The power of the English currency has been, till of late, largely based on the national estimate of horses and of wine: so that a man might give any price to furnish choicely his stable, or his cellar; and receive public approval therefore; but if he gave the same sum to furnish his library, he was called mad, or a bibliomaniac. And although he might lose his fortune by his horses, and his health or life by his cellar, and rarely lost either by his books, he was yet never called a Hippo-maniac, nor Oino-maniac; but only Biblio-maniac, because the current worth of money was understood to be legitimately founded on cattle and wine, but not on literature. The prices lately given at sales for pictures and MSS. indicate some tendency to change in the national character in this respect, so that the worth of our currency may even come in time to rest, in an acknowledged manner, somewhat on the state and keeping of the Bedford Missal, as well as on the health of Caractacus or Blink Bonney. — John Ruskin

Editorial note: In creating this amplified web-version of the original catalogue, I have worked in the spirit of those Victorians who collected and created illuminated books by adding decorated initial letters from Victorian and later books to Alice Beckwith's text. A few, like the P in the commentary for Westwood's Paleographia Sacra Pictoria and the T in Henry Noel Humphrey's A History of the Art of Printing, were created by Thackeray for Vanity Fair; others come from Victorian periodicals and other books. — George P. Landow.

Sacred Texts

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History of the Book


Secular Literature


Architecture and Design

Manuals and Examples of Hand Illumination

Historical Chronicles and Heraldry

Related Material


Beckwith, Alice H. R. H. Victorian Bibliomania: The Illuminated Book in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Exhibition catalogue. Providence. Rhode Island: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1987.

Last modified 18 December 2013