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Dainty Devises, England's Helicon, Tusser's Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, in their original text; with John Higgins's part of The Mirror for Mai gistrates, all of them books of uncommon rarity and great intrinsic merit, have opened to the literati, who are inquisitive in this department, treasures which had hitherto been sealed.
“Thus to reply to anticipated objections, thus anxiously to insist on some faint praise, does it betray a firm consciousness of having endeavoured and deserved well ?”? Such, probably, will be the question of the reader, who is petulant and captious ! For the author, who, whether in the higher walks of genius, or the more humble paths of conspilation, appears calm in the confidence of his awn well-meant exertions, knows little of the ingenuity of envy, or the liveliness of malicious degradation!
It may not seem very presumptuous to aim at a'rew putation similar to that of the well known Thomas Hearne. Yet his celebrity is surely not altogether unenviable, whose works, comprehending voluminous materials of solid information, are every day rising in value, and are become the necessary ornaments of every rich library.*
The present work, of which much of the matter could never probably again be re-assembled, and of which scarcely more than 150 complete sets can exist, will scarcely lose its price with the progress of time. The Censura Literaria, if by any chance a copy comes into the market, fetches much more than double its original cost. That a fate not less flattering will attend the BRITISH BIBLIOGRAPHER we cannot doubt.
It is easy to plan out schemes of ideal perfection; to
The set from the library of Mr. Willett of Merly, all large paper, fetched 40;l. 25. 64. They consisted of 32 lots.
design design a work in which all the perseverance of laborious enquiry and patient transcripts shall be united with all the grace of taste, and all the rich eloquence of genius ; in which the plodding hand that collects the rude ma. terials shall shape and combine them into forms of just proportion and exquisite beauty, or imposing magnifi cence! But, to plan and to perform, to suggest schemes, and to execute them, are immeasurably different ! Even Warton, with great learning, great taste, and strong powers of original and nice criticism, united (I wilt venture to add, in defiance of some strange cavillers), with great and powerful genius, suffered the vigorous faculties of his digesting, discriminating, and creative mind, to be oppressed and overlaid by the weight of the heavy materials which incumbered him. Even he could not always move like a master under his load.
It is true that too many readers require to be tanght how to think and to judge ! It is not sufficient to give them specimens, and leave them to form their own opinions. Trite criticism, and remarks sometimes superficial, and sometimes deeply erroneous, might fill pages of plausible commentary without any great expence either of time or talent to the writer. But are these the idlenesses to which a wise man will either commit bis name, or consign his pen? Better a thousand times is the plodding task of copying the dullest extraets, to which time has given an adventitious value! These the profound antiquary, the philosophic investigator of ancient language and ancient manners, will know how to appreciate ; while the praise or the jest of the flippant lover of the piquant style of modern criticism may be treated with equal indifference !
Is there any one who wishes to know with what degree of reluctance the editors resign a task in which they have been so long engaged ? It cannot be supposed, that either of them wants employment ; that he has no other, literary amusements which invite his attention! They quit their work with a sigh, because they are convinced, that its use is not insignificant, and its discontinuance will be a loss; for it cannot be necessary to declare, that their views have been the most remote from mercenary, and that their labours have been solely prompted by a desire to promote this department of Bibliographical knowledge. The writer of this Preface may be forgiven for here asserting of his coadjutor Mr. Haslewood, that his union of arduous and inextinguishable industry with opportunities created by his long experience in this pursuit, have given him the power of preserving numerous literary memorials, beyond what is ever likely again to be rivalled, or even imitated !
It is highly consolatory to the Editors, that their last number is filled with matter so rich and so curious, that no candid judges can suspect them of exhausted stores! The first article of that number, from the pen of one of the most eminent ornaments of that illustrious Univers sity, in which he justly holds so conspicuous a station, may be fairly pointed to, for a justification of language, that some may deem arrogant! On this account, if on no other, the Editors again heave a sigh, that here closes the BRITISH BIBLIOGRAPHER!
S. E. B.
Dec. 22, 1813.
DIGESTED TABLE OF CONTENTS
Metrical Account of proceedings at Oxford on the divorce of Henry
VIII. an! Q, Catharine, by William Foresc
Prest, by J. Heywood, 1533
Poenis by Sir Richard Maitlani!, M. S.
Ariosto's Satires, by Rob. Tofts, 1608
The shephieard's Holiday, by William Denne, M. S. 1651