Sidor som bilder

papyrus found at Herculaneum, and now preserved at Portici, consist chiefly of the works of the Greek philosophers or sophists, the subjects of which are either natural or moral philosophy, medicine, criticism, and general observations on the arts, life, and manners'. The unfolding of the papyri is exceedingly curious and interesting. From the frailty of the material the process is extremely slow; perhaps not more than half an inch is unfolded at a time, and is fixed upon gold-beater's leaf. In appearance the papyri might be mistaken for parts of calcined branches of trees, the circular folds seeming like the growth of the wood. In looking at these black and indurated masses, it requires an effort to believe them to be replete with human knowledge *.

In the Bibliotheca, drawers placed all round the room preserved the Locumenta, or boxes containing the volumes carefully labelled '.

i Sir Humphry Davy's Report, 1819. 2 Williams's Italy, vol. ii. p. 130. 3 Pittura d'Ercolano, vol. ii. plate 7.

Scrinium was a term also applied to a casket in which rolls, or books were kept. The books called Volumina consisted of rolls of papyrus, or parchment strung together"; and these rolls were fastened either in the centre, or from the end, by means of a boss, upon which the greatest skill was frequently lavished. It is not improbable that the value or importance of the manuscript was sometimes indicated by the style of ornament introduced upon the fastening.

Experience must soon have shown the great convenience of folding the sheets of vellum into two or four; but it appears the previous method of a long roll prevailed in the days of Catullus, and even for some time afterwards. Pictures as well as busts of men eminent in the cultivation of letters and the fine arts, were admitted as an appropriate ornament of the Library. In one of the younger Pliny's letters he thus writes to his friend Catilius Severus: “Herennius Severus, a man of great learning, thinks it will be an honour to place the portraits of Cornelius Nepos and Titus Cassius in his library. They were both natives of your city; and he desires if their pictures are there, as it is probable they are, that I would take care to get them copied and painted. This is a commission which I particularly enjoin you to execute, &c.—I beg you will select the most careful painter you can find; and I entreat that the artist you choose may not be permitted to vary, even for the better!

1 At Athens a statue was erected in honour of the inventor of binding books by means of glue, Olympiodorus.

2 Horace is said to have been very short and corpulent; a circumstance which is learnt from a fragment of a letter of Augustus to him, preserved in his life by Suetonius, where the Emperor compares him to the book he sent him, which was a little short thick volume.

When Asinius Pollio, the patron both of Virgil and Horace, first raised a public library at Rome", the statues of men of science and literature of every age were placed in it; but Marcus Terentius Varro, usually styled the

1 Book iv. epistle 28.
2 Pliny's Natural History, book xxxv. chap. 2.

most learned of all the Romans, was the only person who during his lifetime had the honour of a statue in Pollio's library. Augustus afterwards founded the Bibliotheca Palatina, and enriched it with a vast collection of Greek and Latin manuscripts,-an example followed by many succeeding Emperors.

Amanuenses were employed in rooms adjoining the library in copying manuscripts, under the direction of a grammarian, which transcripts were made with reeds upon papyrus, or very white parchment. The reed employed for writing was sharpened and split in the point like the modern pen, and was called by the various names of Calamus, Arundo, and Canna. The celebrated traveller Bruce, who found the papyrus growing both in Egypt and Abyssinia, actually made a paper of the plant, in imitation of that used by the Romans. The method of writing upon wax, although previously used, was not the most ancient. Leaves of trees were employed in the primitive attempts; then Philyra, or the thin skin between

[ocr errors]


the bark and the wood of the linden-tree; after which, linen and wax came into use. The Stylus or Graphium of the Romans was an iron pencil sharp-pointed at one end and broad at the other. With the sharp end the impression was made on the wax, and the other was adapted to make erasures. Sometimes the obliterating instrument was attached to the writing stylus'. In mentioning this instrument, it is scarcely possible to forget that it was a stylus with which Julius Cæsar defended himself in his last moments, and according to Suetonius wounded Cassius.

The Romans, however, still continued to write in the waxed table-book even after the use of papyrus was adopted. These tables were called Pugillares, and were also denominated Diptycha, Triptycha, or Pentycha, according to the number of leaves, either of wood or metal, of which they were composed. Propertius says*,

· As in the instance engraved in Plate III. of Hobhouse's Illustrations of Childe Harold.

2 Lib. iii. 23. 8.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »