SHORT time after the publication of the first edition of this work, a very worthy and shrewd Bibliomaniac, accidentally meeting me, exclaimed that "the book would do, but that there was not gall enough in it." As he was himself a Book-Auction-loving Bibliomaniac, I was resolved, in a future edition, to gratify him and similar Collectors by writing Part III. of the present impression; the motto of which may probably meet their approbation.
It will be evident, on a slight inspection of the present edition, that it is so much altered and enlarged as to assume the character of a new work. This has not been done without mature reflection; and a long-cherished hope of making it permanently useful to a large class of General Readers, as well as to Book-Collectors and Bibliographers.
It appeared to me that notices of such truly valuable, and oftentimes curious and rare, books, as the ensuing pages describe; but more especially a Personal History of Literature, in the characters of Collectors of Books; had long been a desideratum even with classical students: and in adopting the present form of publication, my chief object was to relieve the dryness of a didactic style by the introduction of Dramatis Personæ.
The worthy Gentlemen, by whom the Drama is conducted, may be called, by some, merely wooden machines or pegs to hang notes upon; but I shall not be disposed to quarrel with any criticism which may be passed upon their acting, so long as the greater part of the information, to which their dialogue gives rise, may be thought serviceable to the real interests of Literature and Bibliography.
If I had chosen to assume a more imposing air with the public, by spinning out the contents of this closely-printed book into two or more volumes — which might have been done without violating the customary mode of publication — the expenses of the purchaser, and the profits of the author, would have equally increased: but I was resolved to bring forward as much matter as I could impart, in a convenient and not inelegantly executed form; and, if my own emoluments are less, I honestly hope the reader's advantage is greater.
The Engraved Ornaments of Portraits, Vignettes, and Borders, were introduced, as well to gratify the eyes of tasteful Bibliomaniacs, as to impress, upon the minds of readers in general, a more vivid recollection of some of those truly illustrious characters by whom the History of British Literature has been preserved.
It remains only to add that the present work was undertaken to relieve, in a great measure, the anguish of mind arising from a severe domestic affliction; and if the voice of those whom we tenderly loved, whether parent or child, could be heard from the grave, I trust it would convey the sound of approbation for thus having filled a part of the measure of that time which, every hour, brings us nearer to those from whom we are separated.
And now, Benevolent Reader, in promising thee as much amusement and instruction as ever were offered in a single volume, of a nature like to the present, I bid thee farewell in the language of Vogt,2 who thus praises the subject of which we are about to treat:—"Quis non amabilem eam laudabit insaniam, quæ universæ rei litterariæ non obfuit, sed profuit; historiæ litterariæ doctrinam insigniter locupletavit; ingentemque exercitum voluminum, quibus alias aut in remotiora Bibliothecarum publicarum scrinia commigrandum erat, aut plane pereundum, a carceribus et interitu vindicavit, exoptatissimæque luci et eruditorum usui multiplici felicitur restituit?"
Kensington, March 25, 1811.
2 Catalogus Librorum Rariorum, præf. ix. edit. 1793.
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