Preface to J.N. Rayzor’s, “Footprints of Time”

by Josiah Audette

(When I cursorily browse through a book I will most often review its opening contents [Introduction, preface, forward, acknowledgements, etc…] I had the good providence of selecting this book and opening up to its preface. Never before have I read so inspiring a piece on the notable subject of books. The following is this very preface, masterfully written by R.N Rayzor in September 1, 1925 to his book, “Foot-Prints of Time.”)

“Books are teachers to the degree that they become the incarnation of truth.

As a teacher is not estimated by what he knows, but by what he is, and his communicableness; even so is a book – the more it has of the human pulse and personal warmth, even after cast into form of printers’ ink, the more readable and useful it is.

There are books that are statuesque, and books that are picturesque, and books that breathe – that have in them the life current of the soul. Like the mouth of a great river that rises and falls at the impulse of the tide from out the distant deep; like the sea-shell that murmurs with the music it learned while at home in the sea, so is a book filled with historical facts from without the distant past.

It is not philosophy in the scholastic world, nor theory in the political world, nor doctrines in the religious world, that have wrought effects, but philosophy, theory, and doctrines held in solution in men and books. If the life blood is dried out of them, they are but fit furniture for the herbarium or museum.

History is biography. When you read the biography of a score of the men of Israel, you are acquainted with its history. The same is true with any other nation or people.

As the St. Lawrence River draws from the fountain of Lake Ontario, and Ontario from the Niagara, and the Niagara from Erie which draws perennially from the upper lakes and the clouds, the historian draws upon the fountains above and beyond him.

When a stranger knocks at the door, we inquire, “Who is he?” “What is he?” Books are men and women transferred by thought to paper, and before admitting them to our homes, we should ask, “Who wrote it?” and “What is it?”

It is impossible to get high living from low thinking – they do not go together. Books that stimulate good thinking lead to a noble life, for goodness is just as contagious as evil.

A good book does not die when he who wrote it passes from earth.

Books influence the action of men. Acts make habits. Habits, character, which is greater than intellect, gold, or the world.

Life is a movement. We must travel. We can not stand still, and we dare not walk backward – death only is still.

He who refuses to make use of good books, flings away his manhood. Reading “The LIves of the Saints” made a Loyola. Reading, “The Life of John Huss” made a Martin Luther; “The Voyage of Captain Cook” made a William Carey; the “Life of Benjamin Franklin” made a Samuel Dew; Cotton Mather’s “Essays to Do Good” made a Benjamin Franklin. The influence of good books is inestimable.”

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