Columbia Library columns (v.9(1959Nov-1960May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.9,no.1(1959:Nov): Page 26  

"A Morall Fabletalke"


'HEN booksellers describe their manuscripts as "very
rare" they are for once understating their wares. All
manuscripts are unique, but if some are more unique
than others, the Elizabethan volume which is the recent gift of the
Columbia College Class of 1923 to the Library certainly deserves
the superlative. In spite of generations of research students, anti¬
quaries, and catalogers, it has remained unnoticed to the present
day. Or if some secretive scholar has leafed it, he has not let the
world know. No history of Elizabethan literature mentions it,
no auction catalogue lists it (to my knowledge), it bears no sig¬
nature of its former owners. To be sure, its discovery does not
bring to light a lost play of Shakespeare's or the last six books of
The Faerie Queene. But in our hunger to comprehend the ways
of people of Elizabeth's time even the smallest morsel becomes
precious, and this manuscript is at least a good bite.

As is often the case with old books, some of its owners, finding
paper scarce, scribbled things on blank pages: titles of songs and
dances, a poem all in aitches ("heavy harte whose harmes are
hydde . . . "), Latin verses describing the effects of successive
drinks to the number of ten. The substance of the volume, how¬
ever, is described on a neatly written title page:


A most delectable Garden of morall Philosophy,
conveyed in ffables, by speeches attributed too

brute Beastes.--------

Wherin the labyrinth or maze of manncs Ivfe is
set foorthe: And the A\'ay off vertew, by most
beawtifull preceptes (as it were by Theseussis
clew of yarne) is directed.--------

  v.9,no.1(1959:Nov): Page 26