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News from France/Chapter 4

NEWS FROM FRANCE

OR

A DESCRIPTION OF THE LIBRARY

OF

CARDINAL MAZARIN

BEFORE IT WAS UTTERLY RUINED

NEWS FROM FRANCE

OR

A DESCRIPTION OF THE LIBRARY
OF CARDINAL MAZARIN
BEFORE IT WAS UTTERLY RUINED

SENT IN A LETTER FROM MONSIEUR

G. NAUDAEUS, KEEPER OF THE PUBLICK LIBRARY

***

 

LONDON

PRINTED FOR TIMOTHY GARTHWAIT

AT THE LITTLE NORTH DOOR

OF ST. PAUL'S

1652

[Quarto, containing six pages]

Naudé's plea to Parliament for the preservation of the Mazarin Library appeared in French and in English in 1652, the French title reading: Avis à Nosseigneurs de Parlement, sur la vente de la Bibliothèque de M. le Cardinal Mazarin. (Quarto, 4 pp.) In 1654 it was translated into German under the title: Vermahnung an die Parlements-Herrn in Paris über die Verkauffung der Bibliothek des Herrn Cardinalis Mazarini. It was reprinted, in 1819, by L. C. F. Petit-Radel, in his Recherches sur les Bibliothèques anciennes et modernes. The present rendering is from The Harleian Miscellany, London, 1808-13, vol. 6, pp. 265-8.

TO THE PARLIAMENT OF PARIS

GENTLEMEN: Since all the ordinances of your famous company are like thunderbolts, which dash in pieces each person whom they strike, and make dumb or astonish every one that sees them fall: Give me leave to tell you, yet with all respects and submissions possible, that what you thundered out on the twenty-ninth of the last, against the library of the most eminent Cardinal Mazarin, my master, hath produced those two effects, with so much force and violence, that forasmuch as concerns the said library, it is not likely it should ever recover those losses which it hath already suffered, nor yet avoid those wherewith it is still threatened, unless by some very remarkable effect of your singular goodness and protection.

And, as for me, who cherish it as the work of my hands and the miracle of my life, I protest to you ingenuously, that, since that stroke of thunder—which was cast from the heaven of your justice upon a piece so rare, so beautiful, so excellent, and which I have by my watches and labours brought to such perfection as none can morally desire a greater—I have been so extremely astonished, that if the same cause which once made the son of Croesus, though naturally dumb, to speak, did not now untie my tongue to utter some sad accents,—my last complaints, at the decease of this my daughter, as he there did, in the dangerous estate wherein he found his father,—I should remain eternally dumb. And, in truth, gentlemen, since that good son saved the life of his father, in making them know wherefore he did it, why may not I promise myself, that your benevolence and ordinary justice will save the life of this daughter, or, to speak plainer, this famous library, when I shall in few words have represented to you an abridgement of its perfections, being the most beautiful and the best furnished of any library now in the world, or that is likely, if affection do not much deceive me, ever for to be hereafter? For it is composed of more than forty thousand volumes, collected by the care of several Kings and Princes in Europe, by all the ambassadors that have set out of France these ten years, into places farthest remote from this kingdom. To tell you that I have made voyages into Flanders, Italy, England, and Germany, to bring hither whatever I could procure that was rare and excellent, is little in comparison of the cares which so many crowned heads have taken to further the laudable designs of His Eminence. It is to these illustrious cares, gentlemen, that this good city of Paris is beholden for two hundred Bibles, which we have translated into all sorts of languages; for an history that is the most universal and the best followed of any yet ever seen; for three thousand five hundred volumes, purely and absolutely mathematical; for all the old and new editions, as well of the holy fathers, as of all other classick authors; fora company of schoolmen, such as never was the like; for lawyers of above an hundred and fifty provinces, the most strangers; above three hundred bishops concerning councils; for rituals and offices of the church, an infinite number; for the laws and foundations of all religious houses, hospitals, communities, and confraternities: for rules and practical secrets in all arts, both liberal and mechanick; for manuscripts in all languages, and all sciences. And to put an end to a discourse which may never have one if I should particularise all the treasures which are heaped together within the compass of seven chambers, filled from top to bottom, whereof a gallery, twelve fathoms high, is reckoned but for one; it is to these illustrious royal personages, that this city of Paris, and not Paris only, but all France, and not France only, but all Europe, are indebted for a library. Wherein, if the good designs of His Eminence had succeeded as happily as they were forecast wisely, all the world should before this have had the liberty to see and turn over, with as much leisure as benefit, all that Egypt, Persia, Greece, Italy, and all the kingdoms of Europe, have given us, that is most singular and admirable. A strange thing, gentlemen, that the best furnished lawyers were constrained to confess their want, when they saw the great collection that I had made of books, in their profession, in this rich library. That the greatest heap of volumes in physick were nothing, compared with the number of those which were here gathered in that faculty. That philosophy was here more beautiful, more flourishing, than ever it was in Greece. That Italians, Germans, Spaniards, Englishmen, Polonians, Dutch, and other nations, found here the histories of their own nations, far more rich and better furnished than they could find in their several native countries. That Catholicks and Protestants might here try all sorts of passages in authors, and accord all manner of difficulties. And to accumulate all these perfections, to enhance them, and set them in their true lustre; is it not enough, gentlemen, to shew you assured proofs of His Eminence's intentions, that he resolved to present it to the publick and to make it a common comfort for all poor scholars, religious persons, strangers, and for whoever is learned or curious, here to find what is necessary or fit for them? Is it not enough, gentlemen, to shew you the inscription, which should have been put upon the gate of the library, to invite the world to enter with all manner of liberty, and which should have been set up about three years ago, if wars, and domestick dissensions, had not prejudiced the good intentions of His Eminence? It is this:

