Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Preface
AS the nature and practical tendency of the Domestic Encyclopædia have, in some measure, been anticipated, partly in the prefixed Title-page, and partly in the foregoing Dedication, a few remarks on the origin and composition of this Work, will suffice to convince the indulgent Reader, that it has not been undertaken with a view merely to increase the number of voluminous works already extant, and of a similar complexion.
It has been generally supposed, that the rapid succession of Cyclopædias, and Encyclopædias, which have appeared within the last twenty years, and which often are more distinguished by their alluring title-pages than by their intrinsic merit, affords so many proofs of the progress of Science and Literature, as well as of the increasing spirit of inquiry. This conjecture, however, is extremely doubtful, if not totally unfounded.
When it is considered, that the Editors of these bulky Compilations have directed their chief attention to the quantity of materials, rather than to a critical selection of facts; that, with a few exceptions, such works have been conducted by persons better qualified to superintend a printing-office, or a bookseller's shop, than to arrange or explain the immense circle of the Sciences; and that the auri sacra fames has almost uniformly been the principal object of these Speculators, it will then be readily allowed, that their productions afford only negative advantages to the social world.
Farther, the plurality of Readers have conceived an opinion, that, by the possession of an Encyclopædia, or what is pre-eminently termed, "A Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences," their library, however deficient, at length becomes complete. But those who are only in a slight degree acquainted with the gradual, though daily, advancement both of the abstruse and practical Sciences, will not be disposed to harbour a notion alike contracted, and fraught with consequences highly detrimental to the acquisition of knowledge. Nay, it may with equal truth be asserted, that the earlier impressions of books, which have progressively received additions and improvements, will answer the purpose as well as the latest publications; because they are comparatively cheaper, and rill a similar space on the shelves.—Such arguments may satisfy the Antiquarian Collector, but they are inconsistent with the conviction of intelligent minds.
On the other hand, it cannot be denied, that many attempts have been made to supply the Public with works professedly commenced on a more economical plan; by abridging the labours of others. Without presuming to decide on their merits, we shall quote a passage occurring in the Preface to the illustrious Johnson's Dictionary, when he compressed his bulky folios, or quartos, into an oclavo form:—"For these purposes (says that energetic writer), many dictionaries have been written by different authors, and with different degrees of skill; but none of them have yet fallen into my hands, by which even the lowest expectations could be satisfied. Some of their authors wanted industry, and others literature: some knew not their own defects, and others were too idle to supply them."
In regard to the composition, and arrangement, of the Domestic Encyclopædia, many circumstances might be pleaded, by way of apology, for occasional inaccuracies and omissions; but, in a Work, consisting chiefly of practical information, and containing, perhaps, a greater number of useful facts than have ever appeared in the compass of four moderate volumes, it is to be hoped, the discreet Reader will naturally be inclined to qualify his strictures, by a large share of candour and impartiality. Conformably to his original plan, the Editor has spared no pains, trouble, or expence, to render this Economical Dictionary as complete as the present advancement of Agriculture, Gardening, of the Familiar Arts and Manufactures, as well as the imperfect state of Medical Science, would respectively admit. Many subjects, indeed, might have been extended to greater length, and others considerably abridged, had these volumes been peculiarly calculated for the use of either town or country-readers. Such, however, was not his design; as the Work now submitted to the Public, includes almost every object, more or less connected with Rural, Domestic, and Animal Economy. Hence, the inquisitive Reader will find numerous experiments related, many hundreds of which have not hitherto been published in the English language. Thus, the Editor has availed himself of such resources as have enabled him to elicite substitutes for the most essential as well as the most expensive articles of consumption, or convenience; for instance, those of Bread, Beer, Spirits, Wine, &c.
To facilitate the mode of consulting this Work, a Table of Contents, and an Index to the corresponding Synonyms, or inversions of terms, have been prefixed to each volume; though a few provincial or vernacular names, which are now obsolete, have purposely been omitted, in order to avoid unnecessary repetition:—for such references as have accidentally been overlooked in the body of the alphabet, where no explanation should appear on the subject, the Reader is requested to resort to the Supplement, commencing p. 387 of the Fourth Volume.
It will not, however, be expected that the Editor should be responsible for the accuracy of the result of those Experiments, which he has faithfully reported on the authority of others, whose names have been quoted on almost every occasion; but, in various instances where no vouchers have been adduced, the facts are either self-evident, or the account of the subject is given with a degree of diffidence, to induce attentive readers to farther investigation.
Although the Editor has, in the commencement of this arduous task, inserted the Latin names of subjects in alphabetical order, and referred thence to the appropriate English terms; yet, as such troublesome method promised no real advantage, he was induced to relinquish it, and to subjoin to the Fourth Volume a complete Index to the Latin Names of Plants, Animals, Minerals, Diseases, and other subjects occurring throughout this Work.
Lastly, as numerous useful and valuable suggestions, connected with particular subjects, are scattered in different parts of this Alphabetical Manual, it has been deemed expedient to conclude with a General Index of Reference, both for Economical and Medical purposes; which is accordingly subjoined to the Fourth Volume: thus, the Reader will be enabled to find, at one view, whatever relates to the article under consideration; an advantage which few works of a similar nature afford, and which cannot fail to be attended with good effects.
"Ne tabulis & picturis domum tuam circumda, sed temperantiam
ipsam depinge. Illud enim alienum est, et oculorum modo jucunda
præstigiatio: hoc vero indelibilis, æternusque domui ornatus existit."