A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels - Volume 18 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 801 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels.

It may be said, however, that this objection can easily be obviated, by distinguishing such works as are bad or indifferent from such as are good, either by a short notice, or by a particular mark.  The first plan necessarily must increase the size of the catalogue; and it really appears a piece of superfluous labour to introduce works not worthy to be perused, and then, either by a notice or mark, to warn the reader from the perusal of them.  Is it not much more direct to omit such works altogether?

As the object in view in the present catalogue is to render it useful to the generality of readers, and not valuable to the bibliographer, those works are omitted which have no other recommendation but their extreme scarcity.  For such works are of course accessible only to very few, and when obtained, convey little interest or information.

A select catalogue then appears to be the most useful, and of course must occupy less room.  But to this objections start up, which it will be proper to consider.

In the first place, What is the criterion of good works of voyages and travels?  The antiquarian will not allow merit to such as pass over, or do not enter, con amore, and at great length, into the details of the antiquities of a country:  the natural historian is decidedly of opinion, that no man ought to travel who is not minutely and accurately acquainted with every branch of his favourite science, and complains that scarcely a single work of travels is worthy of purchase or perusal, because natural history is altogether omitted in them, or treated in a popular and superficial manner.  Even those who regard man as the object to which travellers ought especially to direct their attention, differ in opinion regarding the points of view in which he ought to be studied in foreign countries.  To many the travels of Johnson and Moore seem of the highest merit and interest, because these authors place before their readers an animated, philosophical, and vivid picture of the human character; whereas other readers consider such works as trifling, and contend that those travels alone, which enter into the statistics of a country, convey substantial information, and are worthy of perusal.

Whoever draws up a catalogue, therefore, must, in some measure, consult the judgment, taste, and peculiar studies of all these classes of readers, and endeavour to select the best works of travels in all these branches.

But there is a second objection to a select catalogue to be considered.  The information and research of the person who draws it up may be inadequate to the task, or his judgment may be erroneous.  This observation, however, applies to a complete catalogue—­indeed the first part of it,—­the information and research requisite, in a greater degree to a complete than to a select catalogue; and with respect to the judgment required, it will be equally required in a complete catalogue, if the bad and indifferent works are distinguished from the good ones; and if they are not, such a catalogue, we have already shewn, can only lead astray into unnecessary or prejudicial reading.

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