Page:A history of booksellers, the old and the new.djvu/16

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12
THE BOOKSELLERS OF OLDEN TIMES.

he stands up to repeat," and Persius tells us that poets were ambitious to be read in the schools; while Nero, in his vanity, gave special command that his verses should be placed in the hands of the students.

Thus, altogether, there must have been a large book-buying public, and this fact is still further strengthened by the cheapness of the books produced. M. Geraud[1] concludes that the prices were lower than in our own day. According to Martial the first book of his Epigrams was to be bought, neatly bound, for five denarii (nearly three shillings), but in a cheaper binding for the people it cost six to ten sestertii (a shilling to eighteen pence); his thirteenth book of Epigrams was sold for four sestertii (about eightpence), and half that price would, he says, have left a fair profit (Epig. xiii. 3). He tells us, moreover, that it would only require one hour to copy the whole of the second book,

"Hæc una peragit librarius hora."

This book contains five hundred and forty verses, and though he may be speaking with poetical licence, the system of abbreviations did undoubtedly considerably lessen the labour of transcribing, and it would be quite possible, by employing a number of transcribers simultaneously, to produce an edition of such a work in one day. In Rome, therefore, we see that from the employment of slave labour and some thousands of slaves were engaged in this work of transcribing books were both plentiful and cheap.[2]

  1. "Essai sur les Livres dans l'Antiquité."
  2. For a very interesting article on this subject, see Cornhill Magazine, vol. ix.