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By means of the system of instruction introduced into the seminary, for the use of which the former works of the same series were primarily compiled, a much larger proportion of the pupils were enabled to read and understand the most advanced of those works, than had been at all anticipated at the time of its publication. It became desirable, therefore, to furnish the older scholars with an additional book, which might afford them more interest and information, than could be expected from the continued perusal of those, with which they were already familiar. This desideratum, accord. ingly, the compiler was requested to supply: and such a request, proceeding from the quarter, on every account, best entitled to attention, in all matters connected with that institution, met with a ready compliance upon
his part. In the execution of the humble, but perhaps not altogether unimportant, task committed to him, he has been, in a great measure, guided by the following considerations. Keeping in view the age of the children, whose benefit was, on the present occasion, contemplated, the previous training which their minds had undergone,—and the extent of information, which, under this discipline, they had already acquired and displayed, he was induced to think, that the work now called for, in order to be of material service to such pupils, should be of a somewhat higher cast than those which preceded it; and might well embrace instructive subjects, which would have been extremely ill adapted, either to the understanding, or the taste of more infantine and less practised minds. It is with no view, accordingly, to those initiatory schools, which are left by the pupils at an early age, in order that they may commence their classical studies elsewhere, that the present work has been undertaken. It was intended, in the first place, for the use of the Fdinburgh Sessional School, and of those other semijaries, such as the parish schools, where the youth renain beyond that period of life, and not unfrequently receive all the education to which they are permitted to aspire. It was hoped, too, that it might be found of service in those classes which are opened for more advanced readers, who might thus, along with their usual instruction in the knowledge of history, geography, and the arts of reading and grammar, acquire, at the same time, a little more general information, and, what is still more important, a taste for the acquirement of such information. The plan, likewise, seems to fall in with what, it is hoped, will be found a most important improvement in modern education, the system recently introduced into our most celebrated classical seminaries, of combining English reading and general instruction with the other studies of the pupils. Young persons, also, to whom it is not prescribed as a school-book, may perhaps derive from this selection entertainment as well as instruction: this object, at least, has been kept in view, and, without wandering into the regions of fiction, attention has been paid to the gratification of the peculiar tastes of that period of life.--In order to ensure the articles being all level to the capacities of those, for whom they are intended, not one of them, which appeared at all of doubtful adaptation, has been admitted, without having been put to the test of rigid experiment. The scientific articles, in particular, were all of them repeatedly read over in manuscript, to the highest class of the Sessional School, who, at the same time, underwent a most minute and strict examination upon the subjects contained in them; and every article, which was found at all obscure, was immediately rejected, or else modified for the purpose of rendering it more generally intelligible and useful. It was principally with a view to this object that the compiler found it advisable to draw up these articles himself, rather than implicitly to adopt (as he originally intended) extracts from other publications. All those articles, accordingly, which have no author's name annexed to them, or are not marked as anonymous, are of this description. To originality, indeed, few of them have the very slightest claim. Those who are acquainted with that excellent work, “ Conversations on Natural Philosophy,” will at once perceive how much the articles on that subject, in the present volume, are indebted to the valuable labours of Mrs Marcet.-With regard to those articles, which expressly bear to have been taken from other works, it is necessary, in justice to the authors, to explain, that, in order to adapt them to the present purpose, it has been found necessary, on many occasions, to take the greatest liberties, and to make very considerable alterations. Some are mere abridgments; in others, besides abridgment, the order of the passages has been altered ; and sometimes notes have been thrown into the text.-In the selection of articles for the present purpose, no use has, on any occasion, been made of former compilations. Several of the poetical extracts, indeed, the compiler was, from the first, aware, had appeared in former collections, as they probably will do in all subsequent
Of the prose extracts, he, at the time, knew only of one, (that on" the Division of Labour,") which stood in this situation. But on examining the proofsheets, his friends have pointed out one or two more, to which they think the same observation applies, though he himself was quite unaware of it. For a few articles never before published, he feels himself very deeply indebted to their contributors, well knowing that they cannot fail to be esteemed a valuable addition to his volume.--In justice to himself, he is called upon to add, that, neither at the time of planning nor of executing the present undertaking, (with the exception of the latter part of it,) was be in the slightest degree aware, that any other work upon similar principles was in contemplation. One indeed, somewhat resembling the present, has lately made its appearance. Of that work, however, he had never heard the slightest surmise, till the day of its actual publication. For many months previously to that period, the whole of the articles, which particularly distinguish the present from former school collections, had not only been written, but had also been in use in the seminary formerly referred to, while yet in manuscript; and had, moreover, been announced to the visiters on public days, as composing part of a new school-book, then in preparation for the press.