The Love of Books, or THE PHILOBIBLON of Richard De Bury, written 1345. One the first liberal appreciations of the codex book as a) an outstanding information technology, b) an exquisite aesthetic object, and c) a conveyor of wisdom through space and time, all reasonably set to page at a time when paper was just replacing parchment in Europe and the invention of movable type and industrial printing by Gutenberg was still a century away. Chapter Seven, The Complaint of Books Against Wars, a lament against the folly of conflict and the frequent destruction of learning in war, is one of the most compelling tirades against brutality and ignorance ever written. Here are some snippets :

"...we must tearfully recount the dreadful ruin which was caused in Egypt by the auxiliaries in the Alexandrian war, when seven hundred thousand volumes were consumed by fire. These volumes had been collected by the royal Ptolemy through long periods of time, as Aulus Gellius relates. What an Atlantean progeny must be supposed to have then perished: including the motions of the spheres, all the conjunctions of the planets, the nature of the galaxy, and the prognostic generations of comets, and all that exists in the heavens or in the ether! Who would not shudder at such a hapless holocaust, where ink is offered up instead of blood, where the glowing ashes of crackling parchment were encarnadined with blood, where the devouring flames consumed so many thousands of innocents in whose mouth was no guile, where the unsparing fire turned into stinking ashes so many shrines of eternal truth!"

"In books, I find the dead as if they were alive; in books I foresee things to come; in books warlike affairs are set forth; from books come forth the laws of peace. All things are corrupted and decay in time; Saturn ceases not to devour the children that he generates; all the glory of the world would be buried in oblivion, unless God had provided mortals with the remedy of books...the book well made renders its author this service in return, that so long as the book survives its author remains immortal and cannot die, as Ptolemy declares in the Prologue to his Almagest: He is not dead, who has given life to writing."

"For the meaning of the voice perishes with the sound; truth latent in the mind is wisdom that is hid and treasure that is not seen; but truth which shines forth in books desires to manifest itself to every impressionable sense. It commends itself to the sight when it is read, to the hearing when it is heard, and moreover in a manner to the touch, when it suffers itself to be transcribed, bound, corrected, and preserved."
Translation incl. here from Carrousel for Bibliophiles (Duschnes : NY, 1947), trans. W. Targ. p 297-302. Full e-text available at The University of Virginia Electronic Text Center

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