Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality (Graunt 1676)/Preface
HAving been born, and bred in the City of London, and having always observed, that most of them, who constantly took in the weekly Bills of Mortality, made little other use of them, than to look at the foot, how the Burials increased, or decreased; and, among the Casualties, what had happened rare, and extraordinary in the week current: so as they might take the same as a Text to talk upon in the next Company; and withal, in the || Plague-time, how the Sickness increased, or decreased, that so the Rich might judg of the necessity of their removal, and Trades-men might conjecture what doings they were like to have in their respective dealings:
2. Now, I thought that the Wisdom of our City had certainly designed the laudable practice of taking, and distributing these Accompts, for other, and greater uses, than those above-mentioned, or at least, that some other uses might be made of them; and thereupon I casting mine Eye upon so many of the General Bills, as next came to hand, I found encouragement from || them, to look out all the Bills I could, and (to be short) to furnish my self with as much matter of that kind, even as the Hall of the Parish-Clarks could afford me; the which when I had reduced into Tables (the Copies whereof are here inserted) so as to have a view of the whole together, in order to the more ready comparing of one Year, Season, Parish, or other Division of the City, with another, in respect of all the Burials, and Christnings, and of all the Diseases, and Casualties, happening in each of them respectively; I did then begin not only to examine the Conceits, Opinions, || and Conjectures, which upon view of a few scattered Bills I had taken up; but did also admit new ones, as I found reason, and occasion from my Tables.
3. Moreover, finding some Truths, and not commonly-believed Opinions, to arise from my Meditations upon these neglected Papers, I proceeded further, to consider what benefit the knowledg of the same would bring to the World; that I might not engage my self in idle, and useless Speculations: but, (like those Noble Virtuosi of Gresham-Colledg, who reduce their subtile Disquisitions upon Nature into || downright Mechanical uses) present the World with some real Fruit from those airy Blossoms.
4. How far I have succeeded in the Premisses, I now offer to the World's censure. Who, I hope, will not expect from me, not professing Letters, things demonstrated with the same certainty, wherewith Learned men determine in their Schools; but will take it well, that I should offer at a new thing, and could forbear presuming to meddle where any of the Learned Pens have ever touched before, and that I have taken the pains, and been at the charge of setting out those Ta-||bles, whereby all men may both correct my Positions, and raise others of their own. For herein, I have, like a silly School-boy, coming to say my Lesson to the World (that Peevish, and Tetchy Master) brought a bundle of Rods, wherewith to be whip'd for every mistake I have committed. ||