« EelmineJätka »
PERHAPS no statement connected with the appearance of this work is calculated to create more surprise than that the greater portion of it was actually in type prior to the first of May. Its condition at that period may be thus described. The manuscript accounts of the articles of a large number of the Exhibitors had been compiled, set up in type, and subsequently condensed, annotated, and revised, and required but a little more attention to fit them for publication. In addition, a large proportion of the illustrations were completed and fit for printing But at that moment, what was the condition of the Exhibition Building itself ? Only on the morning of the first of May were tickets affixed to a few articles in a few Classes, and the position of many Exhibitors, even on the British side, was not finally determined. This arose out of the efforts made to obtain a strictly classified arrangement of articles on this side. Many articles placed in the hurry of preparation in the space allotted to one Class were improperly thus placed, and required to be removed to other Classes, and a large number of explanations were found to have been received from Exhibitors who had ultimately not been able to send in their goods in time. Whilst many Classes were arranged rapidly, others remained, owing to peculiar difficulties, in a state of great incompletion, and incessant alterations of the numbers and position of the Exhibitors were necessary before they could be considered perfect. During this time, which is to be reckoned by weeks rather than days, the number of additional manuscripts received from Exhibitors, who had neglected sending them in until long after the opening of the Exhibition, was immense, and the adjustment of the additional matter thus created was in itself a difficulty not to be easily subdued.
While an amount of order—surprising in its extent, though imperfect in the degree requisite for the publication of a work so costly in its preparation as the present—reigned on the British side of the Building, the state of that devoted to other nations could scarcely be entitled to that term until a month subsequent to the day of opening. Many foreign states had not sent in their catalogues, and the arrangement of their productions was very imperfect.
The peculiar nature of the Catalogue, also, as a work produced by many thousand authors, naturally brought upon it, through the medium of the small Catalogue, the corrections of a large number of those whose manuscripts formed its foundation, in addition to those rendered necessary, in order to obtain some degree of uniformity in the literary composition.
The combination of the elements of disorder thus presented has never before arisen to oppose the publication of any work in this or other times; and its effect upon its preparation is only to be estimated by those who have watched its progress, and are familiar with the complicated arrangements necessarily preceding the production of any printed book containing illustrations. The great extent of the Catalogue rendered the disturbance of any of its parts absolutely fatal to its publication in a reasonable time, and even in a moderate condition of accuracy. In the midst of all these adverse circumstances an attempt was made to publish it as speedily as possible after the opening of the Exhibition ; but this attempt was rendered fruitless in consequence of the ceaseless accessions of additional matter, and of the alterations of position in that already set up.
Under these circumstances the Contractors, anxious to produce so extensive a work in as perfect a condition as possible, resolved, at considerable loss to themselves, to delay its appearance until every alteration of importance had been made in the arrangement of the Building and by Exhibitors themselves. In this state it is now published, and is intended to serve as a lasting memorial of the splendid collection of which it professes to be the exponent. When its magnitude is considered, and due regard had to the great difficulties inseparable from the production of an illustrated book of this kind, it must be acknowledged that the period occupied in its publication has been comparatively brief and its preparation rapid.
The due appearance of the smaller Catalogue, on the first of May,—in itself, perhaps, one of the most remarkable instances of rapid typographical execution ever accomplished,—is also an indication of the substantive pre-existence of the present work before that date, since the smaller Catalogue is only a very condensed summary of the present, and was derived from the material forming
the illustrated edition. The difficulties attending the publication, even of that work, may be gathered from the fact, that only three days before it appeared was the order of succession and temporary arrangement of the Exhibitors in the Building determined on; and in that short interval, and before its publication, their arrangement in the Catalogue had much of it to be made.
For an account of the method adopted in the preparation of this Catalogue reference should be made to another page. It is, however, due to those whose valued assistance has added so much to the permanent interest which will attach to this work to state, that there are several portions which could not, by pressure of time, be submitted to the benefit of their revision, and for such, and the general scientific accuracy of the work, the subscriber to this notice must be considered alone accountable. That the following pages are to be considered free from technical and scientific inaccuracies could scarcely be expected; but much care and labour have been expended to give them, as far as possible, this character.
The consideration just named may also render expedient, if not necessary, a simple statement of the part fulfilled by the writer in connection with this work. The production of the general plan of the book, its development, after sanction by the Executive Committee, and literary construction out of the crude material obtained after compilation from the manuscripts of Exhibitors—this material resulting from the official instructions given for the compilation of the Catalogue, and the term compilation including, in this case, merely the rough preparation of Exhibitors' manuscripts for setting up in type, the resulting matter being consequently in a very imperfect state—with the general literary and scientific superintendence and management of the work—these have formed the occupation of the writer in connection with it, and for these he may be held responsible. As the result of the combined labours of the scientific annotators and of the writer, and after having received official sanction and revision on the part of the Executive by the officer appointed, this Catalogue is now put forth. The constant effort of the writer has been to prepare a work of permanent value and enduring interest. May it be shown in the issue that the labour bestowed upon it has not been in vain.
At the period when this work makes its appearance in a complete state, the Exhibition is about to close. The first function of a Descriptive Catalogue can therefore scarcely be fulfilled ere the great spectacle it illustrates will pass away. To those wonders of Art and Industry which man, taught by God, has been by Him enabled to accomplish, it will prove a guide but for a brief period. But its more permanently valuable offices then commence; and it may be reasonably