Princeton Seminar: Bacon and Scientific Utopianism

Princeton Seminar: Bacon and Scientific Utopianism, Princeton University, 20 April-20 May 2009. The international seminar on scientific utopianism, organised by prof. Dan Garber, Department of Philosophy, Princeton University, will gather in Princeton a number of 10-12 researchers from 5 countries, working together on “Francis Bacon and the Scientific Utopianism”.

Dana Jalobeanu's participating project:

Solomon’s Houses: Reading New Atlantis in seventeenth century

Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis had a very interesting career in the seventeenth century. Widely read and quoted, it had also inaugurating a style of thinking about the newly formed “scientific community” in terms of a Brotherhood of Learning, organised as a college, learned circle or scientific society, strictly ordered, hierarchical, independent and “international”. Bacon’s dream of Solomon’s House influenced in various degrees the organisation of Royal Society or other scientific and intellectual enterprises of the period; meanwhile, the project was read differently, according to the interests and various agendas of the readers. At a different level, New Atlantis was not only read and emulated, but was also continued or rewritten during 17th century, in England or in France. My project aims at studying comparatively such rewritings, showing in what way their differences relate with their different agendas: scientific, political or religious. I will focus especially on the impact of Solomon’s House as a model for various intellectual communities of scientists and philosophers, looking for the impact such rewritings have among their potential readers.

I intend to use this research in two ways: first, I will edit a volume containing less known texts that might be seen as rewritings of New Atlantis. Secondly, I aim at writing a book on seventeenth century Baconianism, where Bacon’s influence will be explored at the level of the discourse shaped for communicating knowledge within the “Republic of letters”. I have assembled here a range of texts as a starting point for my research. With few exceptions, little work was done on these writings, their composition, their impact and nothing so far on their interrelations. With the exception of texts relating directly with Early Royal Society, the rest were rarely discussed in the 20th century. Some have never known a modern edition.

