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4. But what I chiefly value this method of printing for, is, from the advantages it gives an author in making his work perfect, and in freeing it from mistakes; for, by printing off a few copies of any sheet, and sending them among his friends, and by suffering them to fall into the hands of a malevolent critic, he may have an opportunity of correcting his mistakes, before they appear to the world. By the same means he may make his work more complete than otherwise he could, by the assistance which his friends may give him in several parts of it. It is for these reasons chiefly, that I propose the plates not to exceed an octavo page, and to have no signatures; for in case of a mistake, the loss of one page may correct the error, and, where improvements or additions are necessary, as many pages may be intermixed as shall be necessary, without any inconvenience, and small explications may be made by the marginal notes.
Lastly. The greatest advantage I conceive will be in the learned sciences; for they often require a long time to bring them to perfection, and require the assistance of others in many particulars. Many a valuable piece has been lost to the world by the author dying before he could bring his work to the perfection he designed. Now, by the assistance which he may have by this method from others, this time may be much shortened, and the progress he has made may be preserved for others to continue in case of his death. An author may publish his work in parts, and shall continue, in many cases, to complete and make them more perfect without any loss of what was done before. By this method likewise, a man of learning, when poor, may leave some part of his estate in his own way for a child, as mechanics often do for theirs.
Whether the method I propose will answer the end designed, or whether it be practicable, I cannot with sufficient assurance say; because we have no artists in this country who can make the experiment, neither can they have encouragement sufficient to tempt them to make the trial. However, I hope to be excused, by the use of the design, and as it may chance to give some hint to a skilful person to perform effectually what I only aim at in vain.
If the charge of lead or metal plates be thought too great, I know not but that the impression may be made on thin planes of some kinds of wood, such as lime tree or poplar, which have a soft, smooth grain when green, and are hard and smooth when dry.
Ever since I had the pleasure of a conversation with you, though very short, by our accidental meeting on the road, I have been very desirous to engage you in a correspondence. You were pleased to take some notice of a method of printing, which I mentioned to you at that time, and to think it practicable. I have no further concern for it than as it may be useful to the public; my reasons for thinking so, you will find in the enclosed
of a paper, which I last year sent to Mr. Collinson in London. Perhaps my fondness for my own conceptions may make me think more of it than it deserves, and may make me jealous that the common printers are willing to discourage, out of private interest, any discovery of this sort. But as you have given me reason to think you zealous in promoting every useful attempt, you will be able absolutely to determine my opinion of it.
I long very much to hear what you have done in your scheme of erecting a society at Philadelphia for promoting of useful arts and sciences in America. If
you think of any thing in my power, whereby I can promote so useful an undertaking, I will with much pleasure receive your instructions for that end. As my son Cadwallader bears this, I thereby think myself secured of the pleasure of a line from you by him. *
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN.
Philadelphia, 4 November, 1743. SIR, I received the favor of yours, with the proposal for a new method of printing, which I am much pleased with; and, since you express some confidence in my opinion, I shall consider it very attentively and particularly, and in a post or two send you some observations on every article.t
My long absence from home in the summer put my business so much behindhand, that I have been in a continual hurry ever since my return, and had no leisure to forward the scheme of the Society. But that hurry being now near over, I purpose to proceed in the affair very soon, your approbation being no small encouragement to me.
I cannot but be fond of engaging in a correspondence so advantageous to me as yours must be. I shall always receive your favors as such, and with great pleasure.
I wish I could by any means have made your son's longer stay here as agreeable to him, as it would have been to those who began to be acquainted with him. I am, Sir, with much respect, Your most humble servant,
The process here described, which was evidently an original invention of Mr. Colden, has some resemblance to the early attempts at stereotype printing.-EDITOR. + These observations have not been found. - EDITOR. VOL. VI.
FROM CADWALLADER COLDEN TO W. STRAHAN.
Remarks on a New Method of Printing, in Reply to
Mr. Strahan's Objections.
3 December, 1743. SIR, As I think myself much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken to answer a paper I formerly wrote to Mr. Collinson, I take the first opportunity to acknowledge it. I am fully convinced, that your reasonings are just; and, as they have been likewise confirmed by experience, they leave no room to doubt.* But, at the same time, I must inform you, that you have not entirely taken my view. I easily, and at first, perceived that this method would not succeed for common books, which generally bear but one edition, and are chiefly calculated for the present times, and with a view to a speedy profit, while the present taste and humor lasts. I had confined my view to particular cases, and to a narrow compass, to books in the sciences, and to such only, which have an intrinsic value independent of the governing humor or taste, the value of which is known to few, but which will always be esteemed and sought after by some.
Of such sort is Euclid's Elements, which has continued in the esteem of the world above two thousand years. Such likewise are Sir Isaac Newton's "Optics,” and his “Principia,” which will for all ages be called for by the few that understand them. Such likewise are Trigonometrical Tables, &c., which never can be out of fashion, or out of use, and which may be affixed to,
* The substance of Mr. Strahan's objections to the new method of printing had been communicated to Mr. Colden by Mr. Collinson. EDITOR.
and are convenient for, many different books. And yet all these books, and others of the kind, have but a slow sale. The composing of them for the press must likewise be more difficult and expensive, because the composer cannot be assisted by the sense, and a mistake in one letter or figure frequently disturbs the whole. Some of these have been often cut on copper plates (with profit I suppose to the owners), and yet certainly
I they might be impressed on printing metal by types en creux in the method I propose, with much less expense than by engraving and by the rolling press. I accidentally, last summer, fell into company with a
a printer, the most ingenious in his way, without question, of any in America. Upon my mentioning my thoughts, which I wrote to Mr. Collinson, he told me of the method that had been used in Holland, which you likewise mention, but he thought the method by types en creux to be an improvement of that method. And, as he is a man very lucky in improving every hint, he has done something on this foundation, which I have seen, and which has puzzled all the printers in this country to conceive by what method it is done. As printing is this man's trade, and he makes a benefit of it, I do not think myself at liberty to communicate it without his consent, though, as to my own part, I have no interest in keeping the secret; nor had I, nor have I, any other view in what I formerly wrote, than to communicate a thought which I fancied might be of use to others.
What I have wrote perhaps may occasion some reflections to you, that may not prove of loss to you in your way. If I can make any return for your civility by any service in this country, you will oblige me by giving me an opportunity to do it, and shall be glad of