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among the rest, have a language and a manner of treatment peculiar to themselves, and he who attempts to dress them in borrowed or foreign ornaments, is every whit as uselessly employed as the German apothecary we are told of, who turned the whole dispensatory into verse. It will be sufficient for me, if the following system is found as pleasing as the nature of the subject will bear, neither obscured by an unnecessary ostentation of science, nor lengthened out by an affected eagerness after needless embellishment.
The description of every object will be found as clear and concise as possible, the design not being to amuse the ear with well-turned periods, or the imagination with borrowed ornaments, but to impress the mind with the simplest views of nature. To answer this end more distinctly, a picture of such animals is given as we are least acquainted with. All that is intended by this is, only to guide the inquirer with more certainty to the object itself, as it is to be found in nature. I never would advise a student to apply to any science, either anatomy, physic, or natural history, by looking on pictures only: they may serve to direct him more readily to the objects intended, but he must by no means suppose himself possessed of adequate and distinct ideas till he has viewed the things themselves, and not their representations.
Copperplates, therefore, moderately well done, answer the learner's purpose every whit as well as those which cannot be purchased but at a vast expense; they serve to guide us to the archetypes in nature, and this is all that the finest picture should be permitted to do, for Nature herself ought always to be examined by the learner before he has done.
TO A NEW
HISTORY OF THE WORLD;
INTENDED TO HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED IN TWELVE VOLUMES OCTAVO,
BY J. NEWBERY, MDCCLXIV.
TO THE PUBLIC.
EXPERIENCE every day convinces us, that no part of learning affords so much wisdom upon such easy terms as history. Our advances in most other studies are slow and disgusting, acquired with effort and retained with difficulty; but in a well written history, every step we proceed only serves to increase our ardour: we profit by the experience of others, without sharing their toils or misfortunes; and in this part of knowledge, in a more particular manner, study is but relaxation.
Of all histories, however, that which, not confined to any particular reign or country, but which extends to the transactions of all mankind, is the most useful and entertaining. As in geography we can have no just idea of the situation of one country, without knowing that of others; so in history it is in some measure necessary to be acquainted with the whole thoroughly to comprehend a part. A knowledge of universal history is therefore highly useful, nor is it less entertaining. Tacitus complains, that the transactions of a few reigns could not afford him a sufficient stock of materials to please or interest the reader; but here that objection is entirely removed, a History of the World presents the most striking events, with the greatest variety. These are a part of the many advantages which universal
history has over all others, and which have encouraged so many writers to attempt compiling works of this kind among the ancients, as well as the moderns. Each invited by the manifest utility of the design, yet many of them failing through the great and unforeseen difficulties of the undertaking; the barrenness of events in the early periods of history, and their fertility in modern times, equally serving to increase their embarrassments. In recounting the transactions of remote antiquity, there is such a defect of materials, that the willingness of mankind to supply the chasm has given birth to falsehood, and invited conjecture. The farther we look back into those distant periods, all the objects seem to become more obscure, or are totally lost, by a sort of perspective diminution. In this case, therefore, when the eye of truth could no longer discern clearly, fancy undertook to form the picture; and fables were invented where truths were wanting. For this reason, we have declined enlarging on such disquisitions, not for want of materials, which offered themselves at every step of our progress, but because we thought them not worth discussing. Neither have we encumbered the beginning of our work with the various opinions of the heathen philosophers concerning the creation, which may be found in most of our systems of theology, and belong more properly to the divine than the historian. Sensible how liable we are to redundancy in this first part of our design, it has been our endeavour to unfold ancient history with all possible conciseness; and, solicitous to improve the reader's stock of knowledge, we have been indifferent as to the display of our own. We have not stopped to discuss or confute all the absurd conjectures men of speculation have thrown in We at first had even determined not to deform the page of truth with the names of those, whose labours had only been calculated to encumber it with fiction and vain speculation. However, we have thought proper, upon second thoughts, slightly to mention them and their opinions, quoting the author at the bottom of the page, so that the reader, who is curious about such particularities, may know where to have recourse for fuller information.
As, in the early part of history, a want of real facts hath induced many to spin out the little that was known with conjecture, so in the modern part, the superfluity of trifling anecdotes was equally apt to introduce confusion. In one
case, history has been rendered tedious, from our want of knowing the truth; in the other, from knowing too much of truth not worth our notice. Every year that is added to the age of the world, serves to lengthen the thread of its history; so that, to give this branch of learning a just length in the circle of human pursuits, it is necessary to abridge several of the least important facts. It is true, we often at present see the annals of a single reign, or even the transactions of a single year, occupying folios : but can the writers of such tedious journals ever hope to reach posterity, or do they think that our descendants, whose attention will naturally be turned to their own concerns, can exhaust so much time in the examination of ours? A plan of general history, rendered too extensive, deters us from a study that is perhaps, of all others, the most useful, by rendering it too laborious; and, instead of alluring our curiosity, excites our despair. Writers are unpardonable who convert our amusement into labour, and divest knowledge of one of its most pleasing allurements. The ancients have represented history under the figure of a woman, easy, graceful, and inviting; but we have seen her in our days converted, like the virgin of Nabis,* into an instrument of torture.
How far we have retrenched these excesses, and steered between the opposites of exuberance and abridgment, the judicious are left to determine. We here offer the public a History of Mankind, from the earliest accounts of time to the present age, in twelve volumes, which, upon mature deliberation, appeared to us the proper mean. It has been our endeavour to give every fact its full scope; but at the same time, to retrench all disgusting superfluity, to give every object the due proportion it ought to maintain in the general picture of mankind, without crowding the canvass. We hope, therefore, that the reader will here see the revolutions of empires without confusion, and trace arts and laws from one kingdom to another, without losing his interest in
Nabis, a Spartan tyrant, who caused a statue of his wife to be constructed, which, by means of springs, seized the criminal who was placed within its embrace, and tortured him in the most excruciating manner by pressing him against sharp spikes of steel hid under its robe. We have read of a similar image of the Virgin Mary, called Madre Dolorosa, which was discovered by the French in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition.-B.
To attain these
the narrative of their other transactions. ends with greater certainty of success, we have taken care, in some measure, to banish that late, and, we may add, Gothic practice, of using a multiplicity of notes, -a thing as much unknown to the ancient historians, as it is disgusting in the moderns. Balzac somewhere calls vain erudition the baggage of antiquity; might we in turn be permitted to make an apophthegm, we would call notes the baggage of a bad writer. It certainly argues a defect of method, or a want of perspicuity, when an author is thus obliged to write notes upon his own works; and it may assuredly be said, that whoever undertakes to write a comment upon himself, will for ever remain without a rival his own commentator. We have, therefore, lopped off such excrescences, though not to any degree of affectation; as sometimes an acknowledged blemish may be admitted into works of skill, either to cover a greater defect, or to take a nearer course to beauty. Having mentioned the danger of affectation, it may be proper to observe, that as this, of all defects, is most apt to insinuate itself into such a work, we have, therefore, been upon our guard against it. Innovation, in a performance of this nature, should by no means be attempted: those names and spellings which have been used in our language for time immemorial, ought to continue unaltered; for, like states, they acquire a sort of jus diuturnæ possessionis, as the civilians express it, however unjust their original claims might have been.
With respect to chronology and geography, the one of which fixes actions to time, while the other assigns them to place, we have followed the most approved methods among the moderns. All that was requisite in this, was to preserve one system of each invariably, and permit such as chose to adopt the plans of others, to rectify our deviations to their own standard. If actions and things are made to preserve their due distances of time and place mutually with respect to each other, it matters little as to the duration of them all with respect to eternity, or their situation with regard to the universe.
Thus much we have thought proper to premise concerning a work which, however executed, has cost much labour and great expense. Had we for our judges the unbiassed and the judicious alone, few words would have served, or even silence would have been our best address; but when it is considered that we have laboured for the public, — that