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IRISH QUARTERLY REVIEW.

No. XXVII.-OCTOBER, 1857.

ART I. ODD PHASES IN LITERATURE.

* FIFTH PAPER.

1. L'Origine de l'Imprimerie de Paris. Paris: 1694. 2. Essai sur les Livres dans l'Antiquite. Par H. Géraud. Paris: 1840.

Amongst the PECULIARITIES APPERTAINING TO ANCIENT WRITINGS, the writing which bore the name of bonstrophedon + is remarkable.

In this system of writing, the first line was traced from the left to the right, the second from the right to the left, the third from the left to the right, and so on.

Writing from left to right, in use at the present day amongst the inhabitants of the West, was introduced amongst the Greeks by Pronapides of Athens, whom Diodorus of Sicily pretended to have been the preceptor of Homer. It was afterwards adopted by the Latins.

The form of writing in the ancient Greek manuscripts and inscriptions presents a very striking dissimilarity to the Latin writing. Whilst the Greek characters are in general small, close, and correct, the Latin characters are long, large, and the

For the other papers of this series see IRISH QUARTERLY REVIEW, Vol. vi, No. 23, p. 439; No. 24, p. 647; Vol. vii, No, 25, p, 1; No. 26, p. 267.

+ From two Greek words, Bous, ox, and orgiou, to return. This phrase, according to the Benedictines, is perfectly characteristic of the operation of the laborer guiding a plough drawn by oxen, who after having traced his first ridge, forms it at the other side, and in that manner pursues his labor, till he has finished the line. A specimen of this species of writing may be seen in vol. xxiii, p. 403, of the Mémoirs de l'Académie des Inscriptions, the fac-simile of the inscription of Amyclaeus.

VOL. VII., NO. XXVII.

43

distance altogether irregular. Thus, in the fourth century, St. Jerome called certain Latin Manuscripts, the characters of which were of enormous dimensions, pregnant letters. The Latiu scribes were very inferior to the Greek; we do not see in fact any of their works figuring among the prodigies of caligraphy mentioned by authors of antiquity. Aelianus tells of a man who, after having written a distich in letters of gold, could enclose it in the rind of a grain of corn. Another caligrapher traced some verses of Homer on a grain of millet.

Cicero," said Pliny, " relates having seen Homer's Illiad written on parchment which could be enclosed in a nut shell." This latter fact would be regarded as incredible amongst the moderns, notwithstanding a proof exhibited by Huet, before the Dauphin and his court, to whom he demonstrated that a bit of vellum, sufficiently slight, of a quarter of a yard in length by nine inches in width, could on both sides contain about 15,000 lines and be easily enclosed in a nut shell of moderate size.

No matter how the incredulous may cavil at what certainly appears all but impossible, there is a fact which none can question, or dream of contesting, and that is, that the characters in writing can be drawn with a minuteness equal to the smallest print.

The Maxims of La Rochefoucauld, printed in microscopic characters, at the establishment of the younger Didot, in 1829, comprised 26 lines of 44 letters on a page of 951 millimetres square. Now, the Illiad contains about 15,210 lines, and each line comprising 33 letters, which would make a total of 501,930 letters. Or, if a square of paper is taken of 435 millimetres, sideways, that is to say of 189,225 millimetres square, what the first and second leaf would doubly comprise ought to be 378,150.* By a very simple calculation we may thus perceive that the space is more than sufficient to contain the entire Illiad; and nothing could be easier than to inclose a paper of such dimensions in one of those nuts where for 30 years women have kept their ball gloves; nor was the slightest abbreviation necessary.

We are about to cite some examples to prove that the caligraphy of the present day is in no point inferior to that of antiquity.

A metre is about equal to a yard, a millimetre is the thousandth part of a metre.

They have shown, and probably exhibit to the present day, at St. John's College at Oxford, a sketch of the head of Charles the First composed of written characters which, seen at a very short distance, has all the appearance of an engraving; the lines of the countenance and the ruff contained the Psalms, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. In the British Museum we believe there is a drawing about the width of the hand representing the portrait of Queen Anne; lines of writing are distinguishable on this design, and each time it is shewn care is taken to exhibit a folio volume containing precisely its con

tents.

"I have seen," said Menage, "several figures and likenesses taken in this manner, such as that of Madame la Dauphine drawn in a car crowned by a Victory in the air. They had there also other hieroglyphical figures bearing reference both to her and Monsigneur. All formed a square picture of a foot and a half, and what appeared to be the mere ordinary lines of the features, were formed by small and capital letters of such surprising delicacy that both the figure and the face of Madame la Dauphine, had a striking resemblance to a most beautiful print. Finally, all these letters composed an Italian poem of several thousand lines in praise of this Princess. The author was an officer of the Nuncio, Cardinal Ranucci." Very many designs of this species might be cited. Of this class were the portrait of General Koenigsmark, which contained the life of this warrior, and the Christ of Pozzo in which was written the Passion according to St. John.

