Always an admirer of the genius of Hunter, and of late years obliged by official duties to make frequent reference to his numerous and varied productions, especially to those which are scattered through different volumes of the Philosophical Transactions and other works, I have often felt the inconvenience that resulted from the absence of a uniform edition of the whole of the extant works of that great and original thinker. When, therefore, Mr. Palmer first communicated to me his design of publishing a new edition of Hunter's works, I heard with peculiar satisfaction his intention to include in the proposed collection every memoir of the author that could be found in print, and I gladly lent my assistance, which, however, the previous assiduous researches of Mr. Palmer rendered of little moment, towards completing a list of all the published essays or observations on various parts of the 'Animal Œconomy' which had not before been included in the work so entitled. The proposal which Mr. Palmer at the same time made to me to edit this portion of the works of Hunter I declined, from a sense of the inadequacy of my powers to grapple with so vast a range of important physiological subjects as the contemplated volume must necessarily embrace, and I sincerely hoped that Mr. Palmer would have found a coadjutor better qualified than myself to do justice to this portion of his most useful and praiseworthy undertaking.
After a lapse of nearly two years Mr. Palmer again applied to me to revise the papers on the Animal Œconomy, and I then acceded reluctantly to his request, led, by the sole motive of accelerating the appearance of a much wished-for edition, to a task, to which I have since dedicated a great portion of my leisure hours, without the slightest expectation of profit or honour, the experiment having only served to convince me of the difficulty of adding the observations demanded by the progress of science to the text of Hunter in the spirit of its author, and a retrospect of my annotations leading me to suspect that often, with every wish to avoid it, I may have tacitly implied an ignorance on the part of Hunter of facts with which he was probably well acquainted, and to perceive that, in general, the addition of such details tends to overload and destroy the force of the original observations in the text.
It is with much more satisfaction that I refer to the additions which have been made to the present edition of the Animal Œconomy of the hitherto uncollected or unpublished writings of its original author.