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The Classed Catalogue, printed in 1805, exhibits a view of the Library as it stood at that date; the additions made to it, during the next fifteen years, are contained in a distinct Catalogue, printed in 1820, entitled, Catalogue Part Second ; and those of the last six years, a period of great and rich increase, form Part Third, now presented to the Society. In both these Parts, the arrangement is Alphabetical.
There are several advantages attending occasional Catalogues of Additions. They mark distinctly the progress of the Library; they facilitate and extend the use of its various accessions; and they furnish the most satisfactory means of judging as to the degree of skill and care with which the funds for its enlargement have been applied.
The incorporation of the different Catalogues under one Alphabet, or the formation of a General Catalogue, upon some other plan, will certainly in time come to be desirable ; and such an undertaking may reasonably be expected, when it shall appear to be really necessary and expedient. An opinion has been sometimes expressed, that a Catalogue Raisonnée, or Classed Catalogue, embracing the whole Library, ought already to have been compiled ;-an opinion naturally enough arising from the specimen presented to the Society in 1805. There can be no doubt, that a well arranged Catalogue of that kind, is the most perfect of any; but the task of forming one, is not perhaps always viewed with due consideration, either of its difficulty, or of the conditions necessary to render its execution suitable. Many such Catalogues have been published in foreign countries, particularly in France and Germany; very few in England, and these not greatly to be commended. Indeed, it may well be questioned, whether any one has yet appeared anywhere, that could be pointed out as a perfect model, or which it would be proper implicitly to follow. Nor will this appear at all surprising to those who have reflected on the extensive and accurate views of the divisions and filiations of Knowledge, and the philological and bibliographical learning and skill, which the task in question indispensably requires. The Classed Catalogue of 1805 was highly creditable to the industry and learning of the Compiler, and eminently useful in exciting attention to the Library, then much neglected; but the Institution was far from that state of advancement to render such a work otherwise advisable; and even now, when the number of books is quintuple what it then was, and the Collection is, in one or two depart.
ments, behind none, and beyond most Scottish Libraries, it is yet so deficient in some others, and these of no mean value in the Map of Knowledge, that any attempt to apply to it the elaborate apparatus of a proper Catalogue Raisonnée, could hardly fail to be regarded as still somewhat premature.
A few of the more uncommon and valuable books purchased during the printing of this volume, but too late for insertion in their proper places, have been noted as Addenda.
Signet Library, June 1826.