Category Archives: Noteworthy long-held accessions
Editions of the ‘Columbus Letter’ : Scans newly provided by the Library
❧ Columbus’s description of his first voyage first appeared in print in a Spanish edition published in Barcelona in 1493. Within four years it had gone through fifteen known editions, including seven Latin editions, one German edition, a paraphrase in Italian verse in five editions, and a second Spanish edition, Valladolid, about 1497. These fifteen different editions were products of presses scattered in ten cities across Europe.
❧ Of these fifteen editions, there is at Princeton an exemplar for three of the seven Latin editions and an exemplar of the German edition. The most direct manner of listing these is the number assigned in F.R. Goff, Incunabula in American Libraries (1964):
• C-758. Latin. [Rome: Stephan Plannck, after 29 April 1493]. Cyrus McCormick copy, presented to PUL. Permanent Link:
• C-759. Latin. Rome: Eucharius Silber, [after 29 April] 1493. Grenville Kane copy, acquired by PUL. Permanent Link:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/xp68kh56z and the Scheide Library copy.
Permanent Link: http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/sx61dn657
• V-125. Latin. [Basel:] I.B. [Johann Bergmann, de Olpe] 1494. Grenville Kane copy, acquired by PUL. Permanent Link:
• C-762. German. Strassburg: Bartholomaeus Kistler, 30 Sept. 1497. Grenville Kane copy, acquired by PUL. Permanent Link:
❧ REFERENCE: W. Eames, “Columbus’ Letter on the Discovery of America (1493-1497)” in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library, 1924, 28:597-599. (NB: Eames lists seventeen editions; however, the number is actually fifteen because Eames was unaware that three issued by Marchant in Paris were variants of one edition.)
Update regarding Princeton’s copy of Le Miroir des événemens actuels
To Have Friends Come from Afar–Isn’t That a Joy? • A Post about some Chinese holdings in the Scheide Library
A Brief Essay by Minjie Chen (陈敏捷)
Wrapped in paper and tucked in the protective case of Tong Jian Zong Lei (通鉴总类), a Chinese history book, were four aging black-and-white photographs. With frayed edges and small stained spots, the pictures have nonetheless retained their sharpness, allowing us to see what a skilled photographer had captured through his curious lens one century ago in the hometown of Confucius. Fading handwriting on the back of each photo provided precious clues to their content and provenance.
The history book, compiled by SHEN Shu of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and printed in 1363 during the late Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), is part of the private Scheide Library collection housed in Firestone Library at Princeton University. The photos, according to notes on the back, were taken by a physician named Charles H. Lyon and presented to John Hinsdale Scheide (1875-1942, Princeton class of 1896) by Mrs. Lyon in January 1937.
The first photo is a portrait of a round-faced Chinese man in the official robe and headwear of the Qing Dynasty. If the ink note scratched on the back, “a descendant of Confucius,” is reliable, the subject of the photo is KONG Lingyi (孔令贻, 1872-1919). As a seventy-sixth generation descendant of Confucius in the male line of descent, Kong inherited the title “Duke Confucius” (衍圣公) from his father at age five. The note also indicates that Dr. Lyon, the photographer, is the “physician to the subject.” It is unclear how often Kong had sought Dr. Lyon’s medical expertise, but interacting with Westerners from afar and posing for photographs would not have been out of place for Duke Kong. European ambassadors and colonial administrators had paid visits to the Confucius Temple in Qufu (曲阜), Shandong Province, and had photos taken with the Duke, who lived in the Kong family mansion adjacent to the temple complex, as generations of the sage’s offspring had done. In a photo held at the National Archives in London, a slightly younger-looking Kong is seen with Reginald Johnston (1874-1938), a Scottish colonial officer who had escorted a portrait of King Edward VII to Confucius’s hometown (and who later became famous for having tutored China’s last emperor, Puyi).
