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BACON, Francis.

[Novum Organum sive indicia vera de interpretatione naturae.] Instauratio Magna.

London: J. Billium, 1620 Stock Code: 138351
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The new world of the new science

First edition of this "monumental work on the philosophy of science, on the systematic organization of knowledge, and on the inductive method" (Grolier/Horblit). Bacon's Novum Organum (a "new instrument" to replace the old Organon of Aristotle) had a revolutionary impact on early modern science by laying the foundation of the inductive method.

"Bacon's insistence on making science experimental and factual, rather than speculative and philosophical, had powerful consequences. He saw clearly the limitations of Aristotelian and scholastic methods and the growing breach between the thinking of his time and that of the Middle Ages is more precisely formulated than in that of, say, Tommaso Campanella or Giordano Bruno. As a philosopher Bacon's influence on Locke and through him on subsequent English schools of psychology and ethics was profound. Leibniz, Huygens and particularly Robert Boyle were deeply indebted to him, as were the Encyclopédistes, and Voltaire, who called him 'le père de la philosophie experimentale'" (PMM).

Although the engraved allegorical title - with its evocative engraving of a modern explorer's ship setting confident sail through the Pillars of Hercules, the edge of the world as far as the ancients knew it - gives the title as the "Instauratio Magna", the book constitutes the planned second part of Part II of the Instauratio (the first part having already appeared as De Augmentis and Book I of The Advancement of Learning). Bacon planned the greater whole in six parts, recalling the six days of the Creation (the plan of the whole work is first printed here), but never completed it. The Novum Organum remains its most influential part. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society were soon to be filled with exactly the kind of "Histories", careful collections of experimental data, that Bacon here recommends.

As in all but a very few copies, the text is in the second state, with the errata, leaf e3 cancelled, and B. Norton's name no longer appearing in the colophon. This is a small paper copy, with the jug watermark, here complete with genuine first and last blanks and the medial blank leaf c4. Large paper copies of the first and second state were issued, with the crown watermark, and often in "presentation" bindings of vellum.

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Folio (290 x 190 mm). In its first binding of limp vellum, spine titled in manuscript, ties removed. Housed in a custom dark green morocco-backed green cloth slipcase and matching chemise.


Engraved title page by Simon de Passe, head- and tailpieces, initials.


Endpaper across front pastedown with some loss to centre, perhaps from sometime removal of bookplate, short closed tear to bottom edge of leaf J2, 5 cm tear along gutter from bottom edge of M2, a few small rust holes touching one or two letters but remaining legible (Aa2, a few further spots to pp. 342-46), tiny wormhole from gathering Hh onwards, barely visible and not affecting text. A fine copy, the contents crisp and clean, with generous margins.


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