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it is owing that the same books and instructors are not adapted to them, which suffice to teach persons who have leisure to go through the whole course of any given branch of science. În some lines of employment, there is a peculiar difficulty in finding time for acquiring knowledge; as in those which require severe labour, or, though less severe, yet in the open air; for here the tendency to sleep immediately after it ceases, and the greater portion of sleep required, oppose very serious obstacles to instruction: on the other hand those occupations are less unfavourable to reflection, and have a considerable tendency to enlarge the mind.
The first method, then, which suggests itself for promoting knowledge among the poor, is the encouragement of cheap publications; and in no country is this more wanted than in Great Britain, where, with all our expertness in manufactures, we have never succeeded in printing books at so little as double the price required by our neighbours on the continent. A gown, which any where else would cost half a guinea, may be made in this country for half a crown; but a volume, fully as well or better printed, and on paper which, if not as fine, is quite fine enough, and far more agreeable to the eyes, than could be bought in London for half a guinea, costs only six francs, or less than five shillings, at Paris. The high price of labour in a trade where so little can be done, or at least has been done by machinery, is one of the causes of this difference. But the direct tax upon paper is another; and the determination to print upon paper of a certain price is a third; and the aversion to crowd the page is a fourth. Now all of these, except the first, may be got over. The duty on paper is threepence a pound, which must increase the price of an octavo volume eightpence or ninepence; and this upon paper of every kind, and printing of every kind; so that if by whatever means the price of a book were reduced to the lowest, say to three or four shillings, about a fourth or a fifth must be added for the tax; and this book, brought as low as possible to accommodate the poor man, with the coarsest paper and most ordinary type, must pay exactly as much to government as the finest hot-pressed work of the same size. This tax ought, therefore, by all means, to be given up; but though, from its being the same upon all paper used in printing, no part of it can be saved by using coarse paper, much of it may be saved by crowding the letterpress, and having a very narrow margin. This experiment has been tried of late in London upon a considerable scale; but it may easily be carried a great deal further. Thus, Hume's
* has been begun; and one volume, containing about two It is to be regretted that any edition of this popular work should ever be published without notes, to warn the reader of the author's
partiality when moved by the interest of civil and ecclesiastical controversy, and his careless and fanciful narrative when occupied with other events,
and a half of the former editions, has been published *. It is sold for six shillings and sixpence; but it contains a great number of cuts neatly executed; the paper is much better than is necessary; and the printing is perfectly well done. Were the cuts omitted, and the most ordinary paper and type used, the price might be reduced to 4s. or 4s. 6d.; and a book might thus be sold for 12s. or 14s, which now costs perhaps above two pounds. A repeal of the tax upon paper, which is truly a tax upon knowledge, and falls the heaviest upon those who most want instruction, would further reduce the price to nine or ten shillings.
The method of publishing in Numbers is admirably suited to the circumstances of the classes whose income is derived from wages. Twopence is easily saved in a week by almost any labourer; and by a mechanic sixpence in a week may without difficulty be laid by. Those who have not attended to such matters, would be astonished to find how substantial a meal of information may be had by twopenny-worths. Seven numbers, for fourteen pence, comprise Franklin's Life and Essays; four for eightpence, Bacon's Essays; and 36 for six shillings, the whole of the Arabian Nights. Cook's Voyages, in threepenny numbers, with many good engravings, may be had complete for seven shillings; and Plutarch's Lives, for ten shillings, will soon be finished t. The Mirror, a weekly publication, containing much matter of harmless and even improving amusement, selected with very considerable taste, has besides, in almost every number, information of a most instructive kind. Its great circulation must prove highly beneficial to the bulk of the people. I understand, that of some parts upwards of 80,000 were printed, and there can be no doubt that the entertainment which is derived from reading the lighter essays, may be made the means of conveying knowledge of a more solid and useful descriptiona consideration which I trust the conductor will always bear in mind. The Mechanics Magazine ț, most ably edited by Mr. Robertson, has from its establishment, had an extensive circulation; and it communicates for threepence a week, far more valuable information, both scientific and practical, than was ever before placed within the reach of those who could afford to pay six times as much for it. A similar work is published at Glasgow upon
the same plan. The Chemist, also for threepence, is learnedly and judiciously conducted by Mr. Hodgkin, and contains an admirable collection of the most useful chemical papers and intelligence. A Mechanics Register has lately been begun, and with
* Dolby's cheap Histories.
+ Limbird's Classics. & Knight and Lacy; who have done great service by publishing other works of singular cheapness and merit. The Dictionary of Architecture is one of the most extraordinary in this respect.
immediate success. It is a weekly paper, for the same price; and although, being principally intended for the use of the workmen, it bestows peculiar attention on whatever concerns that order, yet the occurrences which it communicates, and the discussions which'it contains, are also those most interesting to philosophers themselves. The day, indeed, seems now to break, when we may hope to see no marked line of separation between the two classes. I trust another distinction will also soon be known no more. The circulation of cheap works of a merely amusing kind, as well as of those connected with the arts, is at present very great in England; those of an aspect somewhat more forbidding, though at once moral, interesting, and most useful, is very limited; while in Scotland there is a considerable demand for them. Habits of reading longer formed in that country, have taught the inhabitants, that nothing in reality can be more attractive than the profound wisdom of every day's application, sustained by unbounded learning, and embellished with the most brilliant fancy, which so richly furnishes every page of the Essays of Bacon.
