Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/625

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

for purposes of literary history is self-evident. They provide us in the directest way imaginable with a view of the resources of the learned communities of the time. It will be worth while, therefore, to discuss, in a summary fashion, one typical example.

The passage of Bacon which stands at the head of this chapter was written in or about the year 1271. The author survived the year 1292; and we possess a detailed catalogue of one of the largest libraries in England, which was drawn up within a very few years after the latter date. We may, then, fairly use it as illustrative of the condition of theological learning and of the range of theological literature at the close of Bacon's life. The library in question is that of Christ Church Priory at Canterbury. In extent it rivalled any of its time for it contained close upon two thousand volumes; and, without entering into details as to the method of its formation, we may assert generally that it is possible to a large extent to discriminate the earlier from the later acquisitions, and to arrange these latter in chronological order.

In that portion of the library which dates back to the days of Lanfranc and Anselm fragmentary survivals are traceable of a learning which had no attraction for the mass of clerics in Bacon's day. The best example of these is a copy of the treatise of Irenaeus Against Heresies-in all likelihood the only copy then in England. There are indications also of the influence of John of Salisbury in the list of the books bequeathed by St Thomas to his Cathedral; but, as we should expect, this influence is more clearly seen in the presence of certain classical Latin authors than in the province of sacred literature. Coming nearer to the period with which we are chiefly concerned, we notice that Grosseteste has left his mark on the Canterbury Library: copies of most of the texts which he restored to the Latins are to be found in the catalogue. Of Roger Bacon, however, and of his work there is no sign. Not a single Greek or Hebrew book is discoverable. All trace of the learning of Theodore has disappeared. The theologian par excellence is, as always, Augustine: and the other three Latin Doctors are present in great force. For the rest, the Divinity library is made up chiefly of glossed books of the Bible, of "Distinctions," sermons, the books of Anselm, Alexander Neckam, Peter Lombard, Richard of Preaux, Robert Cursun, Peter Comestor, and the like; while, among the latest accretions, are numbered the works of the great Schoolmen. Thus almost the only aid to the literal interpretation of the Biblical text which the monks of this great House possessed was what they could gather from the works of Jerome. Peter Comestor and Josephus were their teachers in Biblical history; and for the history of the Church they had to turn to Rufinus1 version of the History of Eusebius, to the Tripartite History, and to the numerous lives of Saints.

The state of this one great library must be taken as typical of that of others throughout Europe. Yet, if the darkness was thick, it