LUDOVICO XIV, FELICITER IMPERANTE, ANNA AUSTRIACA, CASTRORUM MATRE AUGUSTISSIMÁ REGNUM SAPIENTER MODERANTE, JULIUS, S. R. E. CARDINALIS MASARINUS, UTRIQUE CONSILIORUM MINISTER ACCEPTISSIMUS, BIBLIOTHECAM HANC OMNIUM LINGUARUM, ARTIUM, SCIENTIARUM, LIBRIS INSTRUCTISSIMAM, URBIS SPLENDORI, GALLIARUM ORNAMENTO, DISCIPLINARUM INCREMENTO, LUBENS, VOLENS, D. D. D. PUBLICÈ PATERE VOLUIT, CENSU PERPETUO DOTAVIT, POSTERITATI COMMENDAVIT

MDCXLVIII[1]

Behold, Gentlemen, an inscription that may now be called ancient; for it is long since it was first spoken of; and though it contain many things, I can assure you, that His Eminence intended somewhat more in his generous design of founding a publick library in the midst of France, under the direction and protection of the prime presidents of three sovereign courts of this city, and of the lord attorney-general, persuading himself, that, by this means, so potent and venerable, posterity would perpetually enjoy a very advantageous pledge; and such as, without disparagement to the famous libraries of Rome, Milan, and Oxford, might pass, not only for the most goodly heap of books that this age can shew, but likewise for the eighth wonder of the world.

And this being true, as I am ready to swear upon the Holy Gospels, that the intention of His Eminence was always this, as I tell you; Can you permit, gentlemen, the publick to be deprived of a thing so useful and precious? Can you endure that this fair flower, which yet spreads its odour through all the world, should wither in your hands? And can you suffer, without regret, so innocent a piece, which can never suffer but all the world will bear in a share in its loss, to receive the arrest of its condemnation from those who were appointed to honour it, and to favour it with their protection? Consider, gentlemen, that when this loss hath been suffered, there will not be a man in the world, though he have never so much authority in publick employment, never so much zeal to learning, that will be able to repair it. Believe, if you please, that the ruin of this library will be more carefully marked in all histories and calendars, than the taking and sacking of Constantinople. And, if my ten years' toil in helping to gather such a work; if all the voyages which I have made for materials to it; if all the heavy cares that I have taken to set it in order; if the ardent zeal that I have had to preserve it to this hour, are not means sufficient to make me hope for some favour at your singular goodness; especially at this time, when you have the same excellent occasion to shew it towards this library, which you had three years since, when, by a solemn arrest or ordinance, you resolved it should be preserved, and that I should have the keeping of it; Yet give me leave, gentlemen, to have recourse to the muses, seeing they are so far concerned in the preservation of this new Parnassus, and joining the interest they have in you, with my most humble prayers, speak to you in the same language which the Emperor Augustus used, when the question was, Whether Virgil's Aeneids should be destroyed or saved? Which, doubtless, was not so inimitable a piece to them, as this library will be to all posterity.

Solvetur litera dives?
Et poterunt spectare oculi, nec parcere honori
Flamma suo; dignumque operis servare decorem?
Noster Apollo veta! Musae prohibete Latinae!
Sed legum est servanda fides, suprema voluntas
Quod mandat fierique jubet, parere necesse est,
Frangatur potiùs legum veneranda potestas,
Quam tot congestos noctésque diésque labores,
Hauserit una dies, supremaque jussa senatús.

Must such a rich and learned work be dissolv'd,
Can eyes with patience see 't in flames involv'd?
Methinks the flames should spare it, sure the fire
(More merciful than men) will sav't intire.
Ah, sweet Apollo, hinder! Muses, stay
Their violence! And what though fond men say
"It is decreed; the ordinance is made;
The will of supreme power must be obey'd"?
Rather let laws be broke, let reverend power
Lie prostrate, ere't be said, that in one hour,
A work so toil'd for many years, was late
Quite ruin'd by commandment from the state.

GABRIEL NAUDAEUS, A PARISIAN

  1. In the prosperous reign of Louis XIV, during the wise regency of Anne of Austria, most august mater castrorum, Julius Mazarin, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, a minister most pleasing to both councils, in his own good will wishing this library, so rich in books of all languages, arts, and sciences, to be an honour to the city, an ornament to France, and a promoter of knowledge, determined that it should be open to the public and, consecrating it as a gift, endowed it with permanent wealth and commended it to posterity. 1648.