CHAPTER VI. BESANCON AND ITS ENVIRONS.
Delightful hours may be spent in the Public Library, one of the richest of provincial France, which is also, like the charming little library of Weimar, a museum as well. The most superb of these bibliographical treasures were amassed by the Keeper of the Seals of Charles the Fifth, Perrenot de Granvelle, and afterwards bequeathed by the Abbe Brisot, into whose possession they had fallen, to the town of Besancon. Among them are some splendid manuscripts from the library of Mathias Corvinus, King of Hungary, and a vast collection of choice Aldines bound in the costliest manner. No less than 1,200 volumes of the sixteenth century are here, amongst these several specimens of topography printed in Franche-Comte. Lovers of rare MSS., old books, and old bindings, have here a feast, indeed, and are generously allowed access to all. Like most other important, libraries in France, it is under the management of a man of learning and distinction; M. Castan, the present librarian, is the author of some valuable works relating to his native province and to his archaeological labours. Besancon is mainly indebted not only for the excavations, which have filled its museums with treasures, but for the imposing Roman remains which adorn its streets. Besides its bibliographical collections, the library contains a vast number of coins, medallions, busts, engravings, and portraits relating to the history of Franche-Comte, many of which are highly interesting. The busts, portraits, and relics of such noble Franc-Comtois as have won a European reputation - George Cuvier, for instance, whose brain weighed more than that of any human being ever known; Victor Hugo, whose works are familiar to readers in all languages; Charles Fourier, who saw in the Phalanstery, or, Associated Home, a remedy for the crying social evils of the age, and who, in spite of many aberrations, is entitled to the gratitude of mankind for his efforts on behalf of education, and the elevation of the laborious classes; Proudhon, whose famous dictum, "La propriete c'est le vol," has become the watchword of a certain school of Socialists, which even the iron despotism of Russia and Germany cannot keep down; Charles Nodier, charming litterateur, who, at the age of twenty-one, was the author of the first satire ever published against the first Napoleon, "La Napoleone," which formulated the indignation of the Republican party, and a noble roll-call of artists, authors, savants, soldiers, and men of science.
Noteworthy in this treasure-house of Franc-Comtois history is the fine marble statue of Jouffroy by Pradier. Jouffroy, of whom his native province may well be proud, disputes with Fulton the honour of first having applied steam to the purposes of navigation. His efforts, made on the river Doubs and the Saone in 1776 and 1783, failed for the want of means to carry out his ideas in full, but the Academy of Science acknowledged his claim to the discovery in 1840. The Besancon Library, indeed, whether considered as such pur et simple, or a museum, is full of interest and instruction, and deserves a lengthened visit. The collection of works on art, architecture, and archaeology bequeathed to the city by Paris, architect and designer to Louis XVI., is a very rich one and there is also a cabinet of medals numbering ten thousand pieces.
Besancon also boasts of several learned societies, one of which founded in the interests of scientific inquiry so far back as 1840, "La Societe d'Emulation du Doubs," numbers five hundred and odd members. One of the most interesting features in the ancient city is its connection with Spain, and what has been termed the golden age of Franche-Comte under the Emperor Charles the Fifth. It will be remembered that Franche-Comte formed a part of the dowry of Margaret, daughter of the Emperor Maximilian of Austria, and it was under her protectorate during her life-time and reverted to her nephew Charles the Fifth on his accession to the crowns of Spain, Austria, the Low Countries, and Burgundy. His minister, Perrenot de Granvelle, born at Ornans, infused new intellectual and artistic life into the place he ruled as a prince. His stately Italian palace, still one of the handsomest monuments of Besancon, was filled with pictures, statues, books, and precious manuscripts, and the stimulus thus given to literature and the fine arts was followed by a goodly array of artists, thinkers, and writers. The learned Gilbert Cousin, secretary of Erasmus, Prevost, pupil of Raffaelle, Goudinel of Besancon, the master of Palestrina, creator of popular music, the lettered family of Chifflet, and many others, shed lustre on this splendid period; while not only Besancon but Lons-le-Saunier, Arbois, and other small towns bear evidence of Spanish influence on architecture and the arts. In the most out of the way places may be found chefs-d'oeuvre dating from the protectorate of Margaret and the Emperor, and it is such scattered treasure-trove that makes travelling in out of the way places in Franche-Comte so fruitful to the art-lover in various fields.