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The Care of Books by John Willis Clark

Part of a bookcase at Cesena to shew the system of chaining


The

influence of the Renaissance may readily be detected in the ornamentation of the columns, but traces of medieval forms still linger in the room. If the central alley were wider it might be taken for the nave of a basilica.

[Illustration: Fig. 93. Bookcases at west end of south side of Library, Cesena.]

There are 29 bookcases in each aisle. Between each pair of cases there is a wooden floor, raised 3 1/2 in. above the general level of the room; and there is an interval of 2 ft. 3 in. between the cases and the wall, so that access may be readily obtained to them from either end. The room is paved with unglazed tiles.

The westernmost bay is empty (fig. 90), being used as a vestibule, and the first bookcase, if I may be allowed the expression, on each side, is really not a bookcase but a seat (fig. 93)[358].

[Illustration: Fig. 94. Part of a bookcase at Cesena to shew the system of chaining.]

The construction of these cases is most ingenious, both as regards convenience and economy of space. If they were designed by the architect who built the room, he must have been a man of no ordinary originality. Each piece of furniture consists of a desk to lay the books on when wanted for use, a shelf for those not immediately required, and a seat for the reader, whose comfort is considered by a gentle slope in the back

(fig. 93). At the end next the central alley is a panel containing the heraldic devices of the Malatesta family.

The principal dimensions of each case are as follows:

Length 10 ft. 2 1/2 in. Height 4 ft. 2 1/4 in. Width of seat 3 ft. 1 in. Width of foot-rest 11 in. Height 3 1/2 in. Height of seat from ground 1 ft. 10 1/2 in. Width 1 ft. 4 in. Distance from desk to desk 4 ft. 1 in. Angle of slope of desk 45 deg.

The books are still attached to the desks by chains. The bar which carries them is in full view just under the ledge of the desk (fig. 94), inserted into massive iron stanchions nailed to the underside of the desk. There are four of these: one at each end of the desk, and one on each side of the central standard. The bar is locked by means of a hasp attached to the standard in which the lock is sunk.

The chains are of a novel form (fig. 95). Each link, about 2 1/4 in. long, consists of a solid central portion, which looks as though it were cast round a bent wire, the ends of which project beyond the solid part. The chain is attached to the book by an iron hook screwed into the lower edge of the right-hand board near the back.

[Illustration: Fig. 95. Piece of a chain, Cesena.]

[Illustration: Fig. 96. Chained book at Ghent.]

The volume which I figure next (fig. 96), entitled _Lumen animae seu liber moralitatum_, was printed at Eichstaedt in Bavaria, in 1479. M. Ferd. Vander Haeghen, librarian of Ghent, bought it in Hungary a few years since, and gave it to the library which he so ably directs. The chain is just 24 in. long. The links, of which there are ten, are slightly different from any which I have figured, each link being compressed in the middle so that the two sides touch each other. There is no ring, but a link, rather larger than the rest, is passed round the bar. It will be observed that the chain is fastened to the left-hand board, and not to the right-hand board as in Italy. The presence of a title written on parchment kept in place by strips of leather, and five bosses of copper, shew that the left-hand board was uppermost on the desk. The position of the chain shews that when it was attached the book was intended to lie on a desk, where the bar must have been in front of, or below, the desk; but there is also a scar on the upper edge of the right-hand board, which shews that at some previous period it lay on a desk of what I may call the Zutphen type, where the bar was above the sloping surface.


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