Novum Organum (1620)
by Francis Bacon, translated by Wood, Devey, Spedding, et al
Francis Bacon9897Novum Organum1620Wood, Devey, Spedding, et al




Summi Angliae





Multi pertransibunt & augebitur scientia




Lord Chancellor

of England

The Great



Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased

The Novum Organum (New Organon) was the second (and the only somewhat complete) part of Sir Francis Bacon's Instauratio Magna, published in England in 1620. Because nearly nothing of the other five parts was printed in the Instauratio, the whole is often known by the name of the dominant part. In the pocket-sized 1650 edition (pictured right) the name was Novum Organum Scientiarum (New Organon of the Sciences).

Novum Organum Scientiarum, 1650

There were four complete translations done in the 19th century. Three of them, in reverse chronological order, are linked below. (The fourth was The Novum organon, or a true guide to the interpretation of nature, trans. G. W. Kitchin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1855.)

The Spedding edition printed in London (the first translation linked below) is generally the standard for scholarly citation, but citation by section, book, and aphorism, instead of volume and page, is frequently more useful and now widely accepted.

Instauratio Magna, translated by James Spedding et al., edited by Spedding, Ellis, and Heath (1858)


This translation appeared in 1858 in volume 4 of the The Collected Works of Francis Bacon, 15 vols, ed. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis and Douglas Denon Heath (London: Longmans, 1857–74). After some Americanization of spelling, punctuation, and phrasing, it was used in the fourteen-volume edition published in Boston 1860–64, where the translation appears in volume 8. The translation has been reprinted, both with and without modification, many times.

The translation was done by an unnamed Cambridge undergraduate and then finalized by Spedding. Though sometimes loose and affected, it is also at times elegant. It includes, for example, the famous line, “Nature to be commanded must be obeyed” (Novum Organum, Bk 1, Aph 3). Text at

Instauratio Magna, translated by William Wood and Joseph Devey, edited by Joseph Devey (1844)


Joseph Devey edited a one-volume edition entitled The Physical and Metaphysical Works of Lord Bacon. It was published first by Pickering in 1844 then by Bell & Daldy as part of Bohn’s Scientific Library starting in 1853.

Devey used Wood's translation of the Novum Organum itself but wrote his own translations of the preliminary material. Devey also added many footnotes (not reproduced here). His editions did not include the dedication. (The Preface, Book I, and Book II pages linked here are the same as those for the Montagu edition. Devey made some changes to punctuation, capitalization, italicization, and paragraph boundaries that are not reflected here.) A 1902 printing of a Devey edition is available at Open Library.

Instauratio Magna, translated by William Wood, edited by Basil Montagu (1831)


This was the first complete English translation since 1733. It was first printed in 1831 in volume 14 of The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England, 16 vols, ed. Basil Montagu (London: Pickering, 1825-1834). It was more frequently seen in the three-volume edition printed by a succession of publishers in Philadelphia almost annually from 1841 to 1859 and a few times in the 1870s and 1880s. An 1848 printing of the three-volume edition is available at Google Books.


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse