Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/493

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China and Japan (a most wonderful feat in those days), and, on his return, writes an account of his travels; and his book, at a later day, serves (among other things) to induce the discovery of America by Columbus.

We now enter the fourteenth century, and amid the many practical consequences of the dissemination of knowledge from its original source, the book-men and philosophers, we might, unless we consider the necessity of the case, lose sight of the starting-point. In Spain, Alfonso the Wise gives his people the laws of the Seven Partides, compiled by philosophical jurisconsults from the Roman law. In France, the States-General, or Grand Parliament, is convoked by Philip le Bel, and, after him, Louis X makes the Parliament a permanent institution for the sanction of all laws. By-and-by the serfs and peasantry acquire their freedom and gain many valuable rights—not, however, without insurrection and bloodshed. Marcel in Paris and the Jacquerie in the provinces strike for liberty. In England the Commons assert their privileges: no money to government without their consent; the concurrence of the Commons with the Lords necessary for all laws; and the right of inquiry and impeachment by the Commons established. In Switzerland, William Tell leads his countrymen to victory and national independence and republican institutions. In Italy, the mariner's compass is invented by Gioja de Amalfi. Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch, those first lights of the dawn of polite literature, compose their beautiful romances and poems. In Germany clocks are invented, and Schwartz first puts gunpowder, invented by Roger Bacon, to practical use, and some scientific mechanic builds the first paper-mill. Previously manuscripts were all written on parchment. These were magnificent results, taking place in the midst of terrible persecution; but we understand it all when we know that in spite of every obstacle and opposition the book-men had, in this and the preceding centuries, unceasingly labored amid the capricious favors and disfavors of princes and kings to establish libraries, schools, and universities everywhere. They succeeded admirably, and every generation saw the increase of the number of those to whom the benefits of education had been communicated. Notwithstanding the fears of despots, the trial by ordeal began to fall into disrepute, the influence of the principles of the laws of ancient Rome as Christianized by Justinian was felt.

At last we reach the glorious fifteenth century, ever memorable for the invention of printing and the discovery of America. Why was printing' invented? Because the demand for books had directed inventive genius to seek a substitute for the laborious and costly process of copying. Guttenberg, the inventor, was himself a lover of books and a scientific mechanic. Why was America discovered? Because schools of mathematics, astronomy, and navigation had been established at Genoa, in one of which Columbus was educated. Thence,