Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

books a quantum sufficit of matter for the printer.

It is well observed by the immortal SHAKESPEAR,

66 There is a tide in the affairs of man, which, taken at the height, leads on to fortune.” Had Mr Smellie firmly adhered to this grand literary project, the Encyclopedia Britannica, he had assuredly accumulated a handsome fortune, and might have left one third of that valuable work to his family. He was applied to by Mr Bell to take a share, and to superintend the construction of the second edition of that work, which began to be published in 1776. This he most unfortunately declined ; because the other persons concerned, it has been said upon the suggestion of a very distinguished nobleman of the highest rank and most princely fortune, insisted upon the introduction of a system of general biography into the work; which Mr Smellie objected to, as by no means consistent with the title Arts and Sciences. At the death of Mr MACFARQUHAR, printer, in April 1793, the whole work became the property of Mr Bell. It is well known that Mr MACFARQUHAR left a handsome fortune to his family, all or

mostly derived from the profits of the Encyclopedia ; and that Mr Bell died in great affluence, besides possessing the entire property of that vast work, which still belongs to his executors ; every shilling of which may be fairly stated as having grown from the labours of Mr Smellie in the original fabrication of the work, which is confessedly superior; and all of which he and his family might have shared in equally with Mr Bell and the other proprietor, if he had not been too fastidious in his notions, and perhaps too timid in his views of the risk which might have been incurred in the mercantile part of the speculation.

Of the original edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, already mentioned as the entire work of Mr SMELLIE, we do not know its exact number of copies. The second edition, which consisted of 1500, began to be published in 1776, and extended to ten volumes in quarto. A third edition, in eighteen volumes, was commenced in 1786, and extended to 10,000 copies. By this edition, the two proprietors, Mr Bell and Mr MacparQUHAR, are said to have cleared a net profit of L.42,000, besides being each paid for

their respective work in the conduct of the publication as tradesmen ; Mr Bell as engraver of all the plates, and Mr MACFARQUHAR as sole printer. Even the warehouseman and the corrector of the press are reported to have made a considerable profit from the copies for which they procured subscriptions. The fourth edition of this work, just finished, extended to 20 quarto volumes, and 3,500 copies; and a fifth edition is now at press, to consist from the first of 2000 copies, besides the possibility of extended sales calling for reprints.

One of the original articles which Mr SMELLIE wrote for the first edition of the Encyclopedia, is that entitled ÆTHER. That article became the subject of a great misunderstanding between two celebrated medical professors in the University of Edinburgh, the late Dr John Gregory and Dr William Cullen. Of that singular dispute, the present Professor of the Practice of Medicine, Dr James Gregory, gives the following account, in his Additional Memorial to the Managers of the Royal Infirmary, published in 1803, p. 187.

“ A year or two afterwards, an event took place, which made Dr Cullen very angry, and gave my father, Dr John GREGORY, some uneasiness.

“ In the first edition of the Edinburgh Encyclopedia Britannica, which, to the best of my recollection, was published here in numbers about 30 or 35 years ago, the article Æther made a conspicuous figure. In that article, the doctrine of the Nervous Æther, and the whole of Dr CullenS doctrine of the Nervous System, was very roughly handled. This, without ever mentioning Dr CULLENS name, or alluding to him as the author or assertor of such doctrines, was done under pretence of discussing a certain thesis, entitled, De Ortú Animalium Calore, by GUSTAvus Richard Brown, of Maryland, published in 1768. In that thesis, the production of animal heat, and many other curious things, are referred to the supposed Nervous Æther and its vibrations. It was well known to every student at the University at the time, and indeed it is avowed by Dr Brown in the whole of his thesis, from the motto on his title page to the concluding sentence of his dissertation, that it was the theory on these subjects

taught by Dr Cullen. It was one of his tubs to amuse the whale; and after it had served its purpose for some time, and was a little shattered in the service, he very wisely withdrew it, and threw out another and another, so as to keep the whale effectually amused, and always playing about him. But, as he had not forgotten my fathers hint on the subject, as soon as the severe discussion of the Nervous Æther appeared in the Encyclopedia, he immediately supposed it was written by my father. So fully was he possessed with this notion, that he mentioned it without much reserve to some of his pupils, some of whom reported it to my father. I have heard that he mentioned his belief on that point to several other persons : I know he did so to Mr Creech the bookseller. Nay, as I have lately learned from the present Mr ALEXANDER SMELLIE, printer, Dr Cullen, in conversation with his father, the late Mr WILLIAM Smellie, one of the authors, not the printer of that edition of the Encyclopedia, told him that he was sure that my father had written that article, and that he knew

his style.

« AnteriorContinuar »