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NATURAL AND EXPERIMENTAL HISTORY,
SUCH AS MAT SERVE FOR THE FOUNDATION
My object in publishing my Instauration by parts is that some portion of it may be put out of peril. A similar reason induces me to subjoin here another small portion of the work, and to publish it along with that which has just been set forth. This is the description and delineation of a Natural and Experimental History such as may serve to build philosophy upon, and containing material true and copious and aptly digested for the work of the Interpreter which follows. The proper place for it would be when I come in due course to the Preparatives of Inquiry. I have thought it better however to introduce it at once without waiting for that. For a history of this kind, such as I conceive and shall presently describe, is a thing of very great size, and cannot be executed without great labour and expense; requiring as it does many people to help, and being (as I have said elsewhere) a kind of royal work. It occurs to me therefore that it may not be amiss to try if there be any others who will take these matters in hand; so that while I go on with the completion of my original design, this part which is so manifold and laborious may even during my life (if it so please the Divine Majesty) be prepared and set forth, others applying themselves diligently to it along with me; the rather because my own strength (if I should have no one to help me) is hardly equal to such a province. For as much as relates to the work itself of the intellect, I shall perhaps be able to master that by myself; but the materials on which the intellect has to work are so widely spread, that one must employ factors and merchants to go everywhere in search of them and bring them in. Besides I hold it to be somewhat beneath the dignity of an undertaking like mine that I should spend my own time in a matter which is open to almost every man's industry. That however which is the main part of the matter I will myself now supply, by diligently and exactly setting forth the method and description of a history of this kind, such as shall satisfy my intention; lest men for want of warning set to work the wrong way, and guide themselves by the example of the natural histories now in use, and so go far astray from my design. Meanwhile what I have often said I must here emphatically repeat; that if all the wits of all the ages had met or shall hereafter meet together; if the whole human race had applied or shall hereafter apply themselves to philosophy, and the whole earth had been or shall be nothing but academies and colleges and schools of learned men; still without a natural and experimental history such as I am going to prescribe, no progress worthy of the human race could have been made or can be made in philosophy and the sciences. Whereas on the other hand, let such a history be once provided and well set forth, and let there be added to it such auxiliary and lightgiving experiments as in the very course of interpretation will present themselves or will have to be found out; and the investigation of nature and of all sciences will be the work of a few years. This therefore must be done, or the business must be given up. For in this way, and in this way only, can the foundations of a true and active philosophy be established; and then will men wake as from deep sleep, and at once perceive what a difference there is between the dogmas and figments of the wit and a true and active philosophy, and what it is in questions of nature to consult nature herself.
Vol. Yin. 23
First then I will give general precepts for the composition of this history; then I will set out the particular figure of it, inserting sometimes as well the purpose to which the inquiry is to be adapted and referred as the particular point to be inquired; in order that a good understanding and forecast of the mark aimed at may suggest to men's minds other things also which I may perhaps have overlooked. This history I call Primary History, or the Mother History.