The Quarterly Review, Volume 162, No. 324, April, 1886
The characteristics of a catalogue raisonnee
Dibdin's 'Library Companion' in some respects fulfils the requirements we have mentioned; but apart from the fact, that the information it contains is now in a great measure obsolete, too much space is devoted to the description and value of choice and rare editions. It is a book-buyer's rather than a reader's guide. Perkins's 'The Best Reading' is too bald a catalogue, and requires a vast amount of sifting, and
The Historical List which we have proposed should be prefaced by a chronological table, indicating the epochs into which the World's History divides itself, and the periods covered by each of the works recommended. This would give the student a bird's-eye view of the field which he is about to explore, and enable him, at any moment in his exploration, to take his reckonings and verify his position.
Careful distinction should be made between Chroniclers and Historians, between those who have provided the materials and those who have designed and reared the complete structure. Sometimes these chroniclers have furnished merely rough and unhewn stones, useful in themselves, but with no pretence to artistic finish or individuality of character; and these have been absorbed into the building. Other chronicles, again, are perfected in form, and are not merely integral, essential portions of the complicated structure, but become a source of endless pleasure from the merit of their workmanship. Thucydides and Clarendon are universally read, while Hecataeus has all but vanished; and Thomas May's 'History of the Long Parliament,' though pronounced by Lord Chatham to be a 'much honester and more instructive book of the same period than Lord Clarendon's,' is relegated to the shelves of the specialist or the bookworm.
Histories are scarcely less ephemeral than books of science; and the object of the list we are advocating is not to provide an exhaustive catalogue, a task which in these days would overtax the capacity of half-a-dozen Dr. Johnsons, but to select those works which will give the best continuous narrative of the period under discussion, and represent the most recent scholarship; omitting those which have been absorbed or superseded.