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PREFACE TO ROLT'S DICTIONARY2.
No expectation is more fallacious than that which authors form of the reception which their labours will find among mankind. Scarcely any man publishes a book, whatever it be, without believing that he has caught the moment when the publick attention is vacant to his call, and the world is disposed, in a particular manner, to learn the art which he undertakes to teach.
The writers of this volume are not so far exempt from epidemical prejudices, but that they, likewise, please themselves with imagining that they have reserved their labours to a propitious conjuncture, and that this is the proper time for the publication of a dictionary of com
The predictions of an author are very far from infallibility; but, in justification of some degree of confidence, it may be properly observed, that there was never, from the earliest ages, a time in which trade so much engaged the attention of mankind, or commercial gain was sought with such general emulation. Nations which have hitherto cultivated no art but that of war, nor conceived any means of increasing riches but by plunder, are awakened to more inoffensive industry. Those whom the possession of subterraneous treasures have long disposed to accommodate themselves by foreign industry, are at last convinced that idleness never will be rich. The merchant is now invited to every port; manufactures are established in all cities; and princes, who just can view the sea from some single corner of their dominions, are enlarging harbours, erecting
A new Dictionary of Trade and Commerce, compiled from the information of the most eminent merchants, and from the works of the best writers on commercial subjects in all languages, by Mr. Rolt. Folio, 1757.
mercantile companies, and preparing to traffick in the remotest countries.
Nor is the form of this work less popular than the subject. It has lately been the practice of the learned to range knowledge by the alphabet, and publish dictionaries of every kind of literature. This practice has, perhaps, been carried too far by the force of fashion. Sciences, in themselves systematical and coherent, are not very properly broken into such fortuitous distributions. A dictionary of arithmetick or geometry can serve only to confound; but commerce, considered in its whole extent, seems to refuse any other method of arrangement, as it comprises innumerable particulars unconnected with each other, among which there is no reason why any should be first or last, better than is furnished by the letters that compose their names.
We cannot, indeed, boast ourselves the inventors of a scheme so commodious and comprehensive. The French, among innumerable projects for the promotion of traffick, have taken care to supply their merchants with a Dictionnaire de Commerce, collected with great industry and exactness, but too large for common use, and adapted to their own trade. This book, as well as others, has been carefully consulted, that our merchants may not be ignorant of any thing known by their enemies or rivals.
Such, indeed, is the extent of our undertaking, that it was necessary to solicit every information, to consult the living and the dead. The great qualification of him that attempts a work thus general is diligence of inquiry. No man has opportunity or ability to acquaint himself with all the subjects of a commercial dictionary, so as to describe from his own knowledge, or assert on his own experience. He must, therefore, often depend upon the veracity of others, as every man depends in common life, and have no other skill to boast than that of selecting judiciously, and arranging properly.
But to him who considers the extent of our subject, limited only by the bounds of nature and of art, the task
of selection and method will appear sufficient to overburden industry and distract attention. Many branches of commerce are subdivided into smaller and smaller parts, till, at last, they become so minute, as not easily to be noted by observation. Many interests are so woven among each other, as not to be disentangled without long inquiry; many arts are industriously kept secret, and many practices, necessary to be known, are carried on in parts too remote for intelligence.
But the knowledge of trade is of so much importance to a maritime nation, that no labour can be thought great by which information may be obtained; and, therefore, we hope the reader will not have reason to complain, that, of what he might justly expect to find, any thing is omitted.
To give a detail or analysis of our work is very difficult; a volume intended to contain whatever is requisite to be known by every trader, necessarily becomes so miscellaneous and unconnected, as not to be easily reducible to heads; yet, since we pretend in some measure to treat of traffick as a science, and to make that regular and systematical which has hitherto been, to a great degree, fortuitous and conjectural, and has often succeeded by chance rather than by conduct, it will be proper to show that a distribution of parts has been attempted, which, though rude and inadequate, will, at least, preserve some order, and enable the mind to take a methodical and successive view of this design.
In the dictionary which we here offer to the publick, we propose to exhibit the materials, the places, and the means of traffick.
The materials or subjects of traffick are whatever is bought and sold, and include, therefore, every manufacture of art, and almost every production of nature.
In giving an account of the commodities of nature, whether those which are to be used in their original state, as drugs and spices, or those which become useful when they receive a new form from human art, as flax, cotton, and metals, we shall show the places of their production,
the manner in which they grow, the art of cultivating or collecting them, their discriminations and varieties, by which the best sorts are known from the worse, and genuine from fictitious, the arts by which they are counterfeited, the casualties by which they are impaired, and the practices by which the damage is palliated or concealed. We shall, likewise, show their virtues and uses, and trace them through all the changes which they undergo.
The history of manufactures is, likewise, delivered. Of every artificial commodity the manner in which it is made is, in some measure, described, though it must be remembered, that manual operations are scarce to be conveyed by any words to him that has not seen them. Some general notions may, however, be afforded: it is easy to comprehend, that plates of iron are formed by the pressure of rollers, and bars by the strokes of a hammer; that a cannon is cast, and that an anvil is forged. But, as it is to most traders of more use to know when their goods are well wrought, than by what means, care has been taken to name the places where every manufacture has been carried furthest, and the marks by which its excellency may be ascertained.
By the places of trade, are understood all ports, cities, or towns, where staples are established, manufactures are wrought, or any commodities are bought and sold advantageously. This part of our work includes an enumeration of almost all the remarkable places in the world, with such an account of their situation, customs, and products, as the merchant would require, who, being to begin a new trade in any foreign country, was yet ignorant of the commodities of the place, and the manners of the inhabitants.
But the chief attention of the merchant, and, consequently, of the author who writes for merchants, ought to be employed upon the means of trade, which include all the knowledge and practice necessary to the skilful and successful conduct of commerce.
The first of the means of trade is proper education, which may confer a competent skill in numbers; to be
afterwards completed in the counting-house, by observation of the manner of stating accounts, and regulating books, which is one of the few arts which, having been studied in proportion to its importance, is carried as far as use can require. The counting-house of an accomplished merchant is a school of method, where the great science may be learned of ranging particulars under generals, of bringing the different parts of a transaction together, and of showing, at one view, a long series of dealing and exchange. Let no man venture into large business while he is ignorant of the method of regulating books; never let him imagine that any degree of natural abilities will enable him to supply this deficiency, or preserve multiplicity of affairs from inextricable confusion.
This is the study, without which all other studies will be of little avail; but this alone is not sufficient. It will be necessary to learn many other things, which, however, may be easily included in the preparatory institutions, such as an exact knowledge of the weights and measures of different countries, and some skill in geography and navigation, with which this book may, perhaps, sufficiently supply him.
In navigation, considered as part of the skill of a merchant, is included not so much the art of steering a ship, as the knowledge of the seacoast, and of the different parts to which his cargoes are sent; the customs to be paid; the passes, permissions, or certificates to be procured; the hazards of every voyage, and the true rate of insurance. To this must be added, an acquaintance with the policies and arts of other nations, as well those to whom the commodities are sold, as of those who carry goods of the same kind to the same market; and who are, therefore, to be watched as rivals endeavouring to take advantage of every errour, miscarriage, or debate.
The chief of the means of trade is money, of which our late refinements in traffick have made the knowledge extremely difficult. The merchant must not only inform