THE BIRTH OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD: RARE FIRST EDITION OF FRANCIS BACON’S NOVUM ORGANUM, 1620
BACON, Francis. Novum Organum. London: John Bill, 1620. Folio, contemporary sprinkled calf skillfully rebacked and recornered. $25,000.
First edition of Bacon’s Novum Organum (a “new instrument” to replace the old Organon of Aristotle), which 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 usual, this copy is the second state, with leaf e3 cancelled and reprinted on e4 with errata added and only the name of the printer Bill present. Text in Latin. Gibson 103b. Grolier/Horblit 8b (1st issue). Norman I:98. PMM 119. Ownership inscription at head of title; 18th-century manuscript notes on both sides of the initial blank; some underlining and marginal marks in the preface. From the library of the Irish classical scholar John Walker (17691833), with his ownership inscription at the head of the engraved title “John Walker, T.C.D.” (retrospectively dated 1815), and with his manuscript notes in Latin about the book on both sides of the initial blank leaf. Walker entered Trinity College, Dublin, in January 1786, ascending by stages to Bachelor of Divinity in 1800. Inspired by the practice of the apostles and rejecting all later developments in church authority, Walker founded a group called the Church of God (his followers were known pejoratively as Separatists or Walkerites). Knowing this to be incompatible with his status as a Church of Ireland clergyman, Walker offered to resign his fellowship of Trinity but was instead expelled. He was then forced to support himself by lecturing and writing until the last year of his life, when Trinity College, Dublin, granted him a pension in amends for their earlier treatment of him.
Very infrequent scattered light foxing, with occasional marginal pinpoint wormholing, not affecting readability. Age-wear to contemporary calf boards, with a few cuts, wormholes on rear board. A desirable copy in very good condition of this landmark.