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

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

Page xxvi

XXVi                           The I R E F I X A
contributed to the c ftill farther Eftablifhment of a number of Words, which
we had much rather have keen pro-
fcribed, or banilh'd the Land.
UPO N the whole, nothing could be more deflrable than an Tndex expurgatorus,
to clear the Language
of our fuperfluous Words, and Equivocals'; all the modern French and Italian
Terms in the feveral Arts, where
we have Latin and Greek ones; 'and even all the Latin and Greek ones, where
we have Engli/h or Saxon ones,
equal in Sound and Significancy. I think the learned Languages ought to have
the preference to the modern, be-
caufe every Perfon may be fuppofed 'to have read, but not to have travelled;
and our Country Words I would
prefer to any others, becaufe there is the moft analogy between 'em, and
they ufuially retain more of the Origin
and Etymology than thofe tranfplanted from other Languages.-Such a Reform
would reduce our Didiona-
ries to more reafonable Dimenfions; and difincumber the Arts from half the
difficulty now to be furmruntpd
in attaining 'em.
BUT, there is another Spring of Words no lefs prolifick than that hitherto
fpoke of, and which has pro-
duced a Swarnm of fpurious, mifhapen Words, which no Nation but our own would
ever have own'd: I mean
the Itch of coining or making Engli/h Words, by a fort of analogy; from the
Latin and Greek ones. This
Fault the Tribe of Lexicographers have carried to a ftrange excefs. How mufl
a Man flare, to fee what de-
teft-able Stuff fome late Writers of that Clafs have complimentcd us with:
Words of their own manufadture,'
fcarce fit to do any thing with, except cure Agues ! Witnefs fuch as Scopulo.ity,
Siliculous, Scatebrofity, Sic-
cfic, Pugnacity, Segnity, Sputative, Mulierofity, Mugient, Gracility, Faiuvoufnefs,
Exaccous; and many thoufand more,
at the Reader's fervice, to be met withal in a Diationary which few People
are without.  One would almolt
with the Mold deltroyed that fuch Grotefques were caft in, for fear of new
Impreflions. We are already over-
run with this Author's Scarecrows : but what thall we be when, having thus
anglicis'd all the Greek and Latin Words,
he proceeds to do the fame with the Dutch, Irijh, Wevea, &c.  Indeed,
I am  the lefs. angry with him, for
that he has carried the Abufe fo far, as mull not only fave People from being
feduc'd, but bring the Prac-
tice into Contempt. Such 'Monrfers can't poffibly live long: if they have
efcap'd the Midwife, who ought to
have ftrangled 'em  ere they came to light, yet if ever they flir abroad
they muft infallibly be knocked
o'the head.
HO W oddly wi!l our PradIice in this refpea look, when confronted with that
of our Neighbours ? One
or the moft learned Men and greateft Critics of the laft Age, M. AlZenage,
incurr'd an infinite deal of Cenfiure,
for only endeavouring to intloduce the fingle word Profateur: and could not
fucceed in it, notwithflanding that a
Word of that import was confeffedly wanting in the French; and both the Sound
and Analogy of the new Word
were unexceptionable.
T 0 return. The different ftate of different Arts is very remarkable. Some
of 'em are refined to a degree
of fubtilty that deftroys 'em ; 'as Metaphyfics, and Logics : others have
had no refinement or polifhing at all,
but lie wafte and over-run for want of it ; as Agriculture, Heraldry, &c.
The groffnefs of fome is their fault;
it being fuch as difgutls, and forbids a delicate Mind from purfuing them
: in others, their fubtilty and nicety
is their bane, as leaving nothing for a hearty Appetite to feed on. What
meagre fare, for inflance, are the
School Rules, and Dodtrines of Mediums, Extremes? &c. They do indeed
furnifh us with Relations, and true
Relations too ; but thefe fo remote from all Purpofes of Life, that they
are in great nmeafure infignificant.
'T I S certain all our Knowledge and Arts ultimately refer to the great End
of Prefervation. The Faculties
