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go into the understanding (which has been done hitherto), but the understanding to be expanded and opened till it can take in the image of the world, as it is in fact. For that fashion of taking few things into account, and pronouncing with reference to a few things, has been the ruin of everything. To resume then the divisions of natural history which I made just now, viz. that it is a history of Generations, Pretergenerations, and Arts, I divide the History of Generations into five parts. The first, of Ether and things Celestial. The second, of Meteors and the regions (as they call them) of Air; viz. of the tracts which lie between the moon and the surface of the earth; to which part also (for order's sake, however the truth of the thing may be) I assign Comets of whatever kind, both higher and lower. The third, of Earth and Sea. The fourth, of the Elements (as they call them), flame or fire, air, water, earth: understanding however by Elements, not the first principles of things, but the greater masses of natural bodies. For the nature of things is so distributed that the quantity or mass of some bodies in the universe is very great, because their configurations require a texture of matter easy and obvious; such as are those four bodies which I have mentioned; while of certain other bodies the quantity is small and weakly supplied, because the texture of matter which they require is very complex and subtle, and for the most part determinate and organic; such as are the species of natural things, – metals, plants, animals. Hence I call the former kind of bodies the Greater Colleges, the latter the Lesser Colleges. Now the fourth part of the history is of those Greater Colleges — under the name of Elements, as I said. And let it not be thought that I confound this fourth part with the second and third, because in each of them I have mentioned air, water, and earth. For the history of these enters into the second and third, as they are integral parts of the world, and as they relate to the fabric and configuration of the universe. But in the fourth is contained the history of their own substance and nature, as it exists in their several parts of uniform structure, and without reference to the whole. Lastly, the fifth part of the history contains the Lesser Colleges, or Species; upon which natural history has hitherto been principally employed. As for the history of Pretergenerations, I have already said that it may be most conveniently joined with the history of Generations; I mean the history of prodigies which are natural. For the superstitious history of marvels (of whatever kind) I remit to a quite separate treatise of its own; which treatise I do not wish to be undertaken now at first, but a little after, when the investigation of nature has been carried deeper.
History of Arts, and of Nature as changed and altered by Man, or Experimental History, I divide into three. For it is drawn either from mechanical arts, or from the operative part of the liberal arts; or from a number of crafts and experiments which have not yet grown into an art properly so called, and which sometimes indeed turn up in the course of most ordinary experience, and do not stand at all in need of art.
As soon therefore as a history has been completed of all these things which I have mentioned, namely, Generations, Pretergenerations, Arts and Experiments, it seems that nothing will remain unprovided whereby the sense can be equipped for the information of the understanding. And then shall we be no longer kept dancing within little rings, like persons bewitched, but our range and circuit will be as wide as the compass of the world.
Among the parts of history which I have mentioned, the history of Arts is of most use, because it exhibits things in motion, and leads more directly to practice. Moreover it takes off the mask and veil from natural objects, which are commonly concealed and obscured under the variety of shapes and external appearance. Finally, the vexations of art are certainly as the bonds and handcuffs of Proteus, which betray the ultimate struggles and efforts of matter. For bodies will not be destroyed or annihilated; rather than that they will turn themselves into various forms. Upon this history therefore, mechanical and illiberal as it may seem, (all fineness and daintiness set aside) the greatest diligence must be bestowed.
Again, among the particular arts those are to be preferred which exhibit, alter, and prepare natural bodies and materials of things; such as agriculture, cookery, chemistry, dyeing; the manufacture of glass, enamel, sugar, gunpowder, artificial fires, paper, and the like. Those which consist principally in the subtle motion of the hands or instruments are of less use;
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such as weaving, carpentry, architecture, manufacture of mills, clocks, and the like; although these too are by no means to be neglected, both because many things occur in them which relate to the alterations of natural bodies, and because they give accurate information concerning local motion, which is a thing of great importance in very many respects.
But in the whole collection of this history of Arts, it is especially to be observed and constantly borne in mind, that not only those experiments in each art which serve the purpose of the art itself are to be received, but likewise those which turn up anyhow by the way. For example, that locusts or crabs, which were before of the colour of mud, turn red when baked, is nothing to the table; but this very instance is not a bad one for investigating the nature of redness, seeing that the same thing happens in baked bricks. In like manner the fact that meat is sooner salted in winter than in summer, is not only important for the cook that he may know how to regulate the pickling, but is likewise a good instance for showing the nature and impression of cold. Therefore it would be an utter mistake to suppose that my intention would be satisfied by a collection of experiments of arts made only with the view of thereby bringing the several arts to greater perfection. For though this be an object which in many cases I do not despise, yet my meaning plainly is that all mechanical experiments should be as streams flowing from all sides into the sea of philosophy. But how to select the more important instances in every kind (which are principally and with the greatest diligence to be sought and as it were hunted out) is a point to be learned from the prerogatives of instances.
In this place also is to be resumed that which in the 99th 119th, and 120th Aphorisms of the first book I treated more at large, but which it may be enough here to enjoin shortly by way of precept; namely, that there are to be received into this history, first, things the most ordinary, such as it might be thought superfluous to record in writing, because they are so familiarly known; secondly, things mean, illiberal, filthy (for “to the pure all things are pure,” and if money obtained from Vespasian's tax smelt well, much more does light and information from whatever source derived); thirdly, things trifling and childish (and no wonder, for we are to become again as little children); and lastly, things which seem over subtle, because they are in themselves of no use. For the things which will be set forth in this history are not collected (as I have already said) on their own account; and therefore neither is their importance to be measured by what they are worth in themselves, but according to their indirect bearing upon other things, and the influence they may have upon philosophy.
Another precept is, that everything relating both to bodies and virtues in nature be set forth (as far as may be) numbered, weighed, measured, defined. For it is works we are in pursuit of, not speculations; and practical working comes of the due combination of physics and mathematics. And therefore the exact revolutions and distances of the planets—in the history of the heavenly bodies; the compass of the land and the superficial space it occupies in comparison of the waters—in the history of earth and sea; how much compression air will bear without strong resistance — in the history of air; how much one metal outweighs another — in the history of metals; and numberless other particulars of that kind are to be ascertained and set down. And when exact proportions cannot be obtained, then we must have recourse to indefinite estimates and comparatives. As for instance (if we happen to distrust the calculations of astronomers as to the distances of the planets), that the moon is within the shadow of the earth; that Mercury is beyond the moon; and the like. Also when mean proportions cannot be had, let extremes be proposed; as that a weak magnet will raise so many times its own weight of iron, while the most powerful will raise sixty times its own weight (as I have myself seen in the case of a very small armed magnet). I know well enough that these definite instances do not occur readily or often, but that they must be sought for as auxiliaries in the course of interpretation itself when they are most wanted. But nevertheless if they present themselves accidentally, provided they do not too much interrupt the progress of the natural history, they should also be entered therein.
With regard to the credit of the things which are to be admitted into the history; they must needs be either certainly true, doubtful whether true or not, or certainly not true. Things of the first kind should be set down simply; things of the second kind with a qualifying note, such as “it is reported,” “they relate,” “I have heard from a person of credit,” and the like. For to add the arguments on either side would be too laborious and would certainly interrupt the writer too much. Nor is it of much consequence to the business in hand; because (as I have said in the 118th Aphorism of the first book) mistakes in experimenting, unless they abound everywhere, will be presently detected and corrected by the truth of axioms. And yet if the instance be of importance, either from its own use or because many other things may depend upon it, then certainly the name of the author should be given; and not the name merely, but it should be mentioned withal whether he took it from report, oral or written (as most of Pliny’s statements are), or rather affirmed it of his own knowledge; also whether it was a thing which happened in his own time or earlier; and again whether it was a thing of which, if it really happened, there must needs have been many witnesses; and finally whether the author was a vainspeaking and light person, or sober and severe; and the like points, which bear upon the weight of the evidence. Lastly things which though certainly not true are yet current and much in men's mouths, having either through neglect or from the use of them in similitudes prevailed now for many ages, (as that the diamond binds the magnet, garlic weakens it; that amber attracts everything except basil; and other things of that Joind) these it will not be enough to reject silently; they must be in express words proscribed, that the sciences may be no more troubled with them.
Besides, it will not be amiss, when the source of any vanity or credulity happens to present itself, to make a note of it; as for example, that the power of exciting Venus is ascribed to the herb Satyrion, because its root takes the shape of testicles; when the real cause of this is that a fresh bulbous root grows upon it every year, last year's root still remaining; whence those twin bulbs. And it is manifest that this is so; because the new root is always found to be solid and succulent, the old withered and spongy. And therefore it is no marvel if one sinks in water and the other swims; which nevertheless goes for a wonder, and has added credit to the other virtues ascribed to this herb.