Page images

quaintance with it was imperfect, difficulties, fmall in themselves, operated as great ones in obftructing their progrefs. A book, for example, ill printed, or a pronunciation in fpeaking not well articulated, would render a fentence unintelligible, which from a clear print, or a diftinct fpeaker, would have been immediately comprehended. If, therefore, we would have the benefit of feeing our language more generally known among mankind, we fhould endeavour to remove all the difficulties, however fmall, that discourage the learning of it. But I am forry to obferve that, of late years, thofe difficulties, instead of being diminished, have been augmented.

In examining the English books that were printed between the reftoration and the acceflion of George the Second, we may observe, that all fubftantives were begun with a capital, in which we imitated our mother tongue, the German. This was more particularly ufeful to thofe who were not well acquainted with the English, there being fuch a prodigious number of our words that are both verbs and fubftantives, and fpelt in the fame manner, though often accented differently in pronunciation. This method has, by the fancy of printers, of late years been entirely laid afide; from an idea, that fupprefling the capitals fhews the character to greater advantage; thofe letters, prominent above the line, difturbing its even, regular appearance. The effect of this change is fo confiderable, that a learned man of France, who used to read our books, though not perfectly acquainted with our language, in converfation with me on the fubject of our authors, attributed the greater obfcurity he found in our modern books, compared with those of the period above mentioned, to a change of tyle for the worfe in our writers; of which


mistake I convinced him, by marking for him each fubftantive with a capital, in a paragraph, which he then eafily understood, though before he could not comprehend it. This fhews the inconvenience of that pretended improvement.

From the fame fondnefs for an uniform and even appearance of characters in the line, the printers have of late banished also the Italic types, in which words of importance to be attended to in the fenfe of the fentence, and words on which an emphafis fhould be put in reading, ufed to be printed. And lately another fancy has induced other printers to use the rounds inftead of the long one, which formerly ferved well to diftinguifh a word readily by its varied appearance. Certainly the omitting this prominent letter makes a line appear more even, but renders it lefs immediately legible; as the paring of all men's nofes might smooth and level their faces, would render their phyfiognomies lefs diftinguishable. Add to all these improvements backwards, another modern fancy, that grey printing is more beautiful than black. Hence the English new books are printed in so dim a character as to be read with difficulty by old eyes, unless in a very ftrong light and with good glaffes. Whoever compares a volume of the Gentleman's Magazine, printed between the years 1731 and 1740, with one of those printed in the last ten years, will be convinced of the much greater degree of perfpicuity given by black than by the grey. Lord Chesterfield pleasantly remarked this difference to Faulkner, the printer of the Dublin Journal, who was vainly making encomiums on his own paper, as the most complete of any in the world. But "Mr. Faulkner," fays my lord," don't you think " it might be still farther improved, by using paper "and ink not quite fo near of a colour?"--For all


these reasons I cannot but with that our American printers would, in their editions, avoid these fancied improvements, and thereby render their works more agreeable to foreigners in Europe, to the great advantage of our bookfelling commerce.

Farther, to be more fenfible of the advantage of clear and diftinct printing, let us confider the affiftance it affords in reading well aloud to an auditory. In fo doing the eye generally flides forward three or four words before the voice. If the fight clearly diftinguishes what the coming words are, it gives time to order the modulation of the voice to exprefs them properly. But if they are obfcurely printed, or difguifed by omitting the capitals and long 's, or otherwife, the reader is apt to modulate wrong; and finding he has done fo, he is obliged to go back and begin the fentence again; which leffens the pleasure of the hearers. This leads me to mention an old error in our mode of printing. We are fenfible that when a queftion is met with in the reading, there is a proper variation to be used in the management of the voice. We have, therefore, a point, called an interrogation, affixed to the queftion, in order to diftinguifh it. But this is abfurdly placed at its end, so that the reader does not difcover it till he finds that he has wrongly modulated his voice, and is therefore obliged to begin again the fentence. To prevent this, the Spanish printers, more fenfibly, place an interrogation at the beginning as well as at the end of the queftion. We have another error of the fame kind in printing plays, where fomething often occurs that is marked as fpoken afide. But the word afide is placed at the end of the speech, when it ought to precede it, as a direction to the reader, that he may govern his voice accordingly. The practice of our ladies in meeting five or fix toge


ther, to form little bufy parties. where each is employed in fome ufeful work, while one reads to them, is fo commendable in itself, that it deserves the attention of authors and printers to make it as pleasing as poffible, both to the reader and hearers.

My best wishes attend you, being with fincere efteem,


Your moft obedient and

very humble fervant,







may receive and promulgate accufations of all kinds, against all perfons and characters among the citizens of the ftate, and even against all inferior courts; and may judge, fentence, and condemn to infamy, not only private individuals, but public bodies, &c. with or without enquiry or hearing, at the court's discretion.

In whofe favour, or for whofe emolument this court is eftablished.

In favour of about one citizen in five hundred who by education, or practice in fcribbling, has acquired a tolerable ftyle as to grammar and conftruction, so as to bear printing; or who is poffeffed of a prefs and a few types. This five hundredth part of the citizens have the privilege of accufing and abufing the other four hundred and ninety-nine parts, at their pleasure; or they may hire out their pen and prefs to others, for that purpose.

Practice of this court.

It is not governed by any of the rules of the common courts of law. The accufed is allowed no grand jury to judge of the truth of the accu.. fation before it is publicly made; nor is the name of the accufer made known to him; nor has he


« PreviousContinue »