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THE

HE importance of a work so constructed as to exhibit a comprehensive and accurate view of every branch and portion of human knowledge, and human art, must be too apparent to require any illustration. Such is the intention of the EncyCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA ; and the publication of five extensive editions of a work devoted to such objects, at once affords a proof of its eminent utility, and of the favourable opinion of the public as to the ability with which it has been executed.

The great superiority of the plan of this work has contributed in no small degree both to its usefulness and popularity. A very few words will serve to explain the principles, and to evince the pre-eminence of the method which its compilers have pursued in treating the various branches of the arts and sciences.

In all former attempts, the alphabet, in place of being employed in the humble function of an index to the matter contained in the work, was made supreme arbiter of the whole arrangement; and the different sciences, insteadof being made the subjects of distinct and connected discussion, were cut down into detached parts, oui of which no general view of any one science or art could possibly

, be formed. In this view, the alphabet, far from conducing to clearness, became an instrument of disorder; and its only use appeared to be, to save the trouble of a more commodious or philosophical arrangement. These obvious defects in all the most popular Dictionaries of arts and sciences were clearly observed by Mr Chambers, himself the compiler of a well-known work of this kind; and, in speaking of the labours of his predecessors, he particularly censures the uninstructive method of their performances. “ Former lexicographers (he observes) scarce attempted any thing like structure in their works; they seem not to have been aware that a dictionary is in some measure capable of the advantages of a continued discourse; and hence it is, that we see nothing like a whole in what they

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have done.” For the purpose of remedying this defect in his own work, he informs his readers, that “ his view was to consider the several matters, not only in themselves, but relatively, or as they respect each other ; both to treat them as so many wholes, and as so many parts of some greater whole; and to point out their connection with each other, and with that whole, by reference : so that by a course of references from generals to particulars, from premises to conclusions, from cause to effect, and vice versa, a communication might be opened between the several parts of the work, and the detached articles be in some measure replaced in the natural order of science, out of which the alphabetical order had removed them.” And in order to exhibit a view of the bearings and relations of the various articles scattered through his Dictionary, he has prefixed to it a tabular analysis illustrative of their mutual connections and dependencies.

But although it must be admitted, that this table is elaborately and skilfully constructed, and that the arrangement of the Cyclopædia of Mr Chanıbers is much preferable to that of any former work of the kind, it is still indisputably liable to many of those very objections for which this author censures his predecessors. Even if his original plan had been carried into effect with complete success, and all the articles in different parts of his work had been so managed, as, when reunited, to have made so many complete systems, the number of references was still so great, that no reader could possibly have submitted to the trouble of combining them. (A).

Of this inconveniency the original compilers of the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA were fully aware ; and they resolved, in the conduct of their work, to adopt such a plan as should completely free it from this objection. They were as fully convinced as their predecessors of the utility of a separate explanation of every technical term, and of the necessity also of noticing, in detail, many topics which it would be proper more fully to illustrate in a general account of the respective sciences to which they belonged. But without such general treatises, combining

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(A) Thus, from METEOROLOGY we are referred to AIR and the ATMOSPHERE ; including, lst, The history of its contents, ÆTHER, FIRE, VAPOUR, EXHALATION, &c.; 2d, METEORS formed therein; as Cloud, Rais, &c. SHOWER, Drop, Snow, Hail, Dew, Damp, &c. Rainbow, PARHELION, Halo, THUNDER, WATED SPOUT, Winds, Monsoon, HURRICANE, and the like. And as every word printed in capitals is the title of an article treated separately in the Cyclopædia, we must turn backwards and forwards through more than twenty-four references before we come at the detached topics, which we are directed to unite into a system of METEOROLOGY. The number of articles which must be united in the same manner to constitute the Compiler's system of METAPHYSICS is upwards of forty-eight; and those which are referred to THEOLOGI above three hundred !

in one view all the related parts of a subject, they deemed it impossible to convey any thing like complete or philosophical information. They accordingly endeavoured, in so far as their limits would permit, to exhibit a clear and satisfactory account of the several arts and sciences under their proper denominations, and to explain, at the same time, the subordinate articles, under their technical terms. These articles may be divided into three kinds. The first consists of such as, not depending very closely on particular systems, admit of a complete explanation under their proper names; the second, of such as require to be considered in the general account of the sciences with which they are connected, and also under their own denoncinations; and the third, of such as belong to a great whole, from which they cannot be separated, so as to be explained in detail. Articles of the first kind admit, of course, of no references ; those of the second sort, being only partially explained under their own denominations, the reader is referred for more complete information to the article where the subject is more fully illustrated ; and in articles of the third description, no attempt is made to explain them, except in connection with the subjects to which they severally belong, and to which the reader is always therefore referred.

