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Dear Sir,--I am something of the Mussulman's humour, as you know, and never willingly pass by a scrap of printed paper, however it comes in my way. I cannot, indeed, like the "Spectator," "mention a paper kite from which I have received great improvement," nor "a hat-case which I would not exchange for all the beavers in Great Britain." It is in a less unlikely place that I have made a little discovery which will interest you, I hope; for as it chances, not only has a lost ballad been at least partially recovered, but . . . however, I will keep your learned patience on the tenterhooks for a while.

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Business taking me to Newcastle of late, I found myself in Bell's little shop on the quay. { 9} You know the man by report at least; he is more a collector than a bookseller, though poor; and I verily believe that he would sell all his children--Douglas Bell, Percy Bell, Hobbie Bell, and Kinmont Bell--"for a song." Ballads are his foible, and he can hardly be made to part with one of the broadsides in his broken portfolios. Well, semel insanivimus omnes (by the way, did it ever strike you that the Roman "cribbed" that line, as the vulgar say, from an epigram in the Anthology?), and you and I will scarce throw the first stone at the poor man's folly. However, I am delaying your natural eagerness. So now for the story of my great discovery. As our friend Bell would scarce let his dusty broadsheet lumber out of his hands, I was turning to leave him in no very good humour, when I noticed a small and rather long octavo, in dirty and crumpled vellum, lying on the top of a heap of rubbish, Boston's "Crook in the Lot," "The Pilgrim's Progress," and other chap-book trumpery. I do not know what good angel that watches over us collectors made me take up the thing, which I found to be nothing less than a copy of old Guillaume Coquillart. It was not Galliot du Pre's edition, in lettres rondes, but, still more precious had it only been complete, an example in black letter. I give you the whole title. First the motto, in the frieze of an architectural design, [Greek text]. Then, in small capitals -

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It required but a few minutes for the girl to change to

On les vend a Lyon en la Maison de Francoys Juste, Demourant devant nostre Dame de Confort.

By bad (or good) luck this rare piece was imperfect--the back gaping and three sheets gone. But, in turning over the leaves, I saw something that brought my heart, as they say, into my mouth. So, beating down Bell from his upset price of fourpence to six bawbees, I pushed the treasure carelessly in my pocket, and never stopped till I was in a lonely place by Tyne-side and secure from observation. Then, with my knife, I very carefully uncased Maistre Guillaume, and extracted the sheet of parchment, printed in black letter with red capitals, that had been used to line the binding. A corner of it had crept out, through the injuries of time, and on that, in Bell's "crame" (for it is more a crame than a shop), I had caught the mystic words Runjt macht Gunjt.

And now, I think, Monkbarns, you prick up your ears and wipe your spectacles. That is the motto, as every one of the learned family of antiquaries is well aware, and, as you have often told me, of your great forbear, the venerable and praiseworthy Aldobrand Oldenbuck the Typographer, who fled from the Low Countries during the tyrannical attempt of Philip II. to suppress at once civil and religious liberty. As all the world knows, he withdrew from Nuremberg to Scotland, and set up his Penates and (what you may not hitherto have been aware of) his Printing Press at Fairport, and under your ancestral roof of Monkbarns. But, what will surprise you yet more, the parchment sheet which bears Aldobrand's motto in German contains printed matter in good Scots! This excellent and enterprising man must have set himself to ply his noble art in his new home, and in our unfamiliar tongue.

Yet, even now, we are not at the end of this most fortunate discovery. It would appear that there was little demand for works of learning and religion in Scotland, or at least at Fairport; for the parchment sheet contains fragments of a Ballad in the Scots tongue. None but a poor and struggling printer would then have lent his types to such work, and fortunate for us has been the poverty of your great ancestor. Here we have the very earliest printed ballad in the world, and, though fragmentary, it is the more precious as the style proves to demonstration, and against the frantic scepticism even of a Ritson, the antique and venerable character of those compositions. I send you a copy of the Ballad, with the gaps (where the tooth of time or of the worm, edax rerum, hath impaired it) filled up with conjectural restorations of my own. But how far do they fall short of the original simplicity! Non cuivis contingit. As the title is lacking, as well as the imprint, I have styled it


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