Tuesday, February 26, 2013


As the Renaissance world emerged from the dark tapestry of the Middle Ages, the rise of private libraries replaced the public institutions that once had the financial resources to collect books (Dibdin, 2006, p. ix).  This gave rise to what some would call an affliction:  bibliomania (Robinson, 2011, p. 686).  This compulsive book collecting habit created a frenzied atmosphere, a virtual boom in the book buying business for several decades (Robinson, 2011, p. 686; Dibdin, 2006, p.ix). 
Thomas Frognall Dibdin was a chronicler and participant in this book buying craze.  Librarian to George John, the second Earl Spencer, Dibdin was an accomplished writer and bibliographer (Dibdin, 2006, pp. xxi-xxiii).  His lasting claim to fame, however, came as a result of his immensely popular, yet highly-criticized, work entitled Bibliomania or Book Madness published in 1809. As a semi-chronicle of this disease, it is laid out in a series of imaginary conversations with different collectors (Connell, 200, p. 31).  While it is a fictional work, many of the characters are modeled after Dibdin’s own friends and acquaintences (Ferris, 2009, p.36).  Later editions are “dedicated” to Richard Heber, one of the age’s most incurable bibliophiles (Gawthrop, 2002). 
Bibliomania was spreading as private collectors sparred in auction houses like “Book-Knights” (Basbanes, 1995, p.115).  One such famous duel was witnessed by Dibdin in 1817 at the Roxburghe sale.  This auction lasted for forty-two consecutive days (excluding Sundays) as a trio of collectors vied for choice selections and one unique book, a Valdarfer Boccacio, a book once thought not to exist and wanted even by the Emporer Napoleon himself.  Silence filled the room as each of the collectors upped the price in an aristocratic bidding war.  Finally it was down to two: Lord Spencer, Dibdin’s employer, and the marquis of Blandford.  The price stood at two thousand pounds when Lord Spencer bid an additional £250.  As was his strategy throughout the contest, Blandford raised it an addition ten pounds which put the contest to an end.  This would be the highest price ever paid for a book until J.P. Morgan purchased Mainz Psalter for $24,750 in 1884.  While Lord Spencer may have lost on that day, he would soon have the last laugh when a bankrupt Blandford would be forced to sell Lord Spencer the book for a mere £918 (Basbanes, 1995, 115-116). 
(The Book Fool, a woodcut used in Dibdin's 1809 edition of Bibliomania)
Basbanes, N. (1995). A gentle madness. New York: Henry Holt. 
Connell, P. (2000). Bibliomania: Book Collecting, Cultural Politics, and the Rise of Literary Heritage in Romantic Britain. Representations, (71), 24. doi:10.2307/2902924 
Dibdin, T. (2006). Bibliomania, or, Book-madness; a bibliographical romance. Richmond : Tiger of the Stripe. 
Ferris, I. (2009). Book Fancy: Bibliomania and the Literary Word. Keats-Shelley Journal, 33. doi:10.2307/25735166 
Gawthrop, H. (2002). Frances-Mary Richardson Currer and Richard Heber: Two Unwearied Bibliophiles on the Fringe of the Brontë World. Brontë Studies: The Journal of The Brontë Society, 27: 225-234. 
Robinson, M. (2011). Ornamental Gentlemen: Thomas F. Dibdin, Romantic Bibliomania, and Romantic Sexualities. European Romantic Review, 22(5), 685-706. doi:10.1080/10509585.2011.601684

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Richard de Bury: The Greatest Bibliophile of the Middle Ages


Richard de Bury, former priest, Bishop of Durham and Lord Palatine, tutor to the royal prince, ambassador for peace, High Chancellor, and Treasurer to the English Crown under Edward III, would eventually die penniless. He would be buried wearing a plain linen undershirt and laid to rest in a cheap, wooden coffin. This tragic end is partly attributable to his charitable disposition but mostly to his love of books (Thompson, 1949, p.265; de Bury, 1970, p. xxii).

