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Quoted from the "Editors' Preface."
"BURNS'S verse falls naturally into two main divisions. One, and that the larger, appeals with persistency and force, on the strength of some broadly human qualities, to the world in general: for the reason that the world in general is rich in sentiment but lacks the literary sense. The other, being a notable and lasting contribution to literature, is the concern of comparatively few. The present Edition of Burns's verse is primarily addressed to the second
of these two bodies of readers. Of necessity, however, it is as nearly complete as existing
canons of taste will permit; and 'tis hoped that it will prosper, though for different reasons and on different grounds, with both sections of what, after all, is one, and that a world-wide, public.
A chief object with the Editors has been the preparation of a text as nearly classic as a
systematic and, in so far as might be, an exhaustive collation of authorities — books, proof-sheets, tracts, broadsides, periodicals, and mss. — could secure. They have spared no pains in its pursuit; and they have peculiar pleasure in denoting the spirit in which, on every hand, their appeal for assistance was received. It is for others to appreciate the result of their effort. Enough for them to say, that such authority as it may be found to have is largely due to the generous consideration extended to them from outside. They have noted the several facts of their indebtedness, as occasion offered, in their bibliographical introduction and in the body of their work."