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fierce and bloody struggle between the Roman Church and the Reformation; a pregnant fact seeing that this little book is a Greek Testament. Fifteen hundred and seventy four I Twentyone years therefore after the execution of Lady Jane Grey, a Protestant, and thirteen years before that of Mary Stuart, a Catholic; sixteen years after the death of Mary Tudor, and fourteen years before the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Yes, in the very heat of the struggle.
In a measure, too, it is typical itself of this. It was printed in the Netherlands, the country so long hotly debated by both parties, contested on one side by the Spanish, on the other by Dutch, English, and French. Then merely as a Testament it speaks for the Reformation; but, inasmuch as its licenser was Philip of Spain, Philip of the Inquisition, it represents Rome. Further, its printer was—or in his lifetime was accused of being—a heretic; yet he was chief printer of the Scriptures to the Catholic King!
It is not valuable: I do not know that it is particularly rare; but it is three hundred and fourteen years old. Since it came from the press fifteen sovereigns have reigned in England. There have been two Revolutions of a kind, three if not four Civil Wars of a kind, and Reform Bills without number. The English Constitution, which we boast so stable—well, it is not what it was. But this little book, three inches high by one and threequarters wide, by one thick—this frail congeries of paper with the stout calf covers dyed by time to the colour of an old saddle, and the 610 pages— 610 to three-quarters of an inch mind! —is little changed, is scarce a whit the worse. Time has swallowed the ten generations which have bent over its pages, but has found the book itself too tough a morsel—a quaint illustration of the proverb, Littera scripta manet.
It is, I have said, a Greek Testament. It bears on its title-page a statement in Latin that it was printed
at Antwerp in the workshop of Christopher Plantin, chief printer to the King, in the year 1574. And the title-page is further embellished with Plantin's famous trade-mark, a hand issuing from clouds and grasping a pair of compasses, surrounded by the motto, Lahore et Conetantia; the fixed leg of the compasses representing the latter, the revolving the former,—so it is said.
This Christopher Plantin has been much talked about of late; and with some reason seeing that he was one of the greatest printers of the sixteenth century. By birth a Frenchman, he settled in Antwerp about the year 1550; and having obtained, as is thought, some of the types of the Bombergs — notable printers before him—he set himself to produce books of the first class. He worked for art's sake—and this makes him the more interesting—for the love of the beautiful rather than for money; many of his greatest works, such as the Antwerp Polyglot Bible, which he published for the King of Spain, being brought out at a great loss. Owing to this leading feature in his character he was all his life through in pecuniary straits. Nor were these his only troubles. Once at least he was fined and mulcted in all his plans for the publication of an heretical book; and it is certain that some very strange productions issued from his press along with the missals and liturgies it was his business to print. He belonged, it is now supposed, to a "strange mystical sect of heretics," then numerous in the Low Countries. Yet notwithstanding these suspicions and troubles, he gained and kept the favour of Philip the Second of Spain, who appointed him his Architypograplius Regius, or " Censor of Printers to his Majesty," and granted him the sole right of printing liturgical works. When Antwerp was sacked by the Spanish in 1576, Plantin had to redeem his property by a great ransom, and for a time carried on his chief business at Leyden. But he presently returned, and died in the city of his choice in 1589. His descendants carried on his business for two centuries after his death and entered into the fruit of his labour, making a large fortune out of the monopoly which be had won from the Spanish King. In 1876 their oldfashioned printing-house, with its unique types and library, was bought by the municipality of Antwerp at the price of nearly 50,000J., and is preserved as a museum, now considered one of the most interesting objects in the city.
