The essaies. His religious meditations. Places of perswasion and disswasion.

London, [By William Jaggard] for Iohn Iaggard, dwelling at the Hand and Starre betweene the two Temple gates, 1613.


8vo. 116 unnumbered leaves. A-O, P. Roman letter. “Of the colours of good and euill, a fragment” (i.e. “Places of perswastion and disswasion”) has separate dated title page on M6 verso. Title within ornamental typographical border, woodcut initials, typographical and woodcut head and tail-pieces, ‘H. K. 1699“Father Bacon” and Tomas H in contemporary hand on rear fly, short ‘shopping list’ of cloths and sundries above, engraved armorial bookplate with motto “Magnanimiter Crucem Sustine” of George Kenyon of Peel Hall, Lancashire (1666–1728;), Robert S Pirie’s on rear pastedown. Very light age yellowing small worm-trail at gutter not touching text, closed tear in L2. A very good copy, crisp and clean, with good margins, some deckle edges, in contemporary limp vellum, slightly soiled.

Very rare, early, but much enlarged edition of Bacon’s Essays, the first issue; “There are three distinct editions of this date .. which are best distinguished by the spellings of the word ‘Attorney’ at l. 5 of the title page. Though it cannot be determined absolutely, the chronological order of the spellings is now considered to be (1) ‘Atturny’. (2) ‘Aturney’, (3) ‘Atturney’. It is probable that these editions were printed in different years, though all before 1624.” Gibson

Essayes: Religious Meditations (1597) was the first published book by the philosopher, statesman and jurist Francis Bacon. The Essays are written in a wide range of styles, from the plain and unadorned to the epigrammatic. They cover topics drawn from both public and private life, and in each case the essays cover their topics systematically from a number of different angles, weighing one argument against another. A much-enlarged second edition appeared in 1612 with 38 essays. Another, under the title Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall, was published in 1625 with 58 essays. Translations into French and Italian appeared during Bacon’s lifetime. Though Bacon considered the Essays “but as recreation of my other studies”, he was given high praise by his contemporaries, even to the point of crediting him with having invented the essay form. Later researches made clear the extent of Bacon’s borrowings from the works of Montaigne, Aristotle and other writers, but the Essays have nevertheless remained in the highest repute. The 19th century literary historian Henry Hallam wrote that “They are deeper and more discriminating than any earlier, or almost any later, work in the English language”. Bacon’s genius as a phrase-maker appears to great advantage in the later essays. In Of Boldness he wrote, “If the Hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill”, which is the earliest known appearance of that proverb in print. The phrase “hostages to fortune” appears in the essay Of Marriage and Single Life – again the earliest known usage. Aldous Huxley’s book Jesting Pilate took its epigraph, “What is Truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer”, from Bacon’s essay Of Truth. The 1999 edition of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations includes no fewer than 91 quotations from the Essays.

Sir Francis Bacon (later Lord Verulam and the Viscount St. Albans) lawyer, statesman, essayist, historian, intellectual reformer, philosopher, and champion of modern science, dedicated himself to a wholesale revaluation and re-structuring of traditional learning. To take the place of the established tradition (a miscellany of Scholasticism, humanism, and natural magic), he proposed an entirely new system based on empirical and inductive principles and the active development of new arts and inventions, a system whose ultimate goal would be the production of practical knowledge for “the use and benefit of men” and the relief of the human condition. His career aspirations had been largely disappointed under Elizabeth I, but with the accession of James his political fortunes rose. Knighted in 1603, he was then steadily promoted to a series of offices, including Solicitor General (1607), Attorney General (1613), and eventually Lord Chancellor (1618). While serving as Chancellor, he was indicted on charges of bribery and forced from office. He retired to his estate where he devoted himself full time to his continuing literary, scientific, and philosophical work. He died in 1626, leaving a cultural legacy that, for better or worse, includes most of the foundation for the triumph of technology and for the modern world we know. In a way Bacon’s descent from political power was fortunate, for it represented a liberation from the bondage of public life resulting in a remarkable final burst of literary and scientific activity. Bacon’s earlier works, impressive as they are, were essentially products of his spare time. It was only during his last five years that he was able to concentrate exclusively on writing and produced some of his finest work.

STC 1142. ESTC S100354. Gibson 8. Grolier Langland to Wither 15. Pforzheimer I 29.


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