What is remarkable about the portrait taken by Dr. Lyon is that it is a half-body shot of the Duke. During the late Qing dynasty, when cameras were still a novelty to the Chinese, it was taboo to photograph less than a full-body shot of a person, because it was deemed bad luck to have the subject missing arms, legs, or other body parts in photos. Was Kong informed of the outcome of his photo, and was he comfortable about it? As a physician, did Dr. Lyon hold any power of persuasion over Kong, assuring him of the harmlessness of a partial-body picture? At any rate, Lyon’s photograph offers a rare close-up view of the second-to-last Duke Confucius in Chinese history.
Three other photos were taken in and outside the Confucius Temple, where ritual ceremonies were performed every year to worship the sage. Photo no. 2 shows an arch named Que li (阙里), which stood outside the east wall of the temple. Confucius was believed to have started his teaching career in this neighborhood, hence the location of the temple. Photo no. 3 is a front view of the statue of Confucius in Da cheng dian (大成殿, meaning “the Hall of Great Achievements”), which was the architectural center of the temple complex. The statue was inaugurated in 1730 (the eighth year in the reign of Emperor Yongzheng), replacing an earlier one destroyed in a fire in 1724. The fourth photo focuses on the porch of the hall, which is guarded by limestone pillars carved with dragons riding clouds.
Lyon would never know that he had captured the image of vanishing cultural relics. In 1966, twenty years after Lyon died at age 72 in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution broke out in China, followed closely by the “Destruction of Four Olds” campaign. Confucius’s legacy was a prime target among the “old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits” to be condemned and eradicated from Chinese society, ostensibly to make room for a brand new world. Hundreds of Red Guards swept into the temple, mansion, and cemetery of Confucius in November 1966, smashing up statues, stone tablets, monuments, and numerous other antiquities. The tombs of Confucius and KONG Lingyi, who died in 1919—one year after Dr. Lyon left China—were both leveled. The Hall of Great Achievements was stripped of statues of Confucius and sixteen of his most famed followers, except for a broken head left among the ruins. The Internet is not short of violent images showing Red Guards in fervent action in Qufu. Online photos revealed that, before being reduced to debris, the 236-year-old statue of Confucius had been disfigured and disgraced by the “revolutionists” who had plastered strips of paper with blasphemous slogans all over it.
With the same determined pursuit for visual clarity with which he had taken Duke Kong’s portrait, Lyon had positioned his lens straight in front of the sage’s statue, taking in the exquisite latticed boards and a pair of lively-looking dragons about to untangle their bodies from the columns. Lyon’s photo is not the only one of the Confucius statue that was no more. However, compared with what we have found in print and digitized resources, his shot is clearly the one that best allows us a belated gaze into the (now ruined) entire shrine from a satisfactory angle.
MAO Zedong’s death in 1976 brought about the end of the Cultural Revolution. In spring 1983, barely five years after DENG Xiaoping had assumed leadership of China and introduced reforms, the government allocated 480,000 RMB (roughly equivalent to 560,000 USD today) for restoring all seventeen statues in the Hall of Great Achievements. Striving for faithful replication in shape, size, and detail, sculptors started their extensive preparation work by collecting information from written records, images, videos, and oral interviews with local residents. (Regretfully, the project team was not aware of Lyon’s superb shot.)
According to the restoration team, the only deliberate point of departure from the original statue was the sage’s facial expression. Launched in 1984, the new statue of Confucius gently smiles down at his worshippers. Local residents were reportedly happy with the reinstated, amicable-looking Confucius, commenting that they used to find his old statue “really scary” (Gong and Wang 62). Such a hearty welcome almost made the silver lining of the massive loss from the “Four Olds” campaign. However, with the aid of Lyon’s photo record, might the jury still be out on whether the old statue truly presented a forbidding expression?
