Page images
[blocks in formation]

combined, when in very small quantities. Multitudes, in like manner, may be found, who will shrink back with horror from the administration of the most needful moral correctives, while they will not hesitate to admit of an almost perpetual dosing with such remedies as are found in the fiction of the day. Now there is no point better established, than that it is the poison of small quantities, in both instances, which most effectually, if not most rapidly undermines the constitution, physical and moral.

But our patience bas been most severely tried with the editors of our papers and periodicals. These men have it in their power to render our busy community a most essential service, by a careful and judicious examination of every new work, as soon as it is issued from the press, and by candidly pronouncing on its tendency. Some, indeed, appear to do this, but their number is few. The greater part, so far as we are acquainted, pursue quite a different course. They cannot afford the time or the patience to examine books for themselves ; so like true herding animals, they follow some leader. We might here mention names, were it in keeping with our general plan, but it is not. We oppose not men, but measures. We make not a war on persons; we would only discuss principles.

We have said that our books are, in general, but poorly calculated to promote the well-being of the rising generation; and have, on a former occasion, more than intimated the importance of a judicious revision and supervision in this department. Such a service seems to be proposed by the American Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Among the measures which this society proposes is, as we have already assured our readers, the publication of a series of books of good tendency, to form the basis of libraries for district schools and families.

We are free to confess, that while we like their plan, and especially the object they propose—that of supplying the community with books not less attractive, but at the same time more useful than those which now fill our bookstores and the shelves of our libraries—we could wish for a series still better, and, at the same time, more attractive, than those of which a catalogue is given in the prospectus. However, we are willing to insert a part of their prospectus, and to give encouragement to their measures, though they seem quite inadequate to the wants of the public mind, starving and dying as it is in the midst of an overexcited, half-famished literature.


Advantages of School Libraries.


[The following is intended to show the advantages of this library, as set forth in a printed prospectus, which we have received from Rev. Gorham D. Abbott, the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Society.]

The American Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge proposed, from the commencement, to devote very early attention to the publication of a series of works, on the more important branches of popular knowledge, to be prepared and issued in a style and manner, suited to the purposes of a School Library. The primary object was, to have them placed as extensively as possible, in the common schools of the country, that they may be loaned to the children, and circulated through them among all the families of the districts. Some of the considerations which have led the society to attach special importance to this plan are the following:

1. The social, circulating library is unquestionably the most economical and efficient mode of supplying the means of knowledge, to the large mass of young persons between the


of ten and twenty, in the common school districts, throughout the country, now almost wholly unprovided with books of general information.

2. This class of persons are at a period of life in which the means of knowledge are of the highest interest and value. In youth, the powers of the mind are all in active exercise. osity is awake; memory is faithful; the attention, not yet distracted by the engrossing cares of active life, gives itself wholly to its work. There is an ardor in the thirst for knowledge, which shows itself in the intense eagerness to hear and know; and many would seek constant gratification from books, if books could be obtained, of a character adapted to their taste and age. This period is the best time in life for storing the mind with knowledge, and almost the only time to acquire a taste for its attainment in future years.

3. Such a library will be the means of great advantage and improvement to the schools with which they are connected. It will, in fact, add a new department to the system of education, the influence of which will extend to the whole population. It will concentrate interest in the schools, enlarge the sphere of the teacher's instruction and influence, elevate his employment and office, connecting pleasant associations with it in the minds of the scholars, and in the families to which they belong. It Their Results to the Community.


will raise the tone of literary interest and ambition among pupils, and relieve the dull routine of mere elementary instruction, by the pleasures of entertaining and useful knowledge. It will be a kind of connecting link, to unite the school with society around, and will naturally form the nucleus of an extended popular library, which, by subsequent yearly additions, will contain the materials for a general acquaintance with all subjects of interest and benefit to the community.

4. It seems necessary, in order to carry out and complete the work of school education, to provide some such supply of the means of reading. The elementary branches taught in the classes, are rather the instruments by which knowledge is to be acquired, than the acquisition itself. They constitute the preliminary training of the mind; and when this is, in some good degree accomplished, how important that the pupil should have opportunity to employ his powers, in exploring the field of knowledge. The school teaches the boy to read ; and gives him some elementary knowledge of various kinds, which enables him to understand books. When this is acquired, we must give him the books, or our work is incomplete.

