Francis Bacon (1561-1626): Novum Organum Scientiarium

Title page of Novum Organum Scientiarium
First page of Novum Organum Scientiarium

(Click to enlarge)

Novum Organum Scientiarium was published in 1620, intended as one part of a larger, planned but unfinished work, the Instauratio Magna (‘The Great Instauration’).

Novum Organum is a philosophical work that attempts to replace Aristotelian deduction with inductive reasoning from observation. King’s College owns several copies of the first edition.

The famous title page depicts a ship between two pillars, intended as the Pillars of Hercules, signifying the gateway from the known world of Ancients to the unknown continents beyond the Atlantic. The quotation underneath, Multi pertransibunt et augebitur scientia, is taken from Daniel 12:4, and translates as 'many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased'.

Bacon and many of his contemporaries viewed contact with the New World and maritime exploration as  a project of biblical proportions, repairing the linguistic and cultural scattering of the world after the Tower of Babel, heralding a coming era of Christian prosperity and peace.

Further linking science, religion and exploration, Bacon drew a parallel between navigational and cartographic innovations, resulting in the proliferation of new geographical knowledge, with his methodological innovations leading to new scientific thinking.

The Age of Discovery | Images from the Special Collections