We do not know much about Dr. Lyon and his family or about the couple’s relationship with John H. Scheide. Lyon was born in China to a missionary family possibly from Wooster, Ohio. He graduated with an M.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1898, and, as a member of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, went to the Philippine Islands in 1900. By 1902 he had become a medical missionary in Jining (济宁), Shandong Province, working as the chief physician of the Rose Bachman Memorial Hospital for Men, which was operated by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the USA. More than a century later, that hospital, now called the Jining First People’s Hospital, is still in business (and accepting patients of both genders). Lyon married Edna P. van Schoick in Shanghai on Dec. 19, 1902. The two met when Lyon visited Edna’s father, Dr. Isaac Lanning van Schoick, who had returned from a mission in China to his home in Hightstown, New Jersey (“Going to China” 9). Indeed, one of the places in which Dr. Van Schoick had been stationed was Jining, to which Edna was perhaps no stranger.
Lyon’s hospital was approximately 35 miles west of Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius. An excursion to Qufu on the back of a horse or donkey along the rural mud road could take several uncomfortable hours, longer if by sedan chair. With a healthy dose of curiosity and determination and the cool-headedness of a physician, Lyon helped preserve the image of what would be demolished by unprecedented political fervor.
One might question the appropriateness of a missionary visiting the temple of Confucius, who, after all, had been treated as a demigod in China. At a formal level, Western missionaries had studied the compatibility and divergence of Confucianism and Christianity, seeking understandings that would, they hoped, aid their evangelical work with the Chinese. On a personal level, anecdotal stories and individual cases suggest that missionaries might have considered the philosophy of Confucius with varying degrees of open-mindedness. Some may even have been influenced by long-term exposure to the ideas of the very people whom they had traveled across the ocean to convert. An especially “quirky” missionary of such a kind can be found in the film The Keys of the Kingdom (1944). Father Francis Chisholm (played by Gregory Peck) returns to his Scottish hometown church after having served the greater half of his life in China. He is heard giving sermons like “The good Christian is a good man, but I have found that the Confucianist usually has a better sense of humor.”
The digitized photos and their catalog record can be found by searching “Temple of Confucius in Qufu” (call number 3.1.19) in the library catalog.
We would like to thank the University of Pennsylvania Archives and the Philadelphia Free Library for offering generous and timely assistance in locating Charles H. Lyon’s biographical information for us. The East Asian Library of Princeton University kindly created a detailed bibliographical description of the photos.
1724: A lightning strike sparks a fire in the Temple of Confucius in Qufu, Shandong Province, destroying the statue of Confucius.
1730: The temple is restored after a five-year reconstruction project.
1872: KONG Lingyi, a seventy-sixth generation descendant of Confucius, is born in Qufu.
ca. 1874: Charles Hodge Lyon is born into a missionary family in China.
1877: As the first-born son of his family, Kong inherits the title “Duke Confucius.”
1898: Lyon graduates from the University of Pennsylvania with an M.D. degree.
ca. 1902: Lyon becomes a medical missionary in Tsining-Chou, China (now Jining of Shandong Province in northern China), serving as a physician at the Rose Bachman Memorial Hospital for Men.
1902: Lyon and Edna P. van Schoick are married in Shanghai on December 19.
1918: Lyon returns to the United States.
1919: Duke Kong dies in Beijing at age 47.
1937: Mrs. Lyon presents the photos taken by Dr. Lyon to John H. Scheide (Princeton class of 1896) on January 19.
1946: Lyon dies in Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
1966: Red Guards attack the Confucius temple, mansion, and cemetery, and destroy numerous antiquities, the statue of Confucius among them.
1983: The government funds the recovery of the Hall of Great Achievements, aiming for a faithful replication of the statues built in 1730.
1984: By August, all seventeen statues have been restored. The inauguration ceremony is held on September 22, speculated to be the 2,535th anniversary of the birth of Confucius.
“Charles Hodge Lyon.” Journal of the American Medical Association 131.6 (1946): 547. Web.
“Dr. C.H. Lyon Dies at Age of 72.” Philadelphia Inquirer Apr. 21, 1946: 10. Print.
Gao, Wen, and Xiaoping Fan. Zhongguo Kong Miao [Confucius temples in China]. Chengdu Shi: Chengdu chu ban she, 1994. Print.
