Page:Essays in librarianship and bibliography.djvu/303

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The precept "Love your Enemies" was never intended for the enemies of books, because the enemy of books is not an individual foe, but hostis humani generis. The value of books, as of other things, may be superstitiously overrated. We are accustomed to speak of them as if they were in themselves the wisdom, or the knowledge, or the genius, of which they are, in fact, only the receptacles. They are not the honey of the human hive, but only the treasure-cells in which it is stored, and the analogue of the bee is the author. But even in this restricted point of view, their function is so important that to destroy them is a crime of lèse-humanité; and it is not known that any one ever enunciated their destruction as a sound principle, unless it were the Caliph Omar. Even he, if the famous bon-mot attributed to him is genuine, was willing to spare one book; and could his life have been prolonged for a century or two, he would have discovered that in reprieving the Koran he had authorised the creation of a very considerable literature. The number of

  1. Edition of 1896.