IN presenting this descriptive catalogue of woods to the reader, it becomes the author's first and pleasing duty, to acknowledge the valuable assistance he has received from numerous kind friends, of various pursuits, acquirements, and occupations; to most of whom he has submitted the manuscript and rough proofs of the catalogue, in their various stages through the press, for confirmation or correction, and which has led to the attainment of numerous valuable additions, or he may say, the major part of its contents.
Amongst those to whom he is thus indebted, he has to mention, with gratitude, the following naturalists and travellers, etc.: namely, Arthur Aikin, Esq., late Secretary to the Society of Arts, London; John Finchara, Esq., Principal Builder in Her Majesty's Dockyard, Chatham; Colonel G. A. Lloyd, Her Majesty's Surveyor-General of the Mauritius; G. Loddiges, Esq.; John Macneil, Esq., Civil Engineer; John Miers, Esq., long resident in the Brazils; and also W. Wilson Saunders, Esq., Colonel Sir James Sutherland, and Colonel Sykes, all three of the East India Company's Service. The author is likewise indebted, in a similar manner, to the following wood-merchants, manufacturers, and others, Messrs. Bolter, Cox, Edwards, Faunt-leroy,Jaques, Russell, Saunders, Seddons, Shadbolt, etc, and in a less degree to numerous others.
The extensive botanical notes interspersed (in a smaller type), throughout the list of woods, are from the pen of Dr. Royle, to whom he submitted the early proofs of the catalogue, with the request that he would examine the botanical names so far as he had been able to collect them. The unlooked-for and careful manner in which the professor has executed this request, both from his personal knowledge, and also by a very laborious comparison of the seattered remarks in various works on botany and natural history, contained in his select library, will be duly appreciated by those interested in the natural history of the subject, or in the search for the woods themselves in their various localities, whether for the purpose of science or commerce; and from the mode adopted, the one or the other part of the catalogue may be separately consulted.
To attain the means of comparing the descriptions with the woods themselves, the author has procured a quantity of most of the woods, those employed in turning especially, from which he has cut his own specimens, (these have been kindly augmented by several of the friends before named), and he has been fortunate in having purchased a very fine cabinet of seven hundred specimens, collected by a German naturalist, and arranged with both the Linnean and German names; all of which specimens are open to the inspection of those who may feel interested therein.
Still further to test the descriptions in the catalogue, he has also carefully examined a variety of museums and collections, from which scrutiny it would have been an easy task to have extended this list in a considerable degree, by the introduction of the names, localities, and descriptions of a variety of well-authenticated specimens of woods, apparently useful; but he has purposely endeavoured to keep himself within the strict limits called for by this work, in noticing those woods only which are used in England, and that may in general be procured there.
For the use of those who may desire to follow this interesting subject with other views, the names of the several museums that have been kindly laid open to his inspection, and a slight notice of their contents, are subjoined in a note.
Many of the remarks on the Timber Woods are derived from that excellent work before named, "Tredgold's Elements of Carpentry:" all the French books on turning, enumerated in the introduction, have been consulted, besides those referred to in the various notes, and some others; and, in fact, the author has spared no pains to obtain the most authentic information within his reach, but upon a subject, pronounced by those who have paid attention to it, to be so boundless and confessedly difficult, it is necessary to ask a lenient judgment, and the kind notice and communication of any inaccuracies that may inadvertently exist, notwithstanding his efforts to the contrary.
It is indeed a matter of great and real regret, that upon a subject of general importance, there should in many respects be such a scarcity of exact and available information. The true names and localities of some of the most familiar woods, arc either unknown or enveloped in considerable doubt; in many cases we have only the commerical names of the woods, and a vague notion of their localities; in others we have authenticity as to their locality and their native names; and, lastly, we have also very extensive lists and descriptions of woods in botanical works, and in the writings of travellers, but these three nomen-clatures are often incompatible, and admit of surmise only, rather than strict and satisfactory comparison, which drawback was strongly experienced by Dr. Royle in collecting the notes attached to the catalogue.
This deficiency arises from the little attention that has been given to the scientific part of the subject by naturalists and travellers, and from the arbitrary manner in which the commercial names are fixed, often from some faint and fancied resemblance *, sometimes from the port whence the woods are shipped, or rather from that whence the vessel "cleared out," or ob-tained her official papers; as it frequently happens, that the woods arc picked up at different points along the coast, the names even of which places cannot be ascertained, much less those of the inland districts or territories in which the woods actually grew.
Naturalists and travellers, and also merchants residing abroad, would therefore confer a great benefit, not only on science, but likewise on the arts, by correcting our knowledge on these points. This might be done by transmitting along with specimens collected on the spot, the exact particulars of their locality, and of the soil; their relative abundance, native names, and uses †. In cases of doubt as to their true botanical names (by which alone their identity can be ensured for future years), then some of the leaves, fruits, flowers, etc, should, if possible, be preserved, by which their species might be afterwards exactly determined by those possessed of the requisite knowledge of the vegetable kingdom.