Page:Inside Canton.djvu/188

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187
INSIDE CANTON.

The library itself is certainly one of the most interesting objects in the learned man's boudoir. The wood of which it is constructed is, like that of the furniture, black, shining, and carven, and the books lie flat upon the shelves. The compartments are arranged according to the size and number of the volumes. A work in quarto is in juxtaposition with some diamond edition; an author with a load of sixteen volumes shoulders a comrade who carries only six. The workmen, taking advantage of these irregularities, carve upon the edges of the shelves ornamental excrescences like branches of coral; and these interlacing decorations appear to be executed quite at the fancy of the artist, and independent of all reference to appropriateness. The books are chiefly sewn; those which are ostensibly bound are held together by two pieces of cardboard, or, oftener still, by two pieces of wood; and this covering is fastened by an ivory clasp with a little sheath of silk.

It would be impossible for me to enumerate the multitudinous manuscripts, the ancient writings and paintings, ant-eaten and rat-eaten, which Pan-se-Chen called upon us to admire; only those who have themselves experienced the archæologic fever of our enthusiastic collectors of ancient rarities can conceive them. I took advantage of a discussion started between our mandarin and Callery, about an historian, dead some few thousands of ages before our

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