Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

"The manner best known," said the Benedictines, "of punctuating in the earlier ages, was by writing in sections, and thus distinguishing the various portions of the discourse. Each section or verse was comprised in a line which the Greeks called Tixos, so that when counting the verses they discovered the number of lines contained in each volume. After the example of Cicero and of Demosthenes, Saint Jerome introduced this distinction by sections or verses in the Holy Scriptures in order to facilitate the reading and understanding them by the simple faithful. Frequently they placed at the commencement of a new sentence or verse a letter a little larger, or more forward than the other lines. The empty space in white supplied another mode of punctuation, and this was the most ancient manner, as soon as they marked the point when the reader took time to breathe, they placed a stop which rendered the discourse perspicuous.

Alcuin, in the schools he had under his direction, had this inscription placed over the benches intended for the copyists:Hic sedeant sacræ scribentes flamina legis...

Per cola distinguant proprios et commata seusus,
Et punctosa ponant ordine quisque suo.

The rules of punctuation were not, however, universally observed till the sixteenth century, and the early printers were not very faithful in noting them.

It is also to the ancient grammarians we owe the turned commas known at first under the denomination of Antilambda, the colon, the parenthesis, and the asterisk. The signs of accentuation in the Greek language have been also attributed to Aristophanes of Byzantium, marks which during a long period were only employed in manuscripts intended for scholars. Montfaucon affirms that he never came across any of those manuscripts anterior to the seventh century. As to the accents of the Latin language, they are a modern invention, and are not to be seen in any manuscript. They had no other object but to facilitate to young persons the reading of the authors, and the good editions of the classics contain them up to the present day.

MATERIALS AND IMPLEMENTS SUITABLE FOR WRITING.Nothing could be more varied than the substances employed by different nations for writing. The three most in favor we shall place before the reader. Inscriptions on stone destined to transmit historical facts to posterity have been too generally used in all times and in all countries to detain us in description:

See Nouveau Traité de Diplomatique.

Jaspar, Cornelian, Agate, &c., were even employed. Among the collection of antiques in the Royal Library, Paris, might be seen a cone of basalte, covered with cuneiform characters. It was found in the Euphrates.

The Babylonians during more than seven centuries, according to Pliny, consigned to bricks their astronomical observations; the greater number of the European museums possess some of those bricks laden with writing taking from the ruins of Babylon. The painted earthen vases were in very frequent use amongst the Greeks; they have been found in considerable heaps in certain parts of Egypt. They are covered with Greek characters, and served as an acquittance from imposts. In general they date from the very earliest period of our era.

Bronze was not only useful in preserving treaties, contracts and other documents of this description, but it was also employed for letters of recommendation, furloughs granted to soldiers, &c. It appears that the Romans had even books of bronze. Such were the books deposited in the Archives of the Emperor, and where, according to Hygénius were, consigned the grants made to the colonies, the measurement and boundaries of the territories conceded.

The use of lead was not less frequent or less ancient than that of bronze. "Who will grant me," cried Job (ch.x ix. verses 23rd and 24th) "that my words may be written? who will grant me that they may be marked down in a book ? with an iron pen and in a plate of lead, or else be graven with an instrument in flint stone?"

"The Beotians," said Pausanias (book ix)" shewed me a roll of lead on which all the work of Hesiod was written, (The Works and Days) but in characters that time had very nearly effaced."

The Ancients understood the process of reducing this metal into very thin sheets or leaves; before papyrus was known in Italy, it appears, according to a passage from Pliny, that the public deeds were deposited in volumes of lead.

The decrees of the Senate bearing reference to the emperors, were, during a lengthened period, graven on books of ivory; black ink was most frequently used when writing on this

There is preserved at Lyons a copy on bronze of the discourse pronounced by Claudius, in 48, apropos to the adjunction of the Senate with the principal inhabitants of Gallia Comata.

latter substance; this method was adopted principally by those whose sight was failing.

The use of tanned skins dates to a very remote period, and was spread amongst all the nations of Asia, the Greeks, the Celts, and the Romans. They have in preservation at the Library of Brussels a manuscript of the Pentateuch which is believed to have been written anterior to the ninth century. It is written on fifty-seven skins stitched together, which form a roll of about thirty-six metres in length.

Petrarch had a leather vest, on which he wrote during his walks, when paper or parchment failed. This garment, covered with erasures, was still, in 1527, preserved as a precious relic by Cardinal Sadolet.*

The intestines of animals have also been occasionally employed, Zonare, in chap. 2 of the book 14 of his Annales, relates that the library of Constantinople, which was burned under the Emperor Basiliscus, contained the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer written in golden letters on an intestine of a serpent one hundred and twenty feet long. The Ambrosian library of Milan contains probably to the present day a diploma in letters of gold on the skin of a fish.