De Bury is considered the greatest bibliophile of the Middle Ages (Martin, 1986, p.2). Born Richard Aungervilles (d’Aungervilles by some accounts) in c.1286 to a lord knight, de Bury can claim his lineage to those who fought under the flag of William the Conquerer (Martin, 1986, p.7). As was the custom of the time, Richard took the place of his birth as his last name, thus he is known as “de Bury” (Martin, 1986, p. 9).

It is often reported that de Bury was a Benedictine monk (see Murray, 2009; p. 70) although several respected sources dispute this as there is no evidence of him joining the Order (de Bury, 1970, xii; Martin, 1986, p.9 fn.8). In fact, both entries for de Bury in Wikipedia and Britannica Online have him as a Benedictine monk (seehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_De_Bury and http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/85991/Richard-de-Bury).

De Bury received his M.A. and B.D. from Oxford in 1312. It has been debated whether he was an intellect of the first order or just an avid supporter of the academics (de Bury, 1970, p. xxix; Martin, 1986, p.11). The issue seems to have confused even the great Petrarch who met the bishop and formed a lasting relationship with him due to their shared love of books (de Bury, 1970, p.xxxi; Martin, 1986, p. 11).

De Bury was an ardent supporter of learning. In the Philobon, the bishop states that one of his goals is
to found in perpetual charity a Hall in the reverend university of Oxford…for the maintenance of a number of scholars; and moreover to enrich the Hall with the treasures of our books, that all and every of them should be in common as regards their use and study[.](de Bury, 1970, p.165)
Unfortunately, and contrary to Murray (2009, p. 70), de Bury did not have the funds to found Durham College. This was done by his successor, Bishop Hatfield, and Durham College would eventually become Trinity College (Martin, 1986, p. 14).

Book Collecting In his introduction to his translation of Philobiblon, E.C. Thomas, states that “[n]o man has ever carried to a higher pitch of enthusiasm the passion for collecting books” (de Bury, 1970, p. xxxi). He had an immense amount of books. According Brown-Syed (2004) his biographer Chambré wrote that:

[H]e had more books, as was commonly reported, than all the other English bishops put together. He had a separate library in each of his residences, and wherever he was residing, so many books lay about his bed-chamber, that it was hardly possible to stand or move without treading upon them. (p.77)
De Bury was an accomplished politician and diplomat. This enabled him to travel throughout Europe, searching for old manuscripts and books (Murray, 2009, p. 70). As a priest and powerful member of the clergy, de Bury was given access to convents and monasteries with their trove of forgotten books (Murray, 2009, p.70). However, this was not the only way the bishop acquired books. Brown-Syed (2004) states:

Richard de Wallingford, bribed de Bury with four books by Terence, Vergil, Quintilian, and Jerome, and sold him 32 more for £50 (p. 377). In fact, de Bury admits that he was more easily swayed by books than by money, and that he was quite willing to lobby at court for those who gave them to him, though he claims to have acted within ethical bounds. (p. 76)
As a bishop, however, this “sale” was even too much for his conscience to bear and he eventually gave some of the books back (Cheney, 1973, p. 325).

De Bury was not shy about how he sometimes obtained his books by virtue of his offices and influence with the royal court. In Chapter VIII of the Philobiblon entitled “Of the numerous Opportunities we have had of collecting a store of books” he writes:

And indeed while we filled various offices to the victorious Prince and splendidly triumphant King of England, Edward the Third from the Conquest—whose reign may the Almighty long and peacefully continue—first those about his court, but then those concerning the public affairs of his kingdom, namely the offices of Chancellor and Treasurer, there was afforded to us, in consideration of the royal favour, easy access for the purpose of freely searching the retreats of books. In fact, the fame of our love of them had been soon winged abroad everywhere, and we were reported to burn with such desire for books, and especially old ones, that it was more easy for any man to gain our favour by means of books than of money. (de Bury, 1970, pp. 81-82)
Whether one agrees or disagrees with his methods, there is a special quality to a clergyman who accepts books as bribes in lieu of money.

