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THE MOST HIGH AND MIGHTY
BY THE GRACE OF GOD,
KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND IRELAND,
May it please Your Most Excellent Majesty,
THE whole body of the Natural History, either designed or written by the late Lord Viscount St. Alban, was dedicated to Your Majesty, in his book De Ventis, about four years past, when Your Majesty was Prince: so as there needed no new dedication to this work, but only in all humbleness to let Your Majesty know it is yours. It is true, if that Lord had lived, Your Majesty ere long had been invoked to the protection of another History; whereof, not Nature's kingdom, as in this, but these of Your Majesty's (during the time and reign of King Henry the Eighth) had been the subject; which since it died under the designation merely, there is nothing left but Your Majesty's princely goodness, graciously to accept of the undertaker's heart and intentions; who was willing to have parted for a while with his darling philosophy, that he might have attended your royal commandment in that other work. Thus much I have been bold in all lowliness to represent unto
Your Majesty, as one that was trusted with his Lordship's writings even to the last. And as this work affecteth the stamp of Your Majesty's royal protection, to make it more current to the world; so under the protection of this work, I presume in all humbleness to approach Your Majesty's presence, and to offer it up into your sacred hands.
Your Majesty's most loyal
and devoted subject,
TO THE READER.
HAVING had the honour to be continually with my lord in compiling of this work, and to be employed therein, I have thought it not amiss (with his lordship's good leave and liking), for the better satisfaction of those that shall read it, to make known somewhat of his lordship's intentions touching the ordering and publishing of the same. I have heard his lordship often say, that if he should have served the glory of his own name, he had been better not to have published this Natural History for it may seem an indigested heap of particulars, and cannot have that lustre which books cast into methods have; but that he resolved to prefer the good of men, and that which might best secure it, before anything that might have relation to himself. And he knew well that there was no other way open to unloose men's minds, being bound and, as it were, maleficiate by the charms of deceiving notions and theories, and thereby made impotent for generation of works, but only nowhere to depart from the sense and clear experience; but to keep close to it, especially in the beginning: besides, this Natural History was a debt of his, being designed and set down for a third part of the Instauration. I have also heard his lordship discourse that men (no doubt) will think many of the experiments contained in this collection to be vulgar and trivial, mean and sordid, curious and fruitless: and therefore, he wisheth that they would have perpetually before their eyes what is now in doing, and the difference between this Natural History and others. For those Natural Histories which are extant, being gathered for delight and use, are full of pleasant descriptions and pictures, and affect and seek after admiration, rarities, and secrets. But, contrariwise, the scope which his lordship intendeth, is to write such a Natural History as may be fundamental to the erecting and building of a
true philosophy; for the illumination of the understanding, the extracting of axioms, and the producing of many noble works and effects. For he hopeth by this means to acquit himself of that for which he taketh himself in a sort bound, and that is, the advancement of all learning and sciences. For, having in this present work collected the materials for the building, and in his Novum Organum (of which his lordship is yet to publish a second part) set down the instruments and directions for the work; men shall now be wanting to themselves, if they raise not knowledge to that perfection whereof the nature of mortal men is capable. And in this behalf, I have heard his. lordship speak complainingly, that his lordship (who thinketh he deserveth to be an architect in this building) should be forced to be a workman and a labourer, and to dig the clay and burn the brick; and more than that, (according to the hard condition of the Israelites at the latter end) to gather the straw and stubble over all the fields to burn the bricks withal. For he knoweth, that except he do it, nothing will be done : men are so set to despise the means of their own good. And as for the baseness of many of the experiments; as long as they be God's works, they are honourable enough. And for the vulgarness of them, true axioms must be drawn from plain experience and not from doubtful; and his lordship's course is to make wonders plain, and not plain things wonders; and that experience likewise must be broken and grinded, and not whole, or as it groweth. And for use; his lordship hath often in his mouth the two kinds of experiments, experimenta fructifera and experimenta lucifera: experiments of Use, and experiments of Light: and he reporteth himself, whether he were not a strange man, that should think that light hath no use, because it hath no matter. Further, his lordship thought good also to add unto many of the experiments themselves some gloss of the causes: that in the succeeding work of interpreting nature and framing axioms, all things may be in more readiness. And for the causes herein by him assigned; his lordship persuadeth himself, they are far more certain than those that are rendered by others; not for any excellency of his own wit (as his lordship is wont to say), but in respect of his continual conversation with nature and experience. He did consider likewise, that by this addition of causes, men's minds (which make so much haste to find out the causes of
things) would not think themselves utterly lost in a vast wood of experience, but stay upon these causes (such as they are) a little, till true axioms may be more fully discovered. I have heard his lordship say also, that one great reason why he would not put these particulars into any exact method (though he that looketh attentively into them shall find that they have a secret order) was because he conceived that other men would now think that they could do the like, and so go on with a further collection; which, if the method had been exact, many would have despaired to attain by imitation. As for his lordship's love of order, I can refer any man to his lordship's Latin book, De Augmentis Scientiarum; which (if my judgment be anything) is written in the exactest order that I know any writing to be. I will conclude with an usual speech of his lordship's; That this work of his Natural History is the world as God made it, and not as men have made it; for that it hath nothing of imagination.
This epistle is the same that should have been prefixed to this book if his lordship had lived.