Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/522

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

LITERARY NOTICES.

The Native Races of the Pacific States of North America. By Hubert Howe Bancroft. Vol. I. Wild Tribes. 797 pages. Price, $5. D. Appleton & Co.

If it, be true that "the proper study of mankind is man," it is equally true that mankind has shamefully neglected its lessons. There is, perhaps, no great subject upon which the knowledge attained is so scanty, chaotic, and misleading, as that relating to the different sorts of humanity, or the races and varieties of mankind. Into the cause of this it is not necessary here to enter, but it is probably connected, in an intimate manner, with the laws of growing intelligence. Until there arises some perception of the value of knowledge, of the relation of facts to principles, and the importance of valid generalizations, there will be no such thing as accurate, methodical observations, and the systematic collection of the data requisite for the formation of intelligent opinions. The unfilled gaps in "Spencer's Tables of Descriptive Sociology" give us the most striking illustrations of the deficiency of trustworthy information regarding the characters, habits, and peculiarities, of the different tribes of men. It is a matter of great importance that these deficiencies should be supplied, and the prominence which ethnological studies have latterly assumed, as a part of the general progress of science, gives assurance that the subject will be less neglected in the future. We have reached a stage in the growth of knowledge concerning the social relations of men which makes it necessary to have the elementary facts exhaustively collated, carefully digested, and thrown into conveniently-accessible forms for general reference and study.

This necessity has been distinctly seen by the author of the work before us. For many years a resident of San Francisco, in the midst of decaying races and the relics of old civilizations, he was attracted to ethnological problems, and saw the importance of making the subject a matter of comprehensive study. He has devoted twenty years to this task, the result of which is a work of encyclopedic scope, the first volume being devoted to the wild tribes of the Pacific region of North America, and this is now published. The second volume will treat of the civilized nations, to be followed by three volumes on the Mythology, Languages, Antiquities, and Migrations of the races and tribes that are embraced within his scheme. Of the thoroughness with which Mr. Bancroft has carried on his work, the following extracts from his preface give a good intimation:

"To some it may be of interest to know the nature and extent of my resources for writing so important a series of works. The books and manuscripts necessary for the task existed in no library in the world; hence, in 1859, I commenced collecting material relative to the Pacific States. After securing every thing within my reach in America, I twice visited Europe, spending about two years in thorough researches in England and the chief cities of the Continent. Having exhausted every available source, I was obliged to content myself with lying in wait for opportunities. Not long afterward, and at a time when the prospect of materially adding to my collection seemed any thing but hopeful, the 'Biblioteca Imperial de Méjico,' of the unfortunate Maximilian, collected during a period of forty years, by Don Jose de Maria Audrade, littérateur and publisher of the city of Mexico, was thrown upon the European market, and furnished me about three thousand additional volumes.

"In 1869, having accumulated some sixteen thousand books, manuscripts, and pamphlets, besides maps and cumbersome files of Pacific coast journals, I determined to go to work. But I soon found that, like Tantalus, while up to my neck in water, I was dying of thirst. The facts which I required were so copiously diluted with trash, that to follow different subjects through this trackless sea of erudition, in the exhaustive manner I had proposed, with but one lifetime to devote to the work, was simply impracticable. In this emergency, my friend Mr. Henry L. Oak, librarian of the collection, came to my relief. After many consultations, and not a few partial failures, a system of indexing the subject-matter of the whole library was devised, sufficiently general to be practicable, and sufficiently particular to direct me immediately to all my authorities on any given point. The system, on trial, stands the test, and the index, when completed, as it already is for the twelve hundred authors quoted in this work, will more