25 February 2018

Book Lending and Book Losing

C. Tomlinson in a reply to Notes and Queries, 8th Series, No. 16 (April 16, 1892), at 322:
“I lent it and lost it!” is a pathetic expression capable of moving the sympathy of every bibliophile. I, too, have lent and lost many books. Although I do not take so kindly a view of the criminals as did Sir Walter Scott, who found several of his friends to be bad arithmeticians but capital book-keepers, yet, on the other hand, I do not adopt such a pessimistic opinion as that of Charles Nodier:
Tel est le sort de tout livre prêté,
Souvent il est perdu, toujours il est gâté.
I also think Mrs. Schimmelpenninck a little severe for entering on her book-plate the following monition: “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again” (Ps. xxxvii. 21). I rather incline to the sentiment expressed by Condorcet in the following lines to his beloved books:
Chères délices de mon âme,
Gardez vous bien de me quitter,
Quoiqu'on vienne vous emprunter.
Chacun de vous m'est une femme,
Qui peut se laisser voir sans blâme,
Et ne se doit jamais prêter.
Scaliger's library motto was intended to convert the borrower into a purchaser: “Ite ad vendentes.” It is difficult for a bibliophile to understand the magnanimity of those who place their books at the disposal of others, and yet the library motto of Grolier was “Pour moi, et mes amis,” and that of Schelcher “Pour tous, et pour moi.” When I was a boy Old Montague House was yet standing, and it contained the beginnings of the British Museum collections. I often wandered through its rooms, and noticed that readers helped themselves to the books they wanted, as they still continue to do in the modern Reading Room. This was a practice common to continental libraries and led sometimes to the loss of valuable books, especially fourteeners of small size. On one occasion the old keeper of the Bibliothèque at Lyons at closing time secured the door, and said to the two readers who remained, “One of us three is a thief. I consent to be searched first.” Each delinquent pulled out a book, laughed, and said, “You are too sharp for us.” I am sorry to add that during the Revolution the soldiers of the Republic used the books of this library as fuel in cooking their rations.
A related post: Ex Libris