Some years ago I photographed some early editions of Tertullian in Norwich Cathedral Library. The library was a shed on the roof of the cloister; in fact a ruinous medieval room, which had been reroofed. In it stood a perfect 18th century library, shelves and books, and leaded-glass windows.
It was the sort of place where you would see books which you only ever see in footnotes. Great folios of 16th and 17th century writers, little octavos of long forgotten divines, and so forth.
Among the books there was the “Diarum Italicum” (1702) of Bernard de Montfaucon, one of the Maurist fathers. He made a trip into Italy, listing books and antiquities of all kinds, and providing a mass of research material for all of us. The book was translated twice into English, and the library had a copy of that also.
It’s all rather different today. The library room has been turned into a ‘rare books’ room, and so made inaccessible to us, while a new room has been built in front of it to hold a modern theological library. Doubtless the latter is more comfortable, but I mourn the old days, the charm of the old room and its shelves of old books. I never did get to read Montfaucon’s book — I was always busy with something else, and Norwich isn’t as easy to get to as it might be.
Let us reflect that we are among the most fortunate of men, and offer our thanks to God for Google Books.