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MEXICAN PICTURE-WRITING.

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ladder. This represents a reign of thirteen years.

In each compartment a symbol expresses the story of the year. A flower, denoting calamity, is found in two of them. But the chief story is told by the coloured forms of the centre, where we have the sovereign painted twice, as a stern-looking head, capped with a serpent crest, with a dwarfish, white-robed body, and, separate from the shoulder, a hand grasping a couple of arrows. Before this grim warrior at the top of the scroll lie a shield and a bundle of spears. Face and feet are painted a dull yellow. Before his second effigy we have four smaller heads, with closed eyes and an ominous, bloody mark upon lip and chin, denoting the capture and beheading of four hostile chiefs. The four sacked and plundered cities are depicted by roofs falling from ruined walls; and beside each stands a symbol representing some botanical or geographical feature by which its site is characterized. Pictures of different species of tree distinguish two of the cities; the third stands evidently by a lake, for a pan of water is drawn close to it, united by a line to mark close connection.

By some such suggestive painting upon cotton cloth or aloe leaves did the frightened Mexicans, who dwelt on the coast of the great Gulf, convey to the inland towns the terrible news that Cortez and his Spaniards had appeared. They painted the great ships, the pale, bearded men, the cannon breathing flames and smoke and hurling distant trees in splinters to the earth ; and no sadder picture was ever unrolled in the splendid palace of Montezuma than the cotton cloth emblazoned with terrible meanings, which had been borne, with galloping of swiftest mules, up, up the rocky terraces of the plateau from the blue edge of the tepid

sea,

The link, which connects such picture-writing with that use of alpbabetic symbols so familiar to us that we do not realize its wonder, lies in the hieroglyphic writing of the Egyptians. Figures of natural objects abound in that system too, but they have now got a deeper meaning—the power of expressing abstractions, or qualities considered alone. Thus the queen bee represents royalty; the bull, strength; an ostrich feather, from the evenness of its filaments, truth

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ANCIENT BOOK-ROOMS.

used paper.

and drying completed the simple process of making this much

It was then ready to receive the semi-liquid, gummy soot, with which the Xenophons and the Virgils of old Greece and Rome traced their flowing histories or sparkling poems.

Such were the chief materials of which ancient books were made,—the hard and stiff substances being formed into angular tablets, which opened either like the leaves of a European book or like the folding compartments of a screen,—the soft and pliable, such as leather or linen, being rolled on ornamented, smoothlyrounded sticks, as we roll up our maps and wall-diagrams. Instead of showing, like our modern libraries, trim rows of books standing shoulder to shoulder with the evenness of well-drilled soldiers on parade—the juniors gleaming with magenta and gold, the seniors hoary in ancient vellum or sombre with dingy calfthe book-room of a Plato or a Seneca would have displayed a few circular cases, resembling our common bandbox, and filled with papyrus or parchment rolls, which, standing on end, displayed the bright yellow, polished vermilion, or deep jet of their smoothlycut edges.

Let us now see what the men, who wrought out the wonders of ancient history, cut or painted on their granite slabs, their cloths of cotton or linen, their sheep-skins, or their slips of bark.

Drawing and painting were, undoubtedly, the earliest methods of conveying ideas in books. And still, pictures and sketches aid many of our books and serials to convey a clearer meaning; else why do we love to read the Illustrated News, or turn the first thing in the Cornhill to the drawings of Millais and of Doyle? The various gradations by which the first rude sketch changed into that wonderful invention a word formed of alphabetic symbols

-cannot here be traced. Take two specimens of the phases which the growing art assumed.

A piece of cotton cloth is before us, brilliant with crimson and yellow and pale blue, and oblong like our modern page. picture-writing of old Mexico, relating the reign and conquests of King Acamapich. Down the left border runs a broad stripe of blue, divided into thirteen parts by lines resembling the rounds of a

It is a MEXICAN PICTURE-WRITING.

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ladder. This represents a reign of thirteen years.

In each compartment a symbol expresses the story of the year.

A flower, denoting calamity, is found in two of them. But the chief story is told by the coloured forms of the centre, where we have the sovereign painted twice, as a stern-looking head, capped with a serpent crest, with a dwarfish, white-robed body, and, separate from the shoulder, a hand grasping a couple of arrows. Before this grim warrior at the top of the scroll lie a shield and a bundle of spears. Face and feet are painted a dull yellow. Before his second effigy we have four smaller heads, with closed eyes and an ominous, bloody mark upon lip and chin, denoting the capture and beheading of four hostile chiefs. The four sacked and plundered cities are depicted by roofs falling from ruined walls; and beside each stands a symbol representing some botanical or geographical feature by which its site is characterized. Pictures of different species of tree distinguish two of the cities; the third stands evidently by a lake, for a pan of water is drawn close to it, united by a line to mark close connection.

