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What poignant memories they are, these memories of rare books which we have found and failed to secure! Two prominent instances of our folly stand out with bitter clearness, ever fresh in our memory as a reminder of the criminal stupidity of procrastination. One was an exceedingly scarce work by Lawrence Humphrey, entitled “Optimates sive De Nobilitate eiusque Antiqua origine,' printed in small octavo at Basle in 1560, which we once saw in a catalogue for five shillings. We sent for it three days after the receipt of the catalogue, and of course it had gone. The other was an unknown, or at least undescribed, edition of Osorio's 'De Gloria et Nobilitate, printed at Barcelona in the early part of the sixteenth century. We lost this in the same manner, at two shillings ! Perhaps, however, you too have been guilty of these lapses, reader? Semel insanivimus omnes. Experience is better than advice, and we for our part shall not be caught napping again. The following incident will show you, moreover, that it is not always safe to order books from a catalogue even by return of post.
For many years we had searched in vain for that rarest of all English heraldry books (though not properly English, for it is in the Latin tongue), the ‘ De Studio Militari, Libri Quatuor' of Master Nicholas Upton. It was edited by Sir Edward Bysshe, and printed in folio at London in 1654. The numerous booksellers in London and the country from whom we sought it had never seen it ; indeed, most of them were unaware of its existence, though it is well known to all heralds.
At length, coming home late one night, we found on our table a catalogue from a bookseller who seems to garner more out-of-the-way books than any of his fellows. His catalogues are issued very frequently, for he has a large and quick sale, pricing most of his wares at less than five shillings. Moreover, the fact that the books described therein are thrown together without any attempt at classification, even alphabetical, serves but to add a zest to the repast. But we were tired, and our evil star was in the ascendant, for we went to bed leaving the catalogue unopened.
Reading it over a late breakfast next morning, upon the last page we came across the following entry : Uptoni (Nich.) De Studio Militari. Johan de
Bado Aureo, Tractatus de Armis. Henrici
Scarce, indeed! In less than five minutes we were driving hot-haste to the shop.
Of course it was sold : sold by telegram dispatched the night before. We were allowed to see it, even to handle it, and we frankly confess that murderous thoughts rose within us as we held it in our hands. . . . He was an old man ... the shop was very dark ... just a push, and perhaps one firm application super caput of a large-paper copy of Camden's 'Britannia' which lay handy upon the table. ... But we are glad to say that our better nature prevailed, and sorrowfully we returned the volume to his hands. Did he know the customer, and if so would he try to buy it back for us ? Certainly he would. A week later came a letter saying that the customer was also a collector of these things, but that he was willing to part with it ‘at a price.' Unfortunately his price was not ours, and we failed to secure the treasure—then.
Now comes the more pleasant sequel. About a year later, coming home in the small hours from a dance, we found a catalogue from this same bookseller on our table. Although tired out, our previous bitter experience had taught us a lesson ; so pulling up a chair before the remains of the fire, we proceeded to skim through the catalogue. We had reached the last page, and were already beginning to nod, when suddenly our weariness vanished in a flash : we were wide awake and on our feet in an instant, for our eyes had met the same entry that had thrilled us a year ago. This time it was described as 'very scarce, and the price was considerably enhanced ; but we had our coat on and were in the street almost immediately.
The nearest telegraph office likely to be open at such an hour was a mile away, and it was a miserable night, snowing and blowing ; but no weather would have deterred us. So the telegram was safely dispatched, and we returned to bed, pinning a notice on the bedroom door to the effect that we were to be called, without fail, at seven o'clock.
That night we were obsessed by Uptons of all shapes and sizes. Some we beheld with agony, cut down by the ruthless binder to duodecimo size; others there were no larger than Pickering's Diamond Classics ; some (on our chest) were of a size which we can only describe as 'Atlas,' or, perhaps more appropriately, Elephant Folio,' large-paper copies with hideous margins.
Next morning we were at the shop betimes. Yes! our wire had arrived ; Upton was ours at last! Should he send it for us by carrier ? Carrier, forsooth! As well entrust the Koh-i-noor to a messenger boy. Of course it was the same copy that we had missed previously, the owner having sold his books en bloc in the meantime.
Why Upton is so scarce it is hard to say ; perhaps very few copies were printed, or perhaps a fire at the printer's destroyed most of them. Certain it is that the premises of James Allestry and Roger Norton, who published the book, were both burnt in the great fire twelve years after its publication. Besides the two copies in the British Museum, there are examples of it in several of the ancient libraries throughout the kingdom ; but it is very rarely indeed to be met with in the London salerooms. Dallaway mentions two copies as being, in 1793, in the library of Lord Carlisle at Naworth ; and probably there are examples in some of the libraries of our older nobility. There would seem to be copies, also, in France; for several writers upon chivalry, such as La Roque and Sainte Marie, make mention of it. We bought a portion of it, some forty-eight pages, a few years ago for four shillings. But take heart, brother bibliophile ; it is quite possible that you may unearth a copy some day—if indeed the book be in your line-long buried in the dust of some old country bookshop.
Upton died in 1457, and his work was so popular that numerous copies of the manuscript were made. The treatise on coat-armour, or 'cootarmuris,' as it is quaintly spelt, which comprises the third part of the ‘Book of Saint Albans' (first printed in 1486), is, for the greater part, a literal translation of the second half of the fourth book of the ‘De Studio Militari'as printed by Bysshe. Ames, in his 'Typographical Antiquities,' asserts that Upton's work was reprinted from the St. Albans book in folio, 1496, ‘with the King's Arms and Caxton's mark printed in red ink. But he gives no authority for his assertion, and it seems doubtful whether such a volume ever