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PLAN OF THIS WORK.
The growing demand for the species of practical information which it has been our object in the following pages to concentrate, has often suggested itself to the author, and doubtless to numberless others. Perhaps in no country have more frequent inquiries been made in relation to COAL; to its infinite varieties, adaptations and modifications; its innumerable depositories and its geographical distribution, than in the United States of America.
This desire, probably, originates in the circumstance that in no country has such rapid progress been made in the development of mineral fuel, not only for all domestic purposes, but as a powerful agent in every department of manufacturing industry; notwithstanding that enormous and almost unbroken forests still overshadow the land. The increasing demand and corresponding supply, the rapid expansion of the field of industrial operations, have no doubt awakened this solicitude for information-local, general, statistical, commercial and scientific, on the subject of coal.
We have reason, however, to be assured that the demand for this species of knowledge is not limited to the country from whence we date. It prevails more or less in every quarter of the globe where that inestimable substance has been investigated and brought into the service of man. It was obvious that a statistical work, embodying all the important details in relation to the mineral combustibles of the world, would be an acceptable contribution to practical science.
Until some such work appeared, it were a fruitless task to seek for details which no one had undertaken to collect in the compass of a single volume; and which yet remained, like the mineral itself, scattered throughout all the countries of the earth.
Acting under this impression the author has sought and gathered together the materials a great number at least, to remedy the deficiency of which we speak.
His design, at the outset, was limited to the collection of such coal statistics as seemed sufficient for his private guidance. As in all labours of this description, the materials, during the progress of the undertaking, accumulated to an extent far greater than was anticipated. An extended arrangement led to greatly increased labour. The sources of information as regards foreign countries, being remote, its acquisition is necessarilly uncertain and tedious:
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appropriate classification. In many cases where errors have prevailed, we have been enabled to correct them by the aid of recent geological investigations. Still, modern science has not yet penetrated every where. There remains, at numerous, but rarely visited points, vast fields of so-called coal, whose true geological age we have yet to learn. For the present, therefore, we are unable to class these combustibles either with the true coals as the older series, or with the tertiary lignites as the newer, or with any intermediate deposits. This being the case, it was obviously inexpedient to exclude the Liesites from our pages, independently of their intrinsic value as combustibles. Brown coal is a valuable substitute for the older coal where there is a scarcity of the superior variety, as we shall have many opportunities of showing.
In like manner, while describing the lignites, Peat seemed to demand a proportionate share of our attention, and to claim a place in our columns. The transition from one condition of these combustibles to another is oftentime so imperceptible that they seem to have almost equal claims on our notice. In its remarkable diffusion over the northern hemisphere where artificial heat is so indispensable, and where timber and other descriptions of fuel are so little abundant, turf or peat forms a substitute of inestimable worth. In its adaptation to numberless useful purposes, such as the manufacture of iron, the production of gas, &c., modern science has shown that it possesses qualities which heretofore were but little suspected. Thus, it will be seen, our list comprehends a large series of valuable products ; extending upwards from carbonized peat at one extremity to hard coals and compact anthracites at the other.
So closely do some bituminized coals approach to the mineral bitumens, some of which have even been denominated coal, as those in the West Indies and South America, that we have found it advisable to include the BITUMINOUS AND RESINOUS MINERALS. We were unwilling to reject this numerousclass, which comprises the solid bitumens of the tropics ; the asphalts of France, of Italy, of Syria and numberless other countries; the petroleum of Arabia, of Persia, of Birmah and Ava; the Naphtha of Rangoon, and Tartary and Georgia; the amber of Pomerania, of Saxony and Siberia; the mellite or honeystone of Thuringia, and the retinites of Moravia and England. A number of these substances accompany the carboniferous formations ; others arise from the midst of primary and metamorphic and igneous rocks, while still more accompany, or are embedded in the lignite beds and tertiary coals of every part of the world.
We have even added, to complete our series of combustibles, official returns of the annual amount and value of the wood and timber furnished by the forests of France, Austria, the Tyrol, Styria, Illyria, Galicia, Bohemia, &c.
We did not contemplate, in preparing this work, to enter extensively into