“Going to China to Become a Bride.” The New York Times Oct. 25, 1902: 9. Web.
Gong, Yanxing, and Zhengyu Wang. Kong Miao Zhu Shen Kao [Deities in the Confucius Temple]. Jinan: Shandong you yi chu ban she, 1994. Print.
Kong, Fanyin. Yan Sheng Gong Fu Jian Wen [A history of the mansion of Duke Confucius]. Jinan: Qi Lu shu she, 1992. Print.
Pan, Guxi, et al. Qufu Kong Miao Jian Zhu [Architecture of the Confucius Temple in Qufu]. Beijing: Zhongguo jian zhu gong ye chu ban she, 1987. Print.
“Rose Bachman Memorial Hospital for Men.” Western Medicine in China, 1800-1950. Web. Apr. 19, 2013. <http://www.ulib.iupui.edu/wmicproject/node/336>.
Shandong Sheng wen wu guan li chu, and Zhongguo guo ji lü xing she Jinan fen she. Qufu Ming Sheng Gu Ji [Places of historical interest in Qufu]. Shandong ren min chu ban she, 1958. Print.
The Keys of the Kingdom. Dir. John M. Stahl. 1944. Film.
Here beginneth the tales: Copies of the Kelmscott Press Chaucer at Princeton
Independent researcher and now-retired preservation librarian at the Library, Robert Milveski recently completed intensive research into the four copies of the Kelmscott Chaucer held at Firestone. His work not only corroborates particulars published in the landmark study, The Kelmscott Chaucer: A Census by William S. Peterson and Sylvia Holton Peterson, but also extends it. In a 6,200 word essay augmented with two appendices, Milevski examines a great range of copy specific details, especially ownership history and the particulars of each binding. The link below takes you to his article.
William Morris, the Kelmscott Press Chaucer, and the Princeton University Library
by Robert Milevski.
Frederic Vinton, collector
Frederic Vinton served as the 20th librarian of Princeton from the fall of 1873 until his death on January 1, 1890.
His legacy of publications and achievements includes being a founder of the American Library Association (1876) and publication of his monumental 894 page
Subject Catalogue of the Library of the College of New Jersey, at Princeton. (New York, 1884).
He also left a series of scrapbooks as part of his official legacy. He made these in order to both document and systematically record prodigious national events during his term. He recognized that making a scrapbook was a way of supplying the Library with a reference book on a topic even before such was produced by publishers. It was a way to bring the ‘recent past’ to collections formed by customary 19th century academic codes privileging ancient history, the classics, national literatures and other topics germane to the seven liberal arts.
Vinton’s efforts conformed to the rationale provided in 1880 by journalist E. W. Gurley, who posed the question “Who should we make scrap-books?” and noted:
“In Franklin’s day there were two newspapers in America; now there are about 8000 periodicals of all grades, constantly flooding the land with a stream of intelligence. Much of this is ephemeral, born for the day and dying with the day; yet scarcely a paper falls into the hands of the intelligent reader in which he does not see something worth keeping” (E. W. Gurley
Scrap-books and how to make them [New York, 1880], p. 10)
He went on to answer the question “Who should keep a scrap-book?” and responded “Every one who reads … Jefferson was in the habit of collecting, in this form, all the information bearing on certain points in which he was interested. … Sumner was an habitual gatherer of Scraps, and found them invaluable aids to even his vast field of information. … It is said of another noted Congressman that he dreaded an opponent of much inferior powers, because the latter was a careful compiler of Scrap-Books, and thus had a fund of knowledge which the more brilliant man did not possess. … ” (p. 11)
Vinton’s scrapbooks center on the theme of death and disaster.
