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For as the favourite occupations of men are variously distinguished according to the disposition of the heavenly bodies, which frequently control our natural composition, so that some men choose to devote themselves to architecture, others to agriculture, others to hunting, others to navigation, others to war, others to games, we have under the aspect of Mercury entertained a blameless pleasure in books, which under the rule of right reason, over which no stars are dominant, we have ordered to the glory of the Supreme Being, that where our minds found tranquillity and peace, thence also might spring a most devout service of G.o.d. And therefore let our detractors cease, who are as blind men judging of colours; let not bats venture to speak of light; and let not those who carry beams in their own eyes presume to pull the mote out of their brother's eye. Let them cease to jeer with satirical taunts at things of which they are ignorant, and to discuss hidden things that are not revealed to the eyes of men; who perchance would have praised and commended us, if we had spent our time in hunting, dice-playing, or courting the smiles of ladies.
OF THE MANNER OF LENDING ALL OUR BOOKS TO STUDENTS
It has ever been difficult so to restrain men by the laws of rect.i.tude, that the astuteness of successors might not strive to transgress the bounds of their predecessors, and to infringe established rules in insolence of licence. Accordingly, with the advice of prudent men, we have prescribed the manner in which we desire that the communication and use of our books should be permitted for the benefit of students.
Imprimis, we give and grant all and singular the books, of which we have made a special catalogue, in consideration of affection, to the community of scholars living in ---- Hall at Oxford, as a perpetual gift, for our soul and the souls of our parents, and also for the soul of the most ill.u.s.trious King Edward the Third from the Conquest, and of the most pious Queen Philippa, his consort: to the intent that the same books may be lent from time to time to all and singular the scholars and masters of the said place, as well regular as secular, for the advancement and use of study, in the manner immediately following, that is to say:
Five of the scholars sojourning in the Hall aforesaid shall be appointed by the Master thereof, who shall have the charge of all the books, of which five persons three and not fewer may lend any book or books for inspection and study; but for copying or transcribing we direct that no book shall be allowed outside the walls of the house.
Therefore, when any scholar secular or religious, whom for this purpose we regard with equal favour, shall seek to borrow any book, let the keepers diligently consider if they have a duplicate of the said book, and if so, let them lend him the book, taking such pledge as in their judgment exceeds the value of the book delivered, and let a record be made forthwith of the pledge and of the book lent, containing the names of the persons delivering the book and of the person who receives it, together with the day and year when the loan is made.
But if the keepers find that the book asked for is not in duplicate, they shall not lend such book to any one whomsoever, unless he shall belong to the community of scholars of the said Hall, unless perhaps for inspection within the walls of the aforesaid house or Hall, but not to be carried beyond it.
But to any of the scholars of the said Hall, any book may be lent by three of the aforesaid keepers, after first recording, however, his name, with the day on which he receives the book. Nevertheless, the borrower may not lend the book entrusted to him to another, except with the permission of three of the aforesaid keepers, and then the name of the first borrower being erased, the name of the second with the time of delivery is to be recorded.
Each keeper shall take an oath to observe all these regulations when they enter upon the charge of the books. And the recipients of any book or books shall thereupon swear that they will not use the book or books for any other purpose but that of inspection or study, and that they will not take or permit to be taken it or them beyond the town and suburbs of Oxford.
Moreover, every year the aforesaid keepers shall render an account to the Master of the House and two of his scholars whom he shall a.s.sociate with himself, or if he shall not be at leisure, he shall appoint three inspectors, other than the keepers, who shall peruse the catalogue of books, and see that they have them all, either in the volumes themselves or at least as represented by deposits. And the more fitting season for rendering this account we believe to be from the First of July until the festival of the Translation of the Glorious Martyr S. Thomas next following.
We add this further provision, that anyone to whom a book has been lent, shall once a year exhibit it to the keepers, and shall, if he wishes it, see his pledge. Moreover, if it chances that a book is lost by death, theft, fraud, or carelessness, he who has lost it or his representative or executor shall pay the value of the book and receive back his deposit. But if in any wise any profit shall accrue to the keepers, it shall not be applied to any purpose but the repair and maintenance of the books.
