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fuch Writings may be seen how the Mind has been opened by Degrees, how one Truth has led to another, how Error has been difentangled, and Hints improved to Demonftration, which Pleafure, and many others, are loft by him that only reads the larger Writers, by whom these scattered Sentiments are collected, who will fee none of the Changes of Fortune which every Opinion has paffed through, will have no Opportunity of remarking the tranfient Advantages which Error may fometimes obtain, by the Artifices of its Patron, or the fuccefsful Rallies, by which Truth regains the Day, after a Repulse; but will be to him, who traces the Difpute through into particular Gradations, as he that hears of a Victory, to him that fees the Battle.
Since the Advantages of preferving these small Tracts are so numerous, our Attempt to unite them in Volumes cannot be thought either ufelefs or unseasonable; for there is no other Method of fecuring them from Accidents; and they have already been fo long neglected, that this Defign cannot be delayed, without hazarding the Lofs of many Pieces, which deferve to be tranfmitted to another Age.
The Practice of publishing Pamphlets on the most important Subjects, has now prevailed more than two Centuries among us; and therefore it cannot be doubted, but that, as no large Collections have been yet made, many curious Tracts must have pe-rifhed; but it is too late to lament that Lofs; nor ought we to reflect upon it, with any other View, than that of quickening our Endeavours, for the Prefervation of those that yet remain; of which we have now a greater Number, than was, perhaps, ever amaffed by any one Perfon.
The firft Appearance of Pamphlets among us, is generally thought to be at the new Oppofition raifed against the Errors and Corruptions of the Church of Rome. Those who were firft convinced of the
Reasonableness of the new Learning, as it was then called, propagated their Opinions in fmall Pieces, which were cheaply printed; and, what was then of great Importance, eafily concealed. Thefe Treatifes were generally printed in foreign Countries, and are not, therefore, always very correct. There was not then that Opportunity of printing in private; for, the Number of Printers were fmall, and the Preffes were eafily overlooked by the Clergy, who fpared no Labour or Vigilance for the Suppreffion of Herefy. There is, however, Reafon to fufpect, that fome Attempts were made to carry on the Propagation of Truth by a fecret Prefs; for one of the firft Treatifes in Favour of the Reformation, is faid, at the End, to be printed at Greenwich, by the Permiffion of the Lord of Hofts.
In the Time of King Edward the Sixth the Preffes were employed in Favour of the Reformed Religion, and small Tracts were difperfed over the Nation, to reconcile them to the new Forms of Worship. In this Reign, likewife, Political Pamphlets may be faid to have been begun, by the Addrefs of the Rebels of Devonshire; all which Means of propagating the Sentiments of the People fo difturbed the Court, that no fooner was Queen Mary refolved to reduce her Subjects to the Romish Superftition, but she artfully, by a Charter granted to certain Freemen of London, in whofe Fidelity, no doubt, fhe confided, intirely prohibited all Preffes, but what fhould be licensed by them; which Charter is that by which the Corporation of Stationers, in London, is at this Time incorporated.
Under the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, when Liberty again began to flourish, the Practice of writ
* Which begins thus, Know ye, that We, confidering, and manifeftly perceiving, that feveral feditious and beretical Books or Tracts-against the Faith and found Catholic Doctrine of holy Mother, the Chureb, &c.
ing Pamphlets became more general; Preffes were multiplied, and Books were difperfed; and, I believe, it may properly be faid, that the Trade of Writing began at that Time, and that it has ever fince gradually increafed in the Number, though, perhaps, not in the Style of thofe that followed it.
In this Reign was erected the firft fecret Prefs against the Church as now established, of which I have found any certain Account. It was employed by the Puritans, and conveyed from one Part of the Nation to another, by them, as they found themfelves in Danger of Difcovery. From this Prefs iffued most of the Pamphlets against Whitgift and his Affociates, in the Ecclefiaftical Government; and, when it was at last seized at Manchester, it was employed upon a Pamphlet called More Work for a Cooper.
In the peaceable Reign of King James, thofe Minds which might, perhaps, with lefs Disturbance of the World, have been engroffed by War, were employed in Controverfy; and Writings of all Kinds were multiplied among us. The Prefs, however, was not wholly engaged in Polemical Performances, for more innocent Subjects were fometimes treated; and it deferves to be remarked, becaufe it is not generally known, that the Treatifes of Hufbandry and Agriculture, which were published about that Time, are fo numerous, that it can scarcely be imagined by whom they were written, or to whom they were fold.
The next Reign is too well known to have been a Time of Confufion, and Disturbance, and Disputes of every Kind; and the Writings, which were produced, bear a natural Proportion to the Number of Queftions that were difcuffed at that Time; each Party had its Authors and its Preffes, and no Endeavours were omitted to gain Profelytes to every Opinion. I know not whether this may not properly be
called, The Age of Pamphlets; for, though they, perhaps, may not arife to fuch Multitudes as Mr. Rawlinfon imagined, they were, undoubtedly, more numerous than can be conceived by any who have not had an Opportunity of examining them.
After the Restoration, the fame Differences, in Religious Opinions, are well known to have fubfifted, and the fame Political Struggles to have been frequently renewed; and, therefore, a great Number of Pens were employed, on different Occafions, till, at length, all other Difputes were abforbed in the Popish Controversy.
From the Pamphlets which thefe different Periods of Time produced, it is propofed, that this Mifcellany fhall be compiled; for which it cannot be fuppofed that Materials will be wanting; and, therefore, the only Difficulty will be in what Manner to difpofe them.
Those who have gone before us, in Undertakings of this Kind, have ranged the Pamphlets, which Chance threw into their Hands, without any Regard either to the Subject on which they treated, or the Time in which they were written; a Practice in no wife to be imitated by us, who want for no Mag terials; of which we fhall choose those we think beft for the particular Circumstances of Times and Things, and most instructing and entertaining to the Reader.
Ofthe different Methods which prefent themselves, upon the firft View of the great Heaps of Pamphlets which the Harleian Library exhibits, the two which merit moft Attention are, to diftribute the Treatifes according to their Subjects, or their Dates; but neither of thefe Ways can be conveniently followed. By ranging our Collection in Order of Time, we muft neceffarily publifh thofe Pieces firft, which leaft engage the Curiofity of the Bulk of Mankind; and our Defign muft fall to the Ground, for Want of Encou
ragement, before it can be fo far advanced as to ob tain general Regard: By confining ourselves for any long Time to any fingle Subject, we shall reduce our Readers to one Clafs; and, as we fhall lofe all the Grace of Variety, fhall difguft all thofe who read chiefly to be diverted. There is likewife one Objection of equal Force, against both these Methods, that we shall preclude ourselves from the Advantage of any future Difcoveries; and we cannot hope to affemble at once all the Pamphlets which have been written in any Age, or on any Subject.
It may be added, in Vindication of our intended Practice, that it is the fame with that of Photius, whofe Collections are no lefs Mifcellaneous than ours; and who declares, that he leaves it to his Reader, to reduce his Extracts under their proper Heads.
Most of the Pieces, which fhall be offered in this Collection to the Public, will be introduced by short Prefaces, in which will be given fome Account of the Reasons for which they are inferted; Notes will be fometimes adjoined, for the Explanation of obfcure Paffages, or obfolete Expreflions; and Care will be taken to mingle Ufe and Pleasure through the whole Collection. Notwithstanding every Subject may not be relished by every Reader; yet the Buyer may be affured that each Number will repay his generous Subfcription.