The libraries of the monasteries were wasted, dispersed, and destroyed, during the revolution; but the wrecks have since been collected in the principal towns; and thus originated the public library of Rouen, which now contains, as it is said, upwards of seventy thousand volumes. As may be anticipated, a great proportion of the works which it includes relate to theology and scholastic divinity; and the Bollandists present their formidable front of fifty-four ponderous folios.
[Illustration: Initial Letter from a MS. of the History of William of Jumieges]
The manuscripts, of which I understand there are full eight hundred, are of much greater value than the printed books. But they are at present unarranged and uncatalogued, though M. Licquet, the librarian, has been for some time past laboring to bring them into order. Among those pointed out to us, none interested me so much as an original autograph; of the Historica Normannorum, by William de Jumiegies, brought from the very abbey to which he belonged. There is no doubt, I believe, of its antiquity; but, to enable you to form your own judgment upon the subject, I send you a tracing of the first paragraph.
[Illustration: Historica Normannorum tracing of autograph]
I also add a fac-simile of the initial letter of the foregoing epistle, illuminated by the monk, and in which he has introduced himself in the act of humbly presenting his work to his royal namesake. I am mistaken, if any equally early, and equally well authenticated representation of a King of England be in existence. The Historia Normannorum is incomplete, both at the beginning and end, and it does not occupy more than one-fifth of the volume: the rest is filled with a comment upon the Jewish History.
The articles among the manuscripts, most valued by antiquaries, are a Benedictionary and a Missal, both supposed of nearly the same date, the beginning of the twelfth century.
The Abbe Saas, who published, in 1746, a catalogue of the manuscripts belonging to the library of the cathedral of Rouen, calls this Benedictionary, which then belonged to the metropolitan church, a Penitential; and gives it as his opinion, that it is a production of the eighth century, with which aera he says that the character of the writing wholly accords. Montfaucon, who never saw it, follows the Abbe; but the opinion of these learned men has recently been confuted by M. Gourdin, who has bestowed considerable pains upon the elucidation of the history and contents of this curious relic. He states that a sum of fifteen thousand francs had been offered for it, by a countryman of our own; but I should not hesitate to class this tale among the numberless idle reports which are current upon the continent, respecting the riches and the folly of English travellers. The famous Bedford Missal, at a time when the bibliomania was at its height, could hardly fetch a larger