  1. Editing New Atlantis: there are, in 17th century, a number of editions and translations of New Atlantis which contains interesting and relevant changes with respect to the original. Here are a couple of examples:
    1. Pierre Amboise’s French Edition, 1631(Histoire Naturelle de Mre Francois Bacon, Paris, 1631) – this first French translation of New Atlantis has never been thoroughly studied. It contains interesting omissions, changing names within Solomon’s House, interesting editorial choices. NA presented as the practical part of Bacon’s instauration, Solomon’s House being the necessary device to put into practice Sylva’s program. Moreover, in the French preface to NA, Bacon is said to have started the building of Solomon’s House (Gorhambury is presented as a House of experiments, Bacon’s correspondence as a way to create an international academy etc.).
    2. M.R La Nouvelle Atlantide de Francois Bacon, Chancelier d’Angleterre, traduite en Francois et continuee : avec des reflexions sur l’institution & les occupations des Academies Francoise des Sciences, & des inscriptions, Paris, 1702 – although the first part is allegedly a translation, the book contains additions and important changes placed into an entirely different context (see below). I am not aware of any study of this work so far.
    3. Thomas Bushell’s edition of New Atlantis – with minor additions, more relevant is the change of context. Bushell published the whole NA (the book went through more than one edition) Mr Bushell’s Abridgement of the Lord Chancelor Bacon’s Philosophical Theory in Mineral Prosecutions, London, 1659. The importance of such works is that they place NA into the context of practical projects (concerning mining). Bushell has also peculiar views about Bacon and the development of Bacon’s works. Despite the decided oddness of his writings, he was widely quoted in 17th and 18th century (Watts, Mallet). Bushell has also an “abridgement of NA” which is actually the description of the Solomon’s House with minor changes, An extract by Mr. Bushell of his late abridgement of the Lord Chancellor Bacon’s philosophical theory in mineral prosecutions, London, 1660, 9-16 (the abridged NA)
  1. Continuations of New Atlantis: I have identified so far three continuations of New Atlantis (works bearing the same title and declaring they are continuing the unfinished story or fable written by Bacon):
    1. Glanvill’s continuation of New Atlantis: John Glanvill, Anti-fanatical religion and free philosophy. In a continuation of New Atlantis, in Essays on several important subjects on philosophy and religion, London, 1676 (the emphasis is on the establishment of a method for avoiding controversies and reach consensus). This work is often quoted but I have been unable to find any discussion of it.
    2. R.H., New Atlantis, begun by the lord Verulam, viscount of st. Albans and continued by R H Esquire, wherein is set forth a platform of the monarchical government with a pleasant intermixture of divers rare inventions and wholsom customs, fit to be introduced into all kingdoms, states, and common-wealthes, London, 1660 (for the purpose of providing NA with “what is missing” according to Rawley, namely a frame of laws and a theory of just punishment). It is often quoted in the utopian literature, attributed by Manuel to Robert Hooke (?).
    3. The French edition of 1702, M.R La Nouvelle Atlantide de Francois Bacon, Chancelier d’Angleterre, traduite en Francois et continuee : avec des reflexions sur l’institution & les occupations des Academies Francoise des Sciences, & des inscriptions, Paris, 1702 – the second part is a continuation of NA centred upon solving the mysteries of Solomon’s house, including the return of the sailors from Bensalem and the spread of the message.
  1. Solomon’s House as a model for new projects (reading Bacon’s New Atlantis through various coloured glasses): Solomon’s House as a model for further projects has been the subject of study for those interested in the origins and developments of Early Royal Society. Little interest has been devoted to collateral projects of developing academies and even less explored were the possible relations between those projects. Here are a couple of interesting examples of rewriting the project of Solomon’s House with the purpose of proposing a new society (intellectual, scientific) or college for the advancement of learning.
    1. Pierre Amboise life of Bacon and preface to New Atlantis, picturing Bacon as a head of a school (sect?), building at Gorhambury a house of experiments, and NA as an unfinished project of something that has already started (20 pages). The first life of Bacon ever published (1631).
    2. Samuel Hartlib, A description of the famous kindgome of Macaria, shewing its excellent government; wherein the inhabitants live in great prosperity, health and happinesse, the king obeyed, the nobles honoured, and all good men respected, vice punished, and virtue rewarded, An example to other Nations, London, 1641, 16p.
    3. The Advice of W. P to Mr. Samuel Hartlib for the Advancement of some particular parts of learning, London, 1647 – 25 pages, unfinished. An extended design of a projected reformation of learning including schools, colleges, houses of trades etc. – on Baconian principles and under the model of Solomon’s house
    4. John Dury, The reformed library keeper, with a supplement to the reformed school as subordinate to colleges in universities, London, 1650, contains letters by Dury and Pell and a Latin description of the Wolfenbutel library. A very interesting epistle dedicatory, linking the advancement of learning to the new Israel and the reign of saints. The supplement to the reformed school (1-12) is a description of projected reforms of the universities and colleges, according to Bacon’s principles, in order to promote and advance the learning (universities are seen as places to increase and spread the knowledge through publications). The reformed library keeper is a plan for building a good library. Also contains John Pell’s An idea of mathematics, nice plan for improving the mathematical learning.
    5. Excerpts from Hartlib’s papers containing plans for a college – see the file “advancement and college” from Hartlib’s papers (manuscripts, digital edition, Sheffield University Library, UK)
    6. Abraham Cowley, A proposition for the advancement of experimental philosophy, London, 1660, Preface, 11 pages, the description of the college, 14-53, conclusion, 7 pages (60 p)
    7. Charleton, the description of the College of physicians, Immortality of the soul, 34-44
    8. Comenius, A reformation of the schools (passages from an early Latin version of Pansophia, translated into English), London, 1642
    9. Comenius, Via Lucis, Chapter XVIII, The plan of a universal college, 167-176 (Comenius, The Way of Light, translated by E.T. Campagnac, Liverpool, The University Press, 1938, original edition – Via Lucis, Vestigata & Vestiganda, h.e. Reationabilis disquisitio, quibus modis intellectualis Animorum Lux, Sapientia, per omnes Omnium Hominum mentes… , Amsterdami, Apud Christiphorum Cunradum, Typographum, 1668 – I wasn’t able to see the original edition, there is no copy of it in BL)
    10. Bushell’s Abridgement of Bacon’s philosophy: letters to Parlament concerning his mining projects presented as a continuation and application of Bacon’s Solomon’s House, in An Extract by Mr. Bushel…, 11-19
    11. Bushell’s mining plans and manifestos, in An Extract… 29-41 (letters to prisoners, attempting to enrol people from the debt prison in a continuation of Bacon’s plan, building the Solomon’s House with the purpose of developing a mining industry, “the miner’s prayer” etc.)
    12. Evelyn’s image of Solomon’s house in the diary?, 3, 110-111, Evelyn’s letter to Robert Boyle, 9 May 1657, in Evelyn, Correspondence, v. III, 92-93, to Boyle, 3 September 1659, ibid., 116-121
    13. Birch, HRS Birch, History of the Royal Society, I, 45, II, 71, IV, 46
    14. Oldenburg letters concerning the Royal Society’ plan for a college (see esp. vol. 4, there are a number of interesting letters either presenting the projects to prospective benefactors, or dealing with practical matters, like the appointed “committee of beggars” (fund-raising) or Evelyn’s architectural plans, or simply PR letters to correspondents abroad) – about 20 pages (the exact pages on my Oldenburg correspondence file)
    15. Proposals for reforming the Royal Society under the model of Solomon’s House: William Neile’s proposal and A.B’s proposal, published by Hunter, 1989
      1. Proposalls humbly offered to a better consideration Royal Society Domestic Manuscripts, 5.11 first item (there is also a partial transcript of it by Oldenburg entitled “Proposals concerning Experiments”)
      2. Anonymous letter reflecting the state of RS and proposing a reformation, Royal Society Miscellaneous Manuscripts, 4.72 Unknown author, but a very important document illustrating “how the crisis that the Society experienced at this time stimulated profound heart-searching about the Society’s very nature”1