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In this age, when satiated with the multiplicity and variety of magazines which appeal to the public-a new one appearing almost every month -it is refreshing to go back in imagination to the period when this species of literature first began to attract attention. I have been asked to write a short prefatory note to a work by the late Mr. G. W. Niven, of Greenock, in which, with much pains and perspicuity, he has enabled us to perform this mental peregrination, traced the origin and development of our journalism, which is now so thoroughly organised and has attained such gigantic proportions, and has given us a most graphic account of one of the quaintest and most curious of the early forms which it assumed.
It is with much pleasure that I accede to this request, for I believe that in bringing out a work on The British Apollo—a series of volumes very popular in their own day, full of entertainment and instruction, first issued in the early years of the eighteenth century and last printed in 1740—and which is now of such extreme rarity that a re-issue of it would be equivalent to a new publication, Mr. Niven has rendered valuable service to the literary and antiquarian world. No one could have been better qualified for the task he had undertaken than he was. He had a special and extensive knowledge of the whole subject. He had penetrated deeply into a department of study that was known to few beyond himself, had read many out-of-the-way books relating to it, and was thus able to throw considerable light upon the authorship of the work in question, which no critic had previously discussed. He had also the grasp of mind and power of generalisation derived from a large acquaintance with literature, science, and archæology—seldom possessed by one individual -which make his editorial comments on the various subjects treated of in The British Apollo luminous and interesting in a high degree. It is a cause of much regret that the work, although it was ready for the press, must appear as a posthumous publication, without the advantage of the editor's matured and final remarks.
His premature death at a time when his mind was peculiarly active and full of projects for future literary work, is much to be lamented, not only by personal friends who knew and admired his many excellent qualities of mind and heart, but also of a much wider outer circle, who had learned to appreciate highly the results of his special studies in nooks and corners of our literature, which few but himself could explore. The present work will be much prized by them as a favourable specimen of his peculiar gifts, and will be a measure of the great loss which they have sustained by his death.