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Arts and Sciences, and containing a dense, accurate, and ample exhibition of our whole knowledge respecting them, might with the greatest advantage be comprehended in the limits of six large octavo volumes. It was accordingly decided that the undertaking should be entered upon with vigour and activity, at the same time that the utmost attention should be paid to the means by which alone it was possible to insure the value of the intended work. The year preceding its appearance was employed in digesting the plan, establishing correspondencies, investigating the various sources of information, and settling the order and disposition of the materials ; and it was not until after those materials were in considerable forwardness, and the whole arrangement was before the Editor, that the Proprietors thought themselves enabled to disclose their views, and express their confidence in the public support.
If the value of a composition of the magnitude and extent of the British Encyclopedia could be seen at once by a cursory or even by a diligent examination; or if the variety of subjects it comprehends would admit of the supposition, that a decision on its merits could be made in a reasonable time, by general readers, it might then be consistent with the becoming reserve of men, speaking of their own labours, to submit them wholly to the ultimate voice of a discerning public. But when by compilation from the works of authors, standing high in celebrity for knowledge and for talents; by the occasional abridgement and elucidation of the products of
these researches; and by the insertion, in almost every sheet, of treatises or disquisitions composed expressly for the purpose, the whole composition of a Dictionary of Science shall bear the marks of originality, it becomes a duty in the Editor, with regard to himself and the other writers, that he should, to a certain extent, point out what has been done in this respect.
It would be truly gratifying to the Editor if he might attempt in this place to express his sentiments of the treatises which have passed under his view in the conduct and disposition of the present work, and declare his obligations individually to each of the writers who have honoured him with their assistance in the completion of the undertaking ; but he fears that the language of approbation which he would in justice feel himself compelled to use, might be misconstrued into an unbecoming endeavour to enhance, beyond its merits, the value of the publication. Some of the authors of the British Encyclopedia have chosen to reserve their names. The Editor has written and composed upwards of two hundred articles on Chemistry, Natural Philosophy, and Mechanics, and practical subjects relating to them, besides several of the lives of great men. The Mathematical Articles, including the mixed subjects of Astronomy, Optics, Phonics, Statics, and many others, were drawn up by a popular author who is well known for his writings on those subjects. The article Conic Sections was written by James Ivory, Esq. of the Royal Military College of Marlow. To the Rev. Dr. CARPENTER, of
Exeter, our readers are indebted for the articles Grammar, Language, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Understanding, the origin of Writing, and many others connected with the philosophy of the mind. For the articles Criticism, History, Poetry, and Rhetoric, our obligations are due to the Rev. W'M. SHEPHERD, author of the Life of Poggio Bracciolini. To J. J. Grellier, Esq. of the Royal Exchange Insurance Company, are to be ascribed many valuable articles on Political Economy, the Doctrine of Annuities, Reversions, Assurance, &c.
In our Medical Department, the articles Dietetics, Diseases and Treatment of Infancy, Materia Medica, Medicine, Midwifery, and Pharmacy, were written by J. M. Good, Esq. the learned translator of “ Lucretius," and author of many works in medicine, and the sciences connected with it. Those on Anatomy, Comparative Anatomy, the Natural History of Man, Physiology, Surgery, &c. were drawn up by W. LAWRENCE, Esq. of St. Bartholomew's Hospital.
To a very ingenious pupil of Dr. Smith, the celebrated President of the Linnean Society, we are indebted for the introductory treatise on Botany. Dynamics, Hydraulics, Music, Fortification, Perspective, and many other articles in Mathematics and Experimental Philosophy; and also those on Farriery and Gardening, were composed by Capt. WILLIAMSON, a gentleman well known to the literary and philosophical world. The articles Distillery and Galvanism were written by Mr. Sylvester
of Derby, whose discoveries in the latter new and promising department of experimental research are well known to philosophers. To W. Y. OTTley, Esq. we acknowledge ourselves indebted for the article Painting. And to Mr. J, P. MALCOLM, author of “ The Antiquities of London,” are to be ascribed those on Heraldry, Topography, and other articles connected with the Arts.
James Parkinson, Esq. author of an elaborate and extensive work on the Organic Remains of a former World,” composed the articles Geology, Oryctology, Rocks, and Shells, which appear in this Dictionary. Those on Dyeing, and on the Manufacture of Cotton deduced from actual observation, with several others relating to practical Mechanics, and subjects of a mixed nature, were furnished by W. Boswell, Esq.: and those on Weaving and Short-hand by Mr. NIGHTINGALE. Mr. Peter Nicholson is the author of the treatises on Architecture and Building; and the processes of particular Arts and Manufactures were either communicated by professional men, or in various instances drawn up under their inspection.
When the reader shall have directed his attention to the ample quantity of original and excellent matter contained in the articles here pointed out, besides others more concise, and interspersed through the work, he will be enabled to form some judgment of its utility and coinparative cheapness.
It is now a year since the Proprietors and Conductors of this work solicited the public encouragement, with a full determination to spare no exertions in performing the duties required in their arduous undertaking. The event, they trust, has gratified their expectation. The British Encyclopedia was commenced, has been regularly continued, and is now completed in six handsome volumes, agreeably to the Prospectus. In the typographical execution of this Dictionary, and in the engravings with which it is illustrated, they feel confident they may claim a superiority over every other work of the same kind. An extensive sale has already given proof of the approbation they have laboured to deserve; and they trust, that as the British Encyclopedia continues to increase in circulation, it will maintain the reputation it has already acquired.
December 21, 1808.