In the year 1574, then, this little book was lying in the old printer's house at Antwerp—on a window-ledge behind the small diamond panes perhaps, or more likely locked away in some iron-bound chest in an inner room—waiting for a purchaser. Who was the customer, we wonder, who bore it off 1 The book is silent; but we can amuse ourselves by considering who may have bought it. The knowledge of Greek was confined to a few then, and those chiefly the wealthy. Such volumes as this were probably within the reach only of the rich, of princes, nobles, and great merchants, or scholars of eminence with States for patrons; and these last would probably prefer a folio edition, so that we may not unreasonably look to find the purchaser of this pocket-volume in some learned soldier. Don Luis de Bequesens y Cuniga, Grand Commander of Castile, a blue-blooded hidalgo, lately Constable of Milan, was in the year 1574 Governor of the Netherlands; he may have turned its pages. Or Don Sancho d'Avila, Captain of Antwerp Citadel in that year; a pattern Castilian so proud, that when the time came for another to succeed him, he would not condescend personally to deliver up his trust, but deputed an inferior to perform the thankless office. Or, if it chanced that the book was not sold at once but lay in stock a while, we can picture Don John of Austria, son of the late Emperor and hero of Lepanto, a
gallant headstrong young prince, in whose veins ran the mad blood of Charles the Bold of Burgundy—we can picture him toying with its covers, and commending it on some idle visit such as the greatest might pay to the warehouse of the King's Printer. Or a certain one-armed man, almost forgotten in our day, though then his name was a household word wherever two Protestants met together, may have come into the shop under guard and admired the text of this little book, or smiled gravely at its quaint head-letters. His name was Francis de la Noue, but he was as often called "Bras de Fer, Iron Arm"; and some styled him the "Bayard of the Huguenots". He was the friend of Coligny and Chatillon and Navarre, and of all that was noblest in France, being himself a knightly cultured gentleman. He acted for a time as Lieutenant - General of the Dutch forces; and for years afterwards was Philip of Spain's prisoner. Or another great man—yet a man very unlike him—may have deigned to glance at it. I mean Alexander Farnese, Prince of Parma. Does not his very name still speak to the senses of mediaeval pomp and magnificence, of Spanish valour, and Italian luxury, and Flemish wealth, and German will? In fact he had a strain of each of these races in him. He was the grandson of an Emperor, the great-grandson of a Pope, a great diplomatist and a greater general. It was this same Alexander of Parma, be it remembered, who looked to be king, or at least viceroy of England, and for weeks strode the dunes of Dunkirk, waiting until the Armada should sweep the Dutch and English from the seas. He was an arrogant and imperious man: a liar, too, like all the diplomatists of the time ; but still a man. For we read that dying at forty-six, dying after all his successes and triumphs dropsical and gouty, he had himself up to the very last morning of his life lifted on horseback, that he might ride through his troops; and so expired at last in harness, "like a valiant man of Spain ".
Or what more likely, since here is the book in England, than that some English soldier brought it over? Some friend or follower of Sir Philip Sidney or of the fighting Veres 1 or of that Robert Stuart famous in Netherland story, who on an occasion—it was the first of August and hot—took off not only his armour, but his very shirt, and fought, as the chronicler puts it, "in the costume of his ancestors, the ancient Picts "? Or did Mr. Ley ton, the Queen's envoy at Brussels, bring it over? It is possible; for here the book is, and all these men lived and moved on the troubled stage of the Netherlands, when it was young and its paper still unfaded.
Of that stage no part was more troubled than Antwerp. We are told that on the abdication of Charles the Fifth in 1555, this city was the second in Europe in population—Paris ranking first—and that in mercantile importance it had no rival. Its streets were lined with stately buildings and thronged with passengers from morning to evening; its marts were the markets of the world; the ships that passed in and out of its harbour were counted by hundreds weekly. It was free, rich, proud; and then the Spaniard came with his Inquisition and laid a paralysing hand upon it. Yet in 1574, the year of the book's birth, much of Antwerp's wealth and greatness still survived. Alva was gone, and his Blood-Council had almost ceased to act; and men were breathing again and looking forward to better things.
