Monthly Archives: December 2005

Item of the Day: Oliver’s Essay on Comets (1772)

Full Title:

An Essay on Comets, in Two Parts. Part I. Containing an Attempt to explain the Phænomena of the Tails of Comets, and to account for their perpetual Opposition to the Sun, upon philosophical Principles. Part II. Pointing out some important Ends for which these tails were probably designed: Wherein it is shewn, that, in Consequence of these curious Appendages, Comets may be inhabited Worlds, and even comfortable Habitations; notwithstanding the vast Excentricities of their Orbits. The Whole interspersed with Observations and Reflections on the Sun and Primary Planets. By Andrew Oliver, Jun. Esq.

Written by Andrew Oliver, Jr. Printed and sold in Salem, New-England by Samuel Hall, near the Exchange, 1772.

From Part II:

AS ancient geographers imagined the polar and equatorial regions, or the frigid and torrid zones of the earth, were uninhabitable, in consequence of the extremes of heat and cold, to which those climates are exposed: So, modern astronomers have passed a similar judgment upon the superior and inferior Planets, especially on Saturn and Mercury; concluding, that our water would always boil upon the latter, and be frozen upon the former; and that merely in consequence of their different distances from the Sun. Whence it has been naturally concluded, that the textures of their various fluids, and of their inhabitants, to whose uses these fluids are adapted, are very different from what they are found to be upon our Earth: And, considering the near approaches of most Comets to, and the vast elongations of all their orbits from the Sun, it has been generally supposed, that no material race of beings could subsist under such amazing vicissitudes of heat and cold, as those bodies must, from their different situations, necessarily be exposed to; consequently that they are uninhabited.

BUT the conclusiveness of this reasoning depends upon the truth of the following Proposition; advanced indeed by Sir Isaac Newton; but not supported by experiments, which were, with him, the criterion veritatis; viz. that, “The heat of the Sun is as the density of his rays, that is reciprocally as the squares of the distances from the Sun.”

HERE, we are again reduced to the disagreeable necessity, of dissenting from the opinion of the greatest GENIUS that ever dignified human reason; which, considering the justly celebrated fame of that illustrious author, may be stigmatized as ignorance or vanity: But it is hoped that the reader will wave that imputation, if he shall judge, upon the whole, that Sir Isaac himself would have altered his opinion, upon the evidence which we shall produce in support of the contrary position: We may, however, lay down this as a maxim, that, in the prosecution of any science, the progress of the mind must necessarily be retarded, in proportion to the implicit assent we give to the decisions of any man, however great. We shall therefore, without further apology, endeavour to prove that the heat of the Sun, as perceived by us, and as discoverable by its effects upon other substances exposed to his rays, does not depend upon the density of those rays only, though they are necessary to the very existence of heat; but, equally upon the concurrent operation of another cause, which we shall presently consider; from whence it will follow, that these causes, wherever they coexist, whether upon the Earth, or upon the heavenly bodies, will naturally produce similar effects.

IN the mean time, before we engage in the discussion of planetary heat, as depending upon the several distances of the Planets from the Sun; it may throw some light upon this subject if we consider the portion of that heat which falls to our own share, and the distribution of it throughout the various climates of the Earth. […]

