Friday, October 25, 2013


Advice Concerning Books

Henry Peacham, The Compleat Gentleman (London: Francis Constable, 1634), pp. 53-54 (from chapter VI):
Imagine not that hereby I would bind you from reading all other bookes, since there is no booke so bad, even Sir Bevis himselfe, Owleglasse, or Nashes Herring, but some commodity may be gotten by it. For as in the same pasture, the Oxe findeth fodder, the Hound a Hare; the Stork a Lizard, the faire maide flowers; so we cannot, except wee list our selves (saith Seneca) but depart the better from any booke whatsoever.

And ere you begin a booke, forget not to reade the Epistle; for commonly they are the best laboured and penned. For as in a garment, whatsoever the stuffe be, the owner (for the most part) affecteth a costly and extraordinary facing; and in the house of a countrey Gentleman, the porch, of a Citizen, the carved gate and painted postes carry away the Glory from the rest; so is it with our common Authors, if they have any wit at all, they set it like Velvet before, though the backe, like (a bankerupts doubtlet) be but of poldavy or buckram.

Affect not as some doe, that bookish Ambition, to be stored with bookes and have well furnished Libraries, yet keepe their heads empty of knowledge: to desire to have many bookes, and never to use them, is like a child that will have a candle burning by him, all the while he is sleeping.

Lastly, have a care of keeping your bookes handsome, and well bound, not casting away overmuch in their gilding or stringing for ostentation sake, like the prayer-bookes of girles and gallants, which are carryed to Church but for their out-sides. Yet for your owne vse spare them not for noting or enterlining (if they be printed), for it is not likely you meane to be a gainer by them, when you have done with them: neither suffer them through negligence to mold and be moath-eaten or want their strings and covers.
commodity: advantage, benefit, utility
poldavy: canvas

Gawen Hamilton, Nicol Graham of Gartmore
and Two Friends Seated in a Library

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