Friday, September 06, 2013


Nicolas Catherinot

Mark Pattison (1813–1884), "Books and Critics," Fortnightly Review, n.s. 22 (1877) 659-679 (at 660):
Did you ever hear of Catherinot? No! Well Catherinot was a French antiquary of the seventeenth century; a very learned one, if learning means to have read many books without understanding. Catherinot printed, whether at his own cost or another's I can't say, a vast number of dissertations on matters of antiquity. David Clément, the curious bibliographer, has collected the titles of one hundred and eighty-two of those dissertations, and adds there were more of them which he had not been able to find. Nobody wanted these dissertations of Catherinot. He wrote them and printed them for his own gratification. As the public would not take his paperasses, as Valesius called them, he had recourse to a device to force a circulation for them. There was then no penny post, so he could not, like Herman Heinfetter, post his lucubrations to all likely addresses, but he used to go round the quais in Paris, where the old bookstalls are, and, while pretending to be looking over the books, slip some of his dissertations between the volumes of the boutiquier. In this way the one hundred and eighty-two or more have come down to us. Catherinot is a bye-word, the typical case of scribbleomania, — of the insanabile scribendi cacoethes — but the malady is not unknown to our time, and accounts for some of our many reams of print.
For more on Nicolas Catherinot (1628-1688), see
Niceron (pp. 206-208) and Laboulaye (p. 44) print an amusing Latin poem by Catherinot, which I reproduce here:

Edo breves libros; vitio mihi vertitis; atqui
    Tu nullos Publi, tu facis, Aule, malos.
Edo breves libros; quia desunt otia; magnos
    Edam aut majores, otia cum fuerint.
Edo breves libros; nobis studiosus Apollo
    Perspicua melius nil brevitate dedit.
Edo breves libros; brevis est insania nostra,
    Et quo fit brevior, fit minus illa mala.
Edo breves libros; quia passim gaudeo ferri,
    Gaudeo tractari, gaudeo saepe teri.
Edo breves libros; tot parvos junge libellos,
    Et tibi non unum grande volumen habes.
Edo breves libros; tales fecisse videntur
    Hippocrates magnus, magnus Aristoteles.
Edo breves libros; quia qualia qualia nempe
    Impensis nostris edimus haec brevia.
Edo breves libros; quia magnus dicitur esse,
    Et vere magnum dicitur esse malum.
Edo breves libros, odio est mihi maxima fama;
    Aut minus, aut minimum cognitus esse volo.
A portrait of Catherinot, from Le Blog du Bibliophile:

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