Books Are Like Fine Furniture, or a Good Family

Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis 36-37:

“Though the monuments of literature may be very well in other ways, they are most necessary for preserving the memory of antiquity. For, in them are contained the greatest human achievements, the events of unexpected fortune, the miracles of nature, and in addition to all of this, an account of the times. Indeed, human memory, and those things which are handed down insensibly deteriorate, and hardly last for more than one generation.

Therefore, what life could be more joyful, or at any rate more useful, than to always read and write, or, though we be moderns, to understand antiquity, and in our present day speak to our predecessor, and indeed, to make all time past and future our own? ‘O, what a fine furnishing are books!’ (As we say.) ‘O, what a fine family they make!’ (As Cicero rightly calls them, ever profitable and conducive to good manners.) Books are like a family that does not complain, does not shout, is not greedy, or voracious, or contumacious; they speak when ordered, and when ordered they fall silent; they are always ready to hand for any task; and you need hear nothing from them but what you might wish.”

Dante living that good life.

Nam cum ad cetera quidem plurimum valent, tum vero maxime ad salvandam vetustatis memoriam necessaria sunt monumenta litterarum, quibus res hominum gestae, fortunae eventus insperati, naturae insolita opera, et super his omnibus rationes temporum continentur. Memoria etenim hominum et quod transmittitur per manus sensim elabitur et vix unius hominum aevum exsuperat.

 […]

Quae igitur potest vita iucundior aut certe commodior quam legere semper aut scribere; et novos quidem existentes res antiquas cognoscere; praesentes vero cum posteris loqui; atque ita omne tempus quod et praeteritum est et futurum, nostrum facere? O praeclaram supellectilem librorum! inquam ut nos. O iucundam familiam! ut recte Cicero appellat, utique frugi et bene morigeram! Non enim obstrepit, non inclamat; non est rapax, non vorax, non contumax; iussi loquuntur et item iussi tacent; semperque ad omne imperium praesto sunt; a quibus nihil umquam, nisi quod velis et quantum velis, audias.

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