New Atlantis

begun by the

Lord Verulam,

Viscount St. Alban's :


Continued by R.H. Esquire



Manly P. Hall


In many respects the seventeenth century may be considered the beginning of the modern world. Powerful social and political forces were moving in the substratum of European culture. In 1614 the mysterious Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross proclaimed a universal reformation. Alchemy was emerging as a science of human regeneration and the astrologers were turning their attention toward those heavenly portents which signified rapid and enduring changes in mundane affairs. The Utopians were hard at work structuring a political commonwealth somewhat puritanical but closer to the hearts desire of the public in general. The two class system of princes and paupers was becoming unbearable and the constant feuding between Church and State broke out in civil war which further disillusioned thoughtful persons.

Lord Bacon was certainly a moving spirit in the fields of politics,science, and industry. He revolted against the institutions of higher education, insisting that scholars had picked the bones of Aristotle until nothing of value remained. King James I was the patron of the new revision of the Holy Bible in 1611 and there is at least an enduring rumor that Lord Bacon was involved in this important labor. King James I, although not a paragon of the virtues, was sympathetic with Bacon's dream of the advancement and proficience of learning and even read some of his Lordship's publications which he acknowledged to be "beyond human understanding."

The revolt against Cromwell brought the Royalist party back into power and Charles II was enthroned as King in May 1660. His reign started badly but improved with the passing of time and in the last five years of his life he gained immense popularity. In spite of his numerous shortcomings Charles II was a patron of learning and, among his first official acts, was the creation of the Royal Society of London. This body was largely dedicated to the new learning as proclaimed by Lord Bacon. During the reign of Charles II there was a strong revival of interest in alchemy, Rosicrucianism, and broad programs bearing upon social and economic growth. The seeds planted some fifty years earlier sprouted and bore fruit, and the average Britisher found living a more constructive experience.

In 1660 Thomas Sprat published his History of the Royal Society of London with a laudatory dedication to the King and numerous references to the debt which the Society owed to Lord Bacon. The Utopian dream of philosophic commonwealth seemed near fulfillment and the king was inclined to favor the project.

The Fame of the Royal Society. From Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal Society

In the Center is a bust of the Society's Founder - Charles II

Left is William Brouncker- The first President

On the Right is Francis Bacon the Inspiration of the Royal Society

Bacon's Utopia was published in 1627 under the title The New Atlantis and was appended to a larger work, the Sylva Sylvarum or The Natural History of Winds. Bacon's secretary, Dr. Rawley, described The New Atlantis as a work unfinished because his Lordship's attentions were called to more serious matters. The Utopian idea seems to have gained ground as the result of the explorations of these navigators who brought home the first accounts of the civilizations of the Western Hemisphere. It was evident that the Aztec, Maya, and Inca forms of government had strong democratic elements. They were highly socialized states, comparatively free from the tragedies which had burdened Europe for ages. When Pizzaro asked the Inca how criminals were punished in Peru he replied that he could not answer the question because there were no criminals. Bacon's New Atlantis describes the adventures of seaman who departed from Peru and he may well have been influenced by the glowing accounts of the great cities of Central and South America.

R.W. Gibson in his book entitled Francis Bacon, A Bibliography of His Works of Baconiana to the Year 1750, Oxford : Scrivener Press, 1950, under entry No. 417 gives a full collation of this work as follows:

"New Atlantis/ Begun by the/Lord Verulam,/ Viscount St. Albans:/ and/ Continued by R. H. Esquire./ Wherein is Set forth/ A Platform/ of/Monarhial Government./With/ A Pleasant intermixture of divers rare Inventions,/and wholsome Customs, fit to be introduced/ into all kingdoms, states, and/ Common-wealths./ {21. Lat. Quotn./ rule} LONDON,/ Printed for John Crooke at the Signe of the Ship in/ St. Pauls Church-yard. 1660."

In his more detailed collation Wilson also notes that in several instances page numbers are transposed, a peculiarity present in a number of volumes which are now suspected to contain ciphers or special meanings.

This notes misnumbering, "Collation: 53, 54f. 54, 55; 62, 63f. 58, 59; 57, 58f. 62, 63; pp.78,79 transposed."

For the convenience of the contemporary reader, spelling and punctuation have been modernized in this edition, but no major words have been changed. The original title page appears as a frontispiece, and the original first dedication page to the King precedes the first page of the dedication. The mispaginated and transposed leaves are reproduced in facsimile from the first editon of 1660, and are appended to the text for the benefit of scholars. The Latin quotations scatttered through the book have been translated.

Gibson closes his listing with the following observations:

"The first 6 pp. of the book proper contain an epitome of B.'s New Atlantis; then follows what is stated to be a continuation of the same. Archbp. Tenison described the above work as a'great and hardy venture to finish a piece after Lord's Verulam's pencil.'

"The identity of 'R.H.Esquire' is not known, though Hazlitt states that the book was written 'perhaps by Richard Haines.' "

Directly following the title is an extravagant encomium to King Charles II; it would probably have highly amused the King if he ever read its glowing lines. It would not follow that this dedicatory preface reveals so much the opinions of the author as his anxieties. R.H. Esquire must have realized that Bacon's concept of a commonwealth was not entirely compatible with the policies of the English State. He hoped, no doubt, that his tribute to the monarchy would protect him from any royal displeasure that might be dangerous to himself. The dedication extends to six pages and the anonymous author proclaims himself as "Your Majesty's most faithful and most humbly devoted servant in the strictest ties of duty and allegiance."

This is followed by a poem in Latin honoring Lord Bacon extending somewhat over one page signed by G. Herbert.

A rather extensive preface follows; the general tone of which combines apology and self-justification. There is emphasis upon the moral responsibilites of government and the enlargement of knowledge throughout th kingdom. The author makes much of good laws and gives a number of classical examples with occasional pertinent quotations. Beginning on page one is a summary of Lord Bacon's New Atlantis. It tells that a ship sailing from Peru for China by the South Sea becomes windbound until its crew faced starvation. By the light of God's mercy, however, they reached a beautiful island peopled by noble Christians. After some delays the physical needs of the crew were cared for and they were told that the place was named the Island of Bensalem. Here was instituted the order or society called "Solomon's House," which Bacon describes as the noblest foundation that was ever upon the earth. It was dedicated to the study of the works and teachings of God and sometimes entitled the College of the Six Days Work.

Bacon in his original text set forth many details about the wonderful research facilities and the museum of arts and skills which had been assembled in the College of the Six Days Work. In the midst of this description Lord Bacon's fable ends and R.H. Esquire attempts to continue the narration. It is interesting that Plato's description of old Atlantis was also left unfinished.

It is difficult to avoid the implication that the College of the Six Days Work is a veiled account of an actual secret society-- an island of learned men in a sea of ignorance. As we continue to explore the text it also becomes apparent that the Royal Society of London was dedicated to the same purposes as Solomon's House on the island of Bensalem where dwelt the "sons of peace."

In 1662, John Heydon, generally listed among seventeenth century writers on Rosicrucianism, published an extensive and curious work called The Holy Guide . He prefaces this book with an almost verbatim reprint of Bacon's New Atlantis, but does not credit the original author. Heydon inserts direct references to the Rosicrucians at appropriate points in the original text, wishing to convery the impression that the masters of Solomon's House were Rosicrucian adepts. In the same volume Heydon describes the Rosicrucians as a divine society inhabitating the suburbs of heaven and officers of the Generalissimo of the World. As it is inconceivable that the identity of the true author would not be known to most of his readers, it can only be assumed that Heydon's purpose was to tie Bacon's fable directly with the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross. He must also hve known of the supplement by R. H. Esquire, but he makes no reference to it. Not only these publications but many others, of slightly earlier date, present the concept of a secret empire of the learned--its domains extending beyond all national boundaries actually existed and were in great measure responsible for a new awakening of social consciousness.

R.H. Esquire in what he calls his "novel" describes a new kind of peerage by which the people of Bensalem, if truly qualified, were elevated and duly honored. They were given economic advantage for their contributions to the common good but wore certain insignia considered more valuable than any temporal distinctions.

Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence, in his most intriguing book, Bacon is Shakespeare, devotes some attention to R.H.Esquire and what he calls "a solid kind of heraldry." Durning-Lawrence feels that the heraldic devices referred to are found on the title pages and frontispieces of books which may be characterized broadly as Baconian works. Examples of them can be found extending from the Elizabethan period almost up to the present date. Durning-Lawrence then reproduces the title-page of Bacon's History of Henry VII, printed in Holland in 1642, which shows a female figure holding in her right hand the great Salt, which in R. H. Esquire's list stands for wisdom.


(color added)

Emblematic frontispiece of the 1642 edition of Bacon's history of the Reign of King Henry VII. The figure of fame or fate is shown holding aloft the Great Salt. This is an example of the reference to "a solid kind of heraldry," described by R. H. Esquire where wisdom is represented by a male figure holding a Salt. Fame is winged and stands upon a globe (the Goble Theatre?) turning a wheel ornamented with various symbols, including hats, coronets, and the imperial crown. The title of the book is displayed on a theatre curtain.


R.H.Esquire adds that similar heraldic symbols of pre-eminence are assigned to the degrees for the clergy but he does not detail them. Through such distinctions young persons are encouraged to advance in learning and thus gain proper preferences and dignities. No one is advanced by money or favor but by eminent deserts. It is understandable that King Charles would not give wholehearted approval to such a concept of peerage and the author hoped to soften the blow by his elaborate dedication.

Remembering that the Royal Society was originally named Minerva's Musuem, there is a description of a ritual in which Minerva is introduced. The pages describing this ceremony are badly mispaginated which in writing of this type indicates the need of special attention by the reader. The hero of this occasion is nemed Verdugo and he is described as dressed in grass green satin with a cloak of the same color. He is met at the entrance to the sanctuary by a fair youth impersonating Minerva, the Goddess of Invention, and was embraced by the "Father." An orator proclaimed the merits of Verudago's invention, whereupon the "Father" of Solomon's House removed Verdugo's cloak and invested him with the long robe of Minerva and the one personifying the goddess placed on his head a garland overstudded with precious stones. Minerva then presented him a baton and later he was led into a large room, the "Father" accompanying him on the left hand and Minerva on the right. After the ceremony Verdugo's name and surname, his place of birth, and his invention for all posterity in Solomon's House.

In addition to all such wonders there were special areas set aside for advancement of agriculture and a beautiful arboretum devoted to all manner of rare and useful plants. There was also a section for the advancement of music, another for art and a third for scientific pursuits where rare, ancient telescopes and microscopes were available. The Hall of Fame included many celebrated names and others less known who lived in remote times. Prominent among the displays was a magnificient obelisk on the surfaces of which were carved the effigies of all the kings of the Island of Bensalem. In the Court of Virtue were brazen statues of the twelve apostles and monuments symbolizing their martyrdoms. In the Court of Orpheus was a spacious fountain wherein was a likeness of Prpheus playing upon his harp, and the waters artificially resounded his harmonies to approaching nymphs.

While some may doubt the source of this continuation of Bacon's New Atlantis there is much to indicate that it is a most significant work. It certainly amplifies and continues much of the spirit of Bacon's dream for the expansion of human knowledge. This may have inspired Ashmole's elaborate collections of rare objects an encouraged John Evelyn in his planning of gardens and landscapes. This idea of a worldwide collection of significant books and art such as is now assembled in the British Museum may have originated in Bacon's vision of Solomon's House. The concept deals not only with the past and with the present, but projects the ideals of religious, philosophic, and scientific progress into the future. Although there are traces of early Protestant prejudices, the general tone of the work is highly constructive.

R.H. Esquire states definitely that Solomon's House was the gathering place of great wits and Bacon wrote on one occasion that he rang the bell that brought the wits together. His The Instauration Magna was an effort to record all knowledge useful to mankind and dedicated the wisdom of the past to the service of the future. Bacon believed that the tripodium of learning rested firmly upon the threefold foundation of tradition, observation, and experimentation.

These were certainly the labors to which the mysterious sages of Bensalem were dedicated. Bacon was himself a faithful child of the Church of England. All his writings bear witness to the piety of his erudition. He recognized Deity as the Father of all works that the wiser a man became the more dependent he was upon the wonders of faith. Bacon was not unaware of the shortcomings of his Church but believed that a combination of integrity and intelligence could restore the glory of kingdoms and bring grace of spirit to all useful labors making them fruitful for eternal good.--- Manly P. Hall

 Visit the essay The New Atlantis

see: Harvey Wheeler's essay:

FRANCIS BACON'S NEW ATLANTIS : A Foretaste of The Sciential Society




 - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning