Page images
PDF
EPUB

to

the literati, those even who do not speak it, have acquired knowledge of it, to enable them easily to read the books that are written in it. This gives a considerable advantage to that nation. It enables its authors inculcate and spread through other nations, such sentiments and opinions, on important points, as are most conducive to its interests, or which may contribute to its reputation, by promoting the common interests of mankind. It is, perhaps, owing to its being written in French, that Voltaire's Treatise on Toleration has had so fudden and so great an effect on the bigotry of Europe, as almost entirely to disarm it. The general use of the French language has likewise a very advantageous effect on the profits of the bookselling branch of commerce, it being well known, that the more copies can be sold that are struck off from one composition of profits increase in a much greater pro

portion

types, the

The great

portion than they do in making a greater number of pieces in any other kind of manufacturé. And at present there is no capital town in Europe without a French' bookseller's shop corresponding with Paris. Our English bids fair to obtain the second place. body of excellent printed sermons in our language, and the freedom of our writings on political subjects, have induced a great number of divines of different fects and nations, as well as gentlemen concerned in public affairs, to study it, so far at least as to read it. And if we were to endeavour the facilitating its progress, the study of our tongue might become much more general. Those who have employed some part of their time in learning a new language, must have frequently observed, that while their acquaintance with it was imperfect, difficulties, small in themselves, operated as great ones in obstructing their pro

gress.

G2

gress. A book, for example, ill printed, or a pronunciation in speaking not well articulated, , would render a sentence unintelligib.e, which from a clear print, or a distinct Speaker, would have been immediately comprehended. If, therefore, we would have the benefit of seeing our language more generally known among mankind, we should endeavour to remove all the difficulies, however sınall, that discourage the learning of it. But I am sorry to observe that, of late years, those difficulties, instead of being diminilhed, have been augmented.

In examining the English books that were printed between the restoration and the accession of George the Second, we may observe, that all substantives were begun with a capital, in which we imitated our mother tongue, the German. This was more particularly useful to those who were not well acquainted with the English, there being such a prodigious 7

number

number of our words that are both verbs and substantives, and spelt in the fame manner, though often accented differently in pronunciation. This method has, by the fancy of printers, of late years been entirely laid aside ; from an idea, that suppressing the capitals shews the character to greater advantage ; those letters, prominent above the line, disturbing its even, regular appearançe. The effect of this change is so considerable, that a learned man of France, who used to read our books, though not perfectly acquainted with our language, in conversation with me on the subject of our authors, attributed the greater obscurity he found in our modern books, compared with those of the period above mentioned, to change of style for the worse in our writ

of which mistake I convinced him, by marking for him each substantive with a capital, in a paragraph, which he

then

ers ;

G 3

then easily understood, though before he could not comprehend it. This shews the inconvenience of that pretended improvement.

From the same fondness for an uniform and even appearance of characters in the line, the printers have of late banished also the Italic types, in which words of importance to be attended to in the sense of the sentence, and words on which an emphasis should be put in reading, used to be printed. And lately another fancy has induced other printers to use the round s instead of the long one, which formerly served well to distinguish a word readily by its varied appearance. Certainly the omitting this prominent letter makes a line appear more even, but renders it less immediately legible; as the paring of all men's noses might smooth and level their faces, but would render their physiognomies less' distinguishable.' Add to all these improvements backwards,

another

« PreviousContinue »