Page:A history of booksellers, the old and the new.djvu/13

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A History of Booksellers, the Old and the New - THE BOOKSELLERS OF OLDEN TIMES - Headpiece.png


LONG ages before the European invention of the art of printing, long even before the encroaching masses of Huns and Visigoths rolled the wave of civilization backward for a thousand years, the honourable trades, of which we aim to be in some degree the chroniclers, had their representatives and their patrons. Without going back to the libraries of Egypt—a subject fertile enough in the pages of mythical history—or to the manuscript-engrossers and sellers of Ancient Greece—though by their labours much of the world's best poetry, philosophy, and wit was garnered for a dozen centuries, like wheat ears in a mummy's tomb, to be scattered to the four winds of heaven, when the Mahometans seized upon Constantinople, thenceforth to fructify afresh, and, in connection with the art of printing, as if the old world and the new clasped hands upon promise of a better time, to be mainly instrumental in the "revival of letters"—it will be sufficient for our present purpose to know that there were in Rome, at the time of the Empire, many publishing firms, who, if they could not altogether rival the magnates of Albemarle Street and the "Row," issued books at least as good, and, para-