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the most important facts could pass the barriers which an imperfect navigation of the ocean, or a diversity of languages, had thrown between nations. Now, even the petty quarrels and frolics of students in a German or French university find their way, in the course of a few weeks, into the columns of an American newspaper. Then, a century would pass by, before even a Shakspeare was justly estimated beyond the confines of his native land; while now, we daily find, on title pages, the united names of publishers in three or four different nations, and in both continents. Thus rapidly does knowledge of every kind now diffuse itself over the globe, and extend the circle of civilization.
In comparison with the present state of the world, how small was the theatre on which the gods of Grecian fable and the heroes of Grecian history performed their parts in that interesting drama! During the period of Roman history, it is true, the field of civilization had become much more enlarged; but, in our own times, it has extended over both hemispheres, and science gathers contributions from every quarter of the globe. It is therefore become necessary, that every well-informed man, who would keep his relative place during this advance of society, should possess himself of many kinds of knowledge, which might have been dispensed with in former periods; the different sciences and arts, closely connected as they have ever been, having now more common bonds of union than in any preceding age. Considerations of this nature induced the German editors to project a work, which should furnish the. general reader with all the information, that should be necessary to make him acquainted with the events and discoveries of interest, which did not happen to fall within the range of his particular studies.
For the plan of this Encyclopedia we are indebted to the late Mr. Brockhaus, a bookseller of eminence at Leipsic, who was the publisher, and, at the same time, the principal editor. He called it the ConversationLexicon, as being a work chiefly designed for the use of persons, who would take a part in the conversation or society of the well-informed
circles. The character of the work, however, has been, to a certain degree, cbanged by numerous improvements in each successive edition ; and its original title has therefore ceased to be strictly appropriate. But, as the book had become well known, and gained its well-deserved popularity, under that name, it was thought inexpedient to reject its original appellation : it is accordingly included in its new title- Allgemeine deutsche Real- Encyklopedie für die gebildeten Stände. (Conversations-Lexikon.) Leipzig : F. A. Brockhaus. 1827–29.
The value attached to this undertaking of Mr. Brockhaus is evident from the fact, that about 80,000 copies of the work, now consisting of 12 volumes, have been published since 1812 ; besides which two pirated editions have appeared in Germany. There has also been a Danish translation (published by Soldin, Copenhagen), a Swedish, and likewise a Dutch (published by Thieme, at Zutphen). A French translation is also preparing at Brussels. More than two hundred contributors are enumerated in the preface of the original, of whom we will only mention a few, whose fame is by no means confined to the limits of their country >G.W. Becker, in Leipsic; Chladni, in Kemberg; Gruber, in Halle ; Hassel, in Weimar; C. H. L. von Jakob, in Halle ; Niemeyer, in Halle ; Oken, in Munich; Kurt Sprengel, in Halle ; von Aretin, in Amberg; W. Gesenius, in Halle; F. Jacobs, in Gotha; J. S. Vater, in Halle ; Paulus, in Heidelberg; K. W. Bessel, in Königsberg; Fr. Mobs, in Freiberg; Schubert, in Erlangen.
In presenting this work to the public in the English language, my intention has been, by making such changes and additions as the circumstances of this country required, to render it as useful and acceptable to the general reader here as the original is in Germany; and I have cherished the hope, that the circumstance of its being an American ency, clopedia, not merely in name, but as constituting an extensive repository of information relating to America, as well as to the various branches of general knowledge, would give it a peculiar value with that great European
nation, whose language and literature are the common property of themselves and their descendants in the United States.
In the title page, this work is stated to be formed upon the basis of the German Conversation-Lexicon; and if the reader will compare it with the original, and consider the numerous additions and corrections which have been made, I hope he will not find cause to charge this title with being too pretending. My idea of a good American encyclopedia has been, that it should contain, besides the most valuable portions of the English encyclopedias, and the topics of peculiar value to an American reader, information upon all subjects of general interest on the continent of Europe. The publishers have, with great liberality, supplied all the means and facilities which were desired by the editor. The trustees of the Boston Athenæum have obligingly allowed free access to their ample library, which does so much honor to the metropolis of New England. But, above all, I ought to acknowledge the zealous and able co-operation of my friend and associate, Mr. Wigglesworth, who will not permit me here to express my obligations to him in such terms as my feelings would dictate. With him I shall be happy to share whatever approbation the public may think the work shall deserve.
