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It is now forty years since CHAMBERS'S INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE first issued from the press. The cheapness of the work, its novelty, and the varied mass of useful knowledge which was embraced, rendered it a popular favourite. Without adventitious aid, its sale was immense. Since that time it has undergone numerous improvements both as regards matter and general appearance. Again, from the constant and rapid advance in every branch of science and art, it has been deemed necessary to recast the work in adaptation to the existing state of human knowledge. Hence the present, or FIFTH EDITION, which has been revised under the able Editorship of ANDREW FINDLATER, LL.D.
Designed in an especial manner for the People, though adapted for all classes, the work will be found to comprise those subjects on which information is of the most importance ; such as the more interesting branches of science-physical, mathematical, and moral; natural history, political history, geography, and literature; together with a few miscellaneous papers, which seem to be called for by peculiar circumstances affecting the British people. Thus everything is given that is requisite for a generally well informed man in the less highly educated portions of society, and nothing omitted appertaining to intellectual cultivation, excepting subjects of professional or local interest. It will be understood, then, that the INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE is not an encyclopædia, in the comprehensive meaning of the word, but rather one embracing only the more important departments of general knowledge. The ruling object, indeed, has been to afford the means of self-education, and to introduce into the mind, thus liberated and expanded, a craving after still further advancement.
It may well be said of the present edition, as was said of the last, that the improvements are very considerable. The scientific treatises have, in general, been carefully remodelled, with due attention to recent discoveries. Subjects the interest of which is past have been omitted or greatly condensed, and others of a more enduring and important nature have taken their place. In the Indexes will be found a reference to almost every subject necessary in ordinary circumstances to be known.
In one important respect--that of the pictorial illustrations and embellishments-it must be obvious, to the most cursory observation, that a very great improvement has been effected.