AS a Comet approaches its perihelion, that hemisphere of its atmosphere which is next to the Sun, being more immediately exposed to his rays, will feel the effects of his neighbourhood sooner than the opposite hemisphere, and consequently will be warmed, rarefied, and thrown off behind the Comet by the repulsion of the Sun’s atmosphere, sooner than the other; the colder and denser parts of the fluid will of course continually flow in from the other side of the Comet to supply its place, in order to preserve, as near as may be, an equilibrium; in consequence of which there will be a constant succession of the cooler air from thence; whereby the inhabitants on the hemisphere next the Sun may be continually refreshed with gales of wind during that vicinity, which would increase till the Comet arrived at its perihelion, when their velocity would be greatest of all; but even then they would not (from this cause) blow in sudden violent gusts like our hurricanes, but steadily, unless disturbed by causes from within the Comet’s atmosphere; besides, as the velocity of the current increased, the density of the fluid would lessen from the increasing rarefaction, whereby its momentum might continue nearly the same; for this momentum would be in a ration compounded of the velocity of the fluid and its density together; and as the violence of our high winds, and their consequent effects depend, not upon the velocity, merely, but upon the momentum of the current, this brisk circulation of the cometic air may, (however great we suppose its velocity) be rather grateful than injurious to the Cometarians: And how unfit their use, if stagnant, yet, when thus put in motion, it may be rendered sufficiently active to answer all the purposes of respiration. This reasoning is confirmed by daily experience: For it is not an uncommon thing for people of tender frames to faint in a close hot and rarefied air; and as the fan is generally near at hand, it is as common for the by-standers to apply it to their faces, which, by giving a brisk motion to the air, without any alteration of its density, generally revives them, in a short time, even when no other remedy is at hand. — This brisk motion of the air would also remove or prevent the disagreeable sensations of heat which the cometary inhabitants might otherwise suffer from an exposure to the Sun’s rays at their perihelia: For, if a person sit with his face uncovered before the scorching blaze of a common fire, the motion of the air excited by a common fan, even without hiding the blaze from the face, is suggicient, not only to make the situation comfortable, but to change the painful sensation to an agreaable coolness: As any one will find upon trial.


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Item of the Day: A Sermon Preached in the Jews Synagogue (1756)

Full Title:

A Sermon Preached in the Jews Synagogue, On Friday, February 6, 1756; Being the Day Appointed by Authority for a General Fast. By Isaac Netto, Archsinagogus of the Portuguez Jews Synagogue. Translated from the Spanish Language by the Author. Published at the Desire of the Rulers of the Synagogue, and addressed to them.

Written and translated by Isaac Netto. Printed in London by Richard Reily, for the Author and sold by H. Whitridge, at the Royal-Exchange, 1756.

From the Sermon:

Circumcise therefore the Fore-skin of your Hearts, and be no more Stiff-Necked. — Deut. x. 16.

Brethren, it is not Sackcloth nor Fasting that appeases the Anger of God, but Repentance and good Works; for we find, that it is not said of the Ninevites, that God saw their Sackcloth and Fasting, but saw their Works, that they turned from their evil Way. — Treat. Tahanit, Cap. ii.

OUR most gracious Sovereign the King, has issued out a Proclamation to observe this Day as a solemn Fast, and to implore the Mercy of the King of Kings, who out of his great Clemency was pleased to shew that he was incensed against us, in order to prepare us to Contrition and Repentance. And His Majesty, knowing the Dissoluteness of the Age, with Reason judged, that the Anger of Heaven might have been raised against us; and directed, with a devout Heart, that we should examine our Actions, and with a sincere Penitence and Sorrow, endeavour to divert the Punishment that the Hand of Divine Justice seems to threaten us with. And at the same Time His Majesty also commanded us to implore the Divine Assistance to his Armies, in case our Neighbours should oblige him to declare War.

This is the Subject of His Most Gracious Majesty’s pious Proclamation, from which we shall not deviate, as it is so conformable to the Precepts of Almighty God.

In consequence of this Command, the illustrious Rulers of the Synagogue have ordered me to ascend the Pulpit, and perform the Duties of the Day; and though my Infirmities, together with my Insufficiency, may plead an Excuse, yet the implicit Obedience due to that illustrious Body, obliges me to a Compliance, and demands those Thanks, that with the greatest Respect I pay Them.

But before I enter into my Discourse, prostrate, and on my Knees, I return due Thanks, in the Name of all, to the Divine Mercy and Favour, for having expressed it’s Wrath against us, to call us to Repentance; praying the Almighty, with a pure Heart, to grant us his Assistance, that we may with due Fear and Reverence serve and adore Him, to turn his Anger from us, and to comfort us, repeating with the Prophet, [O Lord, I will praise thee: because thou wast angry with me, let thine Anger be turned away, and comfort me. — Isaiah c. xii. v. 1.]