It is to the middle of the twelfth century, according to several writers, that we may date the invention of parchment, prepared from sheep skins.†

If it was not invented at Pergamos, it was, in this city at least that it was brought to perfection, whence is derived the Latin name of pergamenum

Beside the white and yellow parchments, the ancients employed purple, blue, or violet parchment. These latter were designed to receive characters of gold and silver; several of them have been preserved at the Royal Library.

The most ancient manuscripts that we know are written on parchment; the laws written on this material date only from the end of the seventh century; they attained sometimes enormous dimensions. Thus the schedule of enquiry against

This custom of writing on garments was perhaps common to the middle ages; we have read of an Abbe recominending to his monks, when they discovered a work of Saint Anastasius to transcribe it on their habits if paper failed.

Calf-skin, as its name indicates, is manufactured of the skin of the calf. The ancients do not appear to have distinguished it from parchment.

the Templars, which are preserved in the archives of the kingdom of France, were about twenty-three metres in length.

Parchment became very rare towards the periods which preceded and followed the invasions of the Barbarians. This scarcity was caused by their carrying away during the various quarrels the original writings; this destructive custom by which we have lost so many scientific and literary treasures, originated with the Romans, and continued until the invention of paper constructed from rags. The manuscripts which had received two writings were called palimpsestes.

We are indebted to short hand for the revival of several original writings; by this means have the fragments of Livy been preserved, the treatise of Cicero on the Republic, the Institutes of Gaius, &c. The parchment which united whiteness to fineness may be regarded as anterior to the twelfth century. According to Pliny, the leaves of trees were the first substance on which characters were traced. Volumes have been formed out of the leaves of the palm and the mallow. It was on the leaves of the olive (petala) that the Syracusans wrote their opinions.*

The natives of Persia, of India and of Oceana, write still on leaves of trees. Amongst the Maldives the leaf of the makarekau is used, which is a yard in length, and about half a yard in width. The Royal Library is possessed of several manuscripts on the leaves of trees, some of which are varnished and gilt.

Up to about the close of the sixth century, the internal and external bark of various trees were used,+ books even were made of them.

The most ancient written memorials which we possess at the present day have been written on wood. An inscription_engraven on a plank of sycamore taken from the coffin of Mycerinus, king of Egypt, found in 1887, in the third pyramid of Memphis, and which is actually in England, dates, according to English authority, as far back as five thousand nine hundred years.

• Whence originated the word petalism, which amongst them had the same signification as ostracism among the Athenians.

† Saint Jerome, Cassidore, and Isodore of Seville, maintain that the signification of the Latin word liber had its origin from this custom, which dates from a remote period.

Before the invention of their paper, which dates close to two thousand years, the Chinese wrote on planks of wood and on tablets of bamboo, some of which are preserved to the present day by the Chinese themselves as precious souvenirs of antiquity. We find also in Greece and in Italy the custom of engraving monuments of importance on planks of wood. Towards the middle of the first century of our era there was still in existence at Athens, in the Prytaneam some ruins of the tables of wood (axones) on which four hundred years before Solon had written his laws. These tables, united in the shape of quadrangular prisms, and crossed by an axle, were at first set up perpendicularly in the citadel, where turning with the slightest effort on themselves, they presented successively the entire code of laws to the eyes of the spectators. Those of Draco were undoubtedly also carved on wood, which gave rise long after to a comic poet quoted by Plutarch saying: "I aver that the laws of Solon and Draco have been used by the people in cooking their food."

At Rome, before the use of columns and tables of bronze, the laws were graven on planks of oak which were exposed in the Forum. The annals of the Pontiffs, where they wrote day by day the principal events of the year, were probably written in black ink on a plank of wood whitened with white lead, and which they called Album.

This plank was exposed before the Pontiff's house, and very severe penalties were enacted against those who dared to carry it away, or change it by erasing or altering the text. The annals of the Pontiffs ceased towards the year 633 of Rome, (120 years before Christ) but the use of the album was preserved long after, since we find in the Code Theodosius laws published on a table plastered with white lead. Wood was still employed for private uses; a passage of the Digest proves that the Testaments were sometimes written on tablets of wood.*

We find in the mummy cases linen covered with writing, and the Egyptian museum in the Louvre contains several rituals on linen cloths. It appears that this substance had been at first reserved for memorials bearing a religious character. It was, relates Livy, by means of an old ritual written on linen that the Samnites regulated the order and ceremony of the solemn sacrifice by which they preluded the war against the

*H. Géraud, Essai sur les Livres dans l'Antiquite, 1840, in octavo, p. 19-20.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »