Sir Thomas Browne (1683) Certain Miscellany Tracts. The Publisher to the Reader, unnumbered pages 1-4.
THE Papers from which these Tracts were printed, were, a while since, deliver'd to me by, those worthy persons, the Lady and Son of the excellent Authour. He himself gave no charge concerning his Manuscripts, either for the suppressing or the publishing of them. Yet, seeing he had procured Transcripts of them, and had kept those Copies by him, it seemeth probable that He designed them for publick use.
Thus much of his Intention being presumed, and may who had tasted of the fruits of his former studies being covetous of more of the like kind; Also these Tracts having been perused and much approv'd of by some Judicious and Learned men; I was not unwilling to be instrumental in fitting them for the Press.
To this end, I selected them out of many disordred Papers, and dispos'd them into such a method as They seem'd capable of; beginning first with Plants, going on to Animals, proceeding farther to things relating to Men, and concluding with matters of a various nature.
Concerning the Plants, I did, on purpose, forbear to range them (as some advised) according to their Tribes and Families; because, by so doing, I should have represented that as a studied and formal work, which is but a Collection of occasional Essaies. And indeed, both this Tract, and those which follow, were rather the diversions than the Labours of his Pen: and, because He did, as it were, drop down his Thoughts of a sudden, in those little spaces of vacancy which he snatch'd from those very many occasions which gave him hourly interruption; If there appears, here and there, any uncorrectness in the style, a small degree of Candour sufficeth to excuse it.
If there be any such errours in the words, I'm sure the Press has not made them fewer; but I do not hold my self oblig'd to answer for That which I could not perfectly govern. However, the matter is not of any great moment: such errours will not mislead a Learned Reader; and He who is not such in some competent degree, is not a fit Peruser of these LETTERS. Such these Tracts are; but, for the Persons to whom they were written, I cannot well learn their Names from those few obscure marks which the Authour has set at the beginning of them. And these Essaies being Letters, as many as take offence at some few familiar things which the Authour hath mixed with them, find fault with decence. Men are not wont to set down Oracles in every line they write to their Acquaintance.
There, still, remain other brief Discourses written by this most Learned and ingenious Authour. Those, also, may come forth, when some of his Friends shall have sufficient leisure; and at such due distance from these Tracts, that They may follow rather than stifle them.
Amongst these Manuscripts there is one which gives a brief Account of all the Monuments of the Cathedral of Norwich. It was written merely for private use: and the Relations of the Authour expect such Justice from those into whose hands some imperfect Copies of it are fallen; that, without their Consent first obtain'd, they forbear the publishing of It.
The truth is, matter equal to the skill of the Antiquary was not, there, afforded: had a fit Subject of that nature offer'd it self, he would scarce have been guilty of an oversight like to that of Ausonius, who, in the description of his native City of Bordeaux, omitted the two famous Antiquities of it, Palais de Tutele, and, Palais de Galien.
Concerning the Authour himself, I chuse to be silent, though I have had the happiness to have been, for some years, known to him. There is on foot a design of writing his Life: and there are, already, some Memorials collected by one of his ancient Friends. Till that work be perfected, the Reader may content himself with these present Tracts; all which commending themselves by their Learning, Curiosity and Brevity, if he be not pleased with them, he seemeth to me to be distemper'd with such a niceness of Imagination as no wise man is concern'd to humour.
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