Imagens da página

copy of that impression wherein the 149th page is misprinted' 153. A little later we were dipping, for the n-th time, into that bibliophile's bible ‘The Book Hunter,' by John Hill Burton. His opinion of the Cæsar seemed even higher, and he devotes nearly half a page to the little volume which Brunet describes as 'une des plus jolies et plus rares de la collection des Elsevier.

That decided us. We would collect Elzeviers. Moreover, we would continue to collect them until we had acquired both the Pastissier François' and the 1635 Cæsar. Such was the confidence of youth! So we sallied forth straight away, determined to ransack the nooks and corners of certain shops of our acquaintance.

We didn't find the ‘Pastissier François' that afternoon, but we found the 1635 °Cæsar' in Charing Cross Road for two shillings. Moreover, it had the requisite misprint and certain other distinctions which proclaim it to be of the rare impression, and it is no less than 126 millimetres in height! We have not yet come across the Pastissier, but doubtless we shall find a copy one day, provided our luck holds good.

The little ‘Pastissier' is a far more interesting volume than the 'Cæsar.' The latter is a dainty book, beautifully printed upon fine paper, with folding maps and plans of castramentation. The *Pastissier,' on the other hand, is a disappointing little book in appearance, for it is but indifferently printed upon poor paper. It cannot even claim the merit of originality, being merely a pirated reprint of a volume that appeared in Paris some two years previously. But it is very, very rare, and it has been celebrated by many distinguished pens.

""Monsieur,” said I, “pray forgive me if my question seems impertinent, but are you extremely fond of eggs?”?

Such were the words with which Alexandre Dumas first addressed Charles Nodier, the famous dramatist and bibliophile, whom he found sitting next to him at the Théâtre Porte-Saint-Martin. Dumas' curiosity as to the little volume that was engrossing his neighbour's attention more than the play was at length allayed, and it was a view of the title-page that prompted his unusual question. Looking over his neighbour's shoulder, he read, opposite the engraved frontispiece, as follows :

1 At the sale of Baron Seillière's books in 1887, a copy of this prototype of the Elzevier volume, printed at Paris

chez Jean Gaillard,' 1653, brought only £6, 1os. It was described as 'a beautiful copy, red morocco, super extra, gilt edges, by Petit.' It is exceedingly rare, but it is not an Elzevier.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

But Nodier was far from being the gourmet that Dumas supposed him to be. He was merely a bookhunter devouring a rare ‘find '; and the little book, he explained to Dumas, was one of those tiny volumes published in the seventeenth century by the house of the Elzeviers at Leyden and Amsterdam; and of all the many productions of that press, this was the most sought for by collectors.

Elzeviers, however, are no longer fashionable, in this country at least. The Cæsar might possibly bring five pounds if it came to the notice of an Elzevier specialist, but we doubt it. Only the Pastissier has retained its exalted price, probably on account of its notoriety. A copy, in modern calf binding, sold recently (1917) at Sotheby's for so much as £130; but Lord Vernon's copy, choicely bound by Capé, realised only £70 at the Sudbury sale in June 1918. However, it was a poor copy and much cut down.

Railway-trains, among other things, have killed Elzeviers. Nothing could be more convenient for saddle-bag or knapsack, or the restricted luggage which one could stow in the boot of a coach. But who makes a practice nowadays of putting books into his suit-case or gladstone-bag? (We confess that we do, but then we are hopelessly out of date, or we should not be fond of Elzeviers.) Besides, before the advent of railways, there was not the same facility for distributing books, and

one might travel many leagues and visit many villages without coming to a place where there would be a bookshop. In travelling nowadays one is continually in the presence of cheap books.

The fate of the little Pastissier was probably that of many popular books. There must have been thousands of copies of it printed. Dumas, in that delightful chapter of “Mes Mémoires' which we have just quoted, makes Nodier say, 'Techener declares that there were five thousand five hundred copies issued, and I maintain that there were more than ten thousand printed'; and he goes on to declare that 'there are probably only ten examples of it left in Europe.' Willems, however, in his bibliography of the Elzeviers published in 1880, enumerates some thirty copies, and states that the highest price yet paid for the Pastissier was 10,000 francs. But that was for a quite exceptional copy. From 4500 francs to 5500 francs seems to have been the average value of the book in Willems' time, and, enthusiast as he is, he hesitates not to describe it as a 'bouquin insignifiant et médiocrement imprimé.'

Its scarcity at the present day is, perhaps, not surprising ; for, from the very nature of its contents, its habitat must always have been the kitchen rather than the library. How long would such a tiny volume, with its 130 thin paper leaves, bear the rough and greasy handling of chefs and

« AnteriorContinuar »