The first question that naturally comes into one's mind when a place is mentioned is: 'Where is it?' 'What is to he known about it?' is as naturally the second. One cannot open a newspaper without lighting on some reference to the railway bridge over the Zambesi, the battle of Tsushima, difficulties at Koweit, the naval base at Rosyth, or, it may be, to Masampho, Skagway, Tchernavoda, Tuskegee, Zeebrugge; or there will be an allusion to the 'prisoner of Chillon,' the 'rector of Lutterworth,' the 'martyr of Erro-mango,' the 'sage of Chelsea,' the 'Mantuan,' the 'Corsican,' the 'cure of Meudon,' the 'victor of Barossa,' the 'hero of Khartoum,' the 'Chiltern Hundreds,' the 'monks of Medmenham,' or the 'Little Gidding community.'
Not even Macaulay's schoolboy could carry the whereabouts of all these places in his head, or could explain every one of the allusions. The present work aims to supply the want indicated. It is largely based on the geographical matter of Chambers's Encyclopaedia, but many of the articles are new, and there are numerous additions to the list. It is a Gazetteer of the World, comprehensive yet handy, containing the latest and most reliable information about nameworthy places at home and abroad: the last census of civilised countries, and the most authentic official figures, have, it need hardly be said, been taken advantage of in every available case. The etymology of the names, where it is significant and interesting, has not been neglected, and an attempt has been made to do justice, however briefly, to history and literary associations. This is probably the only Gazetteer of the World that explains the interest of Craigenputtock and Somersby, Morwenstow and Chalfont St Giles, Ramsbottom, Wem, and Tong. Yet, full though it is, it does not profess to be exhaustive; to give, for instance, every one of (at least) 275 cities, counties, towns, townships, villages, hamlets, and post-offices of the name of Washington in the United States, or every one of the 90 Newtons on both sides of the Atlantic. To have attempted this would, by the curtailment of the longer articles, have involved the sacrifice of much space now put to a better use. Instead, the aim of the work has been to tell everything that may be reasonably wanted about every place likely to be looked for, and to tell it with the utmost conciseness consistent with clearness and readableness. References to standard books have been added to the articles on the more important and interesting countries, towns, and even villages.
The pronunciation has been indicated in all cases where doubt could arise -by accent when this suffices, or by re-spelling in full, in the way most likely to be intelligible to the average reader; although it must be remembered that in many cases the pronunciation can only be approximately suggested in English spelling. The g in the re-spellings is always hard, as in get; ay or a is the English a in fate; i is the sound in mine; ow is always the sound in how, now; uh is the obscure sound between eh and ah; hh here represents the guttural ch of German and Scotch words; and recourse had sometimes to be had to o to represent the German o and the French oeu, and to ii to indicate the German u and the ordinary French u. Many readers will be glad to know that the instinctive English way of accenting Altona, Potomac, Potosi, and Cordilleras is not that customary in those parts; that English people do not pronounce Godmanchester, Belvoir, or Hughenden as the spelling suggests; that Scotsmen do not defer to Southron expectations in such names as Culloden and Oban, Kirkcudbright and Milngavie; that the Welsh do not say Mer'ioneth, and that Amlwch is easier to utter than it looks at first sight; that British sailors who have been on the spot are not safe guides for the true pronunciation of names like Callao and Iquique, Monte Video and Buenos Ayres, Setubal and Santander.
In this revised reissue facts, figures, and statistics have as far as possible been brought down to the early years of the new century; many articles have been entirely rewritten, and hundreds have been inserted for the first time. Since the first issue Rhodesia and Nigeria have changed beyond recognition; the Commonwealth of Australia has been constituted; Canada has made unparalleled progress; British South Africa has gone through more than one crisis; Indian provinces have been reconstituted, divided, renamed; the republic of the United States has increased vastly in population and wealth at home, and entered on a significant policy of expansion abroad; the sister kingdoms of Norway and Sweden no longer live under the same roof; Spain has lost its colonies, and Panama become a nation; Port Arthur and Dalny, Korea and Manchuria, Russia and Japan, have 'made history;' Vesuvius has been in disastrous eruption, and San Francisco been destroyed. These are but instances of thousands of new landmarks of the world's progress and of the changes time brings with it. In the revision of this work a strenuous effort has been made to take account of all new developments and to make the Gazetteer a still more valuable companion to the general reader.