GOD commands the Prophet Jonah to go to the City of Nineveh, and there proclaim through the Streets, [Yet forty Days and Nineveh shall be overthrown. — Jonah c. iii. v. 4.] That within the Space of forty Days, Nineveh should either be converted or destroyed. The Prophet disobeys, flees to Tarshish, and refuses his Mission. Tell me, holy Prophet, What moved you to Disobedience? What excited you to fail in your Duty? Did not God command you? Did not the Almighty lay that Injunction on you? How could you refuse so honourable a Charge? Or how withdraw yourself from the divine Command? Hear the Excuse the Prophet addressed to God, [I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my Saying, when I was yet in my Country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: For I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to Anger, and of great Kindness, and repentest thee of the Evil. — Jonah c. iv. v. 2.] I feared the Success even when I was yet in my Country; my Apprehensions foresaw the Result of my Embassy; therefore I fled to Tarshish, well knowing that your Forgiveness would follow their Repentance, which of Consequience would redound to the Prejudice of this Nation; because the Penitence of these Gentiles would rise up in Judgment against the holy People; who, disobedient and deaf to the Call of so many Prophets, and so many Preachers, who have exhorted them to Repentance, are stiff-necked and obstinate, persist in their Idolatry, and continue in their Iniquities. With how great Severity will thy Justice punish them? seeing that those blind Idolaters, who have no Knowledge of the supreme Being, on the least Proclamation, prostrate and humble themselves, becoming penitent, detecting their Sins, and ceasing from evil Deeds; while the People of Israel obstinately persist in their Transgressions.—This was the Reason why Jonah fled; but he did wrong: For no Man should oppose the divine Will, or pretend to know more than the divine Providence. And he met the Punishment he merited, being buried alive in a living Sepulchre. But as his Intention was good, he was freed from Death, and restored to his former Embassy.

Brethren, I fear our Obstinacy, and much suspect our Stubbornness; I know that God has characterized us as a stiff-necked People, [For thou art a stiff-necked People. — Exo. c. xxxiii. v. 3.] and that we cannot easily submit to the Voice of Reason. I am sensible that when Men are initiated in Vice, they cannot easily depart from it; that, plunged in the Pleasures and Vanities of this World, they cannot easily disengage themselves, for they become to us as a second Nature; and as our Rabbies say, That the Frequency of Sin abates the Horror of Sinning, and the Familiarity of Vice makes it pass for Virtue. [Yomah c. i.]

But oh, dear Brethren, reflect that the divine Clemency calls us to Penitence; consider that the Mercy of Heaven invites us to Repentance; behold the Sword of divine Justice drawn against all the World. [And David lift up his Eyes, and saw the Angel of the Lord stand between the Earth and the Heaven, having a drawn Sword in his Hand. — I Chron. c. xxi. v. 16.] [He is the Lord our God, his Judgments are in all the Earth. — Psal. cv. v. 7.]

Our Neighbours have experienced the Severity of his Judgments; let us not provoke him with our Obstinacy; let us not draw upon us his Wrath with our Stubbornness; let us not despise his merciful Intimation, shewed us in the rapid and wonderful ebbing and flowing of the Waters, which in the same Day, and almost in the same Hour the Catastrophe happened in other Kingdoms, the merciful Notification was manifest in many Parts of this Island.

Let us not puff ourselves with the vain Imagination or Belief, that our Merits diverted the Rigour of divine Justice from us; let us not deceive ourselves, with the Supposition or Thought, that we are better than our Neighbours; let us leave that to be decided by the Judge of Truth. What behoves us to do, is as the Prophet advises us, [Let us search and try our Ways, and turn again to the Lord. — Lam. c. iii. v. 40.] Let us search into our Actions, examine our Actions, examine our Occupations, see how we employ ourselves, and endeavour to amend our Lives, that we may escape that Chastisement we so much deserve.

Tell me, Brethren! When was Vanity more predominant than it is now? When were Diversions more followed then at present? When were Pleasures and Entertainments so much the Sutdy of our Lives as now? Or when was Gaming a more universal Passion? Would to God that my Scrutiny might cease here; but I am sorry that I am obliged to proceed.