AN EXHORTATION TO SCHOLARS TO REQUITE US BY PIOUS PRAYERS
Time now clamours for us to terminate this treatise which we have composed concerning the love of books; in which we have endeavoured to give the astonishment of our contemporaries the reason why we have loved books so greatly. But because it is hardly granted to mortals to accomplish aught that is not rolled in the dust of vanity, we do not venture entirely to justify the zealous love which we have so long had for books, or to deny that it may perchance sometimes have been the occasion of some venial negligence, albeit the object of our love is honourable and our intention upright. For if when we have done everything, we are bound to call ourselves unprofitable servants; if the most holy Job was afraid of all his works; if according to Isaiah all our righteousness is as filthy rags, who shall presume to boast himself of the perfection of any virtue, or deny that from some circ.u.mstance a thing may deserve to be reprehended, which in itself perhaps was not reprehensible. For good springs from one selfsame source, but evil arises in many ways, as Dionysius informs us.
Wherefore to make amends for our iniquities, by which we acknowledge ourselves to have frequently offended the Creator of all things, in asking the a.s.sistance of their prayers, we have thought fit to exhort our future students to show their grat.i.tude as well to us as to their other benefactors in time to come by requiting our forethought for their benefit by spiritual retribution. Let us live when dead in their memories, who have lived in our benevolence before they were born, and live now sustained by our beneficence. Let them implore the mercy of the Redeemer with unwearied prayer, that the pious Judge may excuse our negligences, may pardon the wickedness of our sins, may cover the lapses of our feebleness with the cloak of piety, and remit by His divine goodness the offences of which we are ashamed and penitent.
That He may preserve to us for a due season of repentance the gifts of His good grace, steadfastness of faith, loftiness of hope, and the widest charity to all men. That He may turn our haughty will to lament its faults, that it may deplore its past most vain elations, may retract its most bitter indignations, and detest its most insane delectations. That His virtue may abound in us, when our own is found wanting, and that He who freely consecrated our beginning by the sacrament of baptism, and advanced our progress to the seat of the Apostles without any desert of ours, may deign to fortify our outgoing by the fitting sacraments. That we may be delivered from the l.u.s.t of the flesh, that the fear of death may utterly vanish and our spirit may desire to be dissolved and be with Christ, and existing upon earth in body only, in thought and longing our conversation may be in Heaven.
That the Father of mercies and the G.o.d of all consolation may graciously come to meet the prodigal returning from the husks; that He may receive the piece of silver that has been lately found and transmit it by His holy angels into His eternal treasury. That He may rebuke with His terrible countenance, at the hour of our departure, the spirits of darkness, lest Leviathan, that old serpent, lying hid at the gate of death, should spread unforeseen snares for our feet. But when we shall be summoned to the awful judgment-seat to give an account on the testimony of conscience of all things we have done in the body, the G.o.d-Man may consider the price of the holy blood that He has shed, and that the Incarnate Deity may note the frame of our carnal nature, that our weakness may pa.s.s unpunished where infinite loving-kindness is to be found, and that the soul of the wretched sinner may breathe again where the peculiar office of the Judge is to show mercy. And further, let our students be always diligent in invoking the refuge of our hope after G.o.d, the Virgin Mother of G.o.d and Blessed Queen of Heaven, that we who for our manifold sins and wickednesses have deserved the anger of the Judge, by the aid of her ever-acceptable supplications may merit His forgiveness; that her pious hand may depress the scale of the balance in which our small and few good deeds shall be weighed, lest the heaviness of our sins preponderate and cast us down to the bottomless pit of perdition. Moreover, let them ever venerate with due observance the most deserving Confessor Cuthbert, the care of whose flock we have unworthily undertaken, ever devoutly praying that he may deign to excuse by his prayers his all-unworthy vicar, and may procure him whom he hath admitted as his successor upon earth to be made his a.s.sessor in Heaven. Finally, let them pray G.o.d with holy prayers as well of body as of soul, that He will restore the spirit created in the image of the Trinity, after its sojourn in this miserable world, to its primordial prototype, and grant to it for ever to enjoy the sight of His countenance: through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.