Whoever draws up a catalogue, or gives to the public a work on any particular subject, is bound to make it as good as he can; but, after all, he must not expect that there will be no difference of opinion about his labours. Some will think (to confine ourselves to the catalogue) that he has admitted books that ought not to have found a place in it; whereas others will impeach his diligence, his information, or his judgment, because he has omitted books which they think ought to have entered into it. All, therefore, that a person who engages to draw up a catalogue can do, is to exercise and apply as much research and judgment as possible, and to request his readers, if they find general proofs of such research and judgment, to attribute the omission of what they think ought to have been inserted, or the insertion of what they think ought to have been omitted, to difference of opinion, rather than to a deficiency in research or judgment.
It may be proper to remark, with regard to the principle of selection pursued, that many works are admitted which do not bear the title of travels; this has been done, wherever, though not under that title, they are the result of the actual travels and observations, or enquiries of the authors. The form into which information respecting the agriculture, manufactures, commerce, antiquities, natural history, manners, &c. of foreign countries is cast, or the title under which it is communicated to the world, is obviously of little consequence, provided the information is not merely compiled by a stranger to the country, and is accurate and valuable. Such works, however, as are avowedly written for scientific purposes, and for the exclusive use of scientific men, and are consequently confined to scientific researches and information conveyed in the peculiar language of the science, are omitted.
So much for the plan on which this catalogue has been drawn up. Before we proceed to explain the arrangement pursued, it may be proper to make a few remarks on some intermediate points. One advantage of a select catalogue over a complete one is, that it occupies less room. With the same object in view, only the title in the original language is given where there is no translation of the work into the English or French; only translations into English or French are noticed, where such exist, and not the original work; and all the articles are numbered, so that a short and easy reference may be made from one article to another.
Room is thus evidently saved, and not, in our opinion, by any sacrifice of utility. For German or Spanish scholars it is unnecessary to translate the titles of German or Spanish books, and for the mere English scholar it is useless. Translations into the French are noticed in preference to the original, because this language is at present familiar to every literary man in Britain, and French works can easily be obtained; and the German or Spanish scholar, who wishes to obtain and peruse the original, can be at no loss to procure it from the translated title. The advantage of numbering the articles will be immediately explained in treating of the arrangement.