Some of the departments of science and literature, which were but imperfectly treated in the original German work, have been entirely re-written for this edition ; for example, Zoology (by Dr. Godman of Philadelphia, author of the well-known American Natural History), Mineralogy and Chemistry. The departments of Political Economy and Geography have also been much enlarged. Numerous entire articles of American and English Law have been introduced, and large additions made to the original articles on Jurisprudence, which, in the German work, are mostly confined to subjects of Roman, German and French law. In general Biography, large additions have been made. The articles on American Biography are entirely original, and have been furnished by Mr. Robert Walsh, Jr., whose learning and taste are a sufficient pledge of their value. Their apparently dis
proportionate length may, with a foreign reader, require some apology; but I persuade myself, that, with the American reader, the new and interesting information they contain will be deemed a sufficient reason for their not being further abridged. Such readers, too, will appreciate the value of many details of American history, which are not yet to be found, and could hardly be entitled to a place, in a general work upon that subject.
. Besides the contributions of Mr. Walsh, many new and valuable articles have been written by distinguished American scholars, particularly in relation to their own country, and to other parts of the American continent. The biography of living citizens of the United States has, for obvious reasons, been omitted; but the reader will find an account of our most distinguished foreign contemporaries.
In Theology, and, indeed, in all the other departments of the work, the reader will not understand me as intending to give any opinions of my own, except when expressly so stated: my wish has been not to obtrude opinions, but to furnish facts. I have endeavored, as far as it was in my power, that the articles relating to any particular religious sect should present opinions and tenets as that sect would exhibit them; and, in cases where the same point of doctrine is considered differently by different sects, that the respective views of all should be given.
The articles on the Fine Arts are, in the original work, particularly complete; and I hope the Encyclopædia Americana will, therefore, be found satisfactory in a department in which the English encyclopedias have hitherto been very deficient.
The subject of Heraldry, which occupies so large a space in English encyclopedias, is wholly omitted in the original work; and it has been thought best to follow the example of the German editors in this particular, in order to make room for other matter of far greater value and interest in a country where the well-known sentiment of antiquity is felt in its full force
Nam genus et proavos et quæ non fecimus ipsi
It is evident that a work of this description must be unequal; deficiencies will doubtless be observed; but in what similar work will they not be detected ? It has been our endeavor, however, to correct such errors as existed in the German work, and in preceding English works of this kind. While criticising the faults of the present work, it is hoped that the reader will not overlook the improvements made upon the labors of past writers; and that he will keep in mind the remark of Scaliger-Lexicographis et grammaticis secundus post Herculem labor.
If the present work shall conduce to the diffusion of knowledge in this fortunate country, whose happiness is founded on its liberty, and whose liberty is to be preserved only by widely-spread information ; if it shall contribute to make known what has been done or thought, attained or suffered, by other portions of the human family; if it shall contribute to enlarge our views, and to destroy prejudices, to animate youth to a perseverance in virtue and to the pursuit of true glory, by exhibiting to them, on the one hand, the fearless votary of truth and patriotism, and, on the other, the real character of men whose perverted talents, however splendid, cannot redeem them from the severe but just sentence of impartial history; I shall receive the most gratifying reward for the many laborious days which have been devoted to the present undertaking.
Philos. Dr. Boston, Massachusetts,
For the sake of compression, the initial letter of the name of an article, instead of the whole name, is often used in the body of the article. The other abbreviations used are but few, and of the common sort, such as c. ., ezempli gratia (for instance); i. e., id est (that is); 9.0., quod vide (which see), signifying see that article. For other abbreviations which may be met with, see the article Abbreviations.
In the alphabetical arrangement of words, the letter I has been separated from J, and the letter U from V.
Words to be found in Johnson's Dictionary, which, according to the plan of this Encyclopedia, would receive only a definition, have been seldom introduced into the list of articles.