Thursday, February 09, 2012


The Days of Such Books Are Past

James Crossley (1800–1883), ed., The Diary and Correspondence of Dr. John Worthington, Vol. II, Part I (Chetham Society, 1855), p. 25, from the editor's footnote 1, discussing Claudius Salmasius, De Annis Climactericis (Leyden: Elzevir, 1648):
The days of such books are past, when a man could move lightly under the incumbrance of immense stores of learning, and while on his journey step aside at every turn, not "to sport with Amaryllis in the shade," but to have a tilt with Joseph Scaliger ("miserrime hallucinatus est Scaliger"); or with Picus of Mirandula ("falsus est Picus Mirandulanus") on some by-point; or engage single-handed with Cardan and the tribe of astrologers; or launch a thunderbolt against some Jesuit Patristic editor ("errat insulsum pecus Loioliticum"); or explain the meaning, never properly understood, of "gradarius equus"; plunge down into the depths of Petosiris, Necepso, hexagons, tetragons, and trigons, emerging in an emendation of Manilius ("proculdubio sic scripsit Manilius"), or Julius Firmicus ("caecutiunt interpretes, ita legendus est"), and an enquiry whether wine drinking prolongs life, arriving at the sensible conclusion ("plurimum refert quale sit vinum"), and as to the pernicious effects of water drinking ("gutturosos, torminosos, et podagrosos facit"); and, after completing a volume of a thousand pages, find that he was only just beginning to enter upon his subject.

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