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PREFACE.

IF

ever there were a time when I might wish for the unclouded use of my faculties, and to be divested of all prejudice and passion, it would surely be the present. I am about to give an account of a work which was commenced under the most auspicious prospects, with the most favourable hopes of its successful and protracted continuation, with the best possible means to give it every aid of variety, with the opportunity of choice among almost infinite materials; and finally, with every thing I could possibly desire to cheer the present, and to animate me to future exertion.

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My situation at the conclusion of these two volumes is very different. But I hasten to give the following concise account of the matter.

Having, as

I

may presume to affirm, led an irreproachable life in my profession, and having manifested my Literary diligence by my

versions of Herodotus and Aulus Gellius, and by various other works, I had the good fortune to number among my friends and protectors, some of the most eminent, and some of the most estimable characters of

my country. These, I am proud to say, still remain-I have not lost one.

A few years since, the venerable and learned Prelate, to whom these volumes, with his permission, are inscribed, and who has invariably demonstrated a warm and friendly zeal towards Literature and its disciples, asked me if I should wish for a situätion in the British Museum. It was the thing of all others I most wished. It had long been the great object of my ambition. I knew and esteemed almost all its members; and from long and familiar acquaintance with books, I conceived myself to possess the necessary qualifications for the office of a Librarian.

I was at that time at the head of a res spectable institution, and in the enjoyment of no contemptible emolument. However, when the vacancy of Under Librarian happened at the Museum, by the death of Mr. Harper, I applied, under the sanction of the Bishop of Durham's recommendation, and received my appointment, regularly signed by the late Archbishop of Canterbury, the late Lord Chancellor Eldon, and the Right Hon. Charles Abbott, the Speaker of the late House of Commons.

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How I conducted myself in this situation I

may fairly challenge the most rigid investigation to determine. I appeal to my brother officers ; I appeal to every one connected with that institution, to decide'; I appeal to that part of the public who knew and observed me in the execution of my office. I conceived it my duty, and I felt it my delight, to assist and facilitate the researches of the learned, to gratify the ingenuous curiosity of strangers, and to exhibit, where the recommendation justified confidence, the sources of instruction and amusement which were committed to my

But this I did not conceive to be sufficient; I thought that the public might not unreasonably expect more.

care.

As ny office, therefore, confined me to the care and examination of printed books, I formed the determination of selecting such as were more extraordinary for their intrinsic

value,

value, or sought after for their rarity, and I undertook, from time to time, to give such a description of them and their contents, as might be interesting and useful both to the Student and Collector. I thought I should perform no unimportant office in communicating to the Student the place where lie might find what he wanted, and in representing to the Collector the genuine marks by which he might ascertain the object of his curious pursuit.

The Museum contains great treasures of this kind, and most particularly in old English Literature, which had ever been a favourite branch of

my

occasional investigation, and which I knew, at this particular time, to be an object of very earnest research. Such was the foundation, and such the motive of my commencing the present undertaking. But on announcing my plan and design among my Literary friends, I had the satisfaction of discovering that my ideas were

generally

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