1874-1878 — Consists of newspaper accounts at Charles Sumner’s death, as well as those looking back on his political career. Call number; (Ex) Oversize 1083.891.673e. Finding aid [link]
1881-1882 — Collection of newspaper accounts concerning the assassination of President Garfield, and the trial of Charles Guiteau. Call number; (Ex) Oversize 10862.378.37e. Finding aid [link]
1888 — Collection of newspaper accounts concerning the New York city snowstorm of 1888 : known as the Great White Hurricane of 1888. Call number; (Ex) Oversize 10992.863e. Finding aid [link]
1889 — Collection of newspaper accounts concerning the Washington centennial, 1889, and the Johnstown flood, 1889. Call number; (Ex) Oversize 10822.956.953e. Finding aid [link]
True Images of Illustrious ❧ 1577 Giovio
The Elogia had its origins in the biographies, rhetorical in form and intended to be brief, vivid and memorable, which Giovio composed to hang below the portraits in
his museum on Lake Como. “Giovio’s idea of founding a portrait museum on the
lake was his most original contribution to European civilization. While
Wunderkammern and princely collections were not new, the idea of filling a villa
with portraits of famous people on canvas or on bronze medallions, calling it a
museum, and opening it … for public enjoyment was a new departure … . The
inspiration had come to him, he said, of adorning his room, ‘Mercury and Pallas’,
with the ‘true images of illustrious men of letters, so that through emulation of their
example good mortals might be inflamed to seek glory’. Thereafter his
correspondence shows him badgering all manner of persons for portraits … . [There]
were various precedents for Giovio’s inspiration to form a portrait collection, but
none was quite what Giovio had in mind. Although intended as figurae of glory and
incentives to emulation, most collections or cycles featured idealized or imaginary
representations, whereas from the very start Giovio demanded an exact likeness,
preferably done from life but otherwise from sound evidence such as coins,
medallions, portrait busts, or earlier authentic portraits … . When he had the
inspiration of enlarging the identifying inscriptions to elogia, or capsule biographies,
his innovative scheme was complete.” (T.C. Price Zimmermann, Paolo Giovio: The Historian and the Crisis of Sixteenth-Century Italy, [Princeton, 1995], pp. 159-160).
❧ Paolo Giovio (1483-1552). Elogia virorum literis illustrium. [Basel] P. Perna, 1577. Call number: (Ex) Oversize 1038.392.11q
New information about an edition of Mark Twain’s  Conversation as it was by the Social Fireside in the Time of the Tudors.
In 1882, on the ‘Academie Presse’ at West Point, there was printed the first authorized edition of Mark Twain’s satiric Elizabethan ribald confection  Conversation as it was by the Social Fireside in the Time of the Tudors. In the following decades, the saucy text became steady meat for bibliophiles eager to consume privately printed editions. During the 1920s, each annum averaged about two editions. A bibliography published in 1939 lists 44 privately printed editions, and, according to one expert, “there had undoubtedly been many more.”
Recently, among the ‘many more,’ a twin pair of editions have become better known. The two are the work of a member of Princeton’s class of 1912, Eugene V. Connett III. Prior to founding his own imprint, The Derrydale Press, Connett did commission design and book production for well-heeled Eastern bibliophiles like himself.
For some years, it’s been known that Connett produced in 1925 a 100 copy edition of 1601. [Title page illustrated above.] This edition is well described in the standard bibliography of the Derrydale Press, compiled by Henry Siegel and Isaac Oelgart. [It’s entry A on page 34.] Furthermore, Connett also produced in 1925 a 30 copy edition, less typographically complex than the 100 copy edition.
Even though Connett’s involvement with these productions is known, it was always a mystery as to who commissioned him. The 100 copy edition clearly states “printed for H.D.W.”
Who was “H.D.W.”?
We now have an answer. In the course of preparing a bookseller’s color-printed catalogue of the Derrydale Press, Princeton Class of 1983 member Henry Wessells discovered who “H.D.W.” was. He did so by following up a note written by Connett and tucked into a copy of 1601 that appeared in a New England auction a number of years ago. This direct evidence from Connett, Wessells learned, is also confirmed by circumstantial evidence found in the Derrydale Papers.
