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AFTER a delay, or rather preparation, of nearly three years, the first volume of a new edition of the Typographical Antiquities of Great Britain is presented to the public. The great quantity of introductory matter, and the appearance of only one printer, in the ensuing pages, may excite an apprehension that the work will be extended considerably beyond the limits originally assigned to it, and that, in consequence, the Subscribers (if they choose to continue their support) will be burthened with an expense which they had no intention of incurring. But, copious as may be the manner in which the works printed by Caxton have been described, and numerous as may be the engraved Illustrations to this and the following volumes, the Editor has no fear of subjecting his Subscribers to the inconvenience just anticipated.
In the present instance, it has been deemed necessary to lay a broad basis for making the Typographical and Literary Annals of our own country as complete as possible; while the fac-similes of Engravings, with which printed works are adorned, may exhibit a pleasing outline of the rise and progress of the sister art in the same country.
The Life of our first Printer, in which (with the exception of about a dozen irrelevant and erroneous pages) the whole of LEWIS's Life of Caxton has been included, accompanied with numerous bibliographical notes, has occupied a much larger space than will be assigned to similar matter in the subsequent volumes. This biography has been preceded by a Preliminary Disquisition,' which the Editor hopes will be considered in the light of a useful, as well as elegant, vestibule to the building with which it is connected. In reprinting the Prefaces of Ames and Herbert, such notes have been subjoined as appeared to give additional interest to the original pieces. For the Memoirs of the former, the Editor, like his immediate predecessor, has been indebted to the diligent pen of the late Mr. Gough. For the scantiness of the Memoirs of Herbert, it would be necessary to apologise, were not every sensible reader well apprised of the difficulty of collecting accurate materials for the biography of persons even more recently deceased; and did they not also reflect, that the events in the lives of studious and secluded characters, afford little scope for an entertaining and varied narrative.
There is one point in which it is conceived this work will be considered, by resolute lovers of black-letter antiquity, exceedingly vulnerable; and that is, in having generally adopted the modern orthography for the ancient. If the phraseology of Caxton were thereby altered and injured— if our venerable typographer were made to speak in a different style, and the character of his compositions were
totally changed in consequence—perhaps hardly any censure would be too severe for such an innovation! But, it is respectfully submitted, Caxton is here made to write in the very same language which he himself wrote-except that, in some few instances, 'nor' may have been substituted for 'ne,' and' understand' for 'understanden.' This, it is hoped, is the very head and front' of the Editor's offending.'
The reader may be assured that the dress of our first Printer is not so completely changed, as he may imagine, into the costume of the 19th century: unless taking the tarnish from his lace, and the dust from his coat, be deemed such an alteration. However, that the aforesaid resolute lovers of black-letter antiquity' may not be wholly disappointed, and that the capricious* and unsettled state of ancient orthography may be indisputably manifest, the titles and colophons of the books printed by Caxton, together with the prologues and epilogues of the English History of Troy (vide p. 16, post.) are printed with scrupulous adherence to the ancient mode. The poetical extracts are also uniformly thus printed, because the ancient mode of spelling seems necessary to preserve the quantity of the verse. The other extracts are given in modern orthography; preserving the character of the word, whether French or Latin: by this means it is hoped that Caxton may be rendered an interesting, and somewhat popular, author.
It is not uncommon to find the words 'book' and 'work' spelled four different ways in the same page. The word 'Westminster' is equally varied by Caxton.
In fine, the Editor can honestly assure his readers, that neither pains, labour, nor expense have been spared—in visiting the two Universities, and other public repositories of books—and in the number and variety of plates—(which have increased far beyond the original design) to render this volume deserving of their approbation, and of the auspices under which it is published. A great deal of curious and apposite matter has been thrown into the notes, in order to avoid swelling the book to an unnecessary size. If the letter of the text had been more generally adopted, and the work had been printed in the modern broad-margin style, the reader need not be told that two volumes would hardly have contained the matter which is here submitted to his consideration.
In the GENERAL PREFACE,' to be published with the last volume, the Editor will not fail to express the particular obligations he has been under to those literary friends and acquaintances, who have assisted him with information in the course of his arduous undertaking: an undertaking, the nature and end of which he has endeavoured fully to comprehend, and rationally to anticipate: towards the creditable completion of which, much time, care, and labour are requisite, with no small portion of health and animal spirits. The latter are in the dispensation of Providence: the former it is in human power to manage and apply. To worthy and impartial men in particular,’* as Hearne has observed, this appeal, as well as
*["hominibus speciatim bonis, minusque corruptis ac partibus deditis] Johannes de Trokelowe. Præfat. p. xvi.
this undertaking, is submitted.
Nos (continues* the same amiable antiquary) in studio veritatis ac antiquitatis horas collocemus, nobiscumque præclare agi putemus, si in hujusmodi nostris conatibus utile quod sit invenerint eruditi.'
Kensington, December 23, 1809.
Ejusd. Operis. Præfat. p. xvi, xviii.
T. F. D.