There is still in existence at the Imperial library of Vienna, a sheet of about eight feet in height by six in width, and which contains on one of its sides alone five books of the Old Testament written by a Jew; namely, Ruth, in German; Ecclesiasticus, in Hebrew; the Canticle of Canticles, in Latin; Esther in Syriac, and the Deuteronomy in French.*

According to the general opinion of the present day it is the Roman alphabet, more or less modified, that enables us to trace all the type employed in Europe since the invasion of the Barbarians.

P. Bales, a celebrated English Caligrapher, presented in 1575 to Queen Elizabeth, a ring, the bezel of which was about the size of an English farthing, and had written on it in very legible writing the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, two short Latin prayers, his name, a device, the day of the month, the year of our Lord, and that of the reign of Elizabeth.

Before the Roman conquest, the Gauls employed the Greek characters, and in preserving some of them at a later period they employed the Latin alphabet.

The writings which have been in use in France since the invasion of the Barbarians have been divided chronologically into two periods. One extends up to the end of the twelfth century, the other from the commencement of the thirteenth to the fourteenth. We shall now enter into a few details on this subject. The writings of the earlier period were divided into Capital, Uncial, Minuscule, Cursive and Mixt.

The writing Capital was merely the capitals employed at the present day for the frontispieces and titles of books. They rarely present themselves under a regular form in the manuscripts which were not posterior to the eighth century, when they were altogether in capital letters.

The writing Uncial is formed of capital letters the greater number of the outlines being rounded and differing from the capital by the form of some letters. All manuscripts (with the exception of the liturgy or ornamental illuminated) en tirely written in Uncial are anterior to the ninth century.

The writing Minuscule corresponds to the Roman of our printing. Employed under the Mérovingians, it attained a high degree of perfection under Charlemagne and his succes

sors.

The writing Cursive differs very little from the Roman cursive. It is to be met with in all the letters patent of the Kings of the first race. They apply to the cursive, a writing extremely slim and immnoderately high, the title of allongée, which was in vogue from the eighth to the thirteenth century, whilst the writing tremblante is that in which the lines of all the round letters appeared to be shaking. This latter writing was introduced in the eighth century, and became less frequent towards the end of the eleventh, and was abandoned altogether in the century following.

The writing Mixt is thus named from having borrowed its characters from those mentioned above.

The writings of the second period, to which they have very improperly given the name of gothic, have been like the former divided into capital, minuscule, cursive and mixt.

The writing Capital, used frequently in inscriptions on

It is thus named from the Latin uncia which signifies the twelfth part of the Roman foot.

bronze or marble, is very rarely discovered in the manuscripts of the thirteenth, fourteenth, or fifteenth centuries.

The writing Minuscule was distinguishable by breaking the lines which were straight or crooked in the writings of the preceding centuries. It has been employed in the books having reference to the church from the time of Saint Louis up to that of Henry IV.

The writing Cursive, which dates from the second half of the thirteenth century, had for its distinctive character negligence of forms, irregularity of letters and of abbreviations.

The writing Mixt subsequent to the first years of the fourteenth century, participated at the same time of the properties of the minuscule and of the cursive.

The use of periods or stops in order to mark not alone sentences but words, dates from the most remote antiquity. Each word is followed by two points in the celebrated Eugubine tables in Etruscan characters, and of one only in the same tables in Latin characters. The words of an inscription found at Athens, and which dates from the year 450 before the Christian era, are separated by three stops placed perpendicularly. In some other incriptions the stops are differently disposed, horizontally, obliquely, in a triangle, in a lozenge, in a square, &c., or replaced by different figures, such as of branches or leaves, of circles, roses, hearts, &c. This latter species of punctuation was most frequently used in the manuscripts to indicate the end of the discourse.

Amongst the ancient Danes the end of the period was indicated by the mark ||, and when a new sentence was commenced they placed at the top a figure of the moon.

The correct arrangement of punctuation has been attributed to Aristophanes of Byzantium, who lived 200 years before Christ. This grammarian was the first who marked the different parts of the discourse by means of a stop placed sometimes above, sometimes below, and occasionally in the middle of the last letter of the sentence which corresponded with the divisions admitted by the ancients, and to the marks employed at the present day the comma, the colon, and the full stop. Some vestiges of punctuation may be discovered in several manuscripts of great antiquity; but a very great number are deficient in them, for this was the business not of the transcriber, but of the correctors. Connoisseurs of books and studious men were the only persons who punctuated the copies they employed,

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