University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
History of Science and Technology

Page View

Chambers, Ephraim, 1680 (ca.)-1740 / Cyclopædia, or, An universal dictionary of arts and sciences : containing the definitions of the terms, and accounts of the things signify'd thereby, in the several arts, both liberal and mechanical, and the several sciences, human and divine : the figures, kinds, properties, productions, preparations, and uses, of things natural and artificial : the rise, progress, and state of things ecclesiastical, civil, military, and commercial : with the several systems, sects, opinions, &c : among philosophers, divines, mathematicians, physicians, antiquaries, criticks, &c : the whole intended as a course of antient and modern learning
(1728)

The preface,   pp. I [i]-xxx PDF (27.2 MB)


Page xxv


The P R E FAX C E                                                  xxv
whence arife the Crafis, Colour, Heat, Specific Gravity, &c. of Blood;
Writers don't ordinarily trouble them-
felves.
I F, by the Artifice abovementioned, we get free of a vaft load of plebeian
Words, which muff have
greatly incumber'd us ; the Grammar and Analogy of Language difiengages us
from a ftill greater number
of all kinds. The various States of the fame Word, confider'd as it comes
under different Parts of Speech,
and accordingly affumes different Terminations, increafes the Lift of Terms
immenfely : as, in Dark, Dark-
neji, Darkning; Projef, Projefion, Projealle, Projeilive, &c. which may
either be confider'd as one and the
fame Word under different Habitudes ; in regard there is a common Subifratum
of them   all; or, as fo
many different Terms ; in regard every one takes in fomething not contained
in the other. - This Lati-
tude we make ufe of occafionally; and either confider the Words this way
or that, as feems moft advanta-
geous to our purpofe. In fome Cafes, where the Alteration is merely grammatical,
we content our felves to
explain 'em in one flate, e. g. Shearing; and fuppofe the Reader able, by
Grammar to form the reft, as
Shorn, &c.  In others, where feveral particular Ideas are arbitrarily
fuperadded to the Word in one Part of
Speech, which do not belong to it in another, we there explain it in all:
as, Precipitate, Precipitant, Precipi-
tation, &c.
T HI S gives an occafion to mention a firange kind of Licenfe frequently
praaftis'd in our Language. Tho
there be ordinarily a great deal of difference between the feveral States
or Modifications of the fame Word, e. g.
Reftefing, Reflexion, Reflexible, &c. the fame as between the Ac'tion
and Quality, the Power and the Exercife of
it in this or that Cafe, the Caufe and the Effect; yet Authors make no difficulty
of ufing 'em promifcuoufly:
which would make downright Nonfenfe, were the Readers to keep to the ftri6t
import of the Words. But
the Truth is, we are not fo critical about the Matter; if the Meaning come
within our reach we jump at it, and
are glad to take it ; without waiting to fee whether it would reach us in
its prefent Direction, or whether it
might not rather fall mhort, or fly by us. What Confufion fhould we make,
even in our beft and cleareft Wri-
ters, were we refolved not to underfiand 'em but according to the ftricft
Rules of Grammar, and not indulge
'em the petty liberty of ufing quid pro quo, one part of Speech for another
? In a thoufand Cafes, the fame
Idea is denoted by oppofite Terms: Thus, we fay, fuch a Medicine is good
for, or again]t the Worms,
Plague, &c.
IT may be urged, that as Cuftom has authoriz'd this latitudinarian Pracftice,
it is become of grammatical
Authority ; and that as the Licenfe is known, it can't deceive us ; fince
the Readers are led on fuch occafions
to relax the Bands of Grammar, and annul the difference between the Parts
of Speech, in order to admit one
a fubftitute for another.-But I am afraid this expedient fcarce indemnifies
us from the Abufe. Befides the
extraordinary embarrass of reading what is thus promifcuoufly wrote, 'tis
not always we know when and how to
fuperfede the ftri&t import of an Author's Words, and make him fpeak
Senfe in his own defpite. This I
take to be none of the leaft occafions of Controverfy and Difpute owing to
Language, and which we may
almoft defpair of feeing reCtified, unlefs in a new one.
I S H A L L not here enter upon the Merits and Defefts of the Englijh Tongue,
confidered as a Language:
A great deal has been faid on that Head by others, for which the Reader may
turn to the proper Article in
