THE progress of the arts and sciences is greatly accelerated by the history of antiquity and of nature. An extensive acquaintance with the customs and manners of ancient times is of the same advantage to useful improvements, as the instructions dictated by a judicious experience are to the art of conducting our lives with wisdom and prudence. A retrospective view, in both cases, furnishes the means of preventing many hurtful mistakes that would otherwise be committed. The history of nature, equally with that of antiquity, lends her assistance to the useful arts. The better we are acquainted with the objects of natural history, the more able we shall be to apply these objects, with success, to the various pursuits of life. Besides, by accurate researches into what is past, and by candid inquiries into the nature and properties of present objects, a wide field of useful contemplation is opened to the mind.
SENSIBLE of these advantages, not a few of mankind are keenly engaged in the pleasing study of nature. A sufficient knowledge of that extensive science cannot easily be obtained, without the assistance of a considerable collection of the various objects of which it treats. To procure these, every part of the world is diligently searched by the inquisitive eye of the antiquarian and natural historian. Our own country has not been wanting in furnishing a considerable number of excellent materials for these collections. More might still be done, were the natural history of Scotland better known. We have in our possession many remains of antiquity, and not a few of the more uncommon productions of nature, which have drawn the attention of learned philosophers in the neighbouring nations. Nor have they been overlooked by our own countrymen. Several worthy and distinguished persons have, at different periods, laudably employed themselves in carefully inquiring into antiquity, nature and art.
WILLING to do every thing in my power to elucidate the history of my native country, I wrote, in the year 1789, an account of East-Kilbride, and subjoined to it a considerable number of draughts of animal and vegetable petrifactions, that were found in the parish. I borrowed the outlines of my plan from the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Buchan’s prospectus for a parochial history of Scotland. What I had written I intended to communicate to the Society, of which the Earl was the founder. Having finished the manuscript and drawings, it was thought proper to publish them. The only reason was, that the draughts of the fossils, being put into the hands of the public, might be the means of exciting in some a spirit of investigation into that part of natual history, to which they more particularly had a respect, and to the study of which, this part of the country afforded not a few opportunities. I had no sooner begun to prepare the manuscript for the press, than the Rev. D. Connell of Kilbride, whom I served as an assistant, was carried away by death. My connection with that parish being then at an end, I went to England, where I stayed a few months. In the mean-while, Sir John Sinclair’s prospectus for a parochial history of Scotland made its appearance. The same reason that induced me not to give the manuscript to the Society of Antiquaries, induced me not to give it to Sir John. I sent him, however, a compend, which he was pleased to insert in his very excellent work. Whilst I was preparing for the press, my attention was accidentally directed to the Borough and Parish of Rutherglen, as affording materials for a pretty extensive history. I soon found, that the place contained many things, respecting antiquity and natural history, that were by no means unworthy the attention of the public. Without loss of time I began to arrange, into a regular form, whatever I thought conducive to elucidate the history of that ancient Borough. In this I was greatly assisted, by having access to all the public records possessed by the community.
AFTER the prospectus for the publication was dispersed, several things, in both parishes, were accidentally discovered, which I thought would be highly improper to omit. Owing to this, I was forced to go beyond the bounds I had prescribed to myself; and to make several alterations in the arrangement of the Plates, which occasions, among them, a confusion, easily observed. I hope, however, that in this respect, I shall meet with the indulgence of the candid reader.
WITH regard to the language, I have this only to observe, that I studied perspicuity and brevity. The draughts of the fossils are from specimens in my possession. The execution of them, though not very fine, is, in general, pretty accurate; and better suited to represent these fossil bodies, than could be done by the most embellished engravings. The Plates are thrown off with an excellent Ink, lately invented by Sir John Dalrymple, Bart. one of the Barons of the Exchequer.
I HAVE not indulged myself in making theories; and have but seldom referred to the theories already made. Facts, however, I have related, simply and without disguise, as they made their appearance. If any thing rests upon tradition or report, I generally mention tradition or report as my authority.
GLASGOW, 28th Jan. 1793.