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Nec sane aut nunc me pudeat, aut in posterum unquam pudebit, dum prodesse multis possum, etiam culpam prodere meam, quam nec aliis occupationibus, nec festinationi etiam librariorum imputem. Homo sum. Egnatius in præf. Script. hist. Aug. Venet. 1516. 8°.
WHEN an individual prefixes to his work the title of a general bibliographical dictionary, he at least lays claim to some merit. I have exposed myself to the charge of doing this, in order to explain clearly the principle on which my undertaking is founded, and also the method in which a work should be executed, which would really deserve such a title.
Bibliography in its wider extent is the codex diplomaticus of literary history, and the most certain means of ascertaining the state of literature; it is only when confined by a scientific, chronological, or national view, which does not concern us in this place, that it becomes a mere directory for objects of some particular kind. In the above extended sense it acknowledges no other limitations than those which either the intrinsic value or historical interest of the literary productions of all ages and nations affixes to it. That which is destitute of either of these two qualifications may notwithstanding possess a local or a more special interest; but does not belong to bibliography as a science, and it must be acknowledged to have been a weakness of mind, even disregarding the insuperable external impediments, that some literary persons dreamed of a general bibliography, in which no compendium, no pamphlet or collection of verses should be passed over. A bibliography directed to the above objects, and executed within such limitations, could only be effected by a mere nomenclature, in which the text itself would be the literary history and we might term it pure in opposition to restricted bibliography, which has developed itself in later times owing to the technical formation of a science of books. If pure bibliography, for instance, now that authorship has become general, must gradually enter into those details, which hitherto it was not used to consider (we refer here only to the knowledge of different editions, in so far as these, particularly of the ancient classics, afford a scale to ascertain the greater or less influence of, or the different method of treating, certain works in any age or country), so has the daily increasing quantity of books prepared the way for a restricted bibliography, in having rendered a more careful selection necessary to the scholar,