Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

limited peber the necessit been forced the staple of at much of the

libraries of the world* exceeds but by one half the volumes thus pushed into circulation, we cannot feel much surprise that this book should, like Aaron's rod, have swallowed up the whole literary activity of the last twelve months, and that the ordinary book trade of the country should have been almost altogether suspended. Nor should it be forgotten that much of the knowledge and information-forming the staple of the book trade in ordinary tiines—has been forced into new and unaccustomed channels by the necessity for its rapid dissemination within the limited period of the illustrations remaining accessible. In almost all of our leading political journals, the new facts of science and art, dressed up with all the attractiveness of news, were related in a form that admitted of easy modification in their statement, and discussion in their bearing. That this lull is but the prelude to animated gales, we feel confident. The past few months have been a period of patient suspense or critical examination. We have had the things themselves before us; a knowledge of their qualities must precede any theoretic analysis.

It is also a most important fact, which seems to have been little regarded, that the leading scientific minds of Europe have been hitherto in a measure bound to silence and secrecy, from being included in the lists of the juries. But let this seal be once removed -- let the critical reports of thirty sections, and at least one hundred and twenty sub-sections-giving the history of what has been, and is, and guesses at what ought and will be in every department of knowledge — and we have little doubt that a goodly array of commentaries, theories, systems in the old established form of full developed tomes,, besides all the lighter skirmishing of pamphlets, — will soon make their appearance. It is scarcely too much to predict that for every three lines in this Catalogue (the average length of a description) we shall soon see at least one or two works issue from the press, either questioning or discussing the merits there claimed, or the abstract principles involved in their statement. The wrongs, hardships, and injustice which have been hitherto tamely endured, by all whose contributions have been placed by the jurors in any other than the highest category of merit, will find a vent when these violations of all truth and reason become known.

That in the production of the present volume the contractors performed all their stipulated duties with the most praiseworthy

* Number of Volunes in Bibliothèque du Roi,' at Paris, 650,000; Munich, 500,000; Copenhagen, 400,000; St. Petersburg, 400,000; Berlin, 320,000; Vienna, 300,000; British Museum, 270,000; Dresden, 250,000; Milan, 200,000 ; Göttingen, 200,000; Bodleian, 160,000; Trinity College, Dublin, 100,000.

1851. Dangers of the Contract System.-General Design. 561

te of the feation has its on this cants under the

exactitude can, we think, be hardly questioned; we would even go the length of admitting, that they have feit something of the dignity and importance of the occasion, and acted with spirit and liberality beyond perhaps what the pecuniary results justify; but we are not quite sure that the system of contract can be applied with any thing like safety, and except under the most rigidly controlling influences, to even this class of literature. This species of delegation has its advantages, and in the embarrassed state of the Exchequer of the Royal Commission at the period when the contract was entered into, such a step was no doubt both excusable and proper; but the extension of the system would have its dangers. Every step we advance in the secularisation of the clerkly office opens an inlet to influences dangerous to the interests of science. There is a certain degree of sacerdotal sentiment needed in the bibliopolist function. In the case of America we see books treated as mere merchandise; and the consequence is, that, though she has sent us whole quires of her newspapers, her booksellers have not ventured to send a single sample of their mutilated manufacture.

Against the system of contract generally, or its universal application to the other departments of the enterprise, we have nothing to urge. It has ever been found,' says Edmund Burke, the best way to do all things which are great in the 'total amount, and minute in the component parts, by a general

contract. By a general contract with a person in his own trade, "you are sure you shall not suffer by want of skill.' With respect to the monopoly of provision for the wants of the body, as compared with that for those of the mind, it is, perhaps, curious to observe, that their sale should both have produced so nearly the same amount. The original sum of 3,2001. paid for the privilege to print the Catalogue added to the Royalty of two pence on each copy, would amount on 250,000 copies sold to 5,2001. The sale of the Refreshment monopoly produced 5,5001.

Passing for the present from the Catalogue to that of which it supplies the argument, it may be, perhaps, convenient if we here at once state the point of view from which it is our intention to treat the present subject. It may be conveniently divided into three distinct branches:- the project itself; the manner of its realisation ; its immediate effects and its probable influences.

It is unnecessary for us to dwell at any length upon the objects or the views entertained by the illustrious personage with whom, by common consent, the present Exposition has in a great degree originated. These have been already suffi

ciently explained in language to which no words of ours can lend additional grace or perspicuity. No great merit of originality attaches to the design; the only novelty consists in expanding an idea, often before partially realised, to a larger generalisation ; the only praise in the unwavering fortitude with which, in the face of no ordinary difficulties, the original design was successfully worked out. And yet there is sometimes as complete a change produced by the simple addition of a few new sides to a project, as in the transition of the same carbon from the rhomboid of the dull graphite to the octohedron of the diamond, — from the brittle substance of the lead-pencil with which we trace the first dim outlines of our undeveloped conceptions to the adamant of the brilliant with which we beautify and elucidate light itself. To seize the living scroll of human progress, inscribed with every successive conquest of man's intellect, filled with each discovery in the constructive arts, embellished with each plastic grace of figured surface or of moulded form, and unroll this before the eyes of men, the whole stream of history furnishing its contingent,placing Archimedes, Arkwright, Davy, Jacquard, Watt, and Stephenson side by side,-leaving the instructive lesson to be learned that always lies in the knowledge and example of great things done ;- this is, indeed, no mean design, no infelicitous conception. It is only by such a cosmical comparison of the known agencies of science and art that we can gradually rise to a knowledge of the varied gifts and powers of Nature, or our own control over them : hereby alone can we hope with Faust,

"... to see the secret rings,

Whose grasp the universe engirds ;
May know the force that works in things, —

Not the mere sound that breathes in words.' As a nation, we cannot claim the distinction of having originated this great lever of industrial progress; but we have at least given to the world the two philosophers, · Bacon' and · Newton,' who first lent direction and force to the stream of industrial science; we have been the first to give the widest possible base to that watch-tower of international progress, which seeks the promotion of the physical well-being of man, and the extinction of the meaner jealousies of commerce.

Such exhibitions have for the last half century been growing into popularity, and may now be said to have assumed a place by the side of the congresses of diplomacy, the synods of the Church, and the manœuvres and sham fights of our armies. It is perhaps more remarkable that Europe should be indebted to France for the first suggestion of the idea, than that the first

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

essay of the inventors in 1797 -- and the last in 1849 — should have been each totally or in part frustrated by the political turmoil of a revolution. In the other countries of Europe the census of domestic industrial power, and the census of population, have become formal government duties and an integral part of their administrative system, - prescribed with the same distinctness and carried out with the same regularity.

From the following extracts of a Circular * issued by the present French Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, it will be seen that a plan somewhat similar to the present was broached by him previous to the last Paris Exposition in 1849.

• At a time (said M. Buffet) when my colleagues in office and myself are busily engaged in doing all we can to give the Exhibition, which opens on the 1st of June next, a character of

public utility, it has occurred to me that it would be interesting "to the country in general to be made acquainted with the degree ‘of advancement towards perfection attained by our neighbours

in those manufactures in which we so often come in competi. tion in Foreign Markets.

You will, therefore, first give your opinion on the abstract principle of exhibiting the productions of other countries; and,

should you consider the experiment ought to be made, to enu• merate to me officially the articles you consider would be most

conducive to our interest when displayed in the ensuing Exhibition. The opinion given seems to have been unfavourable and the design abandoned.

In the history of our own extended scheme we recognise two distinct epochs; its early conduct in connexion with the Society of Arts, and its subsequent elaboration and completion under the powers of a Royal Commission ; in both cases under the same president - the Prince Consort. : The early infancy of the scheme, whilst still under the fostering care of the Society of Arts, embraces the period from the year 1848, when it seems to have been first conceived, down to the 3rd of January, 1850, the date of the issue of the Royal Commission. The progress made in that interval was not inconsiderable, though many of the steps then taken were subsequently retraced. This portion of our narrative may be dismissed in a few words, and would perhaps hardly deserve even this passing notice, were it not that in one point — the character of the stimulant to competition - its influence is still felt. The Society had resolved on moving the world. It had, however,

* Report on the Eleventh French Exposition by M. D. Wyatt. London : Chapman & Hall, 1849.

something more needful to seek than the mere Toù OTÔ. It must find its lever. This world-compelling power it hoped to discover in the distribution of large pecuniary prizes, amounting in the aggregate to 20,0001.

For the attainment of its end it relied on the joint influence of money and enthusiasm. In obtaining the command of the former it seems to have been more fortunate than in awakening the latter. In a country like this any scheme of magnitude rarely fails of commanding the needful capital for its inception, though it not unfrequently languishes from subsequent apathy, or the jarring of conflicting interests or political jealousies. After casting about for some fitting instrument, the Society concluded a provisional agreement with an enterprising capitalist, who, in consideration of the right to two-thirds of the surplus profits, consented to advance the needful sum of 20,0001., and also to remove all pecuniary risk from the shoulders of the Society. It is impossible to deny that this willingness on the part of a private individual to undertake the risk, as well as his subsequent advances to meet the first expenses of the design, gave a consistence and commercial solidity to the project which well entitled him to the sum subsequently awarded on the cancelling of his agreement.

With the issue of the Royal Commission on the 3rd of January, 1850, the whole scheme assumed a totally different complexion. Few, if any, of the States of Europe would, we may hazard the prediction, have either contributed directly, or undertaken the expense and management of the transmission of the contributions of their subjects, had the organ of international communition been uninvested with the formal dignity of a State recognition. The control of the enterprise now passed, at least formally, into new hands, and a partial reorganisation of the governing body became necessary. It is a circumstance pregnant with significance far beyond any importance which may attach to the exposition of our industrial rivalries, that the list of Royal Commissioners actively engaged in the every day labour of the scheme, included the men of all parties, the heads of all factions, the Cæsars, Catos, and Ciceros of the State. We should perhaps be less inclined to appreciate the significancy of this circumstance, had we not been painfully impressed by the very dissimilar code of public action visible amongst our French neighbours. The recent cosmopolite fêtes at Paris were even less marked by the hospitality of the donors, or brusquerie of the military, than in the total void occasioned by the absence of every distinguished leader unattached to the dominant party. Neither at the Hôtel de Ville, nor at any of the banquets given

« AnteriorContinuar »