Page images
PDF
EPUB

The papyrus rush is supposed to have been alluded to by Isaiah in chap. xix. ver. 6 and 7, who says: “They shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither, the paper reeds by the brooks, and everything sown by the brooks shall wither, be driven way, and be no more seen.”

Without assuming this as being prophetical, we may say that the supply of papyrus, or paper, was cut off from the Western World. And for how long a period ?

For no less than four centuries.

During this time it may be truly said, that " Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.”

The few who might be able to withdraw themselves from the struggle for existence, and from the fashionable pursuit of the time-war -so as to write books or treatises, as the spirit might move them, would find that there were greater difficulties in their way than the paper duty of more modern days, which some people were lately anxious to retain.

He who might be aminded to put down his own thoughts or those of others in a lasting form would first have to catch his hare (or perhaps his sheep), in a supply of parchment (which was neither abundant nor cheap), and then perhaps to get it dressed, to receive the pen or reed of the person who could put letters upon it; in other words, who could write.

By reason of this and other obstacles few books were penned, and those that had been penned or reeded became of great value. The scarcity of materials for writing was such that Robertson,* the historian, tells us : “ There still remain MSS. of the eighth, ninth, and following centuries written on parchment, from which some former writing had been erased in order to substitute a new composition in its place. In this manner it is probable that several works of the ancients perished. A book of Livy or Tacitust might be erased to make room for the legendary tale of a saint or the superstitious prayers of a missal.”

About 796, Charlemagne granted an unlimited right of hunting to the abbot and monks of Jethin, that they might make of the skins of the slain deer girdles and covers for their books. I

A light at length broke upon the world. This was the art of making paper in the manner since become universal. Gibbon tells us, in the ninth volume of the “ Decline and Fall," that “the inestimable art of transforming linen into paper was diffused over the Western World from the manufactures of Samarcand in the twelfth century."S

* Charles V., vol. i. p. 227, in notes.

† The preservation of Tacitus is said to be owing to the accidental preservation of a single copy. Those that had been placed in the Roman libraries, according to government rule, bad been lost when those libraries were destroyed.

| In St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy, he says: “The cloak I left at Troas bring with thee, and the books, and especially the parchments."

Coming from a leaf, we get the word folio, from folium, a leaf; volume, from volumen---the writing which was rolled up; liber, a book, from liber, the inner bark of a tree which was used for writing on; and the Bible-par excellence The Book-is said to have been named from Byblos, a city of Syria, but which word originally signified the bark of a tree.

Š It was called by Montfaucon, the archæologist, “ Charta bombycine," or cotton paper, and Samarcand was the great city of “Timour the Tartar," from whence we should hardly expect much that was civilising; but Gibbon shows, in & note, that paper was first imported there from China.

When paper did come into use, there was still a lack of intelligence as to the means of using it. The art of book-making remained with the clergy, or “ clerks," as they were then and are still styled in formal writings, and who are supposed by Dr. Dibdin, the bibliographer, to be the relics of the Jewish scribes. They were the Chapman and Halls and Longmans of that day.

In every large abbey there was a scriptorium, where the “ clerici” were employed in transcribing books and illuminating initial letters, and for the support of which estates were specially left.

In 1330, books were so scarce that they were not sold but by special contract, like land, and were the subject of transfer by deed.

In 1360, the royal library at Paris did not exceed twenty volumes.

Further light was not thrown on the subject until two centuries after the introduction of paper, so slowly did knowledge progress in those days. This was in the year 1381, when playing-cards were inventedor, perhaps, imitated from something of the sort imported from the East -for the diversion of Charles VI. of France, whose brain had been disordered by a coup de soleil. This was in the reign of our Henry V., and about the time when Wycliffe had been otherwise employed in translating the whole Bible into English.

Wooden blocks of a rude form were used for making cards, and, in 1390, the first paper-mill in Germany was erected near the city of Nuremberg-more of which hereafter.

In the last-mentioned year there is the following entry in the accounts of the treasurer of Charles VI.: “ Paid fifty-six shillings of Paris to Jacquemenin Griengonneur, the painter, for three packs of cards, gilded with gold and painted with divers colours and several devices, to be carried to the king for his amusement.”

Cards soon after became the amusement of the noble and wealthy, and, not long after, of the artisans and lower classes ; thence they became articles of manufacture in Germany, and at Augsburg a street is mentioned where the “ karten mäacher” lived, and where the business is still followed. From hence they were exported in small casks, packed like herrings.

