[[v]] The Volume now offered to the public is chiefly designed to communicate the information supplied by a residence of 22 years at Bombay and Bengal. During that period, many opportunities of visiting the districts under those presidencies have afforded a considerable acquaintance with topics the correct knowledge of which must be highly important, not only to the military or naval officer, but to those engaged in the civil departments of every description; who may thus be assisted justly to appreciate the character of the natives, and also of the European society in British India.
In order to render this Volume more acceptable to those readers for whose information it has been compiled, a familiar rather than a didactic style has been generally adopted. The same intention has precluded a rigid arrangement, under abstract heads and chapters, or any attempt to render the contents at large too philosophically diffuse.
From the commencement of the present century, and [[vi]] even since the first appearance of this Vade-Mecum, the knowledge of Eastern literature has been assiduously cultivated, both in Europe and Asia. It has, therefore, been designed in this Digest of the former work by Captain Williamson, generally to avoid the introduction of those topics which later writers have amply considered. Those readers, therefore, whose pursuits or inclination may lead them to seek very detailed information respecting the religious tenets of the various sects, the languages and literature of the East, &c., should consult those authors to whom the world is so much indebted. The following publications are peculiarly suited for students intent on applying themselves to the most valuable sources of oriental learning.
The Philological Publications of Gilchrist, those also of Wilkins, are equally indispensable for attaining a proficiency in the Persian language, and in the literature of the Hindoos -- accomplishments essential for officers of every rank. To cadets who would incur a less expense, the Persian Vocabulary by Hopkins is particularly recommended. Richardson's, Jones's, and Gladwin's Oriental publications should not be omitted, nor Ouseley's Essay towards facilitating the reading of Persian manuscripts; which will materially assist those who would become adepts in the art of deciphering the most difficult Persi-Arabic writings, which abound in the East. Balfour's Forms of Herkern should also be provided; together with Sale's Koran, which supplies the fullest information respecting the origin of the Mahometan religion; Reynell's Memoir, united with his Atlas and Map; or the Map of India lately compiled by Walker, will prove the best guides in the geography of the East, and especially afford correct topographical information as to those provinces of Hindoostan which now belong [[vii]] to Great Britain, or are placed under her paramount sway.
It would be endless to enumerate minutely the requisite contents of a well-chosen oriental library, the extent of which, after all, must often be regulated rather by the pecuniary ability than the literary inclination of a purchaser, especially as new publications, in periodical succession, frequently supersede their immediate predecessors in every branch of Eastern intelligence, acquisitions, and accomplishments. And here I take the liberty of suggesting that commanders of vessels bound for India, might, to good purpose, carry out an assortment of oriental works either for circulation or sale, during the outward voyage, among the studious part of the passengers, who could thus imbibe, en passant, beneficial instruction.
It is proper to inform or remind the adventurer to British India, that by inspecting the Court Guide, in conjunction with the India Register, for the current year, he will easily learn who are the patrons to whom he can apply with the most probability of success. As to the published regulations for the control or guidance of persons proceeding to India, there must be frequent fluctuations. These will be easily ascertained by consulting the Directory, published yearly under the immediate sanction of the Court of Directors.
I cannot conclude without soliciting the reader's indulgence as to any typographical errors which he may notice; nor will he be disinclined, I trust, to excuse any mis-arrangements which may occasionally appear, even after the greatest attention in preparing numerous extracts for the press. And now, anxiously hoping that the following pages may amuse, while they convey instruction, they are consigned, by the compiler, to the mature consideration [[viii]] of a discriminating, just, and liberal public; trusting that his motives, at least, will be thought to deserve the approbation of all his countrymen who are more or less interested in the durable prosperity of the British Indian Empire, as the most estimable appendage of the parent state.
J. B. G.