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It is not without very considerable diffidence, that this Lexicon is submitted to the indulgence of the Profession and the Public, for no man can be more conscious of the difficulties besetting such a subject,—of the many requisites of the task,-and above all, of the great discrepancy usually exhibited between what a book ought to be, and what it is,-than the Author of the present undertaking. Knowing, however, from his own experience, the want of a Dictionary especially adapted to ready reference, which should contain the modern law and alterations, as also the terminology comprehended in our varied and intricate jurisprudence, was the inducement to commence, continue, and complete this work. The aims attempted, throughout its arrangement, have been compression, avoiding obscurity, and yielding information easily and effectually. A word-book, when it obviates tediousness of search by giving a concise answer to one consulting it, possesses a peculiar virtue ; for irksome is the process of turning out a word, where, instead of finding its explanation, there is a reference to another part of the book; but should the place referred to again direct the enquirer elsewhere, or, perchance, disclose neither notice nor interpretation, nor, in fact, anything concerning it, then patience becomes exhausted, and perseverance indeed hopeless.
Often has disappointment ensued, when, after reading up a given point of practice or theory, the Author has referred to the Dictionaries extant, in order to learn the precise force of the words and phrases that he had met with in his researches : for frequently they have not even been noticed, or being noticed, their interpretation has involved more confusion, since, for the most part, the very imperfect impression which was entertained before concerning them, often became obliterated by the utterly obscure manner in which the lexicographer had treated them. Some of these works handle a
subject in a mass; for instance, under the head “ Bills of Exchange," an immethodical essay is written, in which are explained, after a fashion, the several characters of acceptor, drawer, indorsee, payee, and the several subjects of acceptance, presentment, notice of dishonor, protest, and so on ; for instead of breaking up the whole subject, and distributing the elements under their appropriate heads, the enquirer searching for acceptor, &c., is referred to Bills of Exchange, where he must wade through the greater part of a long and rambling statement, before he comes to the precise point he wants. A Dictionary is not consulted for an essay or treatise on a particular theme, but to answer a sudden doubt, or explain a present difficulty, as to the proper meaning of a certain technicality.“ In considering any complex matter," writes Burke, * “ we ought to examine every distinct ingredient in the composition, one by one; and reduce everything to the utmost simplicity; since the condition of our nature binds us to a strict law and very narrow limits. We ought afterwards to re-examine the principles by the effect of the composition, as well as the composition by that of the principles. We ought to compare our subject with things of a similar nature, and even with things of a contrary nature ; for discoveries may be, and often are, made by the contrast, which would escape us on the single view. The greater number of the comparisons we make, the more general and the more certain our knowledge is like to prove, as built upon a more extensive and perfect induction.”
The constituents of the great subjects have been distributed under their proper letters, with a view to prevent as much reference to other parts of the book as possible; and when a phrase or technicality belongs in common to several departments of our laws, an analysis has been made, in order to keep separate the details of the particulars and distinctions. Occasional passages from the Jewish, Greek, and Roman antiquities have been quoted, either to illustrate a doctrine or to indicate an analogy; but of this, sparing use has been made, as their too frequent insertion would have increased bulk, without perhaps augmenting value. The authorities relied upon are referred to for examination, in order that the subject may be more fully studied by those, who desire to acquire a fuller knowledge of historical jurisprudence or the
* Preface to the Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.
polity of the ancients. Method has been attended to, as the main design of a Dictionary is immediate use.
Thus useful arms in magazines we place,
Whether the work is successful or not, in attaining its avowed purpose, cannot here be determined; its real value,-its suitableness as a Lexicon,will be tested by experience, which neither a persuasive perface nor an unfavourable review can influence. The Author craves pardon for any trivial error or misprint, as the greater part of the book was written, and the proofs corrected, during his academical studies; and he will be grateful for any suggestions, which, supplying the defects and elucidating the obscurities of this edition, would increase the utility of a second, should a second be called for.
J. J. S. WHARTON.
London, October 1847.
Pope's Essay on Criticisin.