5. Such a library of simple, interesting and instructive works, would exert a vast influence in preserving the morals of the community. An entertaining book is one of the strongest keepers a child can have. Its chain is invisible, and it neither chafes nor annoys

the wearer. But it is more effectual than almost any other restraint. How many hours would such libraries rescue from idleness; from wicked conversation ; from open dissipation and vice? how many from noisy broils and savage fights ? And this, 100, just in the most important crisis ; for, if a young man's character is saved till he is twentyone, it is in general saved for life. This plan, also, by providing a source of enjoyment and improvement for all the members of a family at home, will strengthen the domestic relations, and tend to revive and restore the love of domestic pursuits and pleasures. The experience of ages shows that mankind can exist safely and in happiness, only in the form of a vast congeries of families; and the more we can strengthen the love of home, and bring means of improvement and happiness to every man's fireside, and keep the inmates of the household at home, the better for the virtue and solid happiness of the community.

6. It will be a very effectual mode of supplying the population generally with the means of knowledge. Through the scholars. the books will find their way, in constant rotation, to all the families around ; and many circumstances will conspire to cause them to be extensively read, by the adult population.


Character of the Volumes.

Parents are always specially interested in their children's pursuits, and often like to read, themselves, what their children are reading. And the interesting nature of the subjects, the simplicity and directness of the style, and the practical utility which will every where be aimed at, will fit these works peculiarly to the wants of a large class of our population, too much engrossed with cares, or wearied with the toils of life, or of too little mental cultivation to engage in more extended studies.

7. The plan is a very economical one. The amount of useful result is very large, when compared with the expenditure. A book sold to an individual is commonly read but by few, and is then laid aside idle and useless. These books, on the contrary, will circulate continually, and be used by new readers in succession, till worn out. An edition of 1000 copies, in the ordinary way, will reach perhaps 5,600 or 10,000 minds. But on this plan, circulating among the families of a thousand districts, they will have opportunity to reach several hundred thousand minds. Indeed, if it were desired to make known a narrative of facts, as extensively as possible to the mass of a community, what cheaper or better mode could be devised, than to place a copy in every school, to be loaned to the scholars in rotation? A sum not exceeding the ordinary endowment of a professorship in one of our colleges, will found such a National Library; and enable the society to perpetuate its blessings indefinitely among the rising generation in our country. Tens of thousands, in our day, hundreds of thousands, millions, yet unborn, -would have their minds expanded, and their characters formed under its benignant influence. Such a library, placed in every school in our country, would seem to be one of the most effectual and desirable measures for the general diffusion of knowledge and the improvement of society, that could possibly be devised. Its benefits would be incalculable.

[The character and design of the works, is further described in the Prospectus, as follows.]

T'he library is intended to consist in the outset of fifty volumes, to be increased from time to time, as circumstances may require, until each school is furnished with perhaps two hundred volumes, comprising the following classes of works :

1. History, Ancient and Modern. The whole to contain a condensed but lively and spirited view of the history of the world ; its settlement; the distribution of its inhabitants; the families of nations, and of languages; the rise and fall of empires; the present great powers of the earth, and their connection

with the past.

Their Character, continued.


2. Voyages and Travels, to be compiled from the works of the most celebrated travellers : Anson, Cook, Kotzebue, Humbolt, Drake, Chateaubriand, Bruce, Park , Saussure, Peyrouse, Vancouver, Parry, Franklin, &c. The whole to be so arranged, as to bring all parts of the world before the reader, and to convey a general but accurate idea of the various regions of the earth, as they present themselves to the eye of the traveller ; and prepared in such a way, as to impart as much information as possible, in respect to the history, geography, and manners and customs of the countries visited.

3. Biography. The lives of great and good men, who have acted a conspicuous part on the great theatre of this world ; and especially the lives of those from whose history good moral lessons may be drawn. Columbus, Washington, Franklin, Jay, Bacon, Newton, Howard, &c.

4. Natural Science, in its various departments, with a view to impart a general but systematic acquaintance with objects of interest and utility in the three great kingdoms of nature.

5. Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, exhibiting just views of the intellectual and moral constitution of man; the grounds of human obligations, and the nature and claims of duty.

6. Political Philosophy, presenting the nature and objects of government and law; the principles of civil polity and political economy; the rights and duties of citizens; and various subjects of general interest, affecting the welfare of society.

7. Agriculture. To consist of a series of volumes, on the nature and properties of soils; the products of the vegetable kingdom ; the culture and use of all trees, plants and vegetables, usually cultivated for food or profit; on the history, nature and management of the different domestic animals and their productions; in short, on all subjects connected with the pursuits of husbandry, designed to furnish the sons of the farmer, in a country destined to such high agricultural interests as ours, the best facilities for acquiring all necessary and desirable knowledge connected with their employments, their interests, and their happiness.

8. Manufactures and the Arts. A series on the various substances used in manufactures and in the arts; on the application of science to the common purposes of life; the description of processes, inventions, machinery and its results, calculated to be useful to the artizan, and interesting to every intelligent

[ocr errors]


9. Commerce. Its history, and progress. Articles of commerce. Distribution and consumption. The nature of value,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »