Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (Preface):
What a company of poets hath this year brought out, as Pliny complains to Sossius Sinesius.
This April every day some or other have recited. What a catalogue of new books all this year, all this age (I say), have our Frankfort Marts, our domestic Marts brought out? Twice a year, Proferunt se nova ingenia et ostentant, we stretch our wits out, and set them to sale, magno conatu nihil agimus. So that which Gesner much desires, if a speedy reformation be not had, by some prince’s edicts and grave supervisors, to restrain this liberty, it will run on in infinitum. Quis tam avidus librorum helluo, who can read them?
As already, we shall have a vast chaos and confusion of books, we are oppressed with them, our eyes ache with reading, our fingers with turning. For my part I am one of the number, nos numerus sumus, (we are mere ciphers): I do not deny it, I have only this of Macrobius to say for myself, Omne meum, nihil meum, ’tis all mine, and none mine. As a good housewife out of divers fleeces weaves one piece of cloth, a bee gathers wax and honey out of many flowers, and makes a new bundle of all, Floriferis ut apes in saltibus omnia libant, I have laboriously collected this cento out of divers writers, and that sine injuria, I have wronged no authors, but given every man his own; which Hierom so much commends in Nepotian; he stole not whole verses, pages, tracts, as some do nowadays, concealing their authors’ names, but still said this was Cyprian’s, that Lactantius, that Hilarius, so said Minutius Felix, so Victorinus, thus far Arnobius: I cite and quote mine authors (which, howsoever some illiterate scribblers account pedantical, as a cloak of ignorance, and opposite to their affected fine style, I must and will use) sumpsi, non suripui; and what Varro, lib. 6. de re rust. speaks of bees, minime maleficae nullius opus vellicantes faciunt delerius, I can say of myself, Whom have I injured?
The matter is theirs most part, and yet mine, apparet unde sumptum sit (which Seneca approves), aliud tamen quam unde sumptum sit apparet, which nature doth with the aliment of our bodies incorporate, digest, assimilate, I do concoquere quod hausi, dispose of what I take. I make them pay tribute, to set out this my Maceronicon, the method only is mine own, I must usurp that of Wecker e Ter. nihil dictum quod non dictum prius, methodus sola artificem ostendit, we can say nothing but what hath been said, the composition and method is ours only, and shows a scholar. Oribasius, Aesius, Avicenna, have all out of Galen, but to their own method, diverso stilo, non diversa fide. Our poets steal from Homer; he spews, saith Aelian, they lick it up. Divines use Austin’s words verbatim still, and our story-dressers do as much; he that comes last is commonly best,
Though there were many giants of old in physic and philosophy, yet I say with Didacus Stella,
A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself; I may likely add, alter, and see farther than my predecessors; and it is no greater prejudice for me to indite after others, than for Aelianus Montaltus, that famous physician, to write de morbis capitis after Jason Pratensis, Heurnius, Hildesheim, &c., many horses to run in a race, one logician, one rhetorician, after another.