Immagini della pagina




Three motives prompted me, in 1893, to undertake a new edition of Roger Bacon's Opus Majus. One was that the sixth centenary of one of the earliest and perhaps the greatest of Oxford thinkers was at hand. A second reason was that this work brings into prominence the connection of Greek Science with that of the modern world, through the mediation of the Arabic Schools of Bagdad and Spain. And thirdly, the Opus Majus, when published in its entirety, appeared to me to present to the world a scheme of culture contrasting strongly with any that was offered in Bacon's time or in the centuries that followed. Combining the comparative study of language with a comprehensive grasp of physical science, conceiving these studies as progressive, and yet holding them subordinate to a supreme ethical purpose, it surpassed any that was put before the world till the publication of the philosophical and social works of Auguste Comte.

But the work was undertaken with insufficient equipment of expert skill in deciphering manuscripts ; with the result that, though many errors in the edition of 1733 were corrected, and especially the fundamental error of omitting the ethical treatise which completes and crowns the work, yet far too many were retained. Further, I had not had the opportunity of consulting the important MS. (Vat. 4086) to which attention was called by Dr. Gasquet, when in the July issue of the Engl. Hist. Review 1897, he presented an unpublished fragment of Bacon of which more will be said afterwards. This MS., here called V., resembles in many important respects, though by no means in all, the Cottonian MS. Julius D.V. already noted on p. xv of vol. i. (spoken of there as Jul., but in this volume as J.). J. is the oldest of all known MSS. of the Opus Majus. It contains much that is not found in the Bodleian MS. (O.); but in the 2nd and 3rd parts it is much mutilated by fire. V., though probably not less than thirty years later in date, enables us to supply many of the deficiencies of J.

It was thus necessary that steps should be taken to repair the defects of the edition as it stood. The Delegates of the Clarendon Press, for whose

« IndietroContinua »