Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

such as weaving, carpentry, architecture, manufacture of mills, clocks, and the like; although these too are by no means to be neglected, both because many things occur in them which relate to the alterations of natural bodies, and because they give accurate information concerning local motion, which is a thing of great importance in very many respects.

But in the whole collection of this history of Arts, it is especially to be observed and constantly borne in mind, that not only those experiments in each art which serve the purpose of the art itself are to be received, but likewise those which turn up anyhow by the way. For example, that locusts or crabs, which were before of the colour of mud, turn red when baked, is nothing to the table; but this very instance is not a bad one for investigating the nature of redness, seeing that the same thing happens in baked bricks. In like manner the fact that meat is sooner salted in winter than in summer, is not only important for the cook that he may know how to regulate the pickling, but is likewise a good instance for showing the nature and impression of cold. Therefore it would be an utter mistake to suppose that my intention would be satisfied by a collection of experiments of arts made only with the view of thereby bringing the several arts to greater perfection. For though this be an object which in many cases I do not despise, yet my meaning plainly is that all mechanical experiments should be as streams flowing from all sides into the sea of philosophy. But how to select the more important instances in every kind (which are principally and with the greatest diligence to be sought and as it were hunted out) is a point to be learned from the prerogatives of instances.

VI.

In this place also is to be resumed that which in the 99th 119th, and 120th Aphorisms of the first book I treated more at large, but which it may be enough here to enjoin shortly by way of precept; namely, that there are to be received into this history, first, things the most ordinary, such as it might be thought superfluous to record in writing, because they are so familiarly known; secondly, things mean, illiberal, filthy (for “to the pure all things are pure,” and if money obtained from Vespasian's tax smelt well, much more does light and information from whatever source derived); thirdly, things trifling and childish (and no wonder, for we are to become again as little children); and lastly, things which seem over subtle, because they are in themselves of no use. For the things which will be set forth in this history are not collected (as I have already said) on their own account; and therefore neither is their importance to be measured by what they are worth in themselves, but according to their indirect bearing upon other things, and the influence they may have upon philosophy.

VII.

Another precept is, that everything relating both to bodies and virtues in nature be set forth (as far as may be) numbered, weighed, measured, defined. For it is works we are in pursuit of, not speculations; and practical working comes of the due combination of physics and mathematics. And therefore the exact revolutions and distances of the planets—in the history of the heavenly bodies; the compass of the land and the superficial space it occupies in comparison of the waters - in the history of earth and sea; how much compression air will bear without strong resistance -- in the history of air; how much one metal outweighs another — in the history of metals; and

; numberless other particulars of that kind are to be ascertained and set down. And when exact proportions cannot be obtained, then we must have recourse to indefinite estimates and comparatives. As for instance (if we happen to distrust the calculations of astronomers as to the distances of the planets), that the moon is within the shadow of the earth; that Mercury is beyond the moon; and the like. Also when mean proportions cannot be had, let extremes be proposed; as that a weak magnet will raise so many times its own weight of iron, while the most powerful will raise sixty times its own weight (as I have myself seen in the case of a very small armed magnet). I know well enough that these definite instances do not occur readily or often, but that they must be sought for as auxiliaries in the course of interpretation itself when they are most wanted. But nevertheless if they present themselves accidentally, provided they do not too much interrupt the progress of the natural history, they should also be entered therein.

VIII.

With regard to the credit of the things which are to be admitted into the history; they must needs be either certainly true, doubtful whether true or not, or certainly not true. Things of the first kind should be set down simply; things of the second kind with a qualifying note, such as “it is reported,” “ they relate," “ I have heard from a person of credit,” and the like. For to add the arguments on either side would be too laborious and would certainly interrupt the writer too much. Nor is it of much consequence to the business in hand; because (as I have said in the 118th Aphorism of the first book) mistakes in experimenting, unless they abound everywhere, will be presently detected and corrected by the truth of axioms. And yet if the instance be of importance, either from its own use or because many other things may depend upon it, then certainly the name of the author should be given; and not the name merely, but it should be mentioned withal whether he took it from report, oral or written (as most of Pliny's statements are), or rather affirmed it of his own knowledge; also whether it was a thing which happened in his own time or earlier; and again whether it was a thing of which, if it really happened, there must needs have been many witnesses; and finally whether the author was a vainspeaking and light person, or sober and severe; and the like points, which bear upon the weight of the evidence. Lastly things which though certainly not true are yet current and much in men's mouths, having either through neglect or from the use of them in similitudes prevailed now for many ages, (as that the diamond binds the magnet, garlic weakens it; that amber attracts everything except basil; and other things of that kind) these it will not be enough to reject silently; they must be in express words proscribed, that the sciences may be no more troubled with them.

