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Hieroglyphic Tales   By: (1717-1797)

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[Transcriber's Note: Archaic spellings in the original text have been retained in this version.]


Schah Baham ne comprenoit jamais bien que les choses absurdes & hors de toute vraisemblance.

Le Sopha, p. 5.



As the invaluable present I am making to the world may not please all tastes, from the gravity of the matter, the solidity of the reasoning, and the deep learning contained in the ensuing sheets, it is necessary to make some apology for producing this work in so trifling an age, when nothing will go down but temporary politics, personal satire, and idle romances. The true reason then for my surmounting all these objections was singly this: I was apprehensive lest the work should be lost to posterity; and though it may be condemned at present, I can have no doubt but it will be treated with due reverence some hundred ages hence, when wisdom and learning shall have gained their proper ascendant over mankind, and when men shall only read for instruction and improvement of their minds. As I shall print an hundred thousand copies, some, it may be hoped, will escape the havoc that is made of moral works, and then this jewel will shine forth in its genuine lustre. I was in the greater hurry to consign this work to the press, as I foresee that the art of printing will ere long be totally lost, like other useful discoveries well known to the ancients. Such were the art of dissolving rocks with hot vinegar, of teaching elephants to dance on the slack rope, of making malleable glass, of writing epic poems that any body would read after they had been published a month, and the stupendous invention of new religions, a secret of which illiterate Mahomet was the last person possessed.

Notwithstanding this my zeal for good letters, and the ardour of my universal citizenship, (for I declare I design this present for all nations) there are some small difficulties in the way, that prevent my conferring this my great benefaction on the world compleatly and all at once. I am obliged to produce it in small portions, and therefore beg the prayers of all good and wise men that my life may be prolonged to me, till I shall be able to publish the whole work, no man else being capable of executing the charge so well as myself, for reasons that my modesty will not permit me to specify. In the mean time, as it is the duty of an editor to acquaint the world with what relates to himself as well as his author, I think it right to mention the causes that compel me to publish this work in numbers. The common reason of such proceeding is to make a book dearer for the ease of the purchasers, it being supposed that most people had rather give twenty shillings by sixpence a fortnight, than pay ten shillings once for all. Public spirited as this proceeding is, I must confess my reasons are more and merely personal. As my circumstances are very moderate, and barely sufficient to maintain decently a gentleman of my abilities and learning, I cannot afford to print at once an hundred thousand copies of two volumes in folio, for that will be the whole mass of Hieroglyphic Tales when the work is perfected. In the next place, being very asthmatic, and requiring a free communication of air, I lodge in the uppermost story of a house in an alley not far from St. Mary Axe; and as a great deal of good company lodges in the same mansion, it was by a considerable favour that I could obtain a single chamber to myself; which chamber is by no means large enough to contain the whole impression, for I design to vend the copies myself, and, according to the practice of other great men, shall sign the first sheet my self with my own hand.

Desirous as I am of acquainting the world with many more circumstances relative to myself, some private considerations prevent my indulging their curiosity any farther at present; but I shall take care to leave so minute an account of myself to some public library, that the future commentators and editors of this work shall not be deprived of all necessary lights... Continue reading book >>

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