BACON, Sir Francis


BACON, Sir Francis Opera tomus primus: qui continet De dignitate & augmentis scientiarum libros IX. Ad regem suum

London, In officina Ioannis Haviland, MDCXXIII. [1623]


FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. pp. [20], 493, [2]. [[par.] , A , B-3R .] Last blank. Roman and Italic letter. Printer’s woodcut device on both title-pages, both within double rules, variant with additional “I” added in mss to the date, second title-page (¶3), also with additional “I”, ¶2r setting with “emittit” as the catchword rather than “Translatio,” text within box rule, floriated woodcut initials, typographical head- and tailpieces, “Liber Matthei Hale Anno domini 1663” on fly (Sir Matthew Hale), Robert Blagden Hale’s (1807–1883) armorial bookplate on front free endpaper, bookplate ‘Hale of Alderley, Gloucestershire’ (depicting the Upper House rebuilt in the eighteenth century at Sir Matthew’s country seat). Robert S. Pirie’s bookplate on pastedown. Very light waterstain in lower blank margin of a few quires. A fine copy, absolutely fresh and clean, in contemporary English blind-tooled dark calf, covers with a border of multiple blind rules, spine with similar blind rules, head of spine, upper inner corner of upper cover, and tail expertly restored, joints a little scratched, all edges sprinkled red.

The extremely rare first edition, a much enlarged translation into Latin of ‘The Advancement of Learning’, of perhaps Bacon’s most important and influential work. The “De Augmentis Scientiarum” was intended as Part 1 of Bacon’s proposed “Instauratio magna” that he never completed. “Bacon conceived a massive plan for the reorganization of scientific method and gave purposeful thought to the relation of science to public and social life. His pronouncement “I have taken all knowledge to be my province” is the motto of his work… [His] proposal was “a total reconstruction of sciences, arts and all human knowledge… to extend the power and dominion of the human race… over the universe”. The plan for this was to be set out in six parts: (1) a complete survey of human knowledge and learning; this was expounded in the “De Augmentis Scientiarum”, 1623 (a greatly extended version of “The Advancement of Learning”, 1605)… Of parts (3) to (5) only fragments were ever published; part (6) remained unwritten.” PMM 119 Sir Francis Bacon (later Lord Verulam and the Viscount St. Albans) lawyer, statesman, essayist, historian, intellectual reformer, philosopher, and champion of modern science, who 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. At the same time that he was founding and promoting this project for the advancement of learning, Bacon was also moving up the ladder of state service. 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. “The Advancement of Learning was divided into two books. The first was an eloquent defence of the importance of learning in every field of life. The second book, much longer and more important, was a general survey of the contemporary state of knowledge and supplying Bacon’s broad suggestions for the ways of improvement. The importance of the Advancement of Learning and its expanded edition in Latin, the De dignitate ed augmentis scientarum [1623] is that it presents Bacon’s views on many philosophical issues and also serves as a central source for his views on history, rhetoric, moral philosophy, and civil philosophy. More generally it is an exposition of Bacon’s classification of knowledge.” Markku Peltonen ‘The Cambridge Companion to Bacon.’ This copy first belonged to Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale, with his signature on the front free endpaper, dated 1663.

STC 1108 (listing two copies with the altered date); ESTC S120405; Gibson 129b (variant with the additional “I” in the date)
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