the DiCtionary it felf. This Place we referve, not for other Peoples Notions,
but our own; and what we
have to add, will be chiefly as it ftands with regard to Art, and more particularly
to a Diaionary of Arts.
I B ELI 'EVE none will queftion but we met with Difficulties enough in the
Courfe of this Work. The
very Bulk - and Dimenfions of it confefs as much, and the Variety and Uncertainty
of its Matter ftill more.
But thefe were in fome fort natural Difficulties, and ought to be confider'd
as neceflarily appendent to the very
Effence of the Defign; and therefore did not afflict us fo much as thofe
that rofe from it at fecond hand, or were
fuperadded to it, as it were, by Accident. And fuch was the prefent wild
State of our Language, which alone
were fufficient to have baffled the beft Scheme, and broke thro' the beft
Meafures that could be form'd.
W E have already reprefented Language as fomething very important; and as
having a near and neceffary
intereft in Knowledge. Names, we here add, are folemn things, as they are
Reprefentatives of Ideas themfelves,
and ufed on moft occasions in their ftead: and Terms, or Combinations of
Ideas, are ftill more fo; as much
as complex Engines, are of farther and nicer Confideration than the fimple
mechanic Powers. But who would
imagine this, to confider the wanton ufe we make of 'em ; and with how little
Fear, or Difcretion, Words are
treated among us ? Every body think themfelves privileg'd to alter, or fet
afide the old, and introduce new
ones at pleafure. England is open to all Nations, at leaft in this refpeit;
and our Traders in this Commodity,
import their Wares from every Country in all fecurity. The mercantile Humour
feems to have pofleffed every
Part of us, fo that we are not only unwilling to be without the natural Produce
of our Neighbours Countries,
but we even envy 'em their Fafhions, their Follies, and their Words. Scarce
a petty Author that appears,
but makes his Innovations : But when a Dictionary comes out, 'tis like an
EaJ? India Fleet, and you are fure
of a huge Cargo. The Effec't is, that our Language is, and will continue
in a perpetual flux; and no body
knows whether he is mafter of it or no. The utmoft he can fay, is, that he
had it for fuch a Day, exciufive
of what has happen'd fince.
A M A N never knows when he is at the end of the Terms, e. g. in Architec'ture.
When he has got two
or three Names, for fome one Member, and thinks himfelf overftock'd, 'tis
odds he has not half. 'Tis not
enough he knows what it is named in the Englijh; but he muft likewife learn
what the French, Italians, Latins,
and Greeks, likewife call it, or frequently find himfelf at a ftand. Thus
it is in the Cafe of Fillets, Li./s, Lij-
tels, Reglets, Platbands, Bandeletts, 'Tonias, and Baguettes; of Chaplets,
Aftragals, Batoons, and !rores; of Gulas,
Gueules, Doucines, Cimas, Cymatiums, Ogees, and Talons; Ovums, Ovolos, Echinus's,
Zuarter-rounds, Boultins, &c.
between which, there is no known, allowed differences; but they are either
ufed indifcriminately, or diftinguiffi'd
arbitrarily; one Perfon making this diftinution, and the next another, or
perhaps none at all. So that if we come
ftrictly to DiCtionaries, we fhould have a different one for every Author.
BUT the Mifchief does not end here: for as the antient Arts are in many refpects
different from the mo-
dern; the ufe of their Terms neceffarily involves us in a new Confufion,
and makes the fame Word ftand in
an ancient Author for one thing, and in a modern for another. Thus it is
in Parajtata, Orthoftata, Anta, &c. In
effect, there is that Alteration continually making in the Language of Archite~ture,
that there ought, in Pro-
priety, to be a different Dictionary of it for every different Age.
T H E Truth is, a fourth part of the Words in fome of our popular Diotionaries,
ftand on no better Autho-
rity, than the lingle PraCtice of fome one fanciful Author; who having an
intemperate Defire to fhew either his
Learning or Breeding, has met with Di~tionary-Writers fond enough to take
his Fripperies off his hands, and
expofe 'em to the Publick for legitimate Goods. By fuch means, thefe Exotics
have obtain'd a kind of Curren-
cy; fo that a DiEtionary would be thought defeCtive without 'em.  To omit
even our Fopperies would be
thought a Failing ; and might even be efteemed by many as the moft unpardonable
of all.-On thefe ac-
counts we have been oblig'd to temporife a little, how much foever againft
our Will; and thus perhaps have
g                                      contributed


Go up to Top of Page