Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/647

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Christian bibliography

had been widely read. The Middle Ages had, as we have seen, done something towards continuing the tradition in such works as the Catalogus Scriptorum of John Boston. It was natural that it should occur to the men of the Renaissance period to take stock of the mass of writings newly brought to light; and very useful work was done by several in classifying and cataloguing the writers of all ages up to their own. Johann Trithemius (Trittenheim), Abbot of Sponheim, wrote a catalogue of Church writers about 1492. In 1545 Conrad Gesner printed his Bibliotheca, a far larger book, not confined to ecclesiastical authors. The Bibliotheca Sancta of Sixtus of Siena (1586) is rather an encyclopaedia of literature connected with the Bible. All three books are interesting and remarkable achievements. That of Trithemius is a guide—not always a safe one—to the literary possessions of dying medievalism. He knows less accurately than Gesner what books actually exist and are accessible; but he is invaluable as marking a stage in the period of rediscovery and revival. It is most interesting to compare his list of authors with that derivable from the more scientific Gesner. Sixtus of Siena's book, lastly, is still valuable, not only because it presents us with a comprehensive view of the standard of Biblical and patristic knowledge at a certain period, but because the author apparently had access to documents of early date which have since disappeared.

The greatest man who continued the work of Trithemius during the sixteenth century was no doubt Cardinal Bellarmin. His book on ecclesiastical writers, produced during his early years, gives evidence of his great power, and in particular of his critical ability; but though it may be intrinsically better than the works of Trithemius or Gesner, it does not occupy so important a place in the history of this special form of literature. Of more enduring value were the bibliographies devoted to particular countries, notably that of Bale, in which are embodied his own collections and those of Leland. It gives a really amazing conspectus of the literary history of medieval England.

The progress of the formation of libraries, which we traced roughly during the period preceding the invention of printing, demands our attention again in the earlier part of the sixteenth century. There is no need to dwell at length upon the obvious fact, that the possession of a library of reasonable extent was now within the power of nearly all students. In the fourteenth century a man might be proud of owning thirty manuscripts; he could now for the same money purchase one or two hundred printed books.

Most prominent scholars possessed in addition a certain number of manuscripts; but these were in most cases late in date, and, in proportion as the critical sense was developed, the productions of the fifteenth century scribes lost their value as compared with the correct and beautiful texts issued by Aldo or Froben, and supervised by