Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Philobiblon: The Love of Books

Richard de Bury was the Bishop of Durham in the 14th century. He was also known as Richard Aungerville or Aungervyle. He was tutor to the future King Edward III, a writer, and a bibliophile. Just before his death, he wrote a 20-chapter book called Philobiblon, which is considered the earliest books to discuss librarianship in-depth. In it he wrote about "how he collected his books, how they should be taken care of, and the many joys he found in them," according to Medievalists.net.

Here are a couple of extracts from his book:

We must consider what pleasantness if teaching there is in books, how easy, how secret! How safely we lay bare the poverty of human ignorance to books without feeling any shame! They are masters who instruct us without rod or ferule, without angry words, without clothes or money. If you come to them they are not asleep; if you ask and inquire of them they do not withdraw themselves; they do not chide if you make mistakes; they do not laugh at you if you are ignorant. O books, who alone are liberal and free, who give to all who ask of you and enfranchise all who serve you faithfully!

Books delight us, when prosperity smiles upon us; they comfort us inseparably when stormy fortune frowns on us. They lend validity to human compacts, and no serious judgments are propounded without their help. Arts and sciences, all the advantages of which no mind can enumerate, consist in books. How highly must we estimate the wondrous power of books, since through them we survey the utmost bounds of the world and time, and contemplate the things that are as well as those that are not, as it were in the mirror of eternity. In books we climb mountains and scan the deepest gulfs of abyss; in books we behold the finny tribes that may not exist outside their native waters, distinguish the properties of streams and springs and of various lands; from books we dig out gems and metals and the materials of every kind of mineral, and learn the virtues of herbs and trees and plants, and survey at will the progeny of Neptune, Ceres, and Pluto.