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As is the state of science, so is the state of books in the two countries. In England, we do not possess any one establishment containing so many rare materials as the King's Library at Paris; but the mass which is contained in our metropolis is more valuable, and the manner in which it is diffused is infinitely more advantageous. The curious, upon some particular subject, might perhaps add some recondite, nay, some valuable facts to his knowledge, by consulting the former; but the community must derive incomparably more light from the latter. Beside this too, in every country seat in England there is a library, which would average at least ten times as high as such libraries in France; and, moreover, the number of our country seats is ten times greater. Our humbler mansions, if they do not possess what deserves the appellation of a library, have at least some well furnished book cases; and even our cote , tages contain a few volumes. But no book ever degrades the silken luxury of a French salon; very rarely is a room set apart for such guests in the metropolis; and, in the country, a billiard table is the usual occupant of the apartment which, in Enga. land, is reserved for the library. We know a village situated just 12 miles from Paris, containing six families, whose yearly income would average about 25001., equivalent to 40001. in England ; and of 850 meaner inhabitants. In all the wealthy houses taken together, two thousand volumes could not be mustered: but, in each of them, is a billiard table: and there are moreover five public billiard tables in the village, for the amusement of the 850 poorer inhabitants. In a radius of three miles, are six or eight more villages; and, in all these, the ratio of books and billiard tables is nearly the same. As we recede from Paris, the ratio of books diminishes, in a much more rapid progression, than that of billiard tables. But, in the village alluded to, there is one billiard table to about 182 volumes. We are afraid to aver, that the average of entire France would be one billiard table to one hundred volumes. In all these villages too, though there are many coffeehouses and wine-houses, not three public daily papers could be found.
The glorious and brilliant days of Bonaparte cannot be better characterized than by the following fact. The price of new books rose considerably in his time; not from any additional tax, or increase in the price of labour or materials, but because the demand was so small as to allow but a small number of copies to be taken off. At the same time, old editions of the best French authors were currently bought and sold in Paris for one fourth part of their value. When the armies of
Europe entered France, the price of old books rose considerably, and they have since become more rare. The court of the tyrant was the least reading of all such polished assemblies. Were we to judge by the profusion of libraries, collections and museums, dispersed over the kingdom of France, we should conclude that Science had there established her universal empire. But we have more certain modes of appreciating the truth; for we can state results, upon very positive documents. Two thousand copies at least of the Journal of the Royal Institution, conducted by Mr Brande, are sold quarterly. Of the Annales de Chimie by Gay-Lussac, Thenard & Co., not more than six hundred copies are distributed monthly. But, as the quantity of letter-press in the former, is about three times as much as in the latter, the frequency of sale is compensated; and the proportion of scientific information, thus circulated, in equal times, is ten in England, and three in France. But, beside Mr Brande's Journal, we have many others of considerable merit-medical, surgical, botanical, mineralogical, chemical, mathematic, astronomical; as well as scientific communications in our literary journals, reviews, magazines, &c.; and the transactions of our learned societies; insomuch, that the total periodical scientific circulation of Britain, is six times the Journal of the Royal Institution. But we could not find three times as much more periodical scientific letter-press, in France, as that which is circulated in the Annales de Chimie. Hence, then, the ratio of periodical scientific letter-press in England and France, is eight to one; which being circulated in populations that are as two to three, it follows, that the demand for scientific information is twelve times greater, in an equal number of British than of French consumers. The list of journals, in France, is tolerably long, and their titles sonorous; but few of them attain longevity. That which has the most extensive circulation, is chiefly literary; and of this about twelve hundred copies are distributed monthly. Another, with a very high sounding epithet, lately had nineteen subscribers, and now has seventy-two. Government defrays its expenses, but cannot conscribe readers. Upon a moderate computation, and one even favourable to France, the ratio of periodical letter press of various kinds stands thus, in favour of Britain. Scientific 12 to 1: Literary 30 to 1: Political and Moral 50 to 1.
The dearth of private libraries, of the receptacles spread almost indefinitely over the country, where men are domesticated with books, and live amidst them as in their families, cannot be compensated, in practical advantages, by any number of
public repositories. If books of useful knowledge are not among the familiars of men, one half of their value is in show. Something intermediate between the two modes are the circulating libraries of this country; against which, those who are satisfied with nothing have loudly declaimed. But we cannot agree with these well meaning grumblers. That circulating libraries have done harm, we firmly believe. But so has every thing. Men have been assassinated with a caseknife. The brains of a child were lately beaten out with the heel of a shoe. Yet it does not follow that men had better eat with their fingers, or wear no shoes, or put no nails into them. Circulating libraries, like all other commodities, must take their tone from the markets that consume them; and their general tendency may be estimated by inspecting their catalogue. Now, supposing the contents of these to be of equal value in both countries, (and from what we have just now seen this is not likely to be the case)—we say that the resources which each derives from them are infinite in favour of Britain. One single London circulating library could purchase the sum total of all the circulating libraries of all the towns of France. And yet our private libraries are certainly as fifty to one.
In the same category as the King's library in Paris, the French include their other public collections; such for instance as the Museum of Natural History, the Establishment of Arts et Metiers at the Abbaye St Martin, their galleries of pictures and statues. But of the latter we are inclined to judge somewhat differently. Wherever the productions of genius consist in sensible objects, their appeal must be directly made to the senses; and whatever stimulates the mind increases their effect. The greater the mass of talent which, at one glance, bursts upon the eye, the higher will enthusiasm be raised; and the more surrounding objects harmonize, the more deep and undisturbed will be our admiration. Many a mind which would pass indifferently by every object singly, is yet excited by contemplating them collectively; and only perceives the perfections of detail, when roused by the grandeur of the whole. In the fine arts, then, we admit the greater advantages of collecting the productions of superior talent. But, when we wish to reason, we must preserve an entire serenity, and unruffled calmness; and, were it possible that, by merely beholding the work which reflexion only can appreciate, enthusiasm should be excited, the archives of its treasures would be baleful to it. It is allowed that, as private property dispersed over England, we possess a greater number of capital pictures than are contained in the gallery of the Louvre, that is to say, nearly in all France. But even while we
boast that individuals in this country have done more than Government has been able to effect in that kingdom—though the chief superiority claimed over us is in the fine arts-- we must allow that our mode of distributing is not so advantageous. In Italy, the disadvantages of dispersion are not so strongly felt. The whole country is a museum; and every spot is fraught with hallowed recollections. We cannot, however, give implicit credit to the French, for having made so vast a collection in favour of the arts. If the arts, thus collected, brought back to them no greater return of glory than does the diffusion of knowledge, we should soon see them fall into neglect.
The collection of machines is intermediate between a picture galiery and a library. It must be seen like the former, and understood like the latter. It may render essential services where such knowledge is not general; and may be convenient even where it is. In England, we may not have any one collection of machines equal to that in Paris. But the quantity of machines, not models, which we have dispersed over the whole country, not to look at, but to use, not to talk of, but to profit by, is many hundred times greater. Our fields, our farmyards, our mines, our manufactures, are our practical Abbaye St Martin; as the backs and cottages of our Yeomanry are our exhibition of national industry, and the minds of our enlightened gentry are our Royal library.
Another rule we may lay down respecting public collections is this.-- Wherever specimens are costly, rare, and cannot be multiplied, such collections are precious; but wherever, as is the case with useful books, they ean be put in common circulation, at a moderate price, collections lose their value, by the ease with which their contents can be set in hourly presence with the consumers,
We will conclude this article by an anecdote of Louis XVIth, whom we have shown, on a former occasion, to have been the only patron whom the Chevalier Pawlet found in France for his method of instructing children. His favourite study was geography, Mr Petit Radel mentions, as a piece of furniture belonging to the Mazarine Library, a globe, which, in 1784, Louis XVI. had ordered to be constructed as a record of the state of Geography down to his reign. He wished to have it made of the most durable materials; on the largest dimensions; and with all the care and skill which the ablest geographers of his kingdom, aided by foreign discoveries, could bestow upon it, in point of exactness. It was to have contained the results of nineteen voyages round the world ; to which was to be added, the yoyage that La Peyrouse was then perform
ing. Some parts of this machine were put in great forwardness, under the administration of Mons. de Vergennes; but the whole was never completed. One of the circles alone weighs 1500 lib. In its present state, the globe is suspended. The ocean is coloured light blue. The land is yellow; and the mountains shaded. The project of La Peyrouse's voyage was submitted to the monarch, before that unfortunate navigator left France; and, on the margin, Louis with his own hand wrote several notes. The intention was, that the ships should separate after crossing the Line. The king's remark was, “ This separation
must not take place. It is too dangerous in seas so little i known.' He adds, that in the Southern ocean, as being calmer, the ships might separate; and one of them make for Easter Island, to ascertain whether, as Cook advances, the human race is becoming extinct there. He frequently marks his anxiety that the ships should keep together, as long as separation might be dangerous; and he concludes thus—The happi
est event of this expedition will be its termination without the • loss of a single man.
If Louis XV Ith. had more resembled the nation he had to govern, he might have run his course of nature on the throne, and left his sceptre to his own posterity. But when subjects and their sovereign are so much unlike-no matter which is best or worst—the chasm which separates them must generally be filled with blood; and too often with the blood of the most innocent.
The topic mentioned in the last paragraph reminds us, that we should say a few words upon Geography This science, like all others, is much more general in England than in France. Were we to judge by the globe of Louis XVIth, and the labours of Danville, we should say the contrary. But globes happen to be one of the things in which our superiority in quantity, multiplied by quality, and divided by price, is extreme. At the exposition of the products of French industry in 1810, many globes were exhibited; and, in the number, one written by hand, which had occupied the writer two years of his life. The diameter was, we think, four feet. It was purchased by Louis XVIII. In point of clearness, distinctness, and neatness of execution, we should prefer Mr Carey's twenty-one inch globes at ten guineas the pair. At the same exhibition there were also engraved globes, of various dimensions, but so much inferior to Mr Carey's of the same diameter, one foot--so petty in all great points—so illegible, so vetilleux as the French would say that one could hardly suppose them destined to the same purpose. The price too of the French globes, instead of being two-thirds of the price of Mr Carey's, was eight guineas; the English