The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Oxford)/Advertisement
Diligence and accuracy are the only merits which an historical writer may ascribe to himself; if any merit, indeed, can be assumed from the performance of an indispensable duty. I may therefore be allowed to say, that I have carefully examined all the original materials that could illustrate the subject which I had undertaken to treat. Should I ever complete the extensive design which has been sketched out in the preface, I might perhaps conclude it with a critical account of the authors consulted during the progress of the whole work; and however such an attempt might incur the censure of ostentation, I am persuaded that it would be susceptible of entertainment as well as information.
At present I shall content myself with a single observation. The biographers who, under the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine, composed, or rather compiled, the lives of the emperors, from Hadrian to the sons of Carus, are usually mentioned under the names of Ælius Spartianus, Julius Capitolinus, Ælius Lampridius, Vulcatius Gallicanus, Trebellius Pollio, and Flavins Vopiscus. But there is so much perplexity in the titles of the manuscripts, and so many disputes have arisen among the critics (see Fabricius, Biblioth. Latin. 1. iii. c. 6.) concerning their number, their names, and their respective property, that for the most part I have quoted them without distinction, under the general and well known title of the Augustan History.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST OCTAVO EDITION.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is now delivered to the public in a more convenient form. Some alterations and improvements had presented themselves to my mind; but I was unwilling to injure or offend the purchasers of the preceding editions. The accuracy of the corrector of the press has been already tried and approved; and perhaps I may stand excused, if, amidst the avocations of a busy winter, I have preferred the pleasures of composition and study to the minute diligence of revising a former publication.
Bentinck Street, April 20, 1783.