It is undoubtedly from the circumstance just mentioned, that in looking over the list of those cheap publications, which are unconnected with the arts, we certainly do not find many that are of a very instructive cast; and here it is that something may be done by way of encouragement. That the demand for books, cheap as well as dear, must tend to produce them, no one denies; but then it is equally certain, that the publication of cheap books increases the number of readers among the poor; and one can hardly conceive a greater benefit than those would confer, who should make a judicious selection from our best authors upon ethics, politics and history, and promote cheap editions of them in Numbers, without waiting until the demand was such as to make the sale a matter of perfect certainty. Lord John Russell
, in his excellent and instructive speech upon Parliamentary Reform, delivered in 1822, stated, that an establishment was commenced
a few years ago, by a number of individuals, with a capital of • not less than a million, for the purpose of printing standard • works at a cheap rate;' and he added, that it had been very ' much checked in its operation by one of those Acts for the sup' pression of knowledge which were passed in the year 1819,
although one of its rules was not to allow the venders of its ' works to sell any book on the political controversies of the • day.' The only part of this plan which appears at all objectionable, is the restriction upon politics. Why should not political, as well as all other works, be published in a cheap form, and in Numbers? That history, the nature of the constitution, the doctrines of political economy, may safely be disseminated in this shape, no man now-a-days will be hardly enough to deny.
in a form less desultory, and more likely to make them be both well weighed at the time, and preserved for repeated perusal. It cannot be denied, that the habit of cursory reading, engendered by finding all subjects discussed in publications, which, time, is unfavourable to the acquisition of solid and permanent Popular tracts, indeed, on the latter subject, ought to be much more extensively circulated for the good of the working classes, as well as of their superiors. The interests of both are deeply concerned in sounder views being taught them; I can hardly imagine, for example, a greater service being rendered to the men, than expounding to them the true principles and mutual relations of population and wages; and both they and their masters will assuredly experience the effects of the prevailing ignorance upon such questions, as soon as any interruption shall happen in the commercial prosperity of the country, if indeed the present course of things, daily tending to lower wages as well as profits, and set the two classes in opposition to each other, shall not of itself bring on a crisis. To allow, or rather to induce the people to take part in those discussions, is therefore not merely safe, but most wholesome for the community, and yet some points connected with them are matter of pretty warm contention in the present times; but these may be freely handled, it seems, with safety; indeed, unless they are so handled, such subjects cannot be discussed at all. Why then may not every topic of politics, party as well as general, be treated of in cheap publications? It is highly useful to the community that the true principles of the constitution, ecclesiastical and civil, should be well understood by every man who lives under it. The great interests of civil and retigious liberty are mightily promoted by such wholesome instruction; but the good order of society gains to the full as much by it. The peace
of the country, and the stability of the government, could not be more effectually secured than by the universal diffusion of this kind of knowledge. The abuses which through time have crept into the practice of the constitution, the errors committed in its administration, and the improvements which a change of circumstances require even in its principles, may most fitly be expounded in the same manner. And if any man or set of men deny the existence of such abuses, see no error in the conduct of those who administer the government, and regard all innovation upon its principles as pernicious, they may propagate their doctrines through the like channels. Cheap works being furnished, the choice of them may be left to the readers. suredly, a country which tolerates every kind, even the most unmeasured, of daily and weekly discussion in the newspapers, can have nothing to dread from the diffusion of political doctrines how information
Although the publication of cheap works is the most effectual method of bringing knowledge within the reach of a poor man's income, there are other modes deserving our attention, whereby a similar assistance may be rendered, and his resources economized. Circulating libraries may in some circumstances be of use; but, generally speaking, they are little suited to those who have only an hour or two every day, or every other day, to bestow upon reading. Book Clubs, or Reading Societies, are far more suited to the labouring classes, may be established by very small numbers of contributors, and require an inconsiderable fund. If the associates live near one another, arrangements may be easily made for circulating the books, so that they may be in use every moment that any one can spare from his work. Here, too, the rich have an opportunity presented to them of promoting instruction without constant interference; the gift of a few books, as a beginning, will generally prove a sufficient encouragement to carry on the plan by weekly or monthly contributions; and with the gift a scheme may be cominunicated, to assist the contributors in arranging the plan of their association. I would here remark the great effect of combination upon such plans, in making the money of individuals go far. Three-halfpence a week laid by in a whole family, will enable it to purchase in a year one of the cheap volumes of which I have spoken above, and a penny a week would be sufficient, were the públications made as cheap as possible. Now, let only a few neighbours join, say ten or twelve, and lend each other the books bought; and it is evident, that for a price so small as to be within the reach of the poorest labourer, all may have full as many books in the course of the year as it is possible for them to read, even supposing that the books bought by every one are not such as all the others desire to have *. The publication of books in Numbers greatly helps this plan ; for it enables those who choose to begin it at any time, without waiting until they have laid by enough to purchase a volume in each family; and where books not so published are wanted, booksellers would do well to aid such associations by giving them a year's credit; whatever propagates a taste for reading must secure their interest in the end. In many parts
of Scotland, Parish Libraries have been formed with a view to the same object. They originated, I believe, in general with the wealthier classes and the farmers; but after laying the foundation
"It is found that the average number of volumes read by the members of a Mechanics Institution, in a great town, is between 10 and 11 a year; by the members of a book society, in the villages of an agricultural district, between 5 and 6. Now the cheap books contain between two and three times the matter in the ordinary publications ; therefore, it is evident, that
such an association as that proposed, would have three times as much reading as is wanted in towns, and five or six times as much as in the country.