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THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS AND EXCELLENT PRINCE
SON AND HEIR TO THE HIGH AND MIGHTY KING JAMES.
I HUMBLY present unto your highness the first fruits of
Your Highness's humble and devoted Servant,
THE TITLES OF THE HISTORIES AND INQUISITIONS
DESTINED FOR THE FIRST SIX MONTHS.
The History of Winds.
The History of Density and Rarity, as likewise of Coition
and Expansion of Matter by Spaces.
The History of Heavy and Light.
The History of the Sympathy and Antipathy of Things.
The History of Sulphur, Mercury, and Salt.
The History of Life and Death.
NATURAL AND EXPERIMENTAL HISTORY
FOR THE MAKING UP OF PHILOSOPHY: OR, EXPERIMENTS OF THE UNIVERSE: WHICH IS THE THIRD PART OF THE INSTAURATIO MAGNA.
MEN are to be intreated, advised, and adjured, even by their fortunes, to submit their minds and seek for knowledge in the greater world; and likewise to cast away so much as the thought of philosophy, or at least to hope but for slender and small fruits thereof, until a diligent and approved natural and experimental history be acquired and made up. For what would these shallow brains of men, and these potent trifles have? There were among the ancients numerous opinions of philosophers, as of Pythagoras, Philolaus, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, Democritus, Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Zeno, and others. All these made up arguments of worlds, as of fables, according to their own fancies, and recited and published those fables; whereof some indeed were more handsome and probable, and some again most harsh. But in our ages, by means of colleges and schools' disciplines, wits are somewhat more restrained; yet have they not quite ceased: Patricius, Telesius, Brunus, Severine the Dane, Gilbertus an Englishman, and Campanella did set foot upon the stage, and acted new fables, neither much applauded, nor of any elegant argument or subject. But do we wonder at these things? as though such sects and opinions might not in an infinite number arise in all ages? For neither is there, nor ever will be any end or limit for these things. One snatches at one thing, another is pleased with another; there is no dry nor clear sight of any thing, every one plays the philosopher out of the small treasures of his own fancy, as it were out of Plato's cave; the more sublime wits more acutely, and with better success; the duller with less success but equal obstinacy and not long since by the discipline of some learned (and as things go now excellent) men, sciences are bounded within the limits of some certain authors which
NATURAL AND EXPERIMENTAL HISTORY.
they have set down, imposing them upon old men, and instilling them into young. So that now (as Tully cavilled upon Cæsar's consulship) the star Lyra or Harpe riseth by an edict, and authority is taken for truth, not truth for authority; which kind of order and discipline is very convenient for our present use, but banisheth those which are better. For we both suffer for and emulate our first parents sin; they desired to be like unto God, and their posterity much more for we create new worlds, go before nature and command it. We must have all things to be so as may agree with our folly, not to divine wisdom, nor as they are found to be in themselves; neither can I say which we rest most, our wits or the things themselves: but certainly we set the stamps and seals of our own images upon God's creatures and works, and never carefully look upon and acknowledge the Creator's stamps. Therefore we do not without cause again strive for the domination over the creatures. For, whereas, even after the fall of man, he had some kind of domination left him over reluctant creatures, that he might tame and subdue them by true and solid arts; we have for the most part lost that also through our own insolence, because we will be like unto God, and follow the dictates of our own reason. Wherefore, if there be any humility towards the Creator, any reverence and magnifying of his works, any charity in men, or care to release them out of their necessities and miseries, if there be any love of truth in natural things, hatred of darkness, and a desire of purifying the understanding, men are to be again and again desired that casting off, or at least laying aside for a while these flying and preposterous philosophies, which have set the theses before the hypotheses, or suppositions before solid grounds, have captivated experience, and triumphed over the works of God, they would humbly and with a certain reverence draw near and turn over the great volume of the creatures, stop and meditate upon it; and, being cleansed and free from opinions, handle them choicely and entirely. This is the speech and language that went out into all the ends of the world, and suffered not in the confusion of Babel. Let men learn this, and becoming children again and infants, not scorn to take A B C thereof in hand, and in finding and searching out the interpretation of it, let them spare no labour, but let them persist and go on, and even die in the quest of it. Seeing, therefore, that in our Instauration we have placed the Natural History (such as it is in order to our ends) in the third part of the work, we have thought fit to prevent this thing, and fall
NATURAL AND EXPERIMENTAL HISTORY.
upon it immediately. For although in our Organon there are many things of especial consequence to be finished, yet we think it fitting rather to promote or set forward the general work of Instauration in many things, than to perfect it in a few, always desiring with extreme fervency (such as we are confident God puts in the minds of men) to have that which was never yet attempted, not to be now attempted in vain. Likewise there came this thought into my mind, namely, that there are questionless in Europe many capable, free, sublimed, subtile, solid, constant wits; and what if any one endued with such a wit do betake himself to the use and manner of our Organon, and approve of it? yet hath he nothing to do nor knows not how to address himself to, or fit himself for philosophy. If it were a thing which might be effected by reading of philosophy books, disputation, or meditation, that man (whosoever it be) might sufficiently and abundantly perform it; but if we remit him, as indeed we do, to natural history, and experiments of arts, he is gravelled or sticks in the mire; it is not his intention, he hath no time, nor will not be at the charge: yet we must not desire to have men cast off old things before they have gotten new. But after a copious and faithful history of nature and arts is gathered and digested, and as it were set and laid open before men's eyes, there is no small hope that such great wits as we have before spoken of (such as have been in ancient philosophers, and are at this day frequent enough) having been heretofore of such efficacy, that they could out of cork or a little shell (namely by thin and frivolous experience) build certain little boats for philosophy, gallant enough for art and structure, how much more gallant and solid structures will they make, when they have found a whole wood, and stuff enough; and that, though they had rather go on in the old way, than make use of our Organon's way, which (in our opinion) is either the only, or the best way. So that the case stands thus: our Organon (though perfect) could not profit much without the Natural History; but our Natural History without the Organon might much advance instauration, or renewing of sciences. Wherefore we have thought it best and most advisedly to fall upon this before any thing else. God the maker, preserver, and renewer of the universe, guide and protect this work, both in its ascent to his own glory, and in its descent to the good of man, through his goodwill towards man, by his only begotten Son God with us.