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Yes, my companions, Heaven's decrees are pass'd,
'Tis thus the proud triumphant rear the head,
Prefaces and Criticism.
There are many creatures, described by those natu
TO DR. BROOKES'S NEW AND ACCURATE SYSTEM OF racterized, that it is impossible to tell to what ani-
[Published in 1753.]
Or all the studies which have employed the in-have rendered them still less useful, and justify dustrious or amused the idle, perhaps natural his- each subsequent attempt to improve what they tory deserves the preference: other sciences gene- have left behind. The most laborious, as well as rally terminate in doubt, or rest in bare specula- the most voluminous naturalist among the motion; but here every step is marked with certainty;derns, is Aldrovandus. He was furnished witn and, while a description of the objects around us every requisite for making an extensive body of teaches to supply our wants, it satisfies our cu- natural history. He was learned and rich, and riosity. during the course of a long life, indefatigable and The multitude of nature's productions, how-accurate. But his works are insupportably tedious ever, seems at first to bewilder the inquirer, rather and disgusting, filled with unnecessary quotations than excite his attention; the various wonders of and unimportant digressions. Whatever learning the animal, vegetable, or mineral world, seem to he had he was willing should be known, and unexceed all powers of computation, and the science wearied himself, he supposed his readers could appears barren from its amazing fertility. But a never tire: in short, he appears a useful assistant nearer acquaintance with this study, by giving to those who would compile a body of natural hismethod to our researches, points out a similitude tory, but is utterly unsuited to such as only wish in many objects which at first appeared different; to read it with profit and delight. the mind by degrees rises to consider the things Gesner and Jonston, willing to abridge the vo before it in general lights, till at length it finds na-luminous productions of Aldrovandus, have atture, in almost every instance, acting with her tempted to reduce natural history into method, but usual simplicity. their efforts have been so incomplete as scarcely to deserve mentioning. Their attempts were improved upon, some time after, by Mr. Ray, whose method we have adopted in the history of quadrupeds, birds, and fishes, which is to follow. No systematical writer has been more happy than he in reducing natural history into a form, at once the shortest, yet most comprehensive.
Among the number of philosophers who, undaunted by their supposed variety, have attempted to give a description of the productions of nature, Aristotle deserves the first place. This great philosopher, was furnished, by his pupil Alexander, with all that the then known world could produce to complete his design. By such parts of his work as have escaped the wreck of time, it appears, that he understood nature more clearly, and in a more comprehensive manner, than even the present age, enlightened as it is with so many later discoveries, can boast. His design appears vast, and his knowledge extensive; he only considers things in general lights, and leaves every subject when it becomes too minute or remote to be useful. In his History of Animals, he first describes man, and makes him a standard with which to compare the deviations in every more imperfect kind that is to follow. But if he has excelled in the history of each, he, together with Pliny and Theophrastus, distribution, has employed accuracy only in the has failed in the exactness of their descriptions. particular description of every animal. This in
The subsequent attempts of Mr. Klein and Linnæus, it is true, have had their admirers, but, as all methods of classing the productions of nature are calculated merely to ease the memory and enlighten the mind, that writer who answers such ends with brevity and perspicuity, is most worthy of regard. And, in this respect, Mr. Ray undoubtedly remains still without a rival: he was sensible that no accurate idea could be formed from a mere distribution of animals in particular classes; he has therefore ranged them according to their most obvious qualities; and, content with brevity in his
tentional inaccuracy only in the general system of some measure satisfied. Such of them as have Ray, Klein and Linnæus have undertaken to been more generally admired, have been longest inamend; and thus by multiplying divisions, instead sisted upon, and particularly caterpillars and butof impressing the mind with distinct ideas, they terflies, relative to which, perhaps, there is the only serve to confound it, making the language of largest catalogue that has ever appeared in the the science more difficult than even the science it- English language.
Mr. Edwards and Mr. Buffon, one in the HisAll order whatsoever is to be used for the sake tory of Birds, the other of Quadrupeds, have unof brevity and perspicuity; we have therefore fol-doubtedly deserved highly of the public, as far as lowed that of Mr. Ray in preference to the rest, their labours have extended; but as they have whose method of classing animals, though not so hitherto cultivated but a small part in the wide field accurate, perhaps, is yet more obvious, and being of natural history, a comprehensive system in this shorter, is more easily remembered. In his life- most pleasing science has been hitherto wanting. time he published his "Synopsis Methodica Quad-Nor it a little surprising, when every other rupedum et Serpentini Generis," and, after his branch of literature has been of late cultivated with death, there came out a posthumous work under the so much success among us, how this most interestcare of Dr. Derham, which, as the title-page in- ing department should have been neglected. It forms us, was revised and perfected before his has been long obvious that Aristotle was incomdeath. Both the one and the other have their plete, and Pliny credulous, Aldrovandus too prolix, merits; but as he wrote currente calamo, for sub-and Linnæus too short, to afford the proper entersistence, they are consequently replete with errors, tainment; yet we have had no attempts to supply and though his manner of treating natural history their defects, or to give a history of nature at once be preferable to that of all others, yet there was complete and concise, calculated at once to please still room for a new work, that might at once retain and improve. his excellencies, and supply his deficiencies.
How far the author of the present performance has obviated the wants of the public in these respects, is left to the world to determine; this much, however, he may without vanity assert, that wheth
As to the natural history of insects, it has not been so long or so greatly cultivated as other parts of this science. Our own countryman Moufett is the first of any note that I have met with who has er the system here presented be approved or not, treated this subject with success. However, it he has left the science in a better state than he was not till lately that it was reduced to a regular found it. He has consulted every author whom he system, which might be, in a great measure, owing imagined might give him new and authentic inforto the seeming insignificancy of the animals them-mation, and painfully searched through heaps of selves, even though they were always looked upon lumber to detect falsehood; so that many parts of as of great use in medicine; and upon that account the following work have exhausted much labour in only have been taken notice of by many medical the execution, though they may discover little to writers. Thus Dioscorides has treated of their the superficial observer. use in physic; and it must be owned, some of them Nor have I neglected any opportunity that offerhave been well worth observation on this account. ed of conversing upon these subjects with travelThere were not wanting also those who long since lers, upon whose judgments and veracity I could had thoughts of reducing this kind of knowledge rely. Thus comparing accurate narrations with to a regular form, among whom was Mr. Ray, what has been already written, and following who was discouraged by the difficulty attending it: either, as the circumstances or credibility of the this study has been pursued of late, however, with witness led me to believe. But I have had one diligence and success. Reaumur and Swammer- advantage over almost all former naturalists, namedam have principally distinguished themselves on ly, that of having visited a variety of countries mythis account; and their respective treatises plainly self, and examined the productions of each upon show, that they did not spend their labour in vain. the spot. Whatever America or the known parts Since their time, several authors have published of Africa have produced to excite curiosity, has their systems, among whom is Linnæus, whose been carefully observed by me, and compared with method being generally esteemed, I have thought the accounts of others. By this I have made some proper to adopt. He has classed them in a very improvements that will appear in their place, and regular manner, though he says but little of the have been less liable to be imposed upon by the insects themselves. However, I have endeavoured hearsay relations of credulity. to supply that defect from other parts of his works, and from other authors who have written upon this subject; by which means, it is hoped, the curi- was these advantages which prompted me to this osity of such as delight in these studies will be in undertaking. Such, therefore, as choose to range
A complete, cheap, and commodious body of natural history being wanted in our language, it