« AnteriorContinuar »
two centuries among us; and therefore it cannot be doubted, but that, as no large collections have been yet made, many curious tracts must have perished; but it is too late to lament that loss ; nor ought we to reflect upon it, with any other view, than that of quickening our endeavours for the preservation of those that yet remain; of which we have now a greater number, than was, perhaps, ever amassed by any one person.
The first appearance of pamphlets among us, is generally thought to be at the new opposition raised against the errors and corruptions of the Church of Rome. Those who were first convinced of the reasonableness of the new learning, as it was then called, propagated their opinions in small pieces, which were cheaply printed; and, what was then of great importance, easily concealed. These treatises were generally printed in foreign countries, and are not, therefore, always very correct. There was not then that opportunity of printing in private; for the number of printers were small, and the presses were easily overlooked by the clergy, who spared no labour or vigilance for the suppression of heresy. There is, however, reason to suspect, that some attempts were made to carry on the propagation of truth by a secret press; for one of the first treatises in favour of the Reformation, is said, at the end, to be printed at Greenwich, by the permission of the Lord of Hosts.
In the time of king Edward the Sixth, the presses were employed in favour of the reformed religion, and small tracts were dispersed over the nation, to reconcile them to the new forms of worship. In this reign, likewise, political pamphlets may be said to have been begun, by the address of the rebels of Devonshire; all which means of propagating the sentiments of the people so disturbed the court, that no sooner was queen Mary resolved to reduce her subjects to the Romish superstition, but she artfully, hy a charter *, granted to certain freemen of London, in whose fidelity, no doubt, she confided, intirely prohibited all presses, but what should be licensed by them; which charter is that by which the corporation of Stationers in London is at this time incorporated.
Under the reign of queen Elizabeth, when liberty again began to flourish, the practice of writing pamphlets became more general; presses were multiplied, and books were dispersed; and, I believe, it may properly be said, that the trade of writing began at that time, and that it has ever since gradually increased in the number, though, perhaps, not in the style of those that followed it.
In this reign was erected the first secret press against the church as now established, of which I have found any certain account. It was employed by the Puritans, and conveyed from one part of the nation to another, by them, as they found themselves in danger of discovery. From this press issued most of the pamphlets against Whitgift and his associates in the ecclesiastical governinent; and, when it was at last seized at Manchester, it was
* Which begins thus, “ Know ye, that We, considering and manifestly perceiving, that several seditious and heretical books or tracts-against the faith and sound catholick doctrine of holy mother, the church," &c.
employed upon a pamphlet called More Work for a Cooper.
In the peaceable reign of king James, those minds which might, perhaps, with less disturbance of the world, have been engrossed by war, were employed in controversy ; and writings of all kinds were multiplied among us. The press, however, was not wholly engaged in polemical performances, for more innocent subjects were sometimes treated ; and it deserves to be remarked, because it is not generally known, that the treatises of Husbandry and Agriculture, which were published about that time, are so numerous, that it can scarcely be imagined by whom they were written, or to whom they were sold.
The next reign is too well known to have been a time of confusion, and disturbance, and disputes of every kind; and the writings which were produced, bear a natural proportion to the number of questions that were discussed at that time; each party had its authors and its presses, and no endeavours were omitted to gain proselytes to every opinion. I know not whether this may not properly be called
The Age of Pamphlets ; for, though they, perhaps, may not arise to such multitudes as Mr. Rawlinson imagined, they were, undoubtedly, more numerous than can be conceived by any who have not had an. opportunity of examining them.
After the Restoration, the same differences, in religious opinions, are well known to have subsisted, and the same political struggles to have been frequently renewed; and, therefore, a great number of pens werc employed, on different occasions, till, at
length, all other disputes were absorbed in the popish controversy.
From the pamphlets which these different periods of time produced, it is proposed, that this Miscellany shall be compiled; for which it cannot be supposed that materials will be wanting; and, therefore, the only difficulty will be in what manner to dispose them.
Those who have gone before us, in undertakings of this kind, have ranged the pamphlets, which chance threw into their hands, without any regard either to the subject on which they treated, or the time in which they were written ; a practice in no wise to be imitated by us, who want for no materials; of which we shall choose those we think best for the particular circumstances of times and things, and most instructing and entertaining to the reader.
Of the different methods which present themselves, upon the first view of the great heaps of pamphlets which the Harleian library exhibits, the two which merit most attention are, to distribute the treatises according to their subjects, or their dates ; but neither of these ways can be conveniently followed. By ranging our collection in order of time, we must necessarily publish those pieces first, which least engage the curiosity of the bulk of mankind; and our design must fall to the ground, for want of encouragement, before it can be so far advanced as to obtain general regard: by confining ourselves for any long time to any single subject, we shall reduce our readers to one class; and, as we shall lose all the grace of variety, shall disgust all those who read chiefly to be diverted. There is likewise
one objection of equal force, against both these methods, that we shall preclude ourselves from the advantage of any future discoveries; and we cannot hope to assemble at once all the pamphlets which have been written in any age, or on any subject.
It may be added, in vindication of our intended practice, that it is the same with that of Photius, whose collections are no less miscellaneous than ours; and who declares, that he leaves it to his reader, to reduce his extracts under their proper heads.
Most of the pieces which shall be offered in this collection to the publick, will be introduced by short prefaces in which will be given some account of the reasons, for which they are inserted; notes will be sometimes adjoined, for the explanation of obscure passages, or obsolete expressions; and care will be taken to mingle use and pleasure through the whole collection. Notwithstanding every subject may not be relished by every reader; yet the buyer may be assured that each number will repay his generous subscription.