Friday, July 16, 2010

Incredible Pre-Pius X Totum

A week or two ago, Maximus Scriptorus, of the wonderful ChurchLatin.com asked if I would like to temporarily trade a couple of breviaries for review purposes. I sent him the Econe Breviary and the Horologion and look at one of the tomes he sent me...

An 1879 Totum.

From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum

This book is an absolute treasure. He tells me that he purchased it for practically pennies. What we have here is an near flawless, relatively untouched, incredible edition of the Pre-Pius X Breviarium Romanum. It has a hard cover, art-gilt page edges, and all the works.

First lets look at the tank-proof box it came in. Its of a very solid wooden construction and has a fuzzy cloth liner on the inside. It could be velvet but I'm not a fabrics expert.
Let's open the book. Here you can see the gold outline on the inside cover. This feature, absent from almost all books these days is an aesthetic bonus to any bible or prayerbook. Publishers should begin to use it again ... now.

The end "papers" are cloth. The quality job here is kind of absurd. This should be in a museum or at least in a safety deposit box.

From 1879 Totum


Below you can see me opening the book. It looks like I'm abusing it but in fact I am being extremely gentle. The pages are stiff. Stiff as in unused, untouched, brand new. To give you an idea of how brand new this is I'll tell you that yesterday I was flipping pages and came to the feast for today and found that the pages were still stuck together at the gilding. The pages hadn't been turned yet. Keep in mind this book's year is 1879.

From 1879 Totum
The ribbons have not faired nearly as well. Let's take a look at that art gilt edging which give off a ruby effect.



The photo below really shows what I am talking about. Will they ever create books of this quality again? Will that stupid Kindle thing end up overflowing trash bins so that we can recover the lost art of true quality book manufacturing? The books we have today can be nice, but this doesn't compare. Today's editions are a product of our age and not the fault of the publishers. If for instance someone were to product this particular breviary today it would probably cost $500 easy. Not many people want to pay that. Honestly, it could even go for a $1000.

From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum


Ok now let's move to the text. First notice how the formatting immediately centers your focus to the words on the page. The gold outline, the wide margins, the fonts, the drop caps, it all just works. You might think the margins are bit too wide. I suspect they used the same printing for smaller volumes rather make new ones for this edition, but when they printed the totum they used larger paper.

From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum



I love looking at old books' table of movable feasts. It shows how long they expected the book to last, or at least how long it would stay in use. If they only knew...this one goes to 1898.

From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum


From 1879 Totum


This was probably the only time the book was used. I can't read it but it looks like French.

From 1879 Totum

This is in reality a brand new book. The preservation is unbelievable. It is a time warp and an absolute treasure. I am extremely grateful to Maximus Scriptorus for his generous lending of this priceless volume.

8 comments:

SoaringSoprano said...

Wow! That book is beautiful, Matt! I am appropriately jealous. :p

Thanks for pointing me to your blog! It's really great!

Moonshadow said...

That's beautiful, Matt.

Alejandro said...

The writing is indeed French, save for the final phrase, which is Latin. I can make out the last two lines from your photo:

Ils ont écrit leur histoire sur le sable et le vent et la mer l’ont effacé.

Sic transit gloria mundi.


They have written their history on the sand, and the wind and the sea have erased it.

So passes the glory of the world.

Moonshadow said...

Very nice phrase.

Can you scan or transcribe the rest for us, Matt? I can't even make out any of the handwriting from the picture, except what our friend has already done above.

Moonshadow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

I had a lady at my parish who grew up in French Canada read the inscription. She could only make out some of it because not all of the writing is legible.

The gist of the message is that the writer purchased the book in the 1940s in a used book store amongst so many other "vulgar" titles. He purchased it for its beauty and always hoped to learn how to read it. But at the time of the writing it had been 10 years and still he could not. But he did not despair.

It went on from there but I can't remember. He wished well on the new owner.

I'll try and take a high quality photo of it and make the text darker in my photo editing program. Then we can have someone give us a full translation if they'd like.

Its a great time capsule.

Alejandro said...

It wasn’t enough for the book to be fulsomely beautiful and perfectly preserved, but it has had an interesting history too! I wonder how Maximus Scriptorus came to have it. (Did it twice suffer the fate of a vulgar used book store?)

I realised an error in my transcription above. The word effacé should be effacée.

MAX said...

I bought the Breviary via ebay global for $17. The pics on the auction page were very poor, so I had no idea I was getting such a treasure. Sometimes you find fool's gold and sometimes you find a huge nugget.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton