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Biography, Heraldry, Voyages, Travels, &c. pf the scarce Books it is often stated in what public or private collections copies are preserved, and as a knowledge of the value of the Books noticed must be of considerable service both to Collectors and Booksellers, the prices at which they have sold at public sales during the present century are stated, but where the articles produced a few shillings only, the average price is inserted. Collations are given of most of the very early books, as well as of those of which a list of the plates is not inserted in the works themselves, as for example, Anderson's House of Yvery, Ashmole's Order of the Garter, Atkyns’ Glocester, &c. The short critical notices which are added have been copied from the various Reviews, or from the sources cited.
Considerable trouble has been taken to ascertain the authors of works which appeared anonymously, under initials, or with assumed names, but they are not attributed to the individuals to whom the Editor has assigned them, without sufficient authority.
The BIBLIOGRAPHER'S MANUAL will extend to Three Volumes, Octavo, and will comprize upwards of Thirty Thousand Articles ; at the conclusion, the Editor purposes giving an Alphabetical List of Catalogues of Public Sales in this Country, from the earliest period, with their respective datez.
Upon the judgment which may be pronounced on his labours, the Editor is aware that it is extremely difficult
for him to speak with propriety, for he could not anticipate the opinion of his readers without presumption, or be wholly silent without injustice to himself. He is sensible that there will be a diversity of opinions as to the manner in which he has noticed the numerous publications referred to; and that some persons will consider that books have been passed over, which ought to have been mentioned. To such criticism he will not only submit with deference, but he will gratefully receive any suggestions on the subject. He is very far from believing that the present undertaking is not liable to objections, or free from inaccuracies; but at the same time that he offers his best apologies for its imperfections, he hopes he may be allowed to observe, that in a compilation of this nature, omissions and errors were unavoidable. As he is deeply impressed with the difficulty of his task, he throws himself upon the indulgence of a candid and liberal public, who are ever more ready to applaud the little which may be done to contribute to a knowledge of the early literature of their country, than by a withering censure, to discourage all future efforts, because a first attempt does not contain every thing that may be desirable.
Should the present undertaking meet with the approval of the public, the Editor hereafter purposes publishing another work, on the same principle, for which he has been many years collecting materials, which will include works published abroad, from the invention of Printing to the present century.
W. T. LOWNDES.
In proportion to the advancement and general diffusion of literature ought to be the publication of references to, and accounts of, the multifarious works with which the genius of past and of the present times has enlightened and benefited mankind. BIBLIOGRAPHY, or a knowledge of particular books, the peculiarities of editions, their value, and what may be termed an intimate acquaintance with the history and character of a work, has, however, been singularly neglected in this country; and rich as our literature is in most departments, that particular class, on which all others are in a great degree dependent, is confessedly deficient. In France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Holland, numerous volumes have been written on the literary history of those several countries, together with others on universal literature; but in England, excepting a few catalogues of books on particular subjects, no general Bibliographical work deserving the name was ever published until the appearance of the “ Bibliotheca Britannica” by Watt, which will be again alluded to. It is not intended to explain the cause of the low state of Bibliographical knowledge in England; but it may, perhaps, be partly ascribed to the folly of acquiring, at enormous prices, works which are no otherwise valuable than for their rarity, consisting, as that rarity sometimes does, in a colophon or the name of a printer, the texture or colour of the paper, the width of the margin, the occurrence or omission of a date, or even in an obvious defect. Mankind are disposed to remember the abuse rather than the utility of pursuits in which few are deeply interested; and in the ridicule which the enthusiastic zeal of bibliomaniacs has cast on Bibliography, they lose sight of the fact, that all accurate knowledge is in a greater or less degree absolutely dependent thereon.
The accumulated wisdom of ages is deposited in Books; can there then be more useful information than that by which these repositories of knowledge are rendered available to the world by proper classification, separating the valuable from the worthless, and presenting the student with a convenient and trustworthy guide to the respective sources ? Bibliography is in truth the mariner's compass of learning; for without it the student would be floating on the immense ocean of literature, with no other means than what chance afforded of attaining the object of his voyage. To pursue the simile, it may be said that the art of navigation is not more indispensable to a mariner than is a certain acquaintance with Bibliography to him who passes any part of his life in intellectual pursuits.
Dr. Johnson has observed, with his usual elegance and propriety, “ by the means of Catalogues only can 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 been decided, and digging in mines of literature which former ages have exhausted;" but a bare Catalogue, though the most laborious, is the humblest part of a Bibliographer's duty. Mere industry may enable him to copy titles, names, and dates; but to classify and arrange works into the several divisions and subdivisions, which a student requires—to describe the merits of each work, and the peculiarity of each edition—to describe the true from the spurious edition—and to give such a collation of works which do not either by signatures, pagination, or otherwise, present the means of ascertaining whether it be complete or imperfect -to trace rare works from library to library, in order that those who wish to consult them may know where they are deposited—and to give the different prices at which books have at various times been sold, that an idea may be formed of their value-require a combination of talent, research, and industry, which entitle the labours of a Bibliographer to much more respect than has hitherto been conceded to them.
In thus stating the acquirements necessary for a Bibliographer, the Editor has in view rather to deprecate severity of criticism on whatever defects may be found in this work, than, with unseeming presumption, to exaggerate the merits of its compilation. No one can be insensible to the errors which are incidental to the first edition of a work of this nature; for, as it is well remarked by Monsieur Renouard, whose reputation as a Bibliographer proves that he must be well aware of the difficulties incidental to the pursuit: “ Si bien préparé soit-on, et quelques soins que l'on apporte à la composition d'un ouvrage bibliographique, il est encore presque impossible de ne pas laisser dans sa première publication une multitude d'erreurs, de lacunes, de suppositions, de mensonges involuntaires.”