Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The History of South Carolina, From Its First European Discovery to Its Erection into a Republic >> Front Matter >> Preface

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Preface

History | S. Babcock & Co. | 1840
Transcription PREFACE.v

books,-corpulent quartos if possible, but octavos at all
hazards ; and with this ambition they seldom stopped
short at a single volume. It would seem that they re-
garded the size of the work as no imperfect token of the
writer's merit. It followed from this ambition´┐Żan am-
bition which in most cases effectually defeated its own
object-that the quantity of the material furnished but
a very uncertain rule in the construction of the volume.
Its dimensions being arbitrary, what was wanting in
fact was supplied by conjecture, and when conjecture
halted and grew irresolute or blind, opinion came in to her
relief, and between disyssion and declamation, she hob-
bled on through the requisite number of pages to the end
of the chapter. The present age, if less ambitious, and
no wiser, is certainly more economical in this respect.
Small volumes, neat abridgements, and the judicious sep-
aration of subjects, not necessarily connected, into their
proper classes, realizes all the natural energies of a
free press, and places the learning and the wisdom of
the past and the present within the reach of the humblest
and the poorest of mankind.
Cheap literature to the poor is of scarcely less impor-
tance, indeed, than was the discovery of the art of printing
to mankind at large. The chief importance of this
grand discovery, resting entirely on its power for diffusing
knowledge rapidly through the world, it necessarily
follows that the author who makes his book costly
through its cumbrousness, adopts a mode of publication,
which, to a great extent, must defeat the power of
the press. The time occupied in printing, and the ex-
pense of the work when printed, lessen greatly the infi-
nite superiority which the modern printer possesses over
the ancient scribe. We may instance the valuable work
of Johnson, the life of Greene, as incurring, from its plan,
some of these objections and disadvantages. That work
abounds in materials which, properly classified, would
have made a dozen popular volumes. In its present
state, the toil of the reader is continual and great to sep-
arate the narrative from the discussion, which equally