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Preface To Rolt’s Dictionary
by [?]

But the knowledge of trade is of so much importance to a maritime nation, that no labour can be thought great by which information may be obtained; and, therefore, we hope the reader will not have reason to complain, that, of what he might justly expect to find, any thing is omitted.

To give a detail or analysis of our work is very difficult; a volume intended to contain whatever is requisite to be known by every trader, necessarily becomes so miscellaneous and unconnected, as not to be easily reducible to heads; yet, since we pretend in some measure to treat of traffick as a science, and to make that regular and systematical which has hitherto been, to a great degree, fortuitous and conjectural, and has often succeeded by chance rather than by conduct, it will be proper to show that a distribution of parts has been attempted, which, though rude and inadequate, will, at least, preserve some order, and enable the mind to take a methodical and successive view of this design.

In the dictionary which we here offer to the publick, we propose to exhibit the materials, the places, and the means of traffick.

The materials or subjects of traffick are whatever is bought and sold, and include, therefore, every manufacture of art, and almost every production of nature.

In giving an account of the commodities of nature, whether those which are to be used in their original state, as drugs and spices, or those which become useful when they receive a new form from human art, as flax, cotton, and metals, we shall show the places of their production, the manner in which they grow, the art of cultivating or collecting them, their discriminations and varieties, by which the best sorts are known from the worse, and genuine from fictitious, the arts by which they are counterfeited, the casualties by which they are impaired, and the practices by which the damage is palliated or concealed. We shall, likewise, show their virtues and uses, and trace them through all the changes which they undergo.

The history of manufactures is, likewise, delivered. Of every artificial commodity the manner in which it is made is, in some measure, described, though it must be remembered, that manual operations are scarce to be conveyed by any words to him that has not seen them. Some general notions may, however, be afforded: it is easy to comprehend, that plates of iron are formed by the pressure of rollers, and bars by the strokes of a hammer; that a cannon is cast, and that an anvil is forged. But, as it is to most traders of more use to know when their goods are well wrought, than by what means, care has been taken to name the places where every manufacture has been carried furthest, and the marks by which its excellency may be ascertained.

By the places of trade, are understood all ports, cities, or towns, where staples are established, manufactures are wrought, or any commodities are bought and sold advantageously. This part of our work includes an enumeration of almost all the remarkable places in the world, with such an account of their situation, customs, and products, as the merchant would require, who, being to begin a new trade in any foreign country, was yet ignorant of the commodities of the place, and the manners of the inhabitants.

But the chief attention of the merchant, and, consequently, of the author who writes for merchants, ought to be employed upon the means of trade, which include all the knowledge and practice necessary to the skilful and successful conduct of commerce.

The first of the means of trade is proper education, which may confer a competent skill in numbers; to be afterwards completed in the counting-house, by observation of the manner of stating accounts, and regulating books, which is one of the few arts which, having been studied in proportion to its importance, is carried as far as use can require. The counting-house of an accomplished merchant is a school of method, where the great science may be learned of ranging particulars under generals, of bringing the different parts of a transaction together, and of showing, at one view, a long series of dealing and exchange. Let no man venture into large business while he is ignorant of the method of regulating books; never let him imagine that any degree of natural abilities will enable him to supply this deficiency, or preserve multiplicity of affairs from inextricable confusion.