The Philobiblon Before his death in 1345, de Bury wrote a book of essays that he compiled in a work entitled Philobiblon. This was a word he created from the Greek meaning “love of books”. Written in Latin, as was the custom of the day, it is separated into twenty chapters (de Bury, 1970, p. 3,5). These essays discuss book collecting, the care of books, the “advantages of the love of books”, and the vagaries of wars and how they destroy books. In Chapter VII entitled “The Complaint of Books against Wars” de Bury writes:

ALMIGHTY AUTHOR AND LOVER OF PEACE, scatter the nations that delight in war, which is above all plagues injurious to books. For wars being without the control of reason make a wild assault on everything they come across, and, lacking the check of reason they push on without discretion or distinction to destroy the vessels of reason. (de Bury, 1970, p.71)
Fortunately, these were not idol words of an academic and bibliophile. As a diplomat, de Bury sought to seek peace throughout the realm, sometimes successfully as was the case with Scotland to the north, sometimes unsuccessfully, as was the case with France and the start of the 100 Years War (de Bury, 1970, p.xvii).

One of the most interesting sections in the Philobiblon is Chapter XIX entitled “Of the Manner of lending all our Books to Students”. According to Brown-Syed (2004), thePhilobiblon is “one of the longest extant medieval texts on the subject of library management” (p. 77). Here, de Bury describes the practices for circulation control among the students of the college, utilizing at times an open-stack rather than the dominant closed-stack system (Brown-Syed, 2004, p.79).

As to de Bury’s legacy, it was said about the Philobiblon: “it is the sole memorial of one who loved books so much in an age and country that loved them so little” (Martin, 1986, p.24).

Illness and Death Richard de Bury became ill at some point near the end of his life and withdrew from his public duties. It is at this time it is believed that he wrote thePhilobiblon (de Bury, 1970, p. xxi). While he sought to create a library from his books, this never came to fruition due to his debts. Instead, his library was sold off by his creditors, scattering his books across the realm (Martin, 1986, pp.15-16).

Brown-Syed, C. C. (2004). The love of books: The Philobiblon of Richard de Bury, translated by E. C. Thomas. Library And Archival Security, 19(1), 76-81.
Cheney, C. R. (1973). Richard de Bury, borrower of books. Speculum: A Journal Of Medieval Studies, 48(2), 325-328.
De Bury, R. (1970). Philobiblon [by] Richard de Bury. The text and translation of E. C. Thomas, edited with a foreword by Michael MacLagan. New York, Barnes & Noble.
Martin, S. S. (1986). Richard D'aungerville de bury, 1287-1345 (England, Bishop of Durham). Emory University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 286 p. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303446130?accountid=14745. (303446130).
Murray, S.A.P.(2009). The Library: An illustrated history. New York: Sky Horse Publishing.
Thompson, L. (1949). The Philobiblon by Richard de Bury. Speculum: A Journal Of Medieval Studies, 24:2, 265-266.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Wicked Bible

1631 "Wicked" Bible

This is from www.greatsite.com, an online seller of rare Bibles.
1631 "Wicked Bible"
"This King James Version Bible is an unspeakably rare collector’s item. The printers were fined 300 pounds sterling for their terrible typographical error in printing the Ten Commandments, omitting the all-important word “not” and rendering the verse as, “Thou shalt commit adultery”! The lot of 1,000 copies were ordered destroyed, but only a handful escaped destruction, making them the rarest of rare. This is the only one for sale in the world."

