The Prefaces to Jeromes works have in many cases a special value. This value is sometimes personal; they are the free expressions of his feelings to those whom he trusts. Sometimes it lies in the mention of particular events; sometimes in showing the special difficulties he encountered as a translator, or the state of mind of those for whom he wrote; sometimes in making us understand the extent and limits of his own knowledge, and the views on points such as the inspiration of Scripture which actuated him as a translator or commentator; sometimes, again, in the particular interpretations which he gives. These things gain a great importance from the fact that Jeromes influence and that of his Vulgate was preponderant in Western Europe for more than a thousand years.
We have had to make a selection, not only from want of space, but also because the Prefaces are of very unequal value, and sometimes are mere repetitions of previous statements. We have therefore given specimens of each class of Preface; we have given also all which bears on the better understanding of the life and views of Jerome; but where a Preface repeats what has been said before, or where it gives facts or interpretations which are well known or of no particular value, we have contented ourselves with a short statement of its contents.
The Prefaces fall under three heads: 1st. Those prefixed to Jeromes early works bearing on Church history or Scripture. 2d. The Prefaces to the Vulgate translation. 3d. Those prefixed to the Commentaries.