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solicit a subscription for a catalogue of books
exposed to sale, is an attempt for which some apology cannot but be necessary; for few would willingly contribute to the expence of volumes, by which neither instruction nor entertainment could be afforded, from which only the bookseller could expect advantage, and of which the only use must cease, at the dispersion of the library.
Nor could the reasonableness of an universal rejection of our proposal be denied, if this catalogue were to be compiled with no other view, than that of promoting the sale of the books which it enumerates, and drawn up with that inaccuracy and confusion which may be found in those that are daily published.
But our design, like our proposal, is uncommon, and to be prosecuted at a very uncommon expence; it being intended, that the books shall be distributed into their distinct classes, and every class ranged with some regard to the age of the writers; that every book shall be accurately described; that the Vol. IX.
peculiarities of editions shall be remarked, and use servations from the authors of literary history a casionally interspersed; that, by this catalogue, se may inform posterity of the excellence and value ci this great collection, and promote the knowledze of scarce books, and elegant editions. For this purpose men of letters are engaged, who cano even be supplied with arnanuentes, but at an expeace above that of a common catalogue.
To thew that this collection deserves a particular degree of regard from the learned and the studious, that it excels any library that was ever yet oficre to publick sale in the value as well as number of the volumes which it contains; and that therefore this catalogue will not be of less use to men of letters, than chofe of the Thuanian, Heinfian, or Barterir::7 libraries, it may not be improper to exhibit a general account of the different classes, as they are naturally divided by the several sciences.
By this method we can indeed exhibit only a general idea, at once magnificent and confused; 2. idea of the writings of many nations, collected from diftant parts of the world, discovered sometimes ly chance, and sometimes by curiosity, amidst the rubbih of forfsken monasteries, and the repofitories of ancient families, and brought hither from every rari, as to the universal receptacle of learning.
It will be no unpleasing effect of this account, if those, that thall happen to çerufe it, should be inclined by it to reficct on the character of the late proprietors, and to pay fome tribute of venerat.ua to their arduur for literature, to that generous and exalted curiosity which they gratified with incetiana
searches and immense expence, and to which they dedicated that time, and that superfluity of fortune, which many others of their rank employ in the pursuit of contemptible amusements, or the gratification of guilty pasions. And, surely, every man, who considers learning as ornamental and advantageous to the community, must allow them the honour of publick benefactors, who have introduced amongst us authors not hitherto well known, and added to the literary treasures of their native country.
That our catalogue will excite any other man to emulate the collectors of this library, to prefer books and manuscripts to equipage and luxury, and to forsake noise and diversion for the conversation of the learned, and the satisfaction of extensive knowledge, we are very far from presuming to hope ; but shall make no scruple to affert, that, if any man should happen to be seized with such laudable ambition, he may find in this catalogue hints and informations which are not easily to be met with ; he will discover, that the boasted Bodleian library is very far from a perfect model, and that even the learned Fabricius cannot completely instruct him in the early editions of the classic writers.
But the collectors of libraries cannot be numerous; and, therefore, catalogues cannot very properly be recommended to the publick, if they had not a more general and frequent use, an use which every student has experienced, or neglected to his loss. By the means of catalogues only can it be known, what has been written on every part of learning, and the hazard avoided of encountering difficulties which have already been cleared, discussing questions which have
already already been decided, and digging in mines of l.ce. rature which former ages have exhausted.
How often this has been the fate of studer:s, every man of letters can declare; and, perhos, there are very few who have not sometimes valued as new discoveries, made by themselves, those oservations, which have long since been publishes, and of which the world therefore will refuse the the praise; nor can the refusal be censured as any enormous violation of justice; for, why should they not forfeit by their ignorance, what they might clan by their fagacity.
To illustrate this remark, by the mention of otscure names, would not much confirm it; ani to vilify for this purpose the memory of men truly great, would be to deny them the reverence which they may justly claim from those whom their writings have instructed. May the Thade at leafi, of one great Englib critick rest without disturbance; and may no man presume to insult his memory, wto wants his learning, his reason, or his wit.
From the vexatious disappointment of meeting reproach, where praise is expected, every man will certainly defire to be secured; and therefore that book will have some claim to his regard, from which he may receive informations of the labours of his predeceffors, such as a catalogue of the Harleux library will copiously afford him.
Nor is the use of catalogues of less importance to those whom curiosity has engaged in the study of literary history, and who think the intellectual revolutions of the world more worthy of their attention, than the ravages of tyrants, the defolation
of kingdoms, the rout of armies, and the fall of empires. Those who are pleased with observing the first birth of new opinions, their struggles against opposition, their silent progress under persecution, their general reception, and their gradual decline, or sudden extinction; those that amuse themselves with remarking the different periods of human knowledge, and observe how darkness and light succeed each other; by what accident the most gloomy nights of ignorance have given way in the dawn of science, and how learning has languished and decayed, for want of patronage and regard, or been overborne by the prevalence of fashionable ignorance, or lost amidst the tumults of invasion, and the storms of violence. All those who desire any knowledge of the literary transactions of past ages, may find in catalogues, like this at least, such an account as is given by annalists, and chronologers of civil history.
How the knowledge of the sacred writings has been diffused, will be observed from the catalogue of the various editions of the bible, from the first impression by Fust, in 1462, to the present time; in which will be contained the polyglot editions of Spain, France, and England, those of the original Hebrew, the Greek Septuagint, and the Latin Vula gate; with the versions which are now used in the remotest parts of Europe, in the country of the Grifons, in Lithuania, Bobemia, Finland, and Iceland.
With regard to the attempts of the same kind made in our own country, there are few whose expectations will not be exceeded by the number of English bibles, of which not one is forgotten, whe