“H.D.W.” was Henry Devereux Whiton (1871-1930). H.D.W, according to Wessells, “was an industrialist with interests in the sulfur industry, a sportsman, and a philanthropist. During the 1920s he lived in Long Island and was a member of the Piping Rock Club and the Bellport Yacht Club. No doubt it it was through such associations that he came to know Connett.” Whiton’s obituary published in the New York Times, November 1, 1930, mentions many achievements but is totally silent on his paying for an edition of 1601. This comes as no surprise, for in 1906 its very author, Mark Twain, wrote “I hasten to assure you that it is not printed in my published writings.”
❧ [Mark Twain]  Being a fireside conversation in ye tyme of ye goode Queene Bess Done into a privately emprynted booke, 1926.
Call number: (EX) 3679.7.386.12. Gift of Eugene V. Connett III, Class of 1912
❧ With thanks to Henry Wessells for providing many details.
“A Relic of John Bunyan (?)”: The Mystery Continues
In 1968, collector Robert T. Taylor presented a copy of three works by the English puritan, Issac Ambrose (1604-1664/4), all printed in London in 1650 and bound together in one calf-bound volume, repaired but retaining its early 17th century covers. It has the bookplate of Roderick Terry, clergyman and in his day, a renowned book collector of Newport, Rhode Island. When part II of Terry’s books were sold on November 7-8, 1934, this book, lot 44, sold for $55. Terry, most likely, obtained it from George T. Juckes, 35 St. Martin’s Court, London, who dubbed himself “The Bookfinder.” Juckes had the book in 1912 and detailed his speculations about it in both an article in Notes & Queries (“A Relic of John Bunyan(?)” II Series, vol 1, August 31, 1912, p. 162-163) as well as in long detailed single sheet printed description headed “A Genuine Relic of John Bunyan,” likely also dating from 1912. (Juckes priced it at £100.)
Juckes offered three arguments for tying the book to Bunyan.
1) He cited several notes either in or with the book by owners other than him saying so.
2) He noted that the subject matter of the book, indeed, a phrase repeatedly used in it — “the new birth” — conforms to language ascribed to Bunyan by his “anonymous biographer, “evidently … one who knew him well.”
3) Two authorities compared the marginal notes with two established examples of Bunyan’s handwriting and, according to Juckes, “both agree … the handwriting … is identical.”
What are we to make of these arguments?
Juckes is right when he states: “… in the year 1768 [the book] belonged to one Ludovic Auber, and has is signature in three places, also the date 1768. It afterwards passed into the hands of another owner, as the following inscription shows, “James Martin, is (sic) Book, October the 5th. 1785” Then we have another inscription in a different handwriting of about the same date, as follows, “The Notes in the magin (sic)were written by that valiant advocate for Truth, John Bunyan, while in prison.”Still later it came into the possession of Lady Gregory, wife of Dr. Olinthus Gregory, who has written the following on a sheet of old paper, “The marginal notes in this book were written by John Bunyan. I know not the evidence upon which the fact rests. but it was fully believed by my dear husband, Dr. Olinthus Gregory, A.G., Woolwich Common, June 1842.” [Juckes further adds “It then passed into the possession of Canon Acheson.”]
Moreover, the letter of the two authorities is present with the book and one authority thinks the handwriting is “very much alike.”
However, today, how much more of the literary remains of Bunyan are documented, although they are still sparse. See: * Index of English Literary Manuscripts, vol. II, 1625-1700, part 1, p —- as well as T.J.Brown “English Literary Autographs XXXIII, John Bunyan, 1628-1688” in the *Book Collector, vol 9, Spring 1960, p. 53-55.
Needless to say, the comparison of these marginal notes against a corpus larger than that known in 1912 must be done afresh. Given that this wider comparison is still undone, we must set Juckes’s contention to one side. Today, Bunyan’s authorship of the marginal notes remains an open question.
Issac Ambrose (1604-1664)
Prima, the first things; or, Regeneration sermons …[bound with] The Doctrine & Directions *[and] *Ultima.