But it is more easy to inaugurate the reign of cruelty than to close it. Between 1574 and 1585 the ruin of Antwerp was completed. First, in 1574—perhaps while Plantin's compositors were at work on these very pages—the Spanish soldiery mutinied, their pay being in arrear; and marching to Antwerp, seized the city and encamped in the square. Once there they requisitioned vast sup
plies, until this burden and the fear of a sack induced the Municipality to pay the arrears due; and so for that time the danger was averted.
It recurred only too soon. Two years later the same causes led to more dreadful results. The troops assigned to the defence of the huge, peaceful, timid city turned upon it, and sacked it with every horrible form of outrage and cruelty. The Spanish Fury ranks in history by the side of the Sicilian Vespers and the Parisian Matins. No town captured by storm, and .given over to the soldiers—no Magdeburg or San Sebastian—ever suffered more dreadful things. Motley has told but a few of the horrors of those three days, yet the reader turns from the page on which they are described with loathing and a shudder. On re-perusing the book he will skip that chapter; he has no need to read it again, for its contents are printed on his memory in blood-red letters.
Those three days in effect destroyed Antwerp. Yet a spiteful fortune had not yet done with the ill-fated city. Six years later Alengon, the brother and heir of Henry the Third of France, was in the Netherlands by the invitation of the Dutch. Residing at Antwerp, but having his troops outside the walls, he formed a treacherous plot to bring them in and seize the city. He went out one day to review his army, and on a given signal ordered it to surprise the city by a gate which had been entrusted to him. The soldiers eager for booty rushed in with shouts of Tuez! tuez! ViUe gagnee! Vive la Messe! as if this had indeed been a hostile fortress taken by assault. For a time it looked as if they would be successful, and as if the horrors of the Spanish Fury would be re-enacted. But Alengon had counted literally without his host. There was one in Antwerp this time whose watchfulness was never at fault, and whose secrecy had earned him an undying nickname. William the Silent had foreseen the treachery and guarded against it. Presently the French found themselves opposed by lines of ordered pikes; brought to a stand they were soon driven back through the streets and finally expelled from the gates. In an hour the thing was over, and the French traitor had his lost honour aod baffled spite for his only reward. Perhaps the most curious account of this incident is to be found in the memoirs of Sully, afterwards the great minister of Henry the Fourth of France. He was in Alencon's train at the time, but not being in the plot had remained in the city. As a Frenchman he found himself in danger there from the enraged Flemings, while as a Protestant he would have run much risk had he joined the French—full, at the moment of assault and fanaticism. He was delivered from this peril by William the Silent himself, who met him in the street, and sent him for safety to his own lodgings.
Finally in 1585—the eleventh year of our book—Antwerp was besieged by the Prince of Parma, and gallantly defended for some months by its citizens. It surrendered at length, not having the good fortune of Leyden. But it did enjoy this modified good luck, that it was admitted to terms and spared further horrors. The days of its prosperity, however, were over then, and the city was but the ghost of its former self.
Such was the world of strife and contention in which this Greek Testament was printed; a world in which the old order of things struggled vainly but fiercely with the new; in which despotism strove to crush freedom, and dogmatism to choke private judgment. And at the time at least the battle did not seem to go all one way. If Leyden escaped, Antwerp fell. If England triumphed, the Huguenots went backward. If Essex burned Cadiz, Tilly presently sacked Magdeburg; and Protestant Germany suffered long and bitterly. But time was on the side of the angels; first the Dutch Republic appeared, then the
Greater England, and New England; then the kingdom of Prussia. Finally a new Europe with science and learning and freedom of research, and that idea of human dignity which is much in favour now.