Tell me, oh dear Brethren, When was Religion more neglected? When were the Laws of Almighty, and Eternal God, less observed? When were his divine Commandments less obeyed? When were his sacred Precepts more foreign from our Thoughts? When was Devotion less practised? When was Wisdom held more in Derision? And in short, When was even God himself, less the Subject of our Contemplation? [Thou art near in their Mouths, and far from their Reins. — Jerem. c. xii. v. 2.]

For Vanity, Pride, Luxury, Gaming, Diversions, and childish Amusements, employ our Thoughts. This is what embarasses our Understanding; this is what hardens our Hearts, and clouds our Reason.

When was there less Fidelity amongst Mankind? When was there less brotherly Love? When was Gratitude less practised? When were Murmurings more frequent? Malice more powerful? Envy more subtil? Vengeance more active? Or Hatred more rooted in us?

You pretend to be Men of Morals, but wherein does your Morality consist? Does not the Scripture tell you, [Lev. c. xix. v. 18] Thou shalt love thy Neighbour as thyself? Is not this the fundamental Basis which alone supports Morality? Is not Morality an Article of Religion? Can any one boast himself to be religious, who is deficient in the Precepts of Morality? Religion cannot be without it; all without it, is but Hypocricy. Upon this Precepts alone, did our excellent Prince and Master Hilel found all Religion. [Treat. Shabat c. ii.] What you would not do for yourself, do not for your Neighbour.

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Reading Room Access Policy

The Eighteenth-Century Reading Room is located in room C/196.05 on the Concourse Level of the Mina Rees Library at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Access to and use of the Eighteenth-Century Reading Room and its materials is by appointment only. To make an appointment to visit the reading room or to use the collection, contact Caroline Fuchs at 212-817-7085 or Regular office hours for the reading room vary from semester to semester, but we will do our best to accomadate your schedule.

After making an appointment, CUNY faculty and graduate students with valid IDs will be met by Ms. Fuchs at the circulation desk of the Mina Rees Library at the designated time and will be escorted down to the reading room. Non-CUNY researchers wishing to use the materials in the reading room must likewise schedule an appointment but will be met at the designated time at the reception desk in the lobby of The Graduate Center. Please bring a valid picture ID. Permission to visit the Eighteenth-Century Reading Room by non-CUNY researchers does not grant access to the library at large or its resources.

Appointments will be scheduled for a maximum two-hour time block. Additional time will be given to those who have traveled a distance in order to use the collection if prior arrangements had been made at the time the appointment was scheduled. If more time is needed to complete the research, consult the librarian to make another appointment. There is no limit to the number of visits that can be made to the reading room.

Unless otherwise specified, use of the collection will be limited to one researcher at a time. If you are interested in conducting a seminar in the reading room, or working with a partner or small group, prior permission must be obtained.

While researchers may use as many of the materials in the collection as they would like during their visit, use is restricted to one item at a time. Researchers must fill out a Materials Request Form for each item that is desired for use. Notes may be taken using pencil only. Laptops are permitted. Coats, book bags and personal items will be placed in the closet during the visit. Materials in the collection are for use only in the Eighteenth-Century Reading Room. No items may be borrowed or removed from the room. Photocopies or digital images will be made upon the discretion of the librarian, and will be mailed or picked up the following day. There will be no “same day service.” There is a usual charge of 25 cents per page for photocopies.

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Item of the Day: State of Prisons (1777)

Full Title:

The State of the Prisons in England and Wales, with Preliminary Observations, and an Account of Some Foreign Prisons.

Bound With:

Appendix to the State Prisons in England and Wales, &c. By John Howard, F.R. S. Containing A Farther Account of Foreign Prisons and Hospitals, with Additional Remarks on the Prisons of this Country. Warrington: Printed by William Eyres; and sold by T. Cadell and N. Conant in London, 1780.

Written by John Howard, 1726-1790. Includes table of contents, introduction, tables, and index. The immediate result of this publication was the drafting of a bill for the establishment of penitentiary houses, where by means of solitary imprisonment, accompanied by well-regulated labour and religious instruction, the object of reforming the prisoners, and introducing them to the habits of industry, could be pursued. Printed in Warrington by William Eyres, and sold by T. Cadell in the Strand, and N. Conant , London, 1777.