Nalanda University Library in India

India Literary History
It is believed that the ancient Harappan civilization of India living in the Indus valley region was literate, using a logo-alphabetic script. They lived from 2,300 to 1,750 B.C. until the Aryans invaded Northern India, supplanting their Indo-European language. This new literary tradition was oral in nature and did not require a system of written symbols to pass on knowledge from one generation to the next. As a result, written texts did not flourish in India until later than other parts of the world. (Lerner, 1998; see also Murray, 2009, p.46). Two religions emerged in India, however, that would require the transmission of sacred texts through written word: Jainism and Buddhism. Monasteries were established throughout India which created large amounts of hand-made manuscripts (Misra, 1965).
Nalanda University
In 400 A.D. a Buddhist monastery established Nalanda University near Patna in northern India (Bhatt, 1995) reportedly by Silabhadra from a grant given to him by the Gupta King Sakraditya (Dutt, 2008, pp. 291, 329). Around 675 A.D., the ancient traveler and diarist from China, Hiuen-Tsang, estimated that the university had about 5,000 students and 3,000 monks (Datta, 1979, p.27). Other estimates place the number of monks residing at Nalanda near 10,000 (Lerner, 1998, p. 64).
Nalanda was a residential university, attracting pilgrims from all over the East including Tibet, Japan, and Korea (Taher & Davis, 1994, p.31). It is considered the oldest residential university in the world. It had strict admission standards, allowing in only 20-30% of all applicants (Taher & Davis, 1994, p. 23).

The library at Nalanda University was an immense complex. Called the Dharmaganja, or Piety Mart, it was separated into three large buildings: the Ratnasagara, the Ratnadadhi, and the Ratnaranjaka. The Ratnadadhi, meaning the Ocean of Gems, was nine stories high and housed the most sacred manuscripts including the Prajnaparamita Sutra and the Samajguhya (Datta, 1970, p. 27; Lerner, 1998, p. 64). The towers were supposedly immense, bejeweled and gilded in order to reflect the rays of the sun (Dutt, 2008, pp. 340-341).
According to the Bhaskara Samhita, an ancient text on organizational practices, the library was to be built in a “finely built stone building” and each manuscript would have been placed on iron shelves or stack and covered with cloth and tied up. Furthermore, the librarian in charge, according to the text, was not only responsible for maintaining the materials but also for guiding readers in their studies (Patel & Kumar, 2001, p.4).
The exact number of volumes of the Nulanda University Library is not known but it is estimated to have been in the hundreds of thousands (Khurshid, 1972, p.21). The library not only collected religious manuscripts but also had texts on such subjects as grammar, logic, literature, astrology, astronomy, and medicine (Bhatt, 1995, p. 22).
Book Materials
Accounts of the process and materials used for making books in India vary slightly but a majority of them were written on palm leaves. The leaves were boiled first then laid in the sun to dry. Scribes used reed pens and ink made from lampblack or charcoal. In Nalanda, there was a large inkpot for the numerous scribes to copy books from dictation. The pages were fastened by string through a whole in the middle of each leaf and covered with wood boards which were often painted with bright colors. Finally they were wrapped in cloth (Lerner, 1998, p.64; see also Lyons, 2011).
It is clear that Nalanda University library had a classification scheme (Datta, 1979) which was possibly based on a text classification scheme developed by the great Sanskrit linguist Panini (Patel & Kumar, 2001, p.4). Buddhists texts were most likely divided in three classes based on the Tripitaka’s three main divisions: the Vinaya, Sutra, and the Abhidamma (Taher & Davis, 1994, p.37). Like most other Indian ancient and medieval period libraries, Nalanda would have used a basic catalog to help patrons find materials. This bibliography, or Anukamanikas, would have listed the books by hymns, authors, form of sutras, Rishi’s name, and the hymnal metre (Taher & Davis, 1994, p.37).
Gupta Empire and Revenue
Nalanda University reached its height during the reign of the Gupta Empire which financed its operation as well as grants from the kings of Java and Sumatra. The neighboring province of Bengal granted five villages to the university for its maintenance in exchange for copying of its manuscripts (Datta, 1970, p. 28).
The library was destroyed in 1197-1203 during the Muslim invasion in which Bakhtiyar Khalji sacked it and set it to flames (Bhatt, 1995, p. 22). According to Tibetan legend, the university and library were reportedly repaired shortly after by Muditabhadra, a Buddhist sage. Unfortunately, the library was again burned by Tirthaka medicants (Datta, 1970, p. 28).

