, I submit, justified the charge I made in the outset of my observations-viz. that every known system was, without any exception, needlessly shrouded in mystery, inconsistent with common sense, absolutely antagonistic to truth and reason, and consequently mischievous and delusive-I will in my next communication attempt to fulfil my promise of replacing them with a theory more reasonable, simple, consistent, and truthful than any which have preceded it.
HENRY F. HOLT.
6, King's Road, Clapham Park.
It is a singular circumstance, and one which I believe has not been hitherto noticed, that whilst very numerous editions, to the amount of seventy or eighty or even more, of the Emblems of Andreas Alciatus, or Alciat, were published in the various countries of Europe during the sixteenth and
early part of the seventeenth centuries, in France, Germany, Holland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, &c., not a single edition of them, even to the present day, has ever been printed in our own country; and with the sole exception of a manuscript version of them, made about the time of James I., formerly in the valuable emblematic collection of Joseph B. Yates, Esq. of the Dingle, near Liverpool, and now in that of H. Yates Thompson, Esq., his grandson, and not containing sufficient merit, I fear, to warrant its entire publication, I am not aware of any attempt having been made to translate or print them in England. How is this to be accounted for, when Whitney's Emblems had been printed so early as 1586, and those of Quarles, Peacham, Farley, Wither, and others had appeared in the first half of the seventeenth century? It is difficult to understand why some of the more celebrated of the foreign emblem writers were not reprinted and translated in this country, when such works as Brandt's Ship of Fools, the Dialogues of Creatures Moralized, and above all, the Dance of Death by Hollar, and the Bible cuts of him and Holbein, had become so familiarised to us in our own language. It is surprising, also, considering the great and wide interest excited by this class of literature abroad, the taste and ingenuity displayed in the engraving—the wit and scholarship brought out in the verses-and the general attraction of the subject-that they should not have formed a portion of our own staple literature, and been made the study of our own scholars and literati. Perhaps one cause may be the almost total disuse of the Latin tongue at the present day, in which the great majority of them are written, and its having become so completely a dead language. But since the dispersion of the Marquis of Blandford's library at White Knights in 1819, who had collected a valuable series of emblem books, which formed one of the fasciculi of his privately printed Catalogue, and that of the Rev. Henry White of Lichfield, who had a large collection of these books, which were sold with the entire library to Messrs. Harding, I am not aware of more than two or three persons, at the most, who have devoted their attention to this class of literature, of whom perhaps the chief, distinguished also by his learning, refined taste, and knowledge of foreign languages, is Sir William Stirling Maxwell, Bart., in his extensive and choice library at Keir. Now that the art of wood-engraving has been brought to such great perfection, together with the later discoveries of zincography and photolithography, why should not we have a classical edition of the Emblems of Alciat with the numerous woodcuts? and perhaps an English version of the same, accompanied by a bibliographical account of all the various editions, from the Clarendon Press at Oxford, or some of our other public presses or publishing societies?
The first edition of Alciat was printed at Milan in 1522, but I am not aware of the existence of any copy of this. The earliest copy I possess of this work is a very small one, containing only ninety-eight emblems, printed at Augsburg in 1531, which was given by Dr. Dibdin to the late Sir Francis Freeling, Bart.; and I shall be glad to learn if any other copy of this edition, or one as early, exists in any of our libraries in England, public or private. The next edition to this was, I believe, one of several printed at Paris by Christopher Wachel in 1534, which is also a scarce impression, and was followed by others in 1536, 1542, 1546, &c. The first French edition came also from the same press at Paris in 1536. I am quite aware that some of our English emblem-writers availed themselves of those of Alciat, but that is no sufficient reason why we should not have a complete edition of his work from an English press. T. CORSER.
Some months ago I found the following entries, relating to a family of the name of More, on two blank leaves of a MS. in the Gale collection, in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. The class mark of the volume is "O. 2. 21." Its contents are very miscellaneous. Among other things is a copy of the poem of Walter de Biblesworth, printed by Mr. Thomas Wright in his volume of Vocabularies from the Arundel MS. The date of this is early fourteenth century. The names of former possessors of the volume are "Le: Fludd" and "G. Carew;" the latter being probably Sir George Carew, afterwards Earl of Totness. The entries which I have copied are on the last leaf and the last leaf but one of the volume. I have added the dates in square brackets, and expanded the contractions:
"Md quod die dominica in vigilia Sancti Marce Evan
geliste Anno Regni Regis Edwardi quarti post conquestum Anglie quartodecimo Johannes More Gent. maritatus fuit Agneti filie Thome Graunger in parochia sancti Egidij extra Crepylgate london. [24 April, 1474.]
