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Perhaps about other characteristics a devotee of the paleontological branch of geology has the next claim, in virtue of its being a matter of importance that the animal's remains have or have not been found in certain stratifications. Leather next comes in; for sheepskin, though abhorred of all bookcollectors, has an important place in the leather market. Perhaps one of the most curious machines in existence is one for splitting sheepskins, for the purpose of converting them into material for making kid gloves. Taking a long stride, we come to the political economist and the ethnical philosopher, who have a great deal to say about nomad tribes, and about the influence of converting cottage-holdings into sheepwalks. We are not yet done with the claimants. Perhaps pastoral poetry may put in a modest request for consideration. Eikonography will put in a large one, for the agnus is there almost supreme. Then there is heraldry, where we may have to deal with a mouton or, passant regardant. There is a systematic work on the heraldry of fishes. Whether there be or not, impartiality dictates that there ought to be such a work on the heraldry of quadrupeds.
There still remains a department, and that by no means the least important. The late illustrious cook, Eustace Oude, in his introductory remarks on his great work, remarked that no man was more dependent on the proper cultivation of his art, or under deeper obligations for the triumphs he had himself accomplished in it, than those persons who, because they happened to be distinguished in other arts or sciences, thought proper to speak disparagingly of his. He complained especially that he had been compelled to undergo the drudgery of acquiring the English language for the purpose of rendering his chief work known to the English people, because it had been translated by a gentleman who, holding the commission of a gene
ral in the army, must be supposed to have been acquainted with his own profession, but who showed by his blundering translation that he knew nothing whatever of his, M. Oude's. His pupil, the genial Soyer, took up the same tone. His practice was in the high arts, and he added to it what great artists have sometimes done-the recording of his own practice of his art, in literature. The sheep has a large part in it. As has been well remarked, our language presents an enduring memorial of the difference between the Norman and the Saxon in the French derivation of the flesh which comes to the table, and the Saxon name of the animal which had to be herded by the son of the soil. Mutton it is, in M. Oude's and M. Soyer's nomenclature; but still it is, both in science and common British phraseology, of or belonging to the sheep.
There stands for discussion the question, whether the proper kind of encyclopædia is that which teaches the fundamental parts of all branches of knowledge, or is that which merely gives one an immediate explanation of all things in heaven and earth in alphabetical order? Perhaps the settlement of this, as of many like questions, may be, that each is good of its kind, and for its own purposes. The scholar and investigator does not, perhaps, consider the purposes for which other persons desire an encyclopædia. They look to it as to a complete library of all knowledge, certified under a competent authority to be sound. They are men with their hands and heads full of practical affairs during the chief hours of their life; they have not time, therefore, to pick and choose among the best instructors in the various departments of human knowledge, but they wish to have it in their power to dip into chemistry, electricity, geology, and other weighty portions of knowledge, and to get at them in perfection, with the latest intelligence and in the best shape. The Encyclopædia
Britannica' professes to supply them with this, and they take it. Instead of wandering at large among books, the sufficiency and accuracy of which they are unable to estimate, they have here each element of knowledge laid before them, perhaps, by an author whose name is a sufficient guarantee for his matter at all events, by one whom the editor has guaranteed to be competent to his task.
On the other hand, the reader with a large library, with special favourites of his own in the departments in which he reads, will prefer something that approaches nearer to the dictionary-something that readily supplies him with names, dates, and other reminiscences, and tells him where to turn for fuller particulars. A work like the Penny Cyclopædia' is the one for him, if he can get over the dignified scholar's objection to its plebeian name. This, we have no doubt, has been much against its influence in the educated and consequential world. In fact, it is one of the few instances of a book which, instead of beginning with pompous professions which were not fulfilled, enlarged on the humble intentions of those who commenced it. It happened, in fact, to fall into the hands of two enthusiasts, Charles Knight and George Long. It was intended to be a mere light popular work, skimming science and literature for penny purchasers; but it was made a scholarly work, in which some of the ablest men of the day in their special departments partook.
But it is possible to come still nearer to the notion of the mere dictionary of general knowledge. Of all works of this class, indeed of all works of reference generally, commend us to the Dictionary of Trevoux, that wondrous magazine of learning and variety. Unlike the cold methodical instructors which we dip into for what we want, and jump out of again as fast as possible,
the Trevoux is positively seductive, and we linger about it to the detriment of our progress with the matter in hand. It is like a garden full of varied and well-flavoured fruits. You try one after another; all are excellent, and you cannot go away when you should. Here we have learning and science all in their proper place. But besides that, we have quaint superstitions, proverbs, mots, provincial customs, and anecdotes of all kinds. It seems strange that a book, dealing in so lively a manner with the world, should have come forth from the secluded retreat of a body of ecclesiastics but then they were Jesuits, and consequently bound to know everything past and present—ay, and future, if they could.
Trevoux is the name of a small town on the banks of the Saone. It is well to keep this in view, because lately, in a professedly very learned quarter-no matter where -we saw mention made of the works of Bayle, Moreri, and Trevoux. Of the method in which the dictionary became enriched Isaac D'Israeli gives this pleasant account "The work in the progress of a century evidently became a favourite receptacle with men of letters in France, who eagerly contributed the smallest or largest articles with a zeal honourable to literature and most useful to the public. They made this dictionary their commonplace-book for all their curious acquisitions; every one competent to write a short article, preserving an important fact, did not aspire to complete the dictionary, or even an entire article in it; but it was a treasure in which such mites collected together formed its wealth." *
The work, by the way, which in our esteem has at the present day the greatest resemblance to the Trevoux, has turned up under a title, the popular tenor of which would not have led us to expect itChambers's Encyclopædia of Use
Curiosities of Literature,' iii. 231.
ful Knowledge for the People.' There are some things in it apt to prejudice one against it as the woodcuts tending more to decoration than exposition, and the introduction of the lives of contemporary persons. But, for all that, it is a compendium of learned and curious matter widely varied. This is to be attributed to the sagacious choice which the publishers have made in putting it into the hands of Mr Andrew Findlater as editor. The secret of his success is, that he is a genial scholar with a large circle of friends, who like him for his accurate and extensive learning and for his good-fellowship. He keeps his eye upon the special qualities of every person he is brought in contact with, and draws virtue out of him. Thus, instead of being elaborately compiled by dunces, the brief notice of perhaps a dozen lines, treating of some recondite matter, has been dropped to him in a note from the man of all others best acquainted with the matter on which it deals. The thing is easily done, and the man has a pleasant way with him which baffles refusal. Hence, like the Trevoux, the work he superintends is becoming a treasury in which such mites of learning brought together form the wealth. It is an instance of how much may be done for the world by the selection for such a charge of a man who will not make it a drudgery, but a pursuit and pride. It was thus that Leers, a Dutch publisher, selected Peter Bayle to be the editor of the dictionary which he projected.
Two departments have been accustomed by long usage to start off from the encyclopædia and demand complete systems of their own - geography and biography. These are essentially distinct in character. Geography retains the character originally given to the encyclopædia, as a system in which all the parts converge to one centre. Every province is part of a country, every country is part of a quarter,
and the four quarters make the world. In biography, however, every man is on his own hook, as the saying is. There are events in which more than one man has partaken, and in which one man has been leader, and others the mere assistants; and some method of reference may be necessary in such instances to prevent repetition. But still all the actors, high and low, have separate individualitiesCalais and Bordeaux are parts of France, but Pichegru and Ney were not parts of Napoleon, however much their destinies may have depended on him.
Hence there is more reason for a systematic mind in a geographical than in a biographical work of reference. The influence of this seems to have shown itself in the quarters whence such works have come. The French are naturally good biographers. Their memoirs, in which no other literature approaches theirs, are the essence of readable biographical literature. There may be questions as to what nation has produced the very best biographical work, but there can be none that the best collections of biographies are the French. On the other hand, the Germans, who feel themselves nothing if not philosophical and systematic, seem to shun biography in the bulk. We are aware of no good general biographical dictionary in their language, though we have no right to deny that there may be such a thing. Their craving after logical completeness, however, must be sadly outraged in such a work. They cannot round off biographies, as they may other departments of knowledge, by merging the particulars in the generalities. Every man is a separate unit, entitled to be heard. However large may be the number and extensive the class embraced within a biographical dictionary, there will still be many outside who are not separated by any broad and distinct line from the favoured names.
It is characteristic that in a Ger
man book we have the most complete specimen of a biographical dictionary extant, but it is limited to authors. This is the 'Allgemaines Gelehrten Lexicon' of Jöcher, with its supplement by Adelung, the great lexicographer-a supplement which is more valuable than the book to which it is appended. It gives an extremely brief record of each author, with a list of his publications; and the titles of these are given with extreme skill, so as amply to identify each book without giving place to the prolixities in which demonstrative authors sometimes indulge. It has hardly ever been known that a person has gone to this lexicon for anything within what it professes to give, and come away disappointed. But alas for human aspirations after perfection! it is incomplete-the supplemental author having died in letter R.
