‘A Description of more than Three Hundred Animals’ (1812)

[Non-Scottish Publications Contents]

Contents.

Book I. – Of Quadrupeds, or Four-Footed Beasts. 

Book II., A Description of Birds.

Book III., A Description of Fishes.

A Description of Shell-Fish.

A Description of Serpents.

An Appendix upon Fabulous Animals.

HAVING constantly kept in view, from the beginning of this work, the combined plan of uniting interest with amusement and truth unmixed with fables, we have rejected several animals that had intruded themselves upon the reader, although they had no real claim to existence, and therefore no place in “The History of Nature.” Yet considering that some fabulous beings have frequently been made use of in poetry and allegorical paintings, we have thought it our duty to subjoin here an account of them, lest we might be accused, with some sort of appearent, reason of depriving infancy of instruction, youth of knowledge, and maturer age of entertainment. The Sphinx, the Dragon, and several others, meet the eyes of children and adults nearly every where; and since they do not find their names in the works of the historians of nature, and as there is no body at hand to satisfy the warm enquiries of those who thirst after knowledge, we have no doubt but a short explanation concerning these imaginary creatures will be deemed not only acceptable but most useful to the public. Imagination soars above the general paths of common things, and embodies often her own ideas. This has been the case with the ancients. Modern artists and authors, catching fire at the torch of fancy, have introduced the offsprings of the lively mind of the Greeks and Romans in their works, fostered them as their own, and embellished their productions with fabulous and allegorical anomalies. We shall take notice of those whose names occur most frequently in the course of our reading. 

A Description of more than Three Hundred Animals; including Quadrupeds, Birds, Fishes, Serpents, and Insects: forming a Compendium of Natural History, confirmed by actual and personal Observations; with original Remarks, and interesting Quotations from Ancient and Modern Authors. To which is subjoined, a new and curious Appendix upon Allegorical and Fabulous Animals. The Whole illustrated by elegant and appropriate Figures, copied from Nature, and engraved on Wood, with Taste and Accuracy. A new Edition, carefully revised, corrected, and considerably augmented, by A. D. M.H.F.S.A. 8vo. pp. 378. 10s. 6d

THIS book is intended for the amusement and instruction of children, and for the use of seminaries and boarding-schools; and is purposely calculated to impart a superficial, yet sufficient, knowledge of the animal creation, in order to raise the mind towards its Divine Author. 

Publications upon natural history are, in general, too voluminous, and consequently, too expensive, to be put common use; and, besides, we must confess that the necessary details and investigations into which the naturalist is obliged to enter, in order to lift up, as much as possible, the thick veil which Providence, in her wisdom, has dropped between us and the origin of things, are not fit to be laid under the eyes of all readers indiscriminately; yet that natural bent which every one has towards knowledge, the dread of ignorance, and the pruriency of investigating, called aloud for a substitute; and in that view, the Description of at least Three Hundred Animals, as it has been entitled from the beginning, is offered to the public. Its utility was soon and generally felt; the book was adopted and patronized by private families, and chiefly in those useful seminaries where youth is educated; and the editions succeeded each other with astonishing rapidity. In this the compiler has spared neither trouble nor expense to render it worthy of every enlightened reader; instructive to the ignorant, amusing to the idle, and consentaneous with the ideas and pursuits of the religious of all persuasions. With the pruning knife of delicacy in his hands, he has lopped off every thing which night have given the least uneasiness to the strictest sense of modesty, or the slightest offence to the lovers of truth; and we are confident that it may assume the following French line for its motto: 

“La mere en prescriva la lecture a sa fille.” 

Mothers will bid their daughters to peruse it. 

To this new edition are added, alphabetical indexes to the different sections of the work, and giving the names of the animals in English, in Latin, and in French, in order to lead the reader who may wish still for a more extensive history of them to a more ample source of knowledge. In fact, nothing seems to have been neglected on the part of the Editor; and we trust that his zeal and liberal intention will effectually produce the double object he has in view – intellectual amusement, and useful instruction. 

The European Magazine and London Review, by the Philological Society of London, Volume 63.