"Med quod die sabbati in vigilia sancti gregorij pape inter horam primam & horam secundam post Meridiem eiusdem diei Anno Regni Regis Edwardi quarti post conquestum Anglie xvo nata fuit Johanna More filia Johannis More Gent. [11 March, 1474-5.]
"Ma quod die veneris proximo post Festum purificacionis beate Marie virginis videlicet septimo die Februarij inter horam secundam et horam terciam in Mane natus fuit Thomas More filius Johannis More Gent. Anno Regni Regis Edwardi quarti post conquestum Anglie decimo septimo. [7 Feb. 1477-8.]
"Md quod die dominica videlicet vltimo die Januarij inter horam septimam et horam octauam ante Meridiem Anno regni Regis Edwardi quarti decimo octauo nata fuit Agatha filia Johannis More Gentilman. [31 Jan. 1478-9.]
"Md quod die Martis videlicet vjto die Junij inter horam decimam & horam vndecimam ante Meridiem natus fuit
[* The edition of 1531 is in the British Museum.-Ed.]
It will be seen that these entries record the marriage of a John More, gent., in the parish church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, and the births of his six children, Johanna, Thomas, Agatha, John, Edward, and Elizabeth.
Now it is known that Sir Thomas More was born, his biographers vaguely say, about 1480 in Milk Street, Cheapside, which is in the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate; that he was the son of Sir John More, afterwards Lord Chief Justice, who, at the time of his son's birth, was a barrister, and would be described as "John More, gent."; and that he had two sisters, Jane or Joane (Wordsworth's Eccl. Biog. ii. 49), married to Richard Staffertor, and Elizabeth, wife to John Rastall the printer, and mother of Sir William Rastall (born 1508), afterwards Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench.
The third entry above given records the birth of Thomas, son of John More, who had been married in the church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, and may be presumed to have lived in the parish. The date of his birth is Feb. 7, 1477-8; that is, according to modern reckoning, 1478, and therefore" about 1480." Oddly enough, the day of the week in this entry is wrong. It is Friday, which in 1477-8 was Feb. 6. But Thomas was born between two and three in the morning of Saturday, Feb. 7. The confusion is obvious and na
The second and last entries record the births of his sisters Johanna and Elizabeth. The former of these names appears to have been a favourite in the family of Sir John More, and was the name of his grandmother, the daughter of John Leycester.
Ï may add, that the entries are all in a contemporary hand, and their formal character favours the supposition that they were made by some one familiar with legal documents, and probably by a lawyer.
This remarkable series of coincidences led me at first to believe that I had discovered the entry of the birth of Sir Thomas More. But, upon investigation, I was met by a difficulty which at present I have been unable to solve. In the life of the Chancellor by Cresacre More, his greatgrandson, the name of Sir Thomas More's mother is said to have been "Handcombe of Holliwell in Bedfordshire." This fact is not mentioned by
Roper, who lived many years in his house and married his favourite daughter, or by any other of his biographers. The question, therefore, is whether the authority of Cresacre More on this point is to be admitted as absolute. He was not born till nearly forty years after Sir Thomas More's death, and his book was not written till between eighty and ninety years after it. We must take into consideration these facts in estimating the amount of weight to be attached to his evidence as to the name of his great-greatgrandmother.
CHAUCER'S "CANTERBURY TALES."
The quotation from the Wife of Bath given by J. H. C. (4th S. ii. 196), in which Chaucer, with a touch of irony, makes that heroine give the "holy freres" and "limitours" credit for banishing sprites and fairies from England, is not verified by Irish experiences. The "holy freres are nearly as numerous, and quite as powerful, as ever in Ireland, and yet the popular belief is, that elves of all kinds abound in the country. The peasants here, too, like those of Scotland mentioned by J. H. C., avoid mentioning the word "fairy," and use instead the complimentary term "good people," generally accompanying it with a pious "God save us!" and the sign of the Cross. A ruined church in the neighbourhood of Tralee was, according to antiquaries, originally a temple consecrated by the Tuath da Dananns to the worship of the sun. A Lismore (great rath or fort) and a Killeen (old burial-ground for unbaptized children) are found in the same district, which