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THE PUBLISHER'S ADDRESS.
HAVING redeemed his pledge, given to the public little more than three years since, that he would complete "The London Encyclopædia,” in twentytwo volumes, in a regular succession, the Proprietor cannot close his arduous labor without offering a few remarks upon the circumstances in which the work originated, the difficulties which threatened to interrupt its progress, and its peculiar claims upon continued patronage and support.
The great Father of Encyclopædial enterprize, Mr. Chambers, was far from overrating its importance when he observed that such a work "would answer most of the purposes of a library, except parade, and contribute more to the propagating of useful knowledge through the body of a people than half the books extant." His work, in fact, marked the commencement of a new era in the literary history of Europe; in Italy it was translated; in France it laid the foundation of the Encyclopédie, the most extensive and celebrated work of the kind that had at that time appeared in the world. In England, at no very distant intervals, it was followed by others more erudite and comprehensive, each professing to offer greater advantages than its predecessor, and asserting a stronger claim on public patronage. At length no fewer than six principal Encyclopædias, diversified in their specific character and object, and of very different gradations in the scale of merit, were called into contemporaneous circulation. All of these obtained a remunerative sale, and so mightily have they contributed to "the propagating of knowledge through the great body of the people," that classes hitherto unthought of, and deemed hardly susceptible of intellectual culture, have put in their claims to a species of literature peculiarly their own; societies and institutes have been formed especially for their instruction; they have awoke from the ignorance in which they had slept for ages, and have emerged in their new character of thinking beings, qualified to enquire, and to discuss; and despising alike the despotism and the bigotry that would obstruct or impede their improvement. Observing this wonderful change in the popular mind, and conceiving that the period had arrived when an Encyclopædia would not fail to command zealous and extensive support, if adapted in form, in substance, and in price to the largest portion of the community, the publisher ventured upon
the present work. Its commencement excited no small degree of envy; the idea of a monthly volume, to be continued without interruption for more than three years, was treated with derision, and the failure of the scheme, with the ruin of its projector, was confidently predicted. In January 1826 the first Part made its appearance, which upon examination was found to combine all that is essential and really important in works of three times its magnitude and price. This at once stampt it in public estimation, and, the subsequent numbers perfectly corresponding with the original specimen, it obtained a circulation which afforded to the Publisher the most flattering prospects of ultimate compensation and reward: together with unprecedented cheapness it possessed a character of universal adaptation, which not only rendered it acceptable to the student in the various branches of science and literature, and worthy of a place in the library of the scholar and the gentleman, but also offered peculiar advantages to the traveller, the voyager, the colonial resident, the artizan, the mechanic, and the tradesman.
This auspicious commencement of a work which so many persons had contemplated with unfriendly and even hostile feelings, soon roused in an unexpected quarter the latent enmity into a flame. The proprietor suddenly found himself involved in a suit in equity. He was charged with gross and wholesale plagiarism from one of the heaviest and most expensive works of a similar description, which had been many years in progress, and which may possibly be completed within the century. To the court and to the public this was a charge so entirely novel that no very definite notions were entertained by either, of the nature of the crime alleged. The prevalent opinion, however, was most erroneous, namely, that the laws which protect literary property in general, apply with the same strictness to Encyclopædias; yet on this principle the proprietors of the Encyclopædia Metropolitana moved for an injunction to restrain the further publication of the earlier numbers of the London Encyclopædia; not remembering that they were open to a similar imputation, and that if Authors and Encyclopædists, from whom they had largely purloined, had treated them with the same severity, they must have appeared quite as culpable as the unoffending object of their persecution. But the truth is, that if the universal practice, from Chambers down to the present time, is to be considered as establishing the right of custom, and this is the only right which the law can maintain, and of which on such a question it can take cognizance—then will it be difficult, nay, well nigh impossible, to fix the charge of plagiarism upon one Encyclopædia without involving all the rest in the same condemnation. On this point the opinion of Chambers is entitled to the highest consideration:
"Thomasius (says our first and greatest Encyclopædist) has an express treatise, De Plagio Literario; wherein he lays down the laws and measures of the right which authors have to one another's writings. Dic
tionary writers, at least such as meddle with arts and sciences, seem in this case to be exempted from the common laws of meum and tuum; they do not pretend to set up on their own bottom, nor to treat the reader at their own cost. Their works are supposed, in great measure, compositions of other people; and whatever they take from others they do it avowedly. In effect their quality gives them a title to appropriate every thing that may be for their purpose, wherever they find it, and they do no otherwise than as the bee does for the public service their occupation is not pillaging, but collecting contributions; and, if you ask them for their authority, they will produce you the practice of their predecessors of all ages and nations."*
The Proprietor of the London Encyclopædia, aware that the object of his enemies was to retard the publication, agreed to settle the question, which they had thus ungenerously raised, by an amicable compromise, convinced that failure or triumph, by a protracted litigation, would have proved almost equally ruinous to the work in which he had embarked so large a portion of his capital. It was his happiness to know that public feeling was in his favor. The war of the many with one awakened sympathy where uninterrupted success would have been regarded with indifference; and thus the very means employed for his destruction became the instruments of securing to his object a greater measure of support. The stagnation of a moment gave a new impetus to the work, and it went forward with accelerated energy. The momentum was thus increased; and he has lived to receive the congratulations of his friends on the triumphant conclusion of his task. Encouragement is the soul of enterprize. This it was that cheered him amidst the vexations and sacrifices he was called to endure while it was in progress; and it is to this he now looks forward as a remuneration for all his labor and expense. Having completed a standard, and he may be permitted. to add, a great national work, he reposes with confidence on the generosity of that public to whom he is indebted for the measure of prosperity which has rewarded his industry, and placed him in a situation of comparative independence. This noblest labor of his life he has devoted as a legacy to his family, and he humbly trusts that its future success will realize their expectations.
In urging the claims of the London Encyclopædia on the continued patronage of the public, the Proprietor has only to remind them that no work of equal magnitude was ever undertaken by an individual on his own responsibility. He has had none to share his anxieties-to take any portion of the risk. The whole charge and the burthen rest upon himself alone: and the profits, as they arose, he threw back upon the work itself, in order to render its execution as complete as possible. Of that execution he
* Chambers' Cyclopædia. Rees' Edition. Art. PLAGIARY.
imagines it may be affirmed, without presumption, that in science, literature, and good writing, the London Encyclopædia is not inferior to any of its predecessors or contemporaries, while it combines all the improvements derived from being the last in order of time.
Its unprecedented moderation of price entitles it likewise to a corresponding degree of liberal support. Its productiveness depends on its extensive circulation. A large and perpetual sale can alone secure a profitable return. IT IS AN ENCYCLOPÆDIA FOR THE PEOPLE; and, like the libraries of useful and entertaining knowledge, it relies for success on the number of its patrons.
Added to these considerations, the Proprietor, in conclusion, would briefly notice the principles on which the work has been conducted. On all the great debatable points, which belong not properly to knowledge, because the opinions of the wisest and best of men are at variance respecting them, the utmost care has been taken to avoid exciting either political or religious animosities. The object of the work is to give information on all subjects, but not to play the advocate, or special pleader, with regard to any. Churchmen, and Dissenters of all sorts and parties, may here learn what each other think; but they will not find the London Encyclopædia an arsenal, furnishing them with weapons to carry on either an offensive or a defensive war. Society is now so far advanced, that the people must be supplied with mental aliment. Here they have science without scepticism, literature without irreligion, and intellectual enjoyment without the sacrifice of moral principle.
August 23, 1829.