Bhatt, R.K. (1995). History and Development of libraries in India. New Delhi: Mittal Publications.
Datta, B. K. (1970). Libraries & librarianship of ancient and medieval India. Delhi: Atma Ram.
Dutt, S. (2008). Buddhist monks and monasteries of India: Their history and their contribution to Indian culture. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Khurshid, A. (1972). Growth of libraries in India. International Library Review. 4:21-65.
Lyons, M. (2011). Books: A living history. London: Thames and Hudson.
Misra, S. (1955). The development of libraries in India. In N.B. Sen (ed.)The development of libraries in new India (pp 37-43). New Delhi: New Book Society of India.
Murray, S.A.P.(2009). The Library: An illustrated history. New York: Sky Horse Publishing.
Patel, J., & Krishan, K. (2001). Libraries and librarianship in India. Westport: Greenwood Press.
Taher, M. & Davis, D.G. (1994). Librarianship and library science in India. New Delhi: Ashok Kumar Mittal.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Book

Here are some photos of books here in the USF special collections department.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Byzantine and Monastic Libraries

During the Middle Ages, there was no Rome of the kind that ruled the Mediterranean for centuries and spawned the culture that produced twenty-eight public libraries in the urbs Roma (Bischoff, 1994).  The empire had been divided then later re-united again under Constantine the Great who moved the capital of the Roman Empire in 330 A.D. to the city of Byzantium which was renamed Constantinople (Staikos, 2007, p. 12).  The Roman intellectual culture that flourished in ancient times was undergoing a transformation as the academic world moved from laymen to Christian clergy (Staikos, 2007, p.8).  As the West crumbled, books and libraries flourished and flowed east toward the Byzantine Empire (Murray, 2009, p.24).  There, four different types of libraries were established: imperial, patriarchal, monastic, and private (Papademtriou, 2000).  Each had it own purpose and, as a result, their survival varied. 
Christianity was a new force in Europe and many of the faithful saw Hellenistic culture as pagan.  As such, many Greek classics, originally written on scrolls, were left to decay as only Christian texts were thought fit for preservation in a codex, the progenitor of the modern book (Lyons, 2011, pp. 35-36).  In the East, however, this was not the case as many of these classical Greek and Roman texts were copied (Murray, 2009, p. 50). 
In Byzantium, much of this work devoted to preserving Hellenistic thought in codex form was performed in scriptoriums by monks (Peterson, 2010, p. 320).  While monastic scriptoriums flourished throughout the East and West, the rules governing them were generally the same (Murray, 2009; Peterson, 2010).  Barren and sun-lit rooms (because candles were a source of fire) were major features of the scriptorium that was both a model of production and monastic piety (Murray, 2009, pp. 36, -38).  Monks scribbled away for hours a day, interrupted only by meals and prayers (Murray, 2009, p.36).  With such production, medieval monasteries began to accumulate large libraries.  These libraries were devoted solely to the education of the monks and were seen as essential to their spiritual development (Peterson, 2010, p.329).  Although most of these texts that were produced were Christian in nature, many monastic leaders saw common virtues in the Greek classics.  As a result, many of these Greek works were copied, and thus saved, in monastic scriptoriums (Peterson, 2010, pp. 330-331).
When Europe passed into the Dark Ages, Byzantine scriptoriums laboriously preserved Greco-Roman classics. As a result, Byzantium revived Classical models of education and libraries (Thompson, 1957, p. 311).  The Imperial Library of Constantinople was an important depository of ancient knowledge.  Constantine himself wanted such a library but his short rule denied him the ability to see his vision to fruition. His son Constantius II made this dream a reality and created an imperial library in a portico of the royal palace (Thompson, 1957, p. 312).  He ruled for 24 years and accelerated the development of the library and the intellectual culture that came with such a vast accumulation of books (Staikos, 2007, pp. 30-31). 
(Constatine's Palace and home of the Imperial Library)
