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Nor have I neglected any opportunity that offered of conversing upon these subjects with travellers, upon whose judgments and veracity I could rely. Thus comparing accurate narrations with what has been already written, and following either, as the circumstances or credibility of the witness led me to believe. But I have had one advantageover almost all former Naturalists, namely that of having visited a variety of countries myself, and examined the productions of each upon the spot. Whatever America, or the known parts of Africa have produced to excite curiosity has been carefully observed by me, and compared with the accounts of others. By this I have made some improvements that will appear in their place, and have been less liable to be imposed upon by the hearsay relations of credulity.
A complete cheap and commodious body of Natural History being wanted in our language, it was these advantages which prompted me to this undertaking. Such therefore as choose to range in the delightful fields of Nature, will, I flatter myself, here find a proper guide; and those who have a design to furnish a cabinet willfind copious instructions. With one of these volumes in his hand a spectator may go through the largest Museum, the British not excepted, see Nature through all her varieties, and compare her usual operations with those wanton productions, in which she seems to sport with human sagacity. I have been sparing however in the description of the deviations from the usual course of
production, first, because such are almost infinite, and the Natural Historian, who should spend his time in describing deformed Nature, would be as absurd as the Statuary, who should fix upon a deformed man, from whom to take his model of perfection.
But I would not raise expectations in the reader which it may not be in my power to satisfy; he who takes up a book of science must not expect to ac
quire quire knowledge at the same easy rate that a reader of romance does entertainment; on the contrary, all sciences, and Natural History among the rest, have a language and a manner of treatment peculiar to themselves, and he who attempts to dress
them in borrowed or foreign ornaments, is every whit as uselessly employed as the German apothecary we are told of, who turned the whole dispensatory into verse. It will be sufficient for me, if the following system is found as pleasing as the nature of the subject will bear, neither obscured by an unnecessary ostentation of science, nor lengthened out by an affected eagerness after needless embellishment.
The description of every object will be found as clear and concise as possible, the design not being to amuse the ear with well-turned periods, or the imagination with borrowed ornaments, but to impress the mind with the simplest views of nature. Toanswer this end more distinctly, a picture of such animals is given as we are least acquainted with. All that is intended by this is, only to guide the enquirer with more certainty to the object itself, as it is to be found in nature. I never would advise a student to apply to any science, either Anatomy, Physic, or Natural History, by looking on pictures only; they may serve to direct him more readily to the objects intended, but he must by no means suppose himself possessed of adequate and distinct ideas till he has viewed the things themselves, and not their representations.
Copper-plates, therefore, moderately well done, answer the learner's purpose every whit as well as those which cannot be purchased but at a vast expence; they serve to guide us to the archetypes in Nature, and this is all that the finest pictureshould be permitted to do, for Nature herself ought always to be examined by the learner before he has done.
TO A NEW
HISTORY OF THE WORLD;
INTENDED TO HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED
IN TWELVE VOLUMES AVO.
BY J. NEWBERY 1764.