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THE complete works of Lord Bacon were issued in successive volumes in England under the editorship of James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath in 1857-1859. The edition was reprinted in America, with the sanction and assistance of Mr. Spedding, who furnished some corrections, and has continued to hold its place as the standard ed.vion of Bacon's works. As such it has found its way into a large number of public and private libraries, and must still be sought by all students who desire to make a full and historical study of Lord Bacon. But Bacon's Essays are read by a large rfumber of general students who would never have the time or the courage to attack the great body of his writings, and there are many who would gladly take the opportunity to make themselves acquainted with Bacon's philosophy as laid down in his English writings and in the Novum Organum, as well as with bis contributions to English history. More than one fourth of the bulk of the complete edition is occupied by Bacon's Latin writings, and a corresponding por
t vith translations of the same; while of those wriungs originally produced in English, some scarcely more than extracts from his common-place book, while others are curious and obsolete observations in natural history and physics, or technical commentaries on English law.
It has been thought desirable therefore to bring into the compass of two volumes, so as to be accessible to the general reader, all of those writings of Lord Bacon which may fairly be regarded as readable, including a translation of the Novum Organum, and of some shorter pieces. These writings fall naturally into the division of I., Philosophical ; II., Literary and Religious, and the two volumes correspond to this division. The succession of papers determined by the original editors has not been disturbed, and as the introductions and prefaces inserted in the complete edition add greatly to its value, they have been retained in this edition also. Each volume, for convenience, is divided into three parts, separately paged, and a full analytical index accompanies each of the two volumes. In order to place the reader in sympathy with the editors, the History and Plan of the complete edition is introduced here, although its references in some cases are to writings not included in the present edition.
HISTORY AND PLAN
THE COMPLETE EDITION.
Bacon's works were all published separately, and never collected into a body by himself; and though he had determined, not long before his death, to distribute them into consecutive volumes, the order in which they were to succeed each other was confessedly irregular ; a volume of moral and political writings being introduced between the first and second parts of the Instauratio Magna, quite out of place, merely because he had it ready at the time. In arranging the collected works therefore, every editor must use his own judgment.
Blackbourne, the first editor of an Opera Omnia, took the Distributio Operis as his groundwork, and endeavoured first to place the various unfinished portions of the Instauratio Magna in the order in which they would have stood had they been completed according to the original design ; and then to marshal the rest in such a sequence that they might seem to hang together, each leading by a natural transition to the next, and so connecting themselves into a kind of whole. But the several pieces were not written with a view to any such connexion, which is altogether forced and fanciful ; and the arrangement has this great inconvenience — it mixes up earlier writings with later, discarded fragments with completed works, and pieces printed from loose manuscripts found after the author's death with those which were published or prepared for publication by himself. Birch, the original editor of the quarto edition in five volumes1 which (reprinted in ten volumes octavo) has since kept the market and is now known as the “ trade edition,” followed Blackbourne's arrangement in the main, — though with several variations which are for the most part not improvements. 'The arrangement adopted by Mr. Montagu 2 is in these respects no better, in all others much worse. M. Bouillet, in his Euvres Philosophiques de François Bacon,3 does not profess to include all even of the Philosophical works ; and he too, though the best editor by far who has yet handled Bacon, has
1 “Debuerat sequi Novum Organum: interposui tamen Scripta mea Moralia et Politica, quia magis erant in promptu. . . . Atque hic tomus (ut diximus) interjectus est et non ex ordine Instaurationis.” — Ep. ad Ful gentium, Opuscula, p. 172.
2 Francisci Baconi, foc., Opera Omnia, quatuor voluminibus comprehensa Londini, MDCCXXX.