“Enlarging the bounds of Humane Empire, to the Effecting of all Things possible” - Bacon’s Scientific Method

Bacon, Sir Francis (1561-1626)

Of The Advancement And Proficience of Learning or the Partitions of Sciences IX Bookes Written in Latin by the Most Eminent Illustrious & Famous Lord Francis Bacon Baron of Verulam Vicont St Alban Consilour of Estate and Lord Chancellor of England. Interpreted by Gilbert Wats.

Oxford: Printed by Leon: Lichfield, Printer to the University, for Rob: Young, & Ed: Forrest, 1640


Folio: 28.2 x 19 cm. [32], 38, [14], 322, [22] p. Collation: [*]2, ¶4, ¶¶2, ¶¶¶1, A2, B-C4, aa-gg4, hh2, †4, ††2, †1, A-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Qqq4, Rrr2. The first bifolium comprises the engraved portrait and engraved title page.

FIRST COMPLETE EDITION in ENGLISH, first issue, with the colophon dated 1639.

Bound in contemporary blind-ruled calf, discreetly rebacked retaining the original spine. A very crisp, tall copy with bright leaves. There is some intermittent, inoffensive damp-staining, causing a darker tide line on the final three leaves only. The portrait and engraved title are both present.

This is the important English translation, by Isaac Watts, of Bacon’s “De augmentis scientiarum” (“Partitions of the Sciences”), a greatly expanded version of Bacon’s “Of Proficience and Advancement of Learning Divine and Human”(1605). The work forms part one of Bacon’s “Instauratio Magna”, a foundational work of Early Modern science. The “Advancement” was first published in two books. In its present, final form, it has been expanded to nine.

"Bacon’s major contribution to the development of science lies in his natural philosophy, his philosophy of scientific method, and in his projects for the practical organization of science. During the last years of his life, he expounded these ideas in a series of works, of which the ‘Twoo bookes: Of the proficience and advancement of Learning, divine and humane’ was the first. The only work Bacon ever published in English, it was later expanded and Latinized into ‘De augmentis scientiarum’ (1623). In the ‘Twoo bookes’, Bacon concerned himself primarily with the classification of philosophy and the sciences and with developing his influential view of the relation between science and theology. While preserving the traditional distinction between knowledge obtained by divine revelation and knowledge acquired through the senses, Bacon saw both theoretical and applied science as religious duties, the first for a greater knowledge of God through his creation, and the second for the practice of charity to one’s fellows by improving their condition. This view of science as a religious function maintained its authority throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and was an important factor in the public success of the scientific movement." (Norman Library)

"Bacon's grand motive in his attempt to found the sciences anew was the intense conviction that the knowledge man possessed was of little service to him. 'The knowledge whereof the world is now possessed, especially that of nature, extendeth not to magnitude and certainty of works.' Man's sovereignty over nature, which is founded on knowledge alone, had been lost, and instead of the free relation between things and the human mind, there was nothing but vain notions and blind experiments. ... Philosophy is not the science of things divine and human; it is not the search after truth. 'I find that even those that have sought knowledge for itself, and not for benefit or ostentation, or any practical enablement in the course of their life, have nevertheless propounded to themselves a wrong mark, namely, satisfaction (which men call Truth) and not operation.' 

'Is there any such happiness as for a man's mind to be raised above the confusion of things, where he may have the prospect of the order of nature and error of man? But is this a view of delight only and not of discovery? Of contentment and not of benefit? Shall he not as well discern the riches of nature's warehouse as the beauty of her shop? Is truth ever barren? Shall he not be able thereby to produce worthy effects, and to endow the life of man with infinite commodities?' Philosophy is altogether practical; it is of little matter to the fortunes of humanity what abstract notions one may entertain concerning the nature and the principles of things. This truth, however, has never yet been recognized; it has not yet been seen that the true aim of all science is 'to endow the condition and life of man with new powers or works,' or 'to extend more widely the limits of the power and greatness of man.'"(Encyclopedia Britannica, eleventh edition, vol. 3, page 145.)

Gibson 141; S124504; STC 1167. See J.S. Galland, Bibl. of Cryptology, p. 11