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AS'the writings of Archimedes were addreffed to the King of Sicily, who had perused and relished them, fo I do myself the honour, to addrefs to Your Majefty, the following account of the Life, Writings, and Inventions of our British Archimedes, in which, I can claim no other merit, than having endeavoured to call forth and illustrate the abilities of others. I feel great pleasure, in dedicating this Tract to Your Majefty, after the chaste and dignified model of Antiquity, bestowing on the King, the merited encomium, of having promoted the Sciences and Arts, with which it is connected; and in affuring Your Majesty, that I am, with the greatest respect,
Moft dutiful Subject, and
Obedient humble Servant,
ABOUT twenty years ago, I thought it would be easy to bring together a groupe of learned men, who would dedicate a part of their leifure to erect literary monuments to the memory of their illustrious countrymen, whose lives had not been hitherto written or fufficiently illuftrated; and I wished fuch monuments to be fashioned and executed by men perfonally eminent in the departments which distinguished the subjects of their biographical research, and not by the affiftants of a bookfeller or compiler, who cannot be expected, however faithful and accurate, to be animated with that love to the fubject, which the Italian Artist rightly confiders as the foul of his enterprize, and the fource of its perfection.
In this expectation I have been disappointed; and though I allow the highest merit to the British Biography, now republishing by Dr Kippis, yet in the immenfe extent of fuch an undertaking, I perceive the impoffibility of its reaching the perfection I have propofed, without the addition of fupplementary articles and connections, which would have been in a great measure unneceffary, had my plan been adopted; because the articles, being written with care and with zeal, fo as to support themselves in an ifolated state by the public favour, would afterwards have been taken up by fubfequent editions into that great repofitory of biographical learning, in a highly finished flate, and purged of the errors which are unavoidable, in the first fabric of works of that
With respect to the biography of Scotland, one of the judges there, who would have done it honour in its best days, by his virtue, his attention to the dignity and duties of bis ftation, and the ufeful employment of his leifure, has generously offered, by an advertisement annexed to the Annals of the Lives of John Barclay, Author of Argenis, and fome other learned Scots, to forward the undertaking I wish to promote.
Encouraged by the affistance of an affociats, fo able and fo liberal, I have prefumed to offer the following Biographical Tract to the public, as my mite to a Treasury, which I hope to fee enriched by many, who have the ability and the generosity of my respectable coadjutor. It was indeed by that excellent man, that I was originally encouraged to profecute researches of this nature. He applauded that difpofition in a young man of quality, which leads him to the study of the history of his own country, not in pamphlets, fatires, apologies and panegyrics, but in the private undifguifed correspondence of the great.
A man who ftudies hiftory in this way, will fee that the fame characters are reprefented by different actors: introduced behind the Scenes, he will fee folly dreffing itself in the garb of wisdom, and felfishness affuming the mask of public ́Spirit; and among the learned, the plagiary stealing away the laurels of the modeft inventor. He will fee great events arifing from inconfiderable causes, and men neither devils nor angels, but a compofition of good and bad qualities, fuch as the men of the world can fee them every day in common life.
I flatter myself, that this article of Napier, in the Biographia Scotica, will be confidered in fome refpects, as a fpecimen of the plan I have defcribed, for it certainly has been written con amore. In the fcientific part I have received the affiftance of a gentleman, who deferves to be better known, on account of his mathematical learning, and the accuracy with which he treats the fubjects of his inquiry.