To counteract the effect produced by cards, the monks stamped rude figures of saints with wooden blocks, and distributed them among the people. From hence larger sacred subjects came to be transferred to paper by means of wooden blocks, and one of St. Christopher, * carrying the infant Saviour across the sea, according to a curious legend, was in the possession of the late Earl Spencer, bearing the date of 1423.

In 1433, writing-quills were so scarce at Venice that men of letters could scarcely procure them. Ambrosius Traversarius, a monk of Camelalde, sent from Venice to his brother a bunch of quills, with a letter, in which he said: “ They are not the best, but such as I received as a present; show the whole bunch to our friend Nicholas, that he may select a quill, for these articles are, indeed, scarcer in this city than at Florence." Ambrosius also complains, at the same time, that he had scarcely any more ink, and requests that a small vessel filled with it might be sent to him.*

* From Christum fero. A giant of Canaan, who wished to serve the mightiest of sovereigns. He found there was one greater than Satan. To try his faith, he was told to fetch a staff, and save all who struggled in crossing a river. At length a child called for help; in carrying it over the child got so heavy that his strength nearly failed him; but with a courageous heart, and his trusty staff, he got over. The child was Our Lord, and the giant became St. Christopher.

Soon after this the art of cutting a page of writing upon a wooden block, and obtaining an impression from it, was introduced. In this way a sort of catechism of the Bible, called “ Biblia Pauperum," appeared in 1430.

Lawrence Coster, of Haarlem, is maintained by many to have been the first inventor of printing. It is related of him that, while walking in the wood near the city (as citizens were wont to do in the afternoon), he began to pick out letters on the bark of the beech. With these he stamped marks upon paper in the manner of a seal, and at length formed sentences for the amusement of the children of his brother-in-law. Being a man of inventive genius, he afterwards discovered a glutinous kind of ink, and arrived at better things.

To John Guttenberg, of Mentz, and afterwards of Strasburg, is generally ascribed the honour of this great discovery, A.D. 1440. Dr. Dibdin faintly hints that the knowledge of block-printing came from the Chinese, and was adopted there long ere it was known in Europe. Be this as it may, it is now generally admitted that

1. John Guttenbergt was the father of printing; 2. Peter Schaffert the father of type founding; and 3. John Faust the generous patron by whose means the art was

brought rapidly to perfection. After the groundwork of the art had been laid, the rise towards perfection is understood to have been more rapid than any other art or science of those times. Little more than thirty years elapsed from the time of printing the “ Biblia Pauperum," in 1430, from wooden blocks, to the time when Guttenberg and Schaeffer, with Faust's aid,ll had perfected their cast-metal types.

The art of engraving on copper is said to have been invented about 1460, by a goldsmith of Florence, named Thomas Finiguerra.

The earliest copper-plate engraving is of this time, and the following circumstance is said to bave led to the discovery. Finiguerra chanced to let fall a piece of copper, engraved and filled with ink, into melted sulphur, and observing that the exact impression of his work was left on the sulphur, he repeated the experiment on moistened paper, rolling it gently with a roller.

Another version is, that a washerwoman left some linen upon a dish on which Finiguerra had been engraving, and that an impression of the subject came off, however imperfect, upon the linen, occasioned by its weight and moisture.

The Germans contend that it was practised in their country previously; that Francis Behold invented it, and his immediate followers were Israel de Mechaniel and Martin Stock, or Schon (?) (erroneously stated to have been one of the preceptors of Albert Dürer), and John Muller, called Regiomontanus.

* Beckman's History of Inventions. † Anglicè, good hill.

The shepherd.

A hand. I i.e., John Faust lent a hand to Peter the Shepherd and John of the Good Hill, and thus the trio attained great eminence.

In 1471, William Caxton, the London mercer,* introduced the art of printing into England.

In the same auspicious year the celebrated person of whom we have now to speak first saw the light.

This was at the city of Nuremberg, in Germany, now part of the kingdom of Bavaria, and about ninety-six miles north-west of Munich.

It was then a city of the first importance. The great stream of commerce flowed through that part of Germany. It was before Vasco de Gama had doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and opened a way for the rich productions of India by that passage. Nuremberg, from soon after the time of the Crusades, had grown to be a principal depôt for Indian merchandise, which came by the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, and so from Venice and Genoa. The central position of Nuremberg on the map of Europe enabled its traders to diffuse such merchandise by the Rhine and the Danube to the north and west of Europe, and along with it to dispose of what have long been called Nuremberg wares, Watches, called “Nuremberg eggs,” were very early made there by Peter Hele. The citizens had a saying:

Nüruberg hand
Gecht durch alle land.
Nüruberg's hand

Goes thro' every land. And we find that the first German railway was made there as early as 1836, to Furth, four and a half miles, and that gun-carriages, among other things, were first made there.

It was a free city, and furnished the Emperors of Germany with a contingent of six thousand soldiers. At the present time it is famous for its numerous and well-conducted public institutions, for a variety of schools -among the latter, for fifteen at which children are supplied with books, clothing, and bread gratis. It is also famous for workings in iron and other metals, and for being an emporium-a great emporium—for cheap toys, which are made by the country people in the wooded tract between Franconia and Thuringia. It is a perfect ark of Noah's arks, &c.

The birth of Albert Dürer took place on the 20th May, 1471.

His father, as is well known, was a goldsmith, as was his grandfather. The father came from Cola, in Hungary, and after spending some time at Bruges, where he would have ample opportunities of perfecting himself in his trade, he settled at Nuremberg, and married the daughter of his master, Jerome Haller.

The entry of his birth in the father's diary is in the following terms : “ Item. In the year 1471 after the birth of Christ, on the day of St. Prudentius, at the sixth hour of the day, on a Friday in the Holy Week, my wife Barbara bore me my second son, to whom Anthony Kobürgher was godfather, and he was called Albert, after me.”

Now from this Anthony Kobürgher we learn that the city of Nuremberg received the art of typography in 1472, and that he was a person conspicuously eminent for his learning, as well as for his elegance and cor

* Mercers used to import bijouterie along with silk and cloths from the Nether. lands, also cards and pictures.

June-VOL. CXXVIII. NO, DX.

rectness in printing. He was styled “the prince of printers," and was, therefore, a fitting sponsor to one who was afterwards called “the Homer of artists," in a city which has been called “the Athens of Ger

many."

The good goldsmith, we are told, had no fewer than eighteen children. Most of them died in youth, and only two outlived Albert: his brother Andreas, who ultimately inherited his stores of art, and his brother Hans, who became court printer to the King of Poland.

His father must have been a good man, for Dürer in his journal says: " My dear father took great pains with his children to teach them how to honour God in all things, for his chiefest desire was that he might bring them up under such wholesome discipline that they might be pleasant both to God and man; therefore his daily speech to us was, that we should abound in love to God, and act faithfully towards our neighbour."

When a child, he chose drawing as his recreation, and drew sportively different parts of the human body, and even whole figures, with so true a hand that they were considered perfectly symmetrical. For the purpose of his trade, he had instructions in drawing from Martin Hapse.

Before he was sixteen, Albert, who was a handsome, intellectual youth, had attained such proficiency in the art of a goldsmith, that we are told he executed a fine piece of chased silver, representing the “ Seven Falls of our Saviour." This was from a tradition in the Roman Catholic Church, that our Saviour fell seven times while bearing his cross up Mount Calvary.

The intention of his father was that he should follow his own trade of a goldsmith (no doubt to help to keep the family, which was becoming a serious charge). The son's genius took a nobler flight. His instinct was to become a painter. His father yielded to his desire, and placed him with Michael Wohlgemuth, the artist, to whom he was apprenticed, in 1486, for three years, to learn the art and mystery of a limner.

Having so far surrendered his own judgment to his son, the father seems to have done all he could to further the latter's views. When out of his time, called his “ lehre jahre,” the father complied with the artist custom of the age, and which prevails to this day, and sent him abroad for improvement, on his “ wander jahre,” as it was, and is still, called.

This was in 1490, when he was nineteen.

He went from town to town, painting for his living whomsoever he could get to sit to him, and found a ready welcome among all who cultivated art.

Before this time Savonarola had exposed the corruption of the Romish Church, and the light of the Reformation was spreading over Europe.

- The curtain had been fairly lifted upon the great theatre of the world; the dark ages had passed away, and a multiplied intelligence was shedding its influence abroad ;--poetry had begun to flourish in Germany ;-the

* If it be desired to fix the date of Dürer's birth, it was fourteen days after the battle of Tewkesbury had replaced the Yorkist Edward IV. on the throne of England.

f He was intended to be placed with Martin Schon, of Colmar, but the latter's death prevented this.

« EelmineJätka »