This leads us to the consideration of a gross injustice perpetrated by the alphabeticals in general, and especially by the biographical class, which, in casting a slight on certain initials, casts a slight also on the persons they represent. It scarcely ever happens, owing to the kind of pressure already adverted to, and to several other causes, that the editor of an alphabetical gives his concluding articles the same space in proportion to their claims as he gives to the early. After a time he feels that he is getting beyond bounds, and has to pull in ever tighter and tighter to the close. The Germans, in their ingenious systematisation, have tried a remedy for this. The great lexicon published by Ersch and Gruber, and steadily marching on to the filling of some three hundred quarto volumes, follows an alphabet split in two places, so that three parts go on simultaneously. A to G is in the hand of one editor, with a group of followers, H to P has another, and R to the rest of the alphabet has a third. The effect of this arrangement must be de
cidedly in favour of this third estate of the alphabet, which, in other instances, exhausted editors have got through any way, hustling them up together in a sort of ruck, like the common toasts at a festival after the orators have done and the great folks departed.
But the lower grades of the alphabet are subject to a more serious calamity still. Many ambitious works break down before reaching them.
This calamity overtook the earliest dictionary—that of Photius, which stopped at R. We have already referred to such a catastrophe having overtaken Adelung's supplement to Jöcher. The great
Biographica Britannica of Dr Kippis only reached letter F. A still more signal failure overtook the effort of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge to make the best biographical dictionary in the world. A magnificent work it certainly would have been. There exists a fragment of it, sometimes perhaps to be contemplated by the scholar with admiration at the grandeur of the design, as the sculptor has looked at the Torso, or the archeologist at the Cathedral of Cologne, only the literary fragment bears a far smaller proportion to the design. It consists of seven octavo volumes, very closely printed; and how far do they reach ? The length of letter A-no farther. If this fragment be compared with the Biographie Universelle' or the 'Biographie Générale,' which now hold, as rivals, the foremost place in their class, the superiority of the English work in completeness and compactness becomes at once conspicuous. It was put under the management of Mr George Long, a ripe scholar, a good organiser, and a strict disciplinarian. It is said that his troops felt a sort of relief when their functions came to a premature conclusion. A sense of duty, and an emulous desire to co-operate and to bring the work up to the high standard which he had set, kept them at their work dog
gedly; but it was not of the kind which satisfied the popular pen, or even the philosophical and meditative. All flowers of rhetoric and sentiment were nipped in the bud, to leave room for dates, places, and the titles of books. Every attempt at an excursion on a favourite hobby was stopped at the outset. In a work which threatened to spread beyond two hundred considerable volumes there might surely, it was supposed, be a corner for storing away a few judicious reflections beside the hard facts which the compiler had to gather up with pains and labour; but the luxury was no more to be permitted than a dangerous indulgence to a soldier on the march. We can recall an instance of the very absolute manner in which the general disciplined all who came under his command, whether regular troops or volunteers. A scholar, whose studies ran in a peculiar and rather narrow line, had set before him as his idol another who had preceded him in the same school of inquiry. He had spent some appreciable part of his life in collecting materials for a biography of his master. It was a project in which no enlightened publisher had experienced an excessive eagerness to embark. The advantage of incorporating into itself a memoir, enriched with all the original and exclusive information so collected, was offered to the new project if a suitable space could be spared. He was told that, in the special circumstances, some allowance would be made, and that he would be permitted to occupy a full half page instead of being restricted to a few lines!
For the great leaders of the world, however, there was reserved space enough to tell the source and nature of their influence, and in the division of labour these elements might be given to a special student of them, while the affair of dates and the sequence of actions were put into the hands of one trained in the systematic method of the book.
The pains taken to obtain the services of those who had become adepts in specialties was worthy of the ambitious character of the work. For instance, in the article "Aristotle," the knowledge of Trendelenburg, the great German apostle of the Aristotelian logic, was secured. He wrote it in German, and the editor translated it into English. Like Adelung, the editor aimed at completeness in the literary department, the only one admitting of a fixed criterion. Every man charged, on reliable grounds, with having written a book, was to be there, however summarily dismissed, and this would have made a universal bibliography as well as biography. The illustrious families, not monarchs, but sufficiently important to have put their mark on history, were to have been grouped, those which diverged into separate names and titles being referred to under the parent stem. This was the plan adopted in Moreri's Dictionary, and is the only way to let us see what such families as the Borgias, the Guises, and the Montmorencies actually were. Isolated from the rest, many members of such houses had not distinction enough to be worthy of separate record, but as items they went to make up the importance of the house, therefore the house was the thing to be recorded in a work professing to deal only with what was remarkable and worthy of the world's remembrance.
But, like the Great Eastern, the project was too large and complicated to be floated with the means at the disposal of the projectors. The editor left the helm, with a growl that the class who would be expected to give welcome aid to such a book preferred spending their superfluous money on plush and shoulder-knots. Whether such a book is ever to be completed in the English language or not, it will not be attempted again speedily after the warning from the past. Mr Murray of Albemarle Street, looking at the large lines on which