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before the public within the last few years, essays have indeed appeared which descanted upon, or investigated, many of the subjects here treated of, but they have been either of so scientific a nature as to render them unintelligible to any but the professors of science, or so voluminous and expensive as to place them beyond the reach of two-thirds of the reading members of society. A knowledge of those articles which form, as it were, the basis of domestic comfort, luxury, and use, or which keep, to speak figuratively, the wheels of life in motion, may appear dispensible, but cannot be considered unnecessary. When we consider the complicated manner in which many of the most

domestic articles are prepared, previously to reaching our hands--the distance they are brought-and the countries in which they are cultivated, it will not be surprising to find that even the most intelligent persons are often ignorant of their real nature, and unable to ascertain the true properties of things which they hold in constant use. Nature's works never appear to greater advantage than when traced to their original source. It may perhaps be degrading to the mind of vain and superficial pride to see its blazing diamond and milky pearl traced through all the metamorphoses of art to their first origin, degraded to a dirty stone, or the shell of an insignificant fish, but such pursuits as these must ever form a source of pleasure to the enquiring and reflective observer. Besides, whilst it thus opens to the uncultivated mind the wide and expansive treasury of mysterious nature, it also exhibits

PREFACE.

the invention, the genius, and the enterprize of man,it collects the scattered intellect of the world, throws a balo of useful glory around the placid and dawning bosom of science, and shows in what manner the labours of the philosophic mind, the studious hour, and the “midnight oil,” are rendered available to the human race. These observations are not meant to send this volume to the public as a treatise on natural philosophy; they are merely made as showing the nature and the objects of the work. The sun-beams of ornamental literature, the flash of imagination, and the flowers of rhetoric, may shed their lustre around the works of fiction and fancy ; but it has not been attempted to enlist them into the service of the writer of the following sheets; the chief aim has been to send them forth in the plain garb of simplicity and usefulness, trusting to the public for a friendly glance at the production of a few “hours of idleness.”

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