London, Printed for J.A., and are to be sold by N. Webb and W. Grantham, 1650.
Call number (EX) 5849.122.2
•Ludovic Auber (1768)
•James Martin (1785)
•Olinthus Gregory = Olinthus Gilbert Gregory (29 January 1774 – 2 February 1841) mathematician
• “A.G.” = 2nd wife of Olinthus Gregory, whose identity is not known according to Oxford DNB [http://www.oxforddnb.com/index/101011469/Olinthus-Gregory].
•Canon Acheson = the Rev. Johnston Hamilton Acheson, Kirby-Cane Rectory, Bungay, Norfolk (19th cent.)
•George T. Juckes, bookseller, London
•Roderick Terry (1849-1933) (bookplate)
•Gift of Robert H. Taylor in 1968
Accessioned in 1912: Thomas Gray’s annotated copy of Algarotti’s Vita di Orazio
Algarotti, Francesco, conte, 1712-1764.
Saggio sopra la vita di Orazio
Venezia, Nella stamperia fenziana, 1760.
Call number (PTT) 2865.557
[The following is a transcription of an article published in The Nation. The author was Reference Librarian at the Library. ]
Harry Clemons. [Algarotti’s Vita di Orazio and Gray.] in The Nation, Aug. 22, 1912, xcv. 167-8
NEWS FOR BIBLIOPHILES.
In the Horace Collection, recently presented to the Library of Princeton University by R. W. Patterson of Pittsburgh, is a book which bears interesting traces of ownership by the poet Gray. It is a copy of the “Vita di Orazio” published in Venice in 1760, which, according to an autograph note on the title page, was given to Gray by the author, Count Francesco Algarotti, in February, 1763. That the scholar poet read the little volume with critical thoroughness is evinced by nearly a hundred marginal comments in his delicate chirography. These notes shed no new light, perhaps, on the recluse of Stoke Poges and Cambridge; but as evidences of his quiet habit of scholarly acquisition and of his nice sense for language many of them seem worthy of quotation.
At least an epistolary acquaintance existed between Gray and Count Algarotti, and it is on record that each publicly expressed a considerable degree of admiration for the work of the other. (Gray’s Works, ed. by Gosse, London, 1884, Vol. Ill, pp. 147, 155, 159, 298.) The Italian litterateur, who was within a year of his death when the “Vita dl Orazio” was presented to Gray, had at this time become well known among literary and court circles in Europe. Lord Byron, writing from Venice to the publisher, Murray, in 1818 (Byron’s “Letters and Journals,” ed. by Prothero, London, 1909, Vol. IV, p. 223) mentions a collection of manuscript letters addressed to Algarotti by Lord Hervey, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Gray, Mason, Garrick, Lord Chatham, David Hume, and others. Voltaire had affectionately dubbed Algarotti “Le cher cygne de Padove,” and he had become a favorite with King Augustus III of Poland and with Frederick the Great. The former had appointed him a Councillor, and Frederick not only made him a Count of Prussia and a Court Chamberlain, but after Algarotti’s death erected to his memory the tombstone which stands on the south side of the Campo Santo at Pisa. It was while coursing through the career of Frederick that Carlyle’s impatient pen fell afoul of this “young Venetian gentleman of elegance, in dusky skin. In very white linen and frills, with his fervid black eyes”— and paused for the few strokes of characterization (Carlyle’s “Frederick the Great,” book x, chap. 7; book xi, chap. 3), which have probably succeeded better in making the learned Italian dilettante and his “Poesies” and “Classical Scholarships” rememberable to English readers than all the voluminous commendations of polite admirers. It is of interest that the virile criticisms of Carlyle are not without support from these private comments in the book which belonged to Gray.
Of these marginal notes In the “Vita di Orazio,” some were evidently intended merely as a sort of irregular brief analysis of the contents. For example:
· Political cause of 3d Ode of 3d Book of Horace.
· False taste in language in Horace’s time.
· Examples from Italian of word-coining.
· Character of Horace’s works.
· Horace’s Irony against himself.
There are other notes which, as might be expected, exhibit Gray’s own somewhat pedantic knowledge of literature and history. His familiarity with Horace is indicated by several case in which he skillfully detected quotations from the Latin poet which Algarotti had assimilated into his own Italian. The range Is wider than Horace: references to Cicero. Ovid, Homer, Dante, Racine, Leo the Tenth, Vitruvius, Sperone Speroni, and as many others, were carefully noted in the margin. On one page Gray discovered that an expression used by Algarotti was “the motto of the Cruscan Accademy at Florence.” Other comments are:
· This Influence of civil causes in forming the characters of Catullus’, Ovid’s and Horace’s Muse is Just and ingenius.
· this remark of Ariosto’s want of knowledge with the polite world is just.
· Character of Plautus just.
· a just valuation of the work of the Augustan age.
To another passage, which discusses the popularity of the theatre over undramatic poetry, he added:
· natural enough as the greatest part of an audience even in the polite ages is illiterate and more prone to feed their eyes than their ears.
And in connection with Algarotti’s estimate of Horace himself Gray queried:
· how far may these sententious passages of our Poet tend to give us a real notion of his true character? Should they not be parallel’d with the character given of him by other authors.
But a large proportion of these private annotations are criticisms of style. In a letter written to Count Algarotti a few months after he received this book (September 9, 1763), Gray apologized for his use of English by saying: “Forgive me if I make my acknowledgments in my native tongue, as I see it is perfectly familiar to you, and I (though not unacquainted with the writings of Italy) should from disuse speak its language with an ill grace, and with still more constraint to one who possesses it in all its strength and purity.” (Gray’s Works, ed. by Gosse, London, 1884; Vol. Ill, page 155; Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. IV, Oct. 1818, p. 38.) Yet these marginal comments reveal no hesitation on Gray’s part to express the most specific criticisms of Algarotti’s Italian. Curiously enough, many of the notes are addressed directly, at Algarotti, as if Gray were a college instructor blue-pencilling a theme. He was some four years younger than the Italian. But as the fruit of above twenty years of writing, the author of the “Elegy” had up to this time permitted only eight of his poems to be printed; and to whatever cause this frugality was due, it is evident that his own severe apprenticeship had given him the confidence of a master in language.
Not all this criticism is adverse. We find such comments as “elegant expression,” “excellent use of the word here,” “this is a happy term and used by you very apropos.” With these, however, are not only such brief strictures as “too affected a term,” “Why not the common term?” “energetlck but affected term,” “I do not like this expression,” “a little affected obscurity here,” but also a series of fuller criticisms which sufficiently indicate Gray’s conclusions concerning the style of the Italian writer:
· Avoid affectation in the use of certain uncommon terms.
· avoid prosing Horace’s scraps too often.
· beware of affecting certain singularities and uncommon forms of diction.
· a friend of mine says you have ingenuity but that your works want to be translated into Italian.
· beware of borrowing the more trite images from the fine arts w[hi]ch custom is unbecoming your refined genius.
· In transposition of words beware of uncommon peculiarities.
· why this continued affectation of il instead of lo the common expression.
· never generalize, but in the espousal of sentiments or doctrines above the vulgar.
avoid affecting the quotations of our English Poets: w[hi]ch are sometimes too frequent in your Essays.
· I do not at all approve of these sentimental quotations.—except those from Horace’s own text.
· beware of too much Italianizing certain Latin terms of Horace.
· I cannot help observing some affectation in your metaphorical expressions, something too recherchée.
· I think you are too figurative in your common stile.
· do not play so much with your Pen.
All this, as I have said, offers no discovery concerning Thomas Gray; but It unquestionably affords us a familiar glimpse behind the “oak” of the scholar’s study.
[Coda: After Princeton, the author served as university librarian at the University of Virginia from 1927 to 1950.