But we have wandered—perhaps too far—from our tiny duodecimo. Let us look now within its covers. The text is of that kind which is called, I believe, a script; that is to say, the type imitates handwriting—is a sort of stereotype of it, and lacks much of the regularity and stiffness of ordinary printed characters. The page is full of pretty curves and flourishes and dots. Many words are written currente calamo, the pen never leaving the paper; abbreviations occur in every line, and are often very puzzling. That which stands for the common Greek word Outos for instance, almost defies conjecture, the middle letter—in the script it appears last—being the only one decipherable at sight. Arbitrary signs, too, represent many short particles; and there are in a single page as many as five different ways of forming the same letter. Occasionally the end of a word is scamped, being indicated by a mere curve or dash, such as a careless writer makes when his pen leaves the paper, or is written above the line. And sometimes two letters—s and t for instance, or o and M when together—appear as one. Yet with all these flourishes and elaborations and abbreviations, each upstroke and downstroke, thick or thin, of the handwriting appears perfectly printed though wonderfully minute; and the whole is instantly decipherable by any one acquainted with the method used. No one can doubt that the founding of type such as this was a patient labour of love. The tiny woodcuts, too, which adorn the head-letters of the Gospels, of the Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation, are quaint and lively. They are illustrations for the most part of birds and animals, such as the stork and tortoise, the fox and dog, or of chubby little children who climb pleasantly about the trellis-work of big E, and lean placidly against the comfortable sloping sides of great A. The 0 of one epistle however contains a Madonna and child—less than a threepenny bit in size—which bears some resemblance to the Madonna di Seggiola, and the P so often repeated imprisons not St. Paul but a gentleman who would have been more in place—I really fear I discern horns and hoofs about him —had he adorned the fourth letter of the alphabet.
At the end appears a notice in Latin. It warns the public that the exclusive right to print " the royal Holy Bible after the Complutensian model printed at Antwerp" is vested in Christopher Plantin, and that whoever prints one or part of one without his permission, or imports one, or sells one, will be punished by the confiscation of the books and a fine of five hundred florins to be paid into the Royal Treasury; as is more fully laid down, it continues, in the grant given at Brussels in the Privy Council on Jan. 10th, 1570, and confirmed in the Council of Brabant on Feb. 12 th in the same year. The wording of this notice is strangely modern; it is difficult while reading it to remember the circumstances attending it, or that the grantor of the license here referred to was Philip of Spain. Many will wonder perhaps what the Complutensian model here mentioned was. And the answer is not without interest. The first time that the New Testament was printed in Greek it appeared as a part of the first great modern Polyglot. This Polyglot, or many-tongued Bible, was printed between 1513 and 1517 at Alcala in Spain, of which place Complutum is the old Roman name. It was prepared at the expense and under the patronage of Cardinal Ximenes, one of the greatest of Spaniards, the
conqueror of Oran from the Moors and for some time Regent of Spain. Yet notwithstanding this high authority, the appearance of the book was delayed by the jealous suspicions of the Papal Court; and so, though the Greek Testament was first printed in this Complutensian Polyglot, the first Greek edition actually published was that of Erasmus, which was brought out at Basle about 1516, being prepared in haste with the express purpose of forestalling the Alcala edition. This of Alcala, 1517, then, is what is called the Complutensian version proper. The next great Polyglot of modern times was the one published at Antwerp by Plantin, also under Spanish patronage, in 1572. This is commonly called the Antwerp Polyglot. But as it was a revised Complutensian—the Alcala version being its basis—I think it is the one styled in our notice, "The Complutensian printed at Antwerp " ; and that the text of our Greek Testament would be found to agree with it, rather than with the older Complutensian. For this reason: the famous disputed passage, 1 St. John v. 8, did not appear in the Alcala Polyglot, but did appear in the Antwerp Polyglot. And it is to be found in the little copy before me, as also in our ordinary Bible, but not in our Revised Version. I might proceed, starting from this, to single out slight points of variance between a text so old as this before me and that of the modern Greek version, points very minute and for the most part immaterial. But to do so would be tedious and not very interesting. There is moderation in all things, and doubtless the reader will have had enough by this time of my old Greek Testament.
Stanley J. Weyman.