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This Handbook of Miscellaneous Information was first announced by Mr. William A. Wheeler in the preface to his "Dictionary of the Noted Names of Fiction," to which it was designed to be a companion volume. Its design and scope are sufficient^- indicated by the title it bears and by the words of the original announcement referred to above: viz., "the author has been urged to extend his plan so as to include . . . the names of celebrated statues, paintings, palaces, country-seats, churches, ships, streets, clubs, and the like; inasmuch as such names are of very common occurrence in books and newspapers, and, for the most part, are not alphabetically entered and explained in encyclopaedias, dictionaries, or gazetteers."
A large amount of notes and memoranda in a considerably advanced state (as well as completed MS.) was left by Mr. Wheeler at his death; and the present editor has endeavored to carry out the work in strict accordance with the original plan.
One only needs to glance at the pages of any prominent writer, or at the citations here given, to see how full they are of allusions to buildings, pictures, statues, streets, and the like, for which the ordinary reader has no explanation at hand, and which this book aims so far as possible to explain. The same holds true of the columns of the magazines and daily newspapers, where there are repeated allusions to
objects of interest—and unaccompanied by any explanation —of which a very well-informed person might excusably be ignorant, and concerning which he has no ready means of obtaining information, unless through the medium of a book like this. The rapid increase of travel, bringing with it acquaintance with foreign treasures of art, together with the growing taste for photographic and heliotype reproductions of works of art, have made many persons familiar with the names of pictures, statues, and buildings, while, at the same time, they may be ignorant of the artists, or the situations of the objects.
As the number of objects, in the classes above mentioned, to which reference is made in books, newspapers, and conversation, is almost innumerable, the task of selection has been very difficult. As a rule, institutions, buildings, and other objects which bear names closely identified with those of the places where they are situated, have been excluded, for the reason that information in regard to such can be found with comparative ease by any ordinary reader. Geographical names have also been, for the most part, excluded; it not being the intention to encroach to any considerable extent upon the province of the gazetteer or geography. Some purely geographical objects, however, which are the subject of frequent allusion in literature, have been included. Names in foreign languages have been frequently omitted, and the objects entered under the English equivalents, as the latter are more generally known to the ordinary reader. This is the case particularly with the names of works of art.
As regards the insertion of names which may possibly be considered by some of minor importance, the words of the preface to the companion volume (the "Noted Names of Fiction ") are precisely applicable here, and will explain the principle which has governed the compilers' action: "To what extent names of secondary importance should be included, was a question difficult to determine. . . . Some favored a selected list of the more important names onty; others, and the greater number, recommended a much wider scope. A middle course is the one that has been actually followed. It is evident that many articles which may seem to one person of very questionable importance, if not wholly unworthy of insertion, will be held by another to be of special value, as throwing light upon passages which to him would otherwise be perplexing or obscure."
The sources of the information used in the preparation of this Dictionary are far too numerous to be here specified. Whenever a statement has been taken in great part from any one author, it has been carefully collated and verified with information obtained from independent sources, and has been changed and abridged according to circumstances. No hesitation has been felt, however, in the occasional use of an author's exact language when the desired information has been found already stated in what seemed the form best suited to the requirements of the case.
It is evident that a work of this kind, which, like its predecessor, is believed to be unique, and which, like that volume, must be compiled without having the advantage of any similar work upon which it might be based, and from which materials might l)e drawn, must of necessity be more or less imperfect. No pretence is made to completeness, for the field of survey is indefinitely large, while the size of the book is definitely limited; but it is hoped and confidently believed that there will be found comparatively few omissions of the most noteworthy objects of interest in the several classes which are treated.
Charles G. Wheeler.
Uohtoh, June, 1881.