Besides, it will not be amiss, when the source of any vanity or credulity happens to present itself, to make a note of it; as for example, that the power of exciting Venus is ascribed to the herb Satyrion, because its root takes the shape of testicles; when the real cause of this is that a fresh bulbous root grows upon it every year, last year's root still remaining; whence those twin bulbs. And it is manifest that this is so; because the new root is always found to be solid and succulent, the old withered and spongy.

And therefore it is no marvel if one sinks in water and the other swims; which nevertheless goes for a wonder, and has added credit to the other virtues ascribed to this herb.

IX.

There are also some things which may be usefully added to the natural history, and which will make it fitter and more convenient for the work of the interpreter, which follows. They are five.

First, questions (I do not mean as to causes but as to the fact) should be added, in order to provoke and stimulate further inquiry; as in the history of Earth and Sea, whether the Caspian ebbs and flows, and at how many hours' interval ; whether there is any Southern Continent, or only islands; and the like.

Secondly, in any new and more subtle experiment the manner in which the experiment was conducted should be added, that men may be free to judge for themselves whether the information obtained from that experiment be trustworthy or fallacious; and also that men’s industry may be roused to discover if possible methods more exact.

Thirdly, if in any statement there be anything doubtful or questionable, I would by no means have it suppressed or passed in silence, but plainly and perspicuously set down by way of note or admonition. For I want this primary history to be compiled with a most religious care, as if every particular were stated upon oath; seeing that it is the book of God's works, and (so far as the majesty of heavenly may be compared with the humbleness of earthly things) a kind of second Scripture.

Fourthly, it would not be amiss to intersperse observations occasionally, as Pliny has done ; as in the history of Earth and Sea, that the figure of the earth (as far as it is yet known) compared with the seas, is narrow and pointed towards the south, wide and broad towards the north; the figure of the sea contrary : that the great oceans intersect the earth in channels running north and south, not east and west; except perhaps in the extreme polar regions. It is also very good to add canons (which are nothing more than certain general and catholic observations); as in the history of the Heavenly Bodies, that Venus is never distant more than 46 parts from the sun; Mercury never more than 23; and that the planets which are placed above the sun move slowest when they are furthest from the earth, those under the sun fastest. Moreover there is another kind of observation to be employed, which has not yet come into use, though it be of no small importance. This is, that to the enumeration of things which are should be subjoined an enumeration of things which are not. As in the history of the Heavenly Bodies, that there is not found any star oblong or triangular, but that every star is globular; either globular simply, as the moon; or apparently angular, but globular in the middle, as the other stars; or apparently radiant but globular in the middle, as the sun ;-or that the stars are scattered about the sky in no order at all; so that there is not found among them either quincunx or square, or any other regular figure (howsoever the names be given of Delta, Crown, Cross, Chariot, &c.), - scarcely so much as a straight line; except perhaps in the belt and dagger of Orion.

Fifthly, that may perhaps be of some assistance to an inquirer which is the ruin and destruction of a believer; viz. a brief review, as in passage, of the opinions now received, with their varieties and sects; that they may touch and rouse the intellect, and no more.

X.

[ocr errors]

And this will be enough in the way of general precepts ; which if they be diligently observed, the work of the history will at once go straight towards its object and be prevented from increasing beyond bounds. But if even as here circumscribed and limited it should appear to some poor-spirited person a vast work — let him turn to the libraries; and there among other things let him look at the bodies of civil and canonical law on one side, and at the commentaries of doctors and lawyers on the other; and see what a difference there is between the two in point of mass and volume. For we (who as faithful secretaries do but enter and set down the laws themselves of nature and nothing else) are content with brevity, and almost compelled to it by the condition of things; whereas opinions, doctrines, and speculations are without number and without end.

And whereas in the Plan of the Work I have spoken of the Cardinal Virtues in nature, and said that a history of these must also be collected and written before we come to the work of Interpretation; I have not forgotten this, but I reserve this part for myself; since until men have begun to be somewhat more closely intimate with nature, I cannot venture to rely very much on other people's industry in that matter.

And now should come the delineation of the particular

« AnteriorContinuar »