Thursday, February 13, 2014
Buried with Books
I see they packed the volume of Shakespeare that he had near him when he died in a little tin box and buried it with him. If they had to bury it they should have either not packed it at all, or, at the least, in a box of silver-gilt. But his friends should have taken it out of the bed when they saw the end was near. It was not necessary to emphasize the fact that the ruling passion for posing was strong with him in death. If I am reading, say, Ally Sloper's Half Holiday up to my last conscious hours, I trust my friends will take it out and put it in the waste-paper basket when they see I have no further use for it. If, however, they insist on burying it with me, say in an an old sardine-box, let them do it at their own risk, and may God remember it against them in that day.An 18th century example is John Underwood, buried with books according to his own instructions in the following manner: "under his Head was placed Sanadon's Horace, at his Feet Bentley's Milton; in his right Hand a small Greek Testament, with this Inscription in Golden Letters, εἴ μὴ ἐν τῷ σταυρῷ, J.U. in left Hand a little Edition of Horace, with this Inscription, Musis Amicus, J.U. and Bentley's Horace under his Arse."
For a 16th century example from the Cistercian monastery at Bebenhausen, see Christina Vossler-Wolf, "Das Buch im Grab: Konservierung und Interpretation einer außergewöhnlichen Grabbeigabe," Mitteilungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Archäologie des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit 23 (2011) 105-112.