From Section I: General View of Distress in Prisons.

THERE are prisons, into which whoever looks will, at first sight of the people confined there, be convinced, that there is some great error in the management of them: the sallow meagre countenances declare, without words, that they are very miserable: many who went in healthy, are in a few months changed to emaciated objects. Some are seen pining under diseases, “sick and in prison;” expiring on the floors, in loathsome cells, of pestilential fevers, and the confluent small-pox: victims, I must not say to the cruelty, but I will say to the inattention, of sheriffs, and gentlemen in the commission of the peace.

THE cause of this distress is, that many prisons are scantily supplied, and some almost totally unprovided with the necessaries of life.

THERE are several Bridewells (to begin with them) in which prisoners have no allowance of FOOD at all. In some, the keeper farms what little is allowed them: and where he engages to supply each prisoner with one or two pennyworth of bread a day, I have known this shrunk to half, sometimes less that half the quantity, cut or broken from his own loaf.

IT will perhaps be asked, does not their work maintain them? for every one knows that those offenders are committed to hard labour. The answer to that question, though true, will hadly be believed. There are very few Bridewells in which any work is done, or can be done. The prisoners have neither tools, nor materials of any kind; but spend their time in sloth, profaneness and debauchery, to a degree which, in some of those houses that I have seen, is extremely shocking.

SOME keepers of these houses, who have represented to the magistrates the wants of their prisoners, and desired for them necessary food, have been silenced with these inconsiderate words, Let them work or starve. When those gentlement know the former is impossible, do they not by that sentence, inevitably doom poor creatures to the latter?

I HAVE asked some keepers, since the late act for preserving the health of prisoners, why no care is taken of their sick: and have been answered, that the magistrates tell them the act does not extend to Bridewells*.

IN consequence of this, at the quarter sessions you see prisoners, covered (hardly covered) with rags; almost famished; and sick of diseases, which the discharged spread wherever they go, and with which those who are sent to the County-Gaols infect these prisons.

THE same complaint, want of food, is to be found in many COUNTY-GAOLS. In about half these, debtors have no bread; although it is granted to the highwayman, the house-breaker, and the murderer; and medical assistance, which is provided for the latter, is withheld from the former. In many of these Gaols, debtors who would work are not permitted to have any tools, lest they should furnish felons with them for escape or other mischief. I have often seen those prisoners eating their water-soup (bread boiled in mere water) and heard them say, “We are locked up and almost starved to death.”

* IF the late act does not include Bridewells, it is required, by an act 7th James I. Cap.IV. that “the Masters and Governors of —Houses of Correction shall have some fit allowance— for the relieving of such as shall happen to be weak and sick in their custody.”

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Item of the Day: Letters of Junius (1770)

The Letters of Junius

Attributed to Sir Philip Francis. Printed in London in the year 1770.

From Letter I:

Addressed to the Printer of the Public Advertiser.


The submission of a free people to the executive authority of government is no more than a compliance with laws, which they themselves have maintained abroad, and while justice is impartially administered at home, the obedience of the subject will be voluntary, chearful, and I might almost say unlimited. A generous nation is grateful even for the preservation of its rights, and willingly extends the respect due to the office of a good prince into an affection for his person. Loyalty, in the heart and understanding of an Englishman, is a national attachment to the guardian of the laws. Prejudices and passion have sometimes carried it to a criminal length; that Englishmen have erred as mnuch in a mistaken zeal for particular persons and families, as they ever did in defence of what they though most dear interesting to themselves.

It natually fills us with resentment, to see such a temper insulted and abused. In reading the history of a free people, whose rights have been invaded, we are interested in their cause. Our own feelings tell us how long they ought to have submitted, and at what moment it would have been treachery to themselves not to have resisted. How much warmer will be our resentment, if experience should bring the fatal example home to ourselves!

