Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/708

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ENTERTAINING VARIETIES.
 

 

—— Spanish Enterprise.—Peter Bayle holds that it is sufficient for the glory: i nation to have produced one superlative man in every department of human merit, and by that rule the Spaniards can hardly be charged with a want of enterprise. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, when the autos-da-fé of the Infallible Church had turned Southern Europe into a moral cinder-heap, a Spanish gentleman by the name of Saavedra, and possibly a relative of the immortal Miguel, resolved to profit by the prevailing tendency of the age and graft his fortune upon the one flourishing branch of human industry. After devoting a few years to the art of counterfeiting handwritings and the selection of discreet accomplices, he suddenly appeared at Lisbon with a train of a hundred and twenty followers and presented his credentials as a papal plenipotentiary. The spread of heresy, he informed the astonished king, called for extraordinary measures, and his Holiness had resolved to invest the Casa Santa with discretionary powers and had sent him as a special legate with instructions to institute immediate proceedings against the prominent heretics, Moslem and Jews, of the kingdom. Some three thousand persons were summoned before the new tribunal, and, while the bewildered authorities prepared a protest against the threatened innovation, the bailiffs of the legate had arrested six hundred suspects, and forcibly collected two hundred thousand crowns as fines for contempt of court. When the relatives of the prisoners expostulated in rather emphatic terms, the legate expressed his regret at the necessity of fining them too; and, when the discontent threatened to assume the form of a general revolt, the plenipotentiary considered it painful duty to arrest the ringleaders as abettors of heresy, and, after a formal trial and the confiscation of their property, three hundred of the malcontents were actually burned at the stake, June, 1539. The tribunal was just preparing to fine the entire city of Lisbon, when by some indiscretion of a tax-collector the imposture was discovered, but, when the citizens flew to arms, the man of God had disappeared. He was afterward captured near Seville and sent to the galleys, but, in consideration of his zeal in behalf of the holy faith, he was soon pardoned, and the Pope, moreover, confirmed the decrees of the extemporized tribunal, and, as Voltaire remarks, thus rendered sacred what before was merely human.

—— Had the Ancients Cheap Books?—Mr. S. E. Dawson remarks, in his lecture on copyright, that it is a very common error to suppose that the ancient world was very badly supplied with books—to transfer to the times of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilization the darkness and dearth of mediæval Europe. The fact is, that in those days every gentleman's house had its library and every city had its public library. In every wealthy household was a servant to read aloud and another to copy books. Atticus, Cicero's friend, kept a large number of slaves transcribing and made a good deal of money by the sale of the books manufactured. In those days a publisher or bookseller kept a staff of skilled slaves. When a book was to be published one of these read and the others wrote, and in that manner, by the means of cheap slave-labor, large editions of books were published. The literary activity of the countries round the Mediterranean was very great, and we underestimate it. Horace has preserved for us