Constantius II appointed Themistius, a pagan philosopher and teacher, as chief architect of this library building program.  Themistius set about a bold program to create an imperial public library that would be the centerpiece of the new intellectual capital of Constantinople (Stoikos, 2007, p. 33). Classical authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Isocrates, Thucydides, Homer, and Zeno were sought.  Themeistius hired calligraphers and craftsman to produce the actual codices.  He also appointed educators and created a university-like school centered around the library (Staikos, 2007, pp. 32-33). 
After the death of Constatntius II, Julian the Apostate, a bibliophile intellectual, ruled briefly for less than three years. Despite this, he had a profound impact on the imperial library and sought both Christian and pagan books for the imperial library (Thompson, 1957, p. 312).   Later, the Emperor Valens hired Greek and Latin scribes full-time with from the royal treasury to copy and repair manuscripts (Thompson, 1957, pp. 312-313). 
At its height in the fifth century, the Imperial Library of Constantinople had 120,000 volumes and was the largest library in Europe (Thompson, 1957, p. 313).  A fire in 477 consumed the entire library but it was rebuilt only to be burned again in 726, 1204, and in 1453 when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks (Hillerbrand, 2006, p. 603). 
Monastic libraries, often cloistered and protected, thrived during the middle ages.  So for example while the Imperial Library was being destroyed by the invading Turks in 1453, the library of the Prodromos Monastery was saved from damage and passed peacefully from Christian into Muslim hands as a gift to the mother of Sultan Mehmet II’s grand vizier (Staikos, 2007, p. 429).  The monastery was established in the sixth century.  Later a scriptorium was established and several scribes employed.  Classical and theological works were produced by the scriptorium, a few of which still survive (Staikos, 2007, p. 429). 
Patriarchal libraries fared no better, and sometimes worse, than the Imperial Library.  The Library of the Patriarchate of Constantinople was founded most likely during the reign of Constantine the Great in the fourth century (Staikos, 2007, p. 43).  As a theological library, it was known to have employed a library classification system (Staikos, 2007, p. 44).  It also served as a repository of several ecumenical councils such as the Council of Nicea, Council of Ephesus, and the Council of Chalcedon (Staikos, 2007, p.44).  The library, which employed a librarian and assistants, may have been originally located in the Patriarch’s official residence before it was moved to the Thomaites Triclinus in the seventh century (Staikos, 2007, p.44).  While much is not known about the actual library itself, it is known that many of its contents were subject to destruction as religious in-fighting ultimately resulted in book burnings (Staikos, 2007, p. 44-45). 
During this period, small private libraries existed.  Many of these were owned by church members and the aristocracy (Staikos, 2007, p.429).  Teachers also were known to have small personal libraries as well as wealthy bibliophiles who could afford the highly ornate books of the period (Thompson, 1957, pp.313-314).
After the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and the fall of the Byzantine Empire, many books entered into what could be called a sort of Codex Diaspora.  Books left libraries, great and small, and travelled both east and west.  Many classical Greek works were kept by the Muslims who further aided in their preservation (Murray, 2009, p.50). Theological works, on the other hand, were not favored in Islamic centers of education.  Fortunately, and unlike their Christian predecessors, many Muslims opted to sell these codices to Europeans rather than burn them, thus preserving a rich monastic and religious cultural heritage (Thompson, 1957, p. 329). 
Bischoff, B. and Gorman, M. (1994). Manuscripts and libraries in the age of Charlemagne.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
Hillerbrand, H. J. (2006). On book burnings and book burners: Reflections on the power (and powerlessness) of ideas. Journal of The American Academy Of Religion, (3), 593.
Lyons, M. (2011). Books: A living history. London: Thames and Hudson. 
Murray, S.A.P.(2009). The Library: An illustrated history. New York: Sky Horse Publishing. 
Papademetriou, G. C. (2000). The Patriarchal libraries of Constantinople. Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 45(1-4), 171-190. 
Peterson, H. A. (2010). The Genesis of monastic libraries. Libraries & The Cultural Record, 45(3), 320-332.
Staikos, K. K. (2004). The history of the library in Western civilization. New Castle, Del. : Oak Knoll Press.
Thompson, J.W. (1957). The medieval library. New York: Hafner Publishing Co.