By some such suggestive painting upon cotton cloth or aloe leaves did the frightened Mexicans, who dwelt on the coast of the great Gulf, convey to the inland towns the terrible news that Cortez and his Spaniards had appeared. They painted the great ships, the pale, bearded men, the cannon breathing flames and smoke and hurling distant trees in splinters to the earth ; and no sadder picture was ever unrolled in the splendid palace of Montezuma than the cotton cloth emblazoned with terrible meanings, which had been borne, with galloping of swiftest mules, up, up the rocky terraces of the plateau from the blue edge of the tepid

sea.

The link, which connects such picture-writing with that use of alpbabetic symbols so familiar to us that we do not realize its wonder, lies in the hieroglyphic writing of the Egyptians. Figures of natural objects abound in that system too, but they have now got a deeper meaning—the power of expressing abstractions, or qualities considered alone. Thus the queen bee represents royalty; the bull, strength; an ostrich feather, from the evenness of its filaments, truth

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EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHICS.

or justice. The figures are often, especially in later writings, reduced to their principal parts, or even to lines, the latter being the first step toward the formation of an alphabet. For instance, a combat is represented by two arms, one bearing a shield, the other a pike; Upper and Lower Egypt are denoted by single stems topped with a blossom or a plume, representing respectively the lotus and the papyrus. The colouring of the hieroglyphics is not in imitation of nature, as is the case with the earlier picture-writing, but follows a conventional system seldom departed from. The upper part of a canopy in blue stood for the heavens ; a thick waving line of the same, or a greenish hue, represented the sea. The sun is red with a yellow rim. Men's flesh is red; women's, yellow. Parts of the body are painted deep red; wooden instruments are pale orange or buff; bronze utensils, green. The effect of a hieroglyphic writing as it strikes the eye is very brilliant, the primary colours—red, yellow, and blue-being the prevailing hues.

A hieroglyphic painting taken from the wall of an excavated temple in Nubia is before us. It represents the introduction of ambassadors to the great Sesostris, whose figure, seated on a throne, fills all the left side of the record. He bears as sceptre a red wand with yellow top; his white robe is embroidered with blue and gold; a square blue cap, rimmed with gold and adorned with a symbolic bird, covers his head; his arms, his face, and lower legs are bare, and painted of a deep red. Two coloured ovals above his head express by figures and signs the names of the king. Four or five upright columns of hieroglyphic symbols tell the story of the ambassadors; and, crossing two of these from the right, there comes a red arm to announce the introduction to the royal presence. To attempt a description of the symbols here would be absurd. No fewer than twenty-three figures of birds with spread or folded wings are there. The sign for water is frequently repeated. Figures of men kneel and sit and stand. There are fish, and arms and legs and eyes, crowns and flowers, a crocodile and a horse,—all in red, or blue, or yellow, or green. No other colour appears in the painting, except the grey used to shade the great figure of the king.

ORIGIN OF OUR ALPHABET.

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Then by slow, yet very sure degrees, the hieroglyphic system altered until certain signs became phonetic; that is, expressive of sounds, not things. The Phoenicians, who had much to do with early Egypt, in adopting the art of writing probably abandoned the pictorial part of the hieroglyphic system, and retaining only the phonetics, formed out of these the first pure alphabet; and so from Phoenicia through Greece and Rome we, in all likelihood, got the ground-work of those twenty-six letters of which our thirty-eight thousand words are made.

Much of this opening chapter deals with countries far from Britain, and an age anterior, in the Old World at least, to the birth of British literature. But it is not a rash conjecture, that, among the ancestors of those blue-limbed Celts who dashed so bravely into the surf near Sandwich on that old September day, to meet the brass-mailed legions of Cæsar, there were some untutored attempts at picture-writing on such materials as the country could supply. For savage man must, in every age and clime, travel on to civilization by much the same pathway. And, in any case, it is well, when beginning to record the great victories of the British pen, to trace a few of those faltering steps which were taken, as the world grew from morning into prime, towards the production of that grand triumph of human thought and skill we call a modern book.

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