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CONCERNING the importance and indeed the necessity of
education and instruction in general, one opinion alone has been expressed, by men of enlightened understandings and of virtuous and beneficent dispositions, in every age of the world. In no quarter of the globe however, and at no epoch have the benefits of education been more justly appreciated, nor more extensively perceived thau in these islands, and at the present time. For these signal benefits and advantages various causes might be assigned: but it is to the liberal and manly spirit of the religious systems we process, and of the political constitution under which we live, that the advantages we enjoy are principally to be ascribed.
In preparing for the public eye the following work, it has been the purpose of the proprietor, and the study of the editur, to present to the reader, within a moderate compass of size and expense, a general introduction to knowledge, founded un accurate principles, and applicable to various businesses and occupations in ordinary life. In the execution of this design it has been deemed adviseable to deviate, in some material points, from the mode generally adopted in the composition of similar works. Cases do certainly occur, and instances may certainly be produced, of persons who, by mere mechanical address and imitatiou, have acquired great skill and reputation in important parts of science as well as of art. Such proficiency was certainly neither founded nor acquired on genuine scientific principles. Prodigies of this kind may justly excite our admiration, and stimulate our ambition : but this is not the way nor the process by which the great body of mankind attain knowledge and celebrity. The youth who, disdaining to follow the lengthened and arduous path, which conducts the traveller up the mountain of knowledge and truth, should at. tempt at once to bound from its base to its suinmit, would speedily convince the world that he was equally devoid of common under. standing as of the talents and genius cf the model of his pretended imitation.
For these considerations it has been resolved to lay before the
reader of the present work, in plain, direct, and intelligible language, not only the rules aud practices peculiar to each branch of instruction, but in a special manner the original facts, principles and maxims on which those rules and practices are establisbed. Care bas besides been bestowed on the explanation of every expression or word, of which the meaning might not be obvious to the genea rality of readers. Dictionaries of arts and sciences are not always at our command: nor are we always disposed to interrupt our course of reading, for the purpose of consulting them. The con. sequence is that many a reader may rise from his book, with a charge of words of which he has no distinct conception; and that he is in danger of imagiving himself acquainted with the nature and properties of things, while in fact he has only amassed a number of their names.
In elementary publications on the general principles of instruction, little novelty in the matter they contain can, at this late day of the world, be expected: it is therefore in the propriety and completeness of distribution of the several subjects, in the plainness and perspicuity with which each is handled, and in the aptness with which each is illustrated and applied to the purposes of life, that a work of this sort can found any claim to public favour. Utility in its legitimate signification ought to be the object of every work professing to instruct: but with utility entertainment is perfectly compatible. These purposes have therefore been combined in the following pages ; taking special care however that the useful shall never become subordinate to the agreeable.
That persons who have made some progress in life, without the advantage of much education, are consequently to be considered and treated as deficient in understanding, in fact as overgrown children, is an opinion bui tou generally entertained. It is nevertheless equally unfounded in practical life, and insulting to the objects of it. In the present work the reader, whatever may be his station or his acquirements, is beheld with much more respect: he is regarded as pot only willing but desirous and able to learn; and on this cousideration pains are taken, not merely to tell him what he is to do, but why he is to do it: he has not only the practice, but the origin and principles of each branch of knowledge, with .their application and utility in business, laid before him.
By attention to knowledge when conveyed in regular systematic order, we acquire vot merely the knowledge there conveyed, but also a matter of far higher inportance. We learn to think and reason on rational grounds, and in that particular order by which our progress is at once facilitated and secured. It is in this point of view that an introduction to general knowledge, or even the instructions of a living teacher, can be rendered the most service. able to the student. From these he may learn the first principles and properties of any branch of science or art; its divisions and uses, primary and subordinate. It is however, only by sted fastly pursuing the path pointed out to him by his instructors, into all its variety of tendencies and objects, that the student can hope to acquire a stock of information, sufficient to enable bim to acquig
himself in life with credit and comfort to himself, or with advantage to his fellow-creatures.
Of the nature and distribution of the present publication an idea may be formed from the following table of contents. With respect to the selection of subjects it must be sufficient to say, that those introduced seem to be the best adapted for the generality of readers, in the British public; and few readers will be found who, although they have no direct call, will have no curiosity at least to inquire into the nature of sundry departments of knowledge, hitherto unnoticed in simila: works, and indeed confined to the use of persons in particular situations and professions in life. Of this description is the 12th chapter on Navigation, a subject not only in itself of the very first importance to the members of the British empire, but capable, when treated at proper length, of being rendered peculiarly interesting to many other classes of readers besides that of mariners.
The principles of English grammar are stated at greater length than has usually been done in works of this sort; for this plain but powerful reason, that it is absolutely impossible, in a brief condensed shape, to put the student in possession of those principles, combined with the multiplied irregularities, defects, and redundancies, by which they are nodified. These deviations from grammatical and philosophical accuracy are, in Euglish, uot only nume. fous, but bighly important. Without entering therefore at some length into the peculiarities of tbe language, justice cannot be done to the reader's expectations of instruction; nor can he be duly prepared to speak and writes or even to read his mother-tongue with propriety.
On the modes and implements of writing in general, and on the uses of writing in common life, the observations are ample and practical. In conversation many improprieties of expression pass off unnoticed. In, written language bowever, the reverse must happen, when improprieties are presented to the eye as well as to the ear, and no mistakes in grammatical arrangement, or even in common spelling, can possibly escape detection and censure. The directions for drawing up letters, memorials, &c. are the result of personal experience in public life.
The chapter on arithmetic is so comprehensive, and the grounds and reasons assigued for the methods of calculation, recommended in each branch of that essentially important subject, are stated with so much simplicity, that the student must perceive the great object has been, 'not to load his memory with rules for which he can discover no foundation, but to enlighten bis mind, and thereby to excite him to make still greater progress in a part of education, without some portion of which, human society cannot possibly exist.
The 4th and 5th chapters contain popular explanations of two applications of arithmetic, most curious and attractive in them, selves, and indispensibly necessary in many important parts of computation. By observing the several steps of an algebraic calculation, we perceive the nature and effects of many primary
operations in common arithmetic. Unless he avail himself of the admirable invention of logarithms, the practical geometrician, the surveyor of land, the geographer, the astronomer, and above all the navigator, will in his necessary computations be involved in operations so complicated and tedious, that few individuals indeed can be found sufficiently accurate, or even courageous to engage in them.
In chapter 6 the reader will find explanations and specimens of mercantile affairs and accounts, sufficiently diversified to enable him to form a system adapted to bis own particular transactions. The samples of regular books are drawn from tlie modern practice of mercantile houses in London; and may, by a little consideration, be employed in transactions of much less extent and variety. The explanations of terms occurring in commercial language will be found peculiarly useful.
On geometry, to which the 7th division of the work is devoted, so much is stated in its proper place, as to render unnecessary any farther illustratiou or recommendation at present. To practical geometry, and to measurement of superficial aud solid bodies, and of the work performed by tradesmen of different classes, a similar remark may be applied. Gauging it is true, and land-surveying, described and illustrated in chapters 10 and 11, are only modi. fications of the practice of mensuration. In their application however, matters are taken into consideration, sufficiently various and important, to entitle those branches to distinct sections in the work. The scheme of a piece of land, shown in Fig. 36, page 289, contains every variety of figure and boundary usually occurring in practical surveying: and the rules for computing its content may easily be applied in all other cases.
of the important and interesting subject touched on in chapter 12, viz. navigation, notice has already been taken. It has been treated, as far as the limits of the work would allow, in a plain and popular way; and very imperfect as that brief sketch must be, it may excite curiosity to go deeper into the study of a branch of knowledge in which geometrical theory and mechanical practice are more powerfully and more usefully combined, than in any other application of knowledge to the benefit of human affairs.
On geography so amply explained in chap. 13, it is unnecessary to say more, than that it is formed on the best authorities, corrected by considerable personal observations of the editor himself, over the principal regions of Europe. In the present unsettled state of the continent, the reader will candidly pass over any dis. agreement he may discover, between the political situation of countries as described, and as existing when the book arrives at his bands. On the accuracy of the tables of latitude aud longitude, of the tides, &c. full reliance may be placed. Later and more accurate observation on these subjects may nevertheless reyder -subsequent alterations requisite.
To have entered fully and systematically on the subjects of astronomy and chronology, noticed in the 14th chapter, would have presupposed in the generality of readers an aequamtance with .
various departments of geometry and natural philosophy, far more extended than ought reasonably to be expected. From what is introduced however, on those two important topics, a general but not unsatisfactory idea of them may be obtained. The chronological table of 'remarkable events is selected from writings of established character.
The last division of the volume is occupied in observations and illustrations of drawing or designing, including the principles of perspective, by which every part of a human figure, a building, or a landscape, is represented in its due relative position, magnitude, and colour. By attentive consideration of what is there stated, particularly with a reference to the excellent examples with which the work is embellished from the pencil of Mr. Craig, the student will soon be qualified to address himself to works in which drawing, in its several branches, is taught at proper length; and thus be prepared to resort to the study of the works of nature, the original and infallible instructress in the graphic art.
Such are in general the subjects treated in the present work, forming a system of instruction adapted to the circumstances and wants, and addressed to the understandings of the younger and less informed classes of the British empire. Another work of a similar construction is now however preparing for the press, for the assistance of persons of more advanced acquirements, already engaged or preparing to engage in the occupations and business of active life. Concerning the subjects to be discussed in that publication it will be sufficient at present to inform the reader that, beginning with the earliest, the most important of all the arts, that of the husbandman, treated at some length both in theory and practice, he will be conducted through mechanics, hydrostatics, pneumatics, optics, electricity, chemistry, &c. with their application in various ways to the uses of life. Bleuching, dying, tanning, working in metals, 8c. the occupations of the architect, the carpenter, fc. painting, engraving, sculpture, &c. are among the articles preparing for the publication now announced. Plates will be added, exhibiting correct representations of some of the most valuable machines and instruments, employed in agriculture and natural philosophy. The appearance of this second work will be duly notified to the public, on a future occasion.