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THE LITERATURE of a People takes its impress from their peculiar habits of thought, or it would not be national, but universal. In no case is this more evident than in that of England, in all classes of which there is the unmistakable practical Anglo-Saxon sense as its chief characteristic. If we wish to understand these habits of thought of any nation, we must study carefully the gradual forms in which they have been developed, beginning with their beginning, and tracing them down to our own times. The coronation oath, which Dunstan prepared for the Anglo-Saxon king, is still, but slightly altered, the coronation oath of the sovereigns of England; and in casting the eye over the six volumes of Anglo-Saxon Charters, collected by the late Mr. J. M. Kemble, one is forced to admit, that, allowing for altered circumstances, the AngloSaxon mind of the tenth century bears a strong affinity to that of the Englishman of the nineteenth.
If this be so with regard to English Literature, how much more necessary is the knowledge of the sources which have served to form the habits of thought of the people of the United States of America, who, in little more than half-a-century, have not only become our rivals, but our equals in literary composition, and in all the developments of science, in which vigour of mind and a careful training of the intellect are the great and essential qualifications, if we would form a just estimate of Anglo-American Literature.
This consideration has induced me to collect together a list of the scattered materials which serve to illustrate, not only the Literary History of the United States, but likewise that of the entire Continent of America, including also, to the best of my ability, a full and correct list of all Books relating to America. Indeed, for the reason stated above, Anglo-American Bibliography must embrace both books more properly appertaining to the Literature of the United States, and books relating to any part of the great continent of which those States form so prominent a section.
It may be said that both these departments of Bibliography have already received considerable attention, and that there has been no lack of research in the compilers; yet it will be acknowledged that the compilations themselves have almost all grown out of the wants of the public or private collections, which have called them into being, and lay no claims to completeness, having been
prepared according to the views of those who were the custodians of the works they describe, more as manuals for individual libraries, than for general use. Of these manuals it has been remarked, that those which consist of lists of books printed in America are all much more carefully prepared than those which furnish lists of books relating to America. To this rule there is, however, one remarkable exception. The works of German Bibliographers on the subject, though full of faults peculiar to themselves, and indeed often most circumscribed as to contents, are on the whole sufficiently accurate, and authorities to be relied on.
By some strange coincidence, the compilers of some of the more recent works which I am about to notice, seem, as a general rule, to have ignored, in each case, the labours of their predecessors. From what cause this has arisen it would be difficult to define, as the books themselves are all well known and readily accessible. Yet in Bibliography, as in all other branches of human science, facts must be collected, apparent contradictions reconciled, and opposite opinions carefully weighed, before we can hope to arrive at such a conclusion as will give general satisfaction. It is thus shown, that we have a certain number of books on the subject, prepared with tolerable industry; but, for want of a principle of unity, they are like the separate portions of some valuable machine, made by different makers unknown to one another, which require to be carefully adjusted and put together, before they can act as a whole. It is such an adjustment that I have here attempted; and I now proceed to enumerate these separate materials under their distinct and appropriate headings.
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL WORKS ON BOOKS RELATING
At the head of this list I have placed a reprint of Mr. Stevens' Prospectus of his "Bibliographia Americana; or, a Bibliographical Account of the Sources of Early American History; with a List of Books printed in America from 1543 to 1700, and Notices of important unpublished Manuscripts." No one is more qualified to draw up a plan for such an undertaking, and it is in every respect so complete, that it enables us to test the merits of the publications which follow by the requirements sanctioned by so eminent a bibliographer.
BIBLIOGRAPHIA AMERICANA; a Bibliographical Account of the Sources of Early American History; comprising a Description of Books relating to America, printed prior to the year 1700, and of all Books printed in America from 1543 to 1703; together with notices of many of the more important unpublished Manuscripts. Prepared by Henry Stevens, and published under the direction of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington.
PLAN OF THE WORK.
1. It will contain a descriptive list of all Books relating to America, and of all books printed in America, prior to the year 1700, which may be found in the principal public and private libraries of Europe and America, or which are described in other works; together with notices of many of the more important unpublished manuscripts.
2. The descriptions will be made, as far as possible, from an examination of the books themselves. If any be taken from other sources of information, they will be distinguished by some peculiar mark.
3. The titles, including the imprint or colophon, will in all cases be given in full, word for word, and letter for letter.
4. The collation of each book will be given; that is, such a description as will indicate a perfect copy.
5. The market value of the books, with the prices at which they have been sold at public sales, will, whenever possible, be given.
6. Different editions and various translations of the principal works will be diligently compared with each other, and their variations and relative merits pointed out, especially of such works as the Collections of Voyages and Travels by De Bry, Hulsius, Ramusius, Hakluyt, Purchas, Thevenot, &c.; the corresponding parts of which will be compared, not only with each other, but with the editions of the works from which they were translated, abridged, or reprinted.
7. Bibliographical Notes will be appended when deemed necessary, containing abstracts of the contents of the works when the titles fail to give a proper idea of them; anecdotes of authors, printers, engravers, &c.; important items of historical and geographical information; notices of peculiarities of copies, as large paper, vellum, cancelled leaves, &c.; the number of copies printed; together with the comparative rarity and intrinsic value of the works.
8. The notes upon the books printed in America will comprise a full history of the origin and progress of printing in North and South America, from the year 1543 to 1700.
9. Under the title of every work will be designated one or more libraries in which it may be found.
10. The titles will be arranged alphabetically, under the names of the authors, or the leading word of the title.
11. The work will contain a full Introductory Memoir upon the materials of early American History, together with an account of the principal collections of them which have been made in Europe and America.
12. Three Indexes to the contents of the work will be given; viz. (1) A chronological index, in which the titles will be arranged according to the years in which the works were printed; (2) An index of the subjects treated in the books: (3) An alphabetical index of the persons and subjects mentioned in the Notes and Introductory Memoir.
PREPARATION OF THE WORK FOR THE PRESS.
1. The expense of preparing the work for the press will be defrayed by subscription. 2. It is estimated that the work will contain not less than five thousand titles, which are to be obtained from the public and private libraries of England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, America, &c. It is obvious that if any single individual possessed the requisite knowledge of languages and bibliography for this task, it would require of him several years of unremitting toil. In order, therefore, to accomplish the labour within a reasonable period, it will be necessary to employ upon it several persons. These should be learned and responsible men. Such men cannot be employed unless their services be well requited. Besides this, the whole work must be superintended and revised by Mr. Stevens himself, who, for this purpose, will be subjected to heavy travelling and other expenses. It is estimated that the necessary expenses attending the preparation of the work for the press, to say nothing of Mr. Stevens's own time and services, will amount to 5000 dollars (or £1000). The work will not therefore be commenced until this sum is subscribed.
3. Any public institution or any individual possessing books of this class may join in the subscription on the following conditions :-viz.,
(1) That all the books of this class, belonging to each subscriber, be submitted to
the inspection of Mr Stevens, and all reasonable facilities and assistance be afforded him in his work.
(2) That the name of each subscriber be indicated under the title of every book which he contributes, so that when the work is completed, it will show not only the treasures, but also the deficiencies in this department of the library of each subscriber, and enable him by marginal marks against the titles of books which he may subsequently procure, to preserve a perpetual record of his collection and of its deficiencies.
(3) That each subscriber be entitled to contribute not only the title of every book of this class which he may possess at the time of subscribing, but also of all other books of this class, which he may procure for his own library previously to January, 1850, or before the work shall go to the press.
(4) That the sum subscribed by each be in proportion to the number of titles contributed, or be such as Mr. Stevens may accept.
(5) That this sum be paid to Mr. Stevens on the acceptance of the manuscript for publication by the Smithsonian Institution.
(6) That each subscriber be entitled to receive from the Smithsonian Institution, ten copies of the work, for every 500 dollars (or £100) subscribed, and in the same proportion for a larger or smaller subscription.
4. Inasmuch as the library of the British Museum contains a larger number of this class of books than any other library in the world, and at the same time affords extraordinary facilities for bibliographical research, it is proposed to commence the work there. All the titles which this library can furnish will be written out upon cards, made for the purpose, measuring about eight inches by six. When these have been carefully revised and copied, they will, if it be desired, be sent in small parcels to each of the subscribers for their inspection and remarks. When the work is completed, so far as the library of the British Museum can furnish the materials, Mr. Stevens will himself visit each of the other libraries for which he shall have received subscriptions, comparing and revising the titles, and adding such other books as he may find, which had not been previously described.
5. It is hoped that sufficient force can be advantageously employed upon the work, to prepare it for the press in eighteen months.
PUBLICATION OF THE WORK.
When the manuscript of the work shall have been completed, according to the plan detailed above, it is to be delivered to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, at Washington, who will, in accordance with the Rules of the Institution as published in the Programme of Organization, of Dec. 8, 1847, submit it to a commission of competent judges. If this commission report favourably as to the faithful execution of the work, it is to be published and distributed at the sole expense of the Smithsonian Institution, constituting one or more volumes of the quarto series of SMITHSONIAN CONTRIBUTIONS TO KNOWLEDGE, similar in form and style of execution to the first volume, about to be published. It will be uniform with the quarto edition of the UNITED STATES EXPLORING EXPEDITION.
Gentlemen,-I beg leave to offer for your consideration the enclosed plan of a BIBLIOGRAPHIA AMERICANA, and to solicit for the enterprise the patronage and encouragement of the Smithsonian Institution.
I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, your obedient and humble Servant,
Prof. Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Prof. Charles C. Jewett, Librarian of the Smithsonian Institution.
We highly approve of the foregoing plan of the BIBLIOGRAPHIA AMERICANA,