The situation of this country is alarming enough to rouze the attention of every man, who pretends to a concern for the public welfare. Appearances justify suspicion, and, when the safety of a nation is a stake, suspicion is a just ground of enquiry. Let us enter into it with candour and decency. Respect is due to the station of ministers; and, if a resolution must at last be taken, there is none so likely to be supported with firmness, as that which has been adopted with moderation.

The ruin or prosperity of a state depends so much upon the administration of its government, that to be acquainted with the merit of a ministry, we need only observe the condition of the people. If we see them obedient to the laws, prosperous in their industry, united at home, and respected abroad, we may reasonably assume that their affairs are conducted by men of experience, abilities and virtue. If, on the contrary, we see an universal spirit of distrust and dissatisfaction, a rapid decay of trade, dissentions in all parts of the empire, and a total loss of respect in the eyes of foreign powers, we may pronounce, without hesitation, that the government of that country is weak, distracted, and corrupt. The multitude, in all countries, are patient to a certain point. Ill-usage may rouze their indignation, and hurry them into excesses, but the original fault is in government. Perhaps there never was an instance of a change, in the circumstances and temper of a whole nation, so sudden and extraordinary as these very few years, produced in Great Britain. When our gracious sovereign ascended the throne, we were a flourishing and a contented people. If the personal virtues of a king could have insured the happiness of his subjects, the scene could not have altered so entirely as it has done. The idea of uniting all parties, of trying all characters, was gracious and benevolent to an extreme, though it has not yet produced the many salutary effects which were intended by it. To say nothing of the wisdom of such plan, it undoubtedly arose from an unbounded goodness of heart, in which folly had no share. It was not a capricious partiality to new faces; — it was not a natural turn for low intrigue; nor was it the treacherous amusement of double and triple negotiations. No, Sir, it arose from a continued anxiety in the purest of all possible hearts, for the general welfare. Unfortunately for us, the event has not been answerable to the design. After a rapid succession of changes, we are reduced to that state, which hardly any change can mend. Yet there is no extremity of distress, which of itself ought to reduce a great nation to dispair. It is not the disorder but the Physician; — it is not a casual concurrence of calamitous circumstances, it is the pernicious hand of government, which alone can make a whole people desperate.

Without much political sagacity, or any extraordinary depth of ovservation, we need only mark how the principal departments of the state are bestowed, and look no farther for the true cause of every mischief that befals us.

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Item of the Day: America Painted to the Life (1658)

Full Title:

America Painted to the Life. A True History of the originall undertakings of the advancement of Plantations into those parts, with a perfect relation of our ENGLISH Discoveries, shewing their beginning, progress, and continuance, from the year, 1628, to 1658. declaring the forms of their Government, Policies, Religions, Manners, Customes, Military Discipline, Warres with the INDIANS, the Commodities of their Countries, a Description of their Townes, and Havens, the increase of their trading with the names of their Governours and Magistrates. More Especially an absolute Narrative of the North parts of AMERICA, and of the discoveries and plantations of our English in NEW-ENGLAND. Written by Sir FERDINANDO GORGES Knight and Governour of the Fort and Island of Plimouth in DEVONSHIRE, one of the first and cheifest promoters of those Plantations. Publisht since his decease, by his Grand-child Ferdinando Gorges, Esquire, who hath much enlarged it and added severall accurate Descriptions of his owne. A work now at last exposed for the publick good, to stir up the heroick and active spirits of these times, to benefit their Country, and Eternize their names by such honourable attempts. For the Readers clearer understanding of the Country’s they are lively described in a compleat and exquisite Map. Vivit post funera virtus.

Written by Sir Ferdinando Gorges. Printed in London by E. Brudenell for Nathaniel Brook dwelling at the Angel in Corn-hill, 1658.

Bound with:

A Briefe Narration of the Originall Undertakings of the Advancement of Plantations into the parts of America. Especially, Shewing the begining, progress and continuance of that of New-England. Written by the right Worshipfull, Sir Ferdinando Gorges Knight and Governour of the Fort and Island of Plymouth in DEVONSHIRE.

Written by Sir Ferdinando Gorges. Printed in London by E. Brudenell for Nath. Brook at the Angell in Corn-hill, 1658.

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Filed under 1650's, American Indians, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Travel