« ZurückWeiter »
difficulties, small in themselves, have operated as great ones in obstructing their progress. A book, for example, ill printed, or a pronunciation in speaking not well articulated, would render a sentence unintelligible, which, from a clear print or a distinct speaker, would have been immediately comprehended. If, therefore, we would have the benefit of seeing our language more generally known among mankind, we should endeavour to remove all the difficulties, however small, that discourage the learning of it. But I am sorry to observe, that of late years, those difficulties, instead of being diminished, have been augmented.
In examining the English books that were printed between the restoration and the accession of George the Second, we may observe, that all substantives were begun with a capital, in which we imitated our mother-tongue, the German. This was more particularly useful to those who were not well acquainted with the English, there being such a prodigious number of our words that are both verbs and substantives, and spelt in the same manner, though often accented differently in pronunciation. This method has, by the fancy of printers of late years, been entirely laid aside; from an idea, that suppressing the capitals shows the character to greater advantage : those letters, prominent above the line, disturbing its even, regular appearance. The effect of this change is so considerable, that a learned man of France, who used to read our books, though not perfectly acquainted with our language, in conversation with me on the subject of our authors, attributed the greater obscurity he found in our modern books, compared with those of the period abovementioned, to a change of style for the worse in
our writers; of which mistake I convinced him, by marking for him each substantive with a capital, in a paragraph, which he then easily understood, though before he could not comprehend it. This shows the inconvenience of that pretended improvement.
From the fondness for a uniform and even appearance of characters in a line, the printers have of late banished also the Italic types, in which words of importance to be attended to in the sense of the sentence, and words on which an emphasis should be put in reading, used to be printed. And lately another fancy has induced other printers to use the round s instead of the long one, which formerly served well to distinguish a word readily by its varied appearance. Certainly the omitting the prominent letter makes the line appear more even, but renders it less immediately legible, as the paring of all men's noses might smooth their features, but would render their physiognomies less distinguishable. Add to all these improvements backwards, another modern fancy that gray printing is more beautiful than black. Hence the English new books, are printed in so dim a character as to be read with difficulty by old eyes, unless in a very strong light, and with good glasses. Whoever compares a volume of the Gentleman's Magazine printed between the years 1731 and 1740, with one of those printed in the last ten years, will be convinced of the much greater degree of perspicuity given by the black than the gray. Lord Chesterfield pleasantly remarked this difference to Faulkner, the printer of the Dublin Journal, who was vainly making encomiums on his own paper as the most complete of any in the world. "But, Mr. Faulkner," says my Lord, "Don't you think it might be still farther improved, by using paper and
ink not quite so near of a colour?"-For all these reasons I cannot but wish our American printers would, in their editions, avoid these fancied improvements, and thereby render their works more agreeable to foreigners in Europe, to the great advantage of our bookselling commerce.
Farther, to be more sensible of the advantage of clear and distinct printing, let us consider the assistance it affords in reading well aloud to an auditory. In so doing the eye generally slides forward three or four words before the voice. If the sight clearly distinguishes what the coming words are, it gives time to order the modulation of the voice to express them properly. But if they are obscurely printed or disguised by omitting the capitals or long s's, or otherwise, the reader is apt to modulate wrong; and, finding he has done so, he is obliged to go back and begin the sentence again; which lessens the pleasure of the hearers. This leads me to mention an old error in our mode of printing. We are sensible, that when a question is met with in reading, there is a proper variation to be used in the management of the voice: we have, therefore, a point called an interrogation affixed to the question, to distinguish it. But this is absurdly placed at its end, so that the reader does not discover it till he finds that he was wrongly modulating his voice, and is therefore obliged to begin again the sentence. To prevent this, the Spanish printers more sensibly place an interrogation at the beginning as well as at the end of the question. We have another error of the same kind in printing plays, where something often occurs that is marked as spoken aside. But the word aside is placed at the end of the speech, when it ought to
precede it, as a direction to the reader, that he may govern his voice accordingly. The practice of our ladies, in meeting five or six together, to form little busy parties, where each is employed in some useful work, while one reads to them, is so commendable in itself, that it deserves the attention of authors and printers to make it as pleasing as possible, both to the reader and hearers.
My best wishes attend you. being, with sincere esteem, sir, your most obedient and very humble B. FRANKLIN, servant,
AN ACCOUNT OF THE HIGHEST COURT OF JUDICATURE IN TRANSYLVANIA.
THE COURT OF THE PRESS.
Power of this Court. It may receive and promulgate accusations of all kinds, against all persons and characters among the citizens of the state, and against all inferior courts; and may judge, sentence, and condemn to infamy, not only private individuals, but public bodies, &c., with or without injury or hearing, at the court's discretion.
Whose favour, or for whose emolument this court is established. In favour of about one citizen in five hundred, who, by education, or practice in scribbling, has acquired a tolerable style as to grammar and construction, so as to bear printing; or who is possessed of a press and a few types. This five hundredth part of the citizens have the liberty of accusing and abusing the other four hundred and ninety-nine parts at their pleasure; or they may hire out their pens and press to others for that purpose.
Practice of this court. It is not governed by
any of the rules of the common courts of law. The accused is allowed no grand jury to judge of the truth of the accusation before it is publicly made; nor is the name of the accuser made known to him, nor has he an opportunity of confronting the witnesses against him, for they are kept in the dark, as in the Spanish court of inquisition. Nor is there any petty jury of his peers sworn to try the truth of the charges. The proceedings are also sometimes so rapid, that an honest good citizen may find himself suddenly and unexpectedly accused, and in the same moment judged and condemned, and sentence pronounced against him that he is a rogue and a villain. Yet if an officer of this 'court receives the slightest check for misconduct in this his office, he claims immediately the rights of a free citizen by the constitution, and demands to know his accuser, to confront the witnesses, and have a fair trial by the jury of his peers.
The foundation of its authority. It is said to be founded on an article in the state constitution, which establishes the liberty of the press-a liberty which every Pennsylvanian would fight and die for, though few of us, I believe, have distinct ideas of its nature and extent. It seems, indeed, somewhat like the liberty of the press, that felons have, by the common law of England, before conviction; that is, to be either pressed to death or hanged. If by the liberty of the press, we understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please; but if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating, and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please to alter the law