« PředchozíPokračovat »
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
In every age and nation distinguished for arts and learning, the inclination of transmitting the
Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1852, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The present work is not of an ephemeral character. Originally undertaken by James B. Longacre, of Philadelphia, and connected subsequently with a similar undertaking by James Herring, of New York, it was first offered to the public in a serial form in 1833; and has been gradually brought, in despite of many adverse circumstances, to the matured condition in which its claims to public favor are now presented.
During its progress, more than Forty THOUSAND DOLLARS have been expended, chiefly upon the illustrations. These, for number, authenticity, and general excellence, far exceed those of any similar work ever before published in the United States. There are thirtysix of these in each volume, or one hundred and forty-four altogether. They are finely engraved on steel, either in line or stipple, and are all taken from original and authentic portraits, many of them by the best masters. Among the portrait painters, whose scattered works are here collected and preserved by the art of the engraver, may be mentioned particularly, Stuart, Trumbull, Sully, Peale, Copley, Leslie, Inman, Newton, Ingham, Durand and Healy. In the preparation of the biographies, equal pains have been taken. The facts have been sifted with the greatest care, and the statements may all be relied upon as entirely authentic. Among the writers, by whom these biographies have been prepared, may be named John Quincy Adams, Prof. Ticknor, Prof. Upham, Robert Y. Hayne, Robert Walsh, Charles J. Ingersoll, Dr. Hósack, Dr. John W. Francis, and others equally well known to the puklić,
It can hardly be necessary to say inuch in demonstrating the value of a work of this kind. This form of bistorical literature, although of recent origin, has already been largely employed in England and on the continent of Europe, and to some extent in the United States. It is undoubtedly one of the most useful and elegant modes in which
DUP. EXCHANGE SAUG. 1905
the materials of history can be collected and preserved, and the taste for such studies gratified. The design is to present, in the most chaste and classical style of composition, and with all possible beauty of mechanical execution, an accurate and authentic account of the lives and characters of those persons, who have distinguished themselves in the public service, or in any way contributed to promote the national glory. The biographical sketches are brief and condensed, and each is accompanied by the most exact and best executed portrait that could be procured. The work, then, while it preserves the memory of the great and good, and perpetuates their living images, exhibits at the same time a specimen of the highest point of excellence, to which the arts of painting, engraving, typography, paper-making, and binding, are carried in the country.
But the finished elegance of the PORTRAIT GALLERY does not constitute its only, nor its highest claim to public patronage. It deserves to be regarded as a work of very great value in an historical point of view. A general history must always cover so wide a surface as to forbid such a degree of particularity, as is necessary in order to give it one of the principal charms that belong to that department of writing. Individual characters and single incidents must be passed over in silence, or but slightly noticed. The course of events must be related only in their most prominent stages, and can be explained no farther than by referring to their leading causes, and discussing the general principles which cover them. While this is necessary in order to give to a work, which aims to occupy the highest department of history, its peculiar excellence, it at the same time deprives it of much of the interest and value that would attach to a more particular and detailed narrative. If general history attempted to enter upon these minute details, there would be ņo room left for those reflections and philosophical inductions, which constitute the highest attributes of historical composition.
These omissions and deficieities must be supplied by works of a different description. Brief biographies are well adapted to answer this end. They constitute the complement of history. They are to the works of Bancroft and Prescott, what useful and elegant furniture
is to a mansion, or statuary and paintings to a stately edifice. When the great events, which are the prominent points in the career of a nation, have been suitably represented and commemorated, the memoirs of individuals who acted a conspicuous part in them will rescue from oblivion all that remains worthy of notice, and the whole work will be adequately accomplished.
Such is the task which the projectors of the present undertaking placed before them. Strong in the confidence of its ultimate success, they have expended their means with no sparing hand, and they now offer the results of their labor, in a finished state, for the public acceptance. THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY is in every particular the best and most finished, that the style of the arts in America would permit. It is a work which will adorn equally the library and the parlor. By passing through its pages, the patriot and scholar may behold in succession, as in one extended gallery, the images and the history of those who have contributed to shed light or glory on their country.