“The TVVOO Bookes of Francis Bacon. Of the proficience and aduancement of Learning, divine and humane. To the King. At London. Printed for Henrie Tomes, and are to be sould at his shop at Graies Inne Gate in Holborne. 1605.” That was the original title-page of the book now in the reader’s hand—a living book that led the way to a new world of thought. It was the book in which Bacon, early in the reign of James the First, prepared the way for a full setting forth of his New Organon, or instrument of knowledge.
The Organon of Aristotle was a set of treatises in which Aristotle had written the doctrine of propositions. Study of these treatises was a chief occupation of young men when they passed from school to college, and proceeded from Grammar to Logic, the second of the Seven Sciences. Francis Bacon as a youth of sixteen, at Trinity College, Cambridge, felt the unfruitfulness of this method of search after truth. He was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Queen Elizabeth’s Lord Keeper, and was born at York House, in the Strand, on the 22nd of January, 1561. His mother was the Lord Keeper’s second wife, one of two sisters, of whom the other married Sir William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burleigh. Sir Nicholas Bacon had six children by his former marriage, and by his second wife two sons, Antony and Francis, of whom Antony was about two years the elder. The family home was at York Place, and at Gorhambury, near St. Albans, from which town, in its ancient and its modern style, Bacon afterwards took his titles of Verulam and St. Albans.
Antony and Francis Bacon went together to Trinity College, Cambridge, when Antony was fourteen years old and Francis twelve. Francis remained at Cambridge only until his sixteenth year; and Dr. Rawley, his chaplain in after-years, reports of him that “whilst he was commorant in the University, about sixteen years of age (as his lordship hath been pleased to impart unto myself), he first fell into dislike of the philosophy of Aristotle; not for the worthlessness of the author, to whom he would ascribe all high attributes, but for the unfruitfulness of the way, being a philosophy (as his lordship used to say) only strong for disputatious and contentions, but barren of the production of works for the benefit of the life of man; in which mind he continued to his dying day.” Bacon was sent as a youth of sixteen to Paris with the ambassador Sir Amyas Paulet, to begin his training for the public service; but his father’s death, in February, 1579, before he had completed the provision he was making for his youngest children, obliged him to return to London, and, at the age of eighteen, to settle down at Gray’s Inn to the study of law as a profession. He was admitted to the outer bar in June, 1582, and about that time, at the age of twenty-one, wrote a sketch of his conception of a New Organon that should lead man to more fruitful knowledge, in a little Latin tract, which he called “Temporis Partus Maximus” ("The Greatest Birth of Time").