Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/633

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

monument, the unique manuscript of the Miscellanies (Stromateis) of Clement of Alexandria.

We turn now from Italy, the centre of light, to ask what was the condition of affairs in the outer darkness beyond the Alps. In France the work of collecting Greek books had hardly begun in the first half of the fifteenth century. There were; as we have seen, what may be called accidental deposits in two or three places, as at St Denis, and the Abbey of Corbie in Picardy. The papal library at Avignon, which owned more than a hundred and twenty Hebrew manuscripts in 1369, could muster only some half-dozen in Greek-another striking testimony to the statement made above that the former language was far more commonly known in that age than the latter. In 1416 one Greek book had found its way into the possession of the Duke of Berri; but his cataloguers cannot give us any notion of the character of its contents. The famous decree of the Council of Venice in 1311 that the Hebrew, Arabic, and Chaldean tongues should be taught at all the greater Universities of Europe had remained absolutely ineffective.

With the arrival of George Hermonymus at Paris in 1476 the work of collection and diffusion of Greek literature really began. Hermonymus himself worked as a copyist alike of the Sacred Text and of secular authors. Still it was nothing more than a beginning that the fifteenth century witnessed. The enormous accumulations, which have ended in making the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris the depository of more Greek manuscripts than any other library outside Greece can show, were the work of the two centuries that followed.

Of England not much more remains to be said in the present connexion; and yet, as the history of our progress in this field has been but sparsely investigated, more may be said in this place than a consideration of proportion would perhaps seem to justify. We have rather frequent accounts of the importations of valuable collections of books from Italy. Adam Easton, Bishop of Norwich (who has already engaged our attention), was among the earliest of those who collected in this way. He died in the last quarter of the fourteenth century. Thomas Waiden gave many foreign manuscripts, notable for age and rarity, to the Carmelites of London. John Gunthorpe, Dean of Wells, deposited a precious collection formed in Italy at Jesus College in Cambridge. It is still possible to trace the greater part of the gifts made by William Gray, Bishop of Ely, to Balliol College. Another Oxford College-Lincoln-possesses a manuscript of the Acts and Catholic Epistles in Greek which was given to it in 1483 by Robert Flemmyng, Dean of Lincoln. Flemmyng was another of those who had travelled in Italy: and he is credited with having compiled a Greek dictionary. At Lincoln College is also a copy of the Gospels in Greek which was the gift of Edmund Audley, Bishop of Salisbury, in 1502.

Gone, alas! are the collections, amounting in all to nearly six hundred