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Valerius Terminus; of the interpretation of nature   By: (1561-1626)

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Valerius Terminus: of the Interpretation of Nature

by Francis Bacon

Preface by Robert Leslie Ellis

The following fragments of a great work on the Interpretation of Nature were first published in Stephens's Letters and Remains [1734]. They consist partly of detached passages, and partly of an epitome of twelve chapters of the first book of the proposed work. The detached passages contain the first, sixth, and eighth chapters, and portions of the fourth, fifth, seventh, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and sixteenth. The epitome contains an account of the contents of all the chapters from the twelfth to the twenty sixth inclusive, omitting the twentieth, twentythird, and twenty fourth. Thus the sixteenth chapter is mentioned both in the epitome and among the detached passages, and we are thus enabled to see that the two portions of the following tract belong to the same work, as it appears from both that the sixteenth chapter was to treat of the doctrine of idola.

It is impossible to ascertain the motive which determined Bacon to give to the supposed author the name of Valerius Terminus, or to his commentator, of whose annotations we have no remains, that of Hermes Stella. It may be conjectured that by the name Terminus he intended to intimate that the new philosophy would put an end to the wandering of mankind in search of truth, that it would be the TERMINUS AD QUEM in which when it was once attained the mind would finally acquiesce.

Again, the obscurity of the text was to be in some measure removed by the annotations of Stella; not however wholly, for Bacon in the epitome of the eighteenth chapter commends the manner of publishing knowledge "whereby it shall not be to the capacity nor taste of all, but shall as it were single and adopt his reader." Stella was therefore to throw a kind of starlight on the subject, enough to prevent the student's losing his way, but not much more.

However this may be, the tract is undoubtedly obscure, partly from the style in which it is written, and partly from its being only a fragment. It is at the same time full of interest, inasmuch as it is the earliest type of the INSTAURATIO...

Note to Preface by James Spedding:

The manuscript from which Robert Stephens printed these fragments was found among some loose papers placed in his hands by the Earl of Oxford, and is now in the British Museum; Harl. manuscripts 6462. It is a thin paper volume of the quarto size, written in the hand of one of Bacon's servants, with corrections, erasures, and interlineations in his own.

The chapters of which it consists are both imperfect in themselves (all but three), some breaking off abruptly, others being little more than tables of contents, and imperfect in their connexion with each other; so much so as to suggest the idea of a number of separate papers loosely put together. But it was not so (and the fact is important) that the volume itself was actually made up. However they came together, they are here fairly and consecutively copied out. Though it be a collection of fragments therefore, it is such a collection as Bacon thought worthy not only of being preserved, but of being transcribed into a volume; and a particular account of it will not be out of place.

The contents of the manuscript before Bacon touched it may be thus described.

1. A titlepage, on which is written "VALERIUS TERMINUS of the Interpretation of Nature, with the annotations of HERMES STELLA."

2. "Chapter I. Of the limits and end of knowledge;" with a running title, "Of the Interpretation of Nature."

3. "The chapter immediately following the Inventory; being the 11th in order."

4. "A part of the 9th chapter, immediately precedent to the Inventory, and inducing the same."

5. "The Inventory, or an enumeration and view of inventions already discovered and in use, together with a note of the wants and the nature of the supplies; being the 10th chapter, and this a fragment only of the same... Continue reading book >>




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