of the Mind, like thofe of the Body, were not given us for the mere Exercife,
or Gratification of 'em; but
in fubfervfency to farther purpofes. Our Knowledge is all of the Nature of
Revelation; and the divine Being
reveals nothing to us for the mere vague fake of our knowing it, but that
it may minifter to his Ends, the
being and well-being of his Creatures. Our Perceptions and Notices are all
Inftruments in his hands, which
he has appointed to do his work, and bring about the wonderful and adorable
Ends of the Creation. They
are fecond Caufes, or at leaft Occafions of what we do, and no doubt are
under the Diretion of him for
whom we do; whofe Glory is ferved thereby. Tho they extend to abundance of
things, yet they all centre
and terminate at laft in our Prefervation ; and accordingly, as they are
farther from, or nearer to this Point,
they are found fainter or ftronger: very near they are palpable and cogent
; as they recede, they continually
abate of their clearness, and evidence ; and when arrived at a certain diftance,
dwindle to nothing, and are loft.
At a great height from this Centre, the Nexus or Chain whereby things are
held together, and in virtue whereof
we proceed from things knowe to things unknown, becomes infenfible; fo that
we lofe our hold, and wander on
we don't know where. Our Faculties here faulter ; the Objeats they meet with
are inadequate to 'em ; the Air
grows too thin for Refpiration. But, where we leave off, there poflibly fome
fuperior Order of Beings may take
it up.-----We have, indeed, a kind of Comets in the Affair of Learning, which
feem to be got far out of the
Orb ; fo that one would wonder how they came there, or what fuftains 'em
; as alfo what they do there. Such
are, mere Antiquaries, Etymologifts, Microfcopifts, Alchymifls, Phyfiognomifts,
and other Searchers of Futu
riry : But thefe, for all their feeming diftance and irregularity, do all
refpea the fame central Point, and
move by the fame Law with others; and even anfwer very good Purpofes to the
I N effled, the feveral Arts have been cultivated to more or lefs purpofe,
as our Prefervation is more or lefs
immediately interefled in 'erm; and by this Key one might almnoft venture
to judge which Arts are capable of
being carried ffill farther, and which not.-Our Knowledge of very great and
of very little things, is very imper-
fC&C e. g. of very great and little Objeas, Diftances, Sounds, &c.
And the reafon, no doubt, is, that there is
but little Relation between us and them; fo that we are but little interefted
in the Knowledge of them. Thofe
things we have neceffarily and immediately to do withal, are made to our
reach: for the reft, no matter, to the
Creator's chief Purpofe, what they are.
A N D yet our Leifure and Curiofity have found means of making even thefe
more cognizable than other.
wife they are: we can, in fome meafure, alter the eftablifhed Relation between
our Faculties and their Obje&s
and make ufe of one Law of Nature, to undo or fuperfede another.-Thus we
can magnify a little Sound
or little Body, or a little Diftance, &c. or we can diminifh large ones;
and thus make things in fome mealfure
adequate'Objects, that naturally are not fo.
B U T there is no great advantage in this  We only, by thefe means, come
at a better apprehenrion of
things which Nature feem'd to put out of our way for no other reafon but
becaufe they did not concern us;
left we mbould be engaged to miflake, and run after things that had no relation
to us, to the negle&: of
thofe which have ----Thus, Anatomy is really found of much lefs ufe than
at firIt fight one would imagine;
as being employ'd in taking things afunder and confidering their Parts, which
Nature chiefly intended to
be confidered and dealt with together. There is I know not what fecret Law,
whereby the Efect of. a thing
is, as it were, attach'd to its integral State; fo that in proportion as
you either diminith it, by taking from
it, or enlarge it by adding to it, its Effe6t is alter'd, in a manner beyond
what we can well account for from the,
bare Confide-ration of Magnitude.

Go up to Top of Page