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The present volume may be considered as one of the consequences that have resulted from the calculating engine, the construction of which I have been so long superintending. Having been induced, during the last ten years, to visit a considerable number of workshops and factories, both in England and on the Continent, for the purpose of endeavoring to make myself acquainted with the various resources of mechanical art, I was insensibly led to apply to them those principles of generalization to which my other pursuits had naturally given rise. The increased number of curious processes and interesting facts which thus came under my attention, as well as of the reflections which they suggested, induced me to believe that the publication of some of them might be of use to persons who propose to bestow their attention on those inquiries which I have only incidentally considered. With this view it was my intention to have delivered the present work in the form of a course of lectures at Cambridge; an intention which I was subsequently induced to alter. The substance of a considerable portion of it has, however, appeared among the preliminary chapters of the mechanical part of the Encyclopedia Metropolitana.
Charles Babbage, FRS (26 December 1791