From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Francis Bacon, this page features books on Bacon to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Bacon. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read Bacon for yourself.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on or by Francis Bacon in no particular order.
Francis Bacon – Perez Zagorin
Publisher description: Francis Bacon (1561-1626), commonly regarded as one of the founders of the Scientific Revolution, exerted a powerful influence on the intellectual development of the modern world. He also led a remarkably varied and dramatic life as a philosopher, writer, lawyer, courtier, and statesman. Although there has been much recent scholarship on individual aspects of Bacon’s career, Perez Zagorin’s is the first work in many years to present a comprehensