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Of all the particulars which distinguish the present age from those which have preceded it,-few, perhaps, are more honourable or important, than the very superior character of its books of instruction.
The times are not very remote, in which the juvenile library was totally destitute of any book of real merit, except the school-classics. Until within a very few years, fables much above the comprehension of children, and tales almost as unfit to promote rational entertainment, as they were incapable of producing intellectual improvement,-constituted nearly the whole stock of the recreative reading provided for young persons.
It is probably true, as Dr. Johnson has observed, that
a voluntary descent from the dignity of science, is the hardest lesson humility can teach." The authors of those days were, perhaps, unwilling to condescend to the infirmities of juvenile intellects :
"Pride often guides the author's pen."
But this cause of complaint, however it may have ori
ginated, exists no longer. Books of instruction, of all kinds, have multiplied prodigiously. Erudition has con descended to assist instruction in guiding our youth to the temple of wisdom.
Elementary treatises, in every art and science, have been composed by men of learning. And, these have been concentrated in useful compendiums, suited to the capacities of young persons, and eminently calculated to gratify that desire of various information, which is so strongly implanted in the youthful mind; and which, when properly regulated, affords the best means of real improvement.
DR. WATTS, who understood the work of instruction as well as any man, has strongly recommended the promotion and gratification of intellectual curiosity:-" Almost every thing, he says, is new to a child, and novelty will entice them onward to new acquisitions: shew them the birds, the beasts, the fishes, and insects; trees, herbs, fruits, and all the several parts and properties of the animal world:-teach them to observe the various occur rences in Nature and Providence, the sun, moon, and stars, the day and night, summer and winter, the clouds and the sky, the hail, snow, and ice, winds, fire, water, earth, air, fields, woods, mountains, rivers, &c. Teach them that the GREAT GOD made all these things, and his Providence governs them all. Acquaint a child also with domestic affairs, so far as is needful, and with the things that be-long to the civil and the military life, the church and the state, with the works of GOD, and the works of men. A thousand objects that strike their eyes, their ears, and all
their senses, will furnish out new matter for their curiosity and your instructions."
Of all the publications which issue from the press, for the improvement of youth, none appear to corre spond more exactly to this recommendation, than the CYCLOPÆDIANA,-books which, like the present volume, without pretending to exhibit the entire circle of the sciences, convey a familiar and instructive exposition of the most important of them; together with a competent account of the most useful arts and institutions of civil life.
The Editor of these pages does not pretend to deny, that some ingenious compilations of this nature are already in circulation; but he knows of none which, in his apprehension, have displayed such a selection of matter, as is best suited to the capacities and necessities of those, for whose instruction they are intended. In most of these publications, many subjects are introduced, which do, by no means, properly fall within the design and object of such works; and other matters are excluded, or very slightly noticed, of which a fuller account seems to be necessary.
The proper selection of his subjects, is a point on which the Editor of this volume has bestowed his utmost care; and he ventures to hope that a comparison of its contents with other books of a similar nature, will satisfy those who may take the trouble of such an examination, that his labour has been neither sparing nor unprofitable.
As nothing is more calculated to facilitate learning, than a proper and methodical disposition of the matter (especi
ally in a work of this nature), the Editor has been parti cularly attentive to the arrangement of the different subjects; and he views this part of his humble labours with peculiar confidence. But, as it is not his wish to make invidious comparisons between this and similar works, he judges it sufficient to refer to the analytical table of contents prefixed to the volume.
A distinguishing characteristic of this work is, the RECOMMENDATION OF SELECT BOOKS, on every important subject of learning and science. The utility of this must be obvious to all persons. Nothing is more common than for young readers to be impeded in their studies by not knowing what books to consult.
The most scrupulous care has been exercised in forming the several lists of recommended books; and, the Editor ventures to assert, that those who have the superintendance of education, may safely commit these books to the handsof their pupils, and the latter may enter upon the perusal of them, with full confidence of their being the best adap ted to the purposes for which they are recommended.