The first attempt at an Arranged CATALOGUE of Parliamentary Reports was made by direction of the Library Committee in 1825. The continuation now presented to The House, was undertaken by direction of the Library Committee in 1832. The first Catalogue was restricted to such Reports as commenced in 1801 and terminated with 1826. In forming the present, it was thought desirable to comprise all the Reports on public subjects that had been made to The House, from the earliest period, whether inserted only on the Journals, or contained in the printed collections of Reports. This comprises a period from 1696 to 1834. Thus the inquirer will have before his eye a view of the whole of any subject that has been treated on, by this description of official document. Considered separately, perhaps some of these early Reports may be deemed of too little importance, or too long out of date, to need mention in the Catalogue; but when their connexion with subsequent Reports on similar subjects is observed, their relative importance may make them interesting: thus the Report in 1698 on the state of East India Affairs, from which the present Company took its rise, may be thought fit to precede the long series of Reports relating to that most important portion of the British Empire which have since been printed; and the Reports in 1778 and 1779 on the State of Prisons, in which the philanthropist Howard suggested improvements in Prison Discipline; and on Penal Colonies, in which Sir Joseph Banks proposed the settlement, under the name of Botany Bay, in the new discovered country, which is now considered the Australian Continent,--must be deemed worthy of notice: nor will the Reports on Approaches to the Houses of Parliament in 1793 be thought unfit to precede the entries of those on the Rebuilding of the Houses now engaging the attention of the Legislature and the Public. As some of these Reports have not been printed separately, but exist only on the Journals, their subjects would be lost to many inquirers unless brought to their notice by the mode here adopted.
The difficulties felt in classing subjects under heads characterising their nature, can be appreciated by those who have made similar attempts. Many Reports have titles which do not directly indicate their subjects, and many contain a great diversity of subjects, which render it difficult to determine the class under which they should be placed: thus Plague and Contagion are treated on in Reports specifically bearing those titles, and are placed under Scientific Subjects, with the sub-head Medical; they are likewise treated on in one of the series of Reports on Foreign Trade. Steam-boats and Steam Navigation bear titles distinctive of those subjects, but no inquirer would expect to find a discussion on the construction of Steam-boats and on the . . .