Such is the plan of arrangement adopted in the first, and followed, with some improvements in the detail, throughout every edition of the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA ; and there appears to be no other, by which the great objects of such a work could be so conveniently and completely attained. Indeed, it seems to be now pretty generally admitted, in this country at least, that the best form which can be given of this kind of Dictionary, is that in which the several arts and sciences are digested into treatises, and the various subordinate and detached parts of knowledge explained in the order of the alphabet,

In the first edition of the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, its compilers seem to have intended little more than to furnish a general Dictionary of Arts and Sciences’; but in the succeeding edition, they took a wider range, so as to include the great departments of Geography, History, Biography, and General Literature. In this way, the work was converted into a Pandect and Repository of universal knowledge ; and from three volumes, the form in which it first appeared, has been gradually extended to a size more commensurate to the magnitude and variety of its objects.

Of the first and second editions of this work, and the twelve first volumes of the third, it is understood, that Mr Colin Macfarquhar, one of its original prietors and projectors, was the principal editor. Owing to his death, the remaining six volumes of the third edition were edited by the Reverend Dr Gleig. This gentleman was peculiarly fortunate, in being honoured with the co

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operation of the late Professor John Robison, whose contributions to the latter volumes of that edition were numerous, and tended essentially to enhance the character and utility of the undertaking. The fourth edition was wholly edited by Dr James Miller, under whose superintendence, and with the assistance of several able contributors, the work received a large addition of new articles and treatises in all its departments.

To enumerate all the contributors to a work which has undergone so many changes, and of the compilation of which in its successive stages no record has been preserved, is now beyond any means of information which either the publishers or any others possess. But they can still afford this satisfaction in regard to almost all the more valuable treatises which it contains.

The article Agriculture, which, it seems probable, was originally compiled by the late Mr James Tytler, was re-arranged and improved for the fourth edition by Robert Forsyth, Esq. advocate. The treatise on Anatomy, originally drawn up by Mr Andrew Fyfe of the University of Edinburgh, was revised by Dr Millar. Acoustics, Aerostation, and Gunnery, were compiled by Mr Tytler. The new discoveries in Acoustics and Aerostation were added by Dr Millar. Astronomy, compiled also by Mr Tytler for the third edition, from materials furnished by Mr Jones of London, was more scientifically arranged, with the addition of the later discoveries, for the fourth. Blind was furnished by Dr Blacklock and Dr Moyes. Education, Religion, and Society, were composed by Mr Robert Heron. The lives of Johnson and Mary Queen of Scots, with Instinct, Love, Metaphysics, Miracle, the history of Ethics under Moral Philosophy, Oath, Passion, Plastic Nature, Polytheism, Prayer, Slavery, and Supper of the Lord, were contributed by Dr Gleig; Grammar and Theology by the Reverend James Bruce and Dr Gleig ; and Motion by Dr Gleig and Mr Tytler.' Medicine, originally written by Dr Duncan, senior, of the University of Edinburgh, was revised by him for the fourth edition. The article Music was partly drawn up by Dr Blacklock, and revised for the fourth edition by George Sandy, Esq. The historical part of this article, originally written by William Maxwell Morison, Esq. advocate, was revised and continued down to the publication of the fourth edition, by the same gentleman, who also furnished the treatise on Physiognomy. Mysteries, Mythology, and Philology, were drawn up by the late Dr Doig of the grammar school of Stirling. Navigation, Parallax, Pendulum, Projection of the Sphere, and Ship-Building, were furnished by the late Dr Mackay of Aberdeen. Optics, which was drawn up by Mr Jones, and revised for the third edition by the late Professor Robison, was subjected to another revision for the fourth edition by Dr Brewster. Percussion, Perspective, Philosophy, Physics, Pneumatics,

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