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AN ACCOUNT OF THE
10 folicit a Subfcription for a Catalogue of Books expofed to Sale, is an Attempt for which fome Apology cannot but be neceffary; for few would willingly contribute to the Expence of Volumes, by which neither Inftruction nor Entertainment could be afforded, from which only the Bookfeller could expect Advantage, and of which the only Use must cease, at the Dispersion of the Library.
Nor could the Reasonablenefs of an univerfal Rejection of our Propofal be denied, if this Catalogue were to be compiled with no other View, than that of promoting the Sale of the Books which it enumerates, and drewn up with that Innacuracy and Confufion which may be found in those that are daily published.
But our Defign, like our Propofal, is uncommon, and to be profecuted at a very uncommon Expence; it being intended, that the Books fhall be diftributed into their diftinct Claffes, and every Clafs ranged with fome Regard to the Age of the Writers; that every Book fhall be accurately defcribed; that the Peculiarities of Editions fhall be remarked, and Obfervations from the Authors of Literary Hiftory occafionally interfperfed; that, by this Catalogue, we may inform Pofterity of the Excellence and Value of this great Collection, and promote the Knowledge of fcarce Books, and elegant Editions. For this Purpose Men of Letters are engaged, who cannot
even be fupplied with Amanuenfes, but at an Expence above that of a common Catalogue.
To fhew that this Collection deferves a particular Degree of Regard from the Learned and the Studious, that it excels any Library that was ever yet offered to public Sale in the Value as well as Number of the Volumes which it contains; and that therefore this Catalogue will not be of lefs Ufe to Men of Letters, than thofe of the Thuanian, Heinfian, or Barberinian Libraries, it may not be improper to exhibit a general Account of the different Claffes, as they are naturally divided by the feveral Sciences.
By this Method we can indeed exhibit only a general Idea, at once magnificent and confufed; an Idea of the Writings, of many Nations, collected from diftant Parts of the World, difcovered fometimes by Chance, and fometimes by Curiofity, amidft the Rubbish of forfaken Monafteries, and the Repofitories of ancient Families, and brought hither from every Part, as to the univerfal Receptacle of Learning.
It will be no unpleafing Effect of this Account, if thofe, that fhall happen to perüfe it, fhould be inclined by it to reflect on the Character of the late Proprietors, and to pay fome Tribute of Veneration to their Ardor for Literature, to that generous and exalted Curiofity which they gratified with inceffant Searches and immenfe Expence, and to which they dedicated that Time, and that Superfluity of Fortune, which many others of their Rank employ in the Purfuit of contemptible Amufements, or the Gratification of guilty Paffions. And, furely, every Man, who confiders Learning as ornamental and advantageous to the Community, muft allow them the Honour of public Benefactors, who have introduced amongst us Authors not hitherto well known, and added to the Literary Treafures of their native Country.
That our Catalogue will excite any other Man to emulate the Collectors of this Library, to prefer Books and Manufcripts to Equipage and Luxury, and to forfake Noife and Diverfion for the Converfation of the Learned, and the Satisfaction of extenfive Knowledge, we are very far from prefuming to hope; but fhall make no Scruple to affert, that, if any Man fhould happen to be feized with fuch laudable Ambition, he may find in this Catalogue Hints and Informations which are not eafily to be met with; he will difcover, that the boafted Bodleian Library is very far from a perfect Model, and that even the learned Fabricius cannot completely inftruct him in the early Editions of the Claffic Writers.
But the Collectors of Libraries cannot be numerous; and, therefore, Catalogues cannot very pro. perly be recommended to the Public, if they had not a more general and frequent Ufe, an Ufe which every Student has experienced, or neglected to his Lofs. By the Means of Catalogues only can it be known, what has been written on every Part of Learning, and the Hazard avoided of encountering Difficulties which have already been cleared, difcuffing Questions which have already been decided, and digging in Mines of Literature which former Ages have exhausted.
How often this has been the Fate of Students, every Man of Letters can declare; and, perhaps, there are very few who have not fometimes valued as new Discoveries, made by themfelves, thofe Obfervations, which have long fince been published, and of which the World therefore will refufe them the Praife; nor can the Refufal be cenfured as any enormous Violation of Juftice; for, why fhould they not forfeit by their Ignorance, what they might claim by their Sagacity.
To illuftrate this Remark, by the Mention of obfcure Names, would not much confirm it; and to vilify for this Purpofe the Memory of Men truly
great, would be to deny them the Reverence which they may juftly claim from thofe whom their Writ ings have inftructed. May the Shade at least, of one great English Critic reft without Difturbance; and may no Man prefume to infult his Memory, who wants his Learning, his Reafon, or his Wit.
From the vexatious Difappointment of meeting Reproach, where Praife is expected, every Man will certainly defire to be fecured; and therefore that Book will have fome Claim to his Regard, from which he may receive Informations of the Labours of his Predeceffors, fuch as a Catalogue of the Harleian Library will copioufly afford him.
Nor is the Ufe of Catalogues of lefs Importance to those whom Curiofity has engaged in the Study of Literary Hiftory, and who think the intellectual Revolutions of the World more worthy of their Attention, than the Ravages of Tyrants, the Defolation of Kingdoms, the Rout of Armies, and the Fall of Empires. Those who are pleafed with obferving the firft Birth of new Opinions, their Struggles againft. Oppofition, their filent Progrefs under Perfecution, their general Reception, and their gradual Decline, or fudden Extinction; thofe that amufe themselves with remarking the different Periods of human Knowledge, and obferve how Darkness and Light fucceed each other; by what Accident the moft gloomy Nights of Ignorance have given Way in the Dawn of Science, and how Learning has languished and decayed, for Want of Patronage and Regard, or been overborne by the Prevalence of fashionable Ignorance, or lost amidst the Tumults of Invafion, and the Storms of Violence. All thofe who defire any Knowledge of the literary Tranf actions of paft Ages, may find in Catalogues, like this at least, fuch an Account as is given by Annalists, and Chronologers of Civil History.
How the Knowledge of the Sacred Writings has been diffused, will be observed from the Catalogue of the various Editions of the Bible,from the first Impreffion by Fuft, in 1462, to the prefent Time; in which will be contained the Polyglot Editions of Spain, France, and England, thofe of the original Hebrew, the Greek Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate; with the Verfions which are now used in the remoteft Parts of Europe, in the Country of the Grifans, in Lithuania, Bohemia, Finland, and Iceland.
With regard to the Attempts of the fame Kind made in our own Country, there are few whofe Expectations will not be exceeded by the Number of English Bibles, of which not one is forgotten, whether valuable for the Pomp and Beauty of the Impreffion, or for the Notes with which the Text is accompanied, or for any Controverfy or Perfecution that it produced, or for the Peculiarity of any fingle Paffage. With the fame Care have the various Editions of the Book of Common-Prayer been felected, from which all the Alterations which have been made in it may be easily remarked.
Amongst a great Number of Roman Miffals and Breviaries, remarkable for the Beauty of their Cuts and Illuminations, will be found the Mofarabic Miffal and Breviary, that raised fuch Commotions in the Kingdom of Spain.
The Controverfial Treatifes written in England, about the Time of the Reformation, have been diligently collected, with a Multitude of remarkable Tracts, fingle Sermons, and fmall Treatifes; which, however worthy to be preferved, are, perhaps, to be found in no other Place.
The Regard which was always paid, by the Collectors of this Liberary, to that remarkable Period of Time, in which the Art of Printing was invented, determined them to accumulate the ancient Impreffions of the Fathers of the Church; to which the later Additions