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BY ROBERT LESLIE ELLIS.
The Historia Ventorum was published in 1622 in a volume entitled “Historia Naturalis et Experimentalis ad condendam Philosophiam; sive Phænomena Universi.” This volume was dedicated to Prince Charles, and contains beside the Historia Ventorum the titles of five similar histories, one or more of which Bacon proposed to publish month by month; namely, the Historiæ Densi et Rari; Gravis et Levis ; Sympathie et Antipathie Rerum; Sulphuris, Mercuri, et Salis; et Vita et Mortis. Under the title of each, except the last, is placed an aditus or preface—that of the Historia Vitæ et Mortis is omitted because, as we are told at the end of the volume, the history itself with its preface was shortly, “jam proxime,” to be published. It did not however appear until 1623.
The Historia Ventorum is thus the first published part of the Historia Naturalis, which was to be the third division of the Instauratio. It begins with a list of topics, or subjects to be inquired into. Of these thirty-three are enumerated, and some
1 « Aditus ad hanc historiam invenitur in historia ipsa, jam proxime sequente.” But this comes from Dr. Rawley's reprint, published along with the Opera Moralia et Civilia in 1638, from which Mr. Montagu's copy is taken; and “jam proxime sequente merely means “ which is the next piece in this volume." The original edition, published by Bacon himself in 8vo in 1622, has the aditus to the Historia Vita et Mortis as well as the rest.
The Historia Ventorum appears to have been published about the beginning of November, 1622; the Historia Vita et Mortis about the end of the following January. See Chamberlain's letter to Sir D. Carleton, 11. Feb. 1622-3 (Court and Times of James I. vol. ii. p. 362), and compare Bacon's letter to Buckingham, 24th (mis. printed 4th in the common editions) of November, 1622. - J. S.
thing is said in the course of the work with relation to each, but they are not all discussed fully, nor in the order in which they are set down. Bacon concludes the list by remarking that without more complete knowledge of the phenomena, some of the questions which he proposes cannot be answered. “ Posteri," he concludes, “ cætera videant."
The principal sources from which Bacon compiled the statements which he goes on to give are Pliny's Natural History, Aristotle's Problems, and Acosta's History of the Indies. Almost the whole of the sections on prognostics, which is one of the most complete, is taken from the eighteenth book of Pliny. A number of scattered remarks come from the twenty-sixth section of the problems, the most remarkable being the statement that on the top of Athos there is always an absolute calm
so much so that letters traced in the ashes of the sacrifice performed there year by year were always found, on each succeeding occasion, undisturbed. He adds that this is also told with respect to Olympus. His authority for this addition to what Aristotle had said may have been Solinus; or Alexander Aphrodisiensis as quoted by Olympiodorus. Perhaps, however, he took it from Giordano Bruno, by whom the windlessness of the summit of Olympus is mentioned in the Cene di Cenere.
Acosta, who was provincial of the Jesuits in Peru, published in 1589 his De Naturâ novi Orbis which contains an account of the climatology of America, and especially of Peru. In the following year he published a larger work, entitled “ Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias,” of which the first two books are a translation of the De Naturâ novi Orbis. This second work scems to have become very popular -- it was translated into Latin, French, Italian, and German. Most of the statements which Bacon derives from Acosta may be found in the De Naturâ novi Orbis, but there are some which show that he used the Historia Natural y Moral either in the original or in some translation.
Acosta's account of the climate of Peru is very favourable, and he speaks largely of the winds by which the heat of the sun is so pleasantly tempered that, as he affirms, the climate is more agreeable than that of Spain. He mentions the fine mist by
1 The French translation by Regnier was published in 1600. It is singular that it is not mentioned by Antonio Biblioth. Hisp., who enumerates the other translations.
2 There is also an English translation by E. G. published in 1601. --J. S.
which the want of rain is supplied, but does not seem to have been aware of its cause.
Both in the following work, and in the De Fluxu et Refluxu Maris, Bacon cites Acosta by name in most of the places in which he takes anything from him.
There are several passages in the Historia Ventorum which show that Bacon had read William Gilbert's Physiologia Nova, which was not published until 1653. The history of this remarkable book is obscure. It was prepared for publication by the author's brother, who was also called William Gilbert, and he prefixed to it a dedication to Prince Henry. It would seem therefore that it was ready for publication in 1612, in which year the Prince died. Probably his death was the cause of its remaining unpublished, and it is possible that not long afterwards it came into Bacon's hands. Two copies of it, both imperfect, were among the papers which Sir William Boswell, sometime English minister in Holland, gave to Isaac Gruter; and from them the work was published in 1651. Gruter says nothing of the way in which Boswell had become possessed of them, but in his preface to the tracts and fragments of Bacon's which he published two years afterwards, and which he had also received from Boswell, he mentions that these had been bequeathed to the latter by Bacon himself. It is not improbable that the copies of Gilbert's work were included in this bequest or gift, which consisted of a fragmentary and miscellaneous collection of papers. However this may be, Gruter remarks in the preface to the Physiologia Nova, that it is clear that certain eminent men had had access to it while it was yet unpublished plainly alluding to Bacon, to whose Historia Ventorum he has once or twice given marginal references. The way in which the remark is made seems to intimate that Gruter thought the use which Bacon has made of Gilbert's unpublished work was more or less unfair. It is therefore well to point out that in the Novum Organum Bacon cites Gilbert by name, commending an opinion which is expressed in the Physiologia Nova, and which cannot be found in the De Magnete ; whence it appears that his not mentioning Gilbert's name in connexion with what he takes from him in the Historia Ventorum is only the result of his common habit of omitting to cite his authorities, and not of a wish to conceal the fact of his having access to Gilbert's unpublished writings.
A comparison of the Historia Ventorum with the Physiologia Nova enables us to correct, in more than one case, the received readings.
Gruter remarks that he is unable to decide whether the Physiologia was written before or after the treatise De Magnete, published in 1600. It was apparently written before 1604, as the new star of 1572 is mentioned by itself, whereas later writers, as Bacon and Galileo, always couple it with the star in Ophiuchus first seen in 1604. I should be inclined to conjecture that it was written between 1600 and 1604, principally on the authority of Bacon's remark, “ Gilbertus postquam in contemplationibus magnetis se laboriosissime exercuisset, confinxit statim philosophiam consentaneam rei apud ipsum præpollenti;” which is not however altogether conclusive.
The description of a first-rate man of war is one of the most curious parts of the following treatise. I am inclined to believe that Bacon takes a portion of what he says of naval matters from some Italian writers, but cannot refer to any particular work. What is said of windmills seems to be derived from Bacon's own observation and experiments ; it cannot be said that it is of much value. Between the vanes, according to Bacon, the air is compressed, and therefore reacts laterally. It did not occur to him to try whether a windmill with one sail only instead of four would remain stationary, as on his theory it plainly ought to do. On the other hand, he increased the number of vanes, thereby decreasing the intervals between them, and finding that this change increased the action of the wind, ascribed the difference to the increase of compression caused by the narrower space through which the air had to pass. That the whole amount of surface exposed to the wind was increased seems to have been forgotten.
I Nov. Org. i 54.
? For an illustration of which see the frontispiece to this volume; which represents a first-rate of Henry the Eighth's time, and agrees with Bacon's description in every thing except the construction of the bolt-sprit. It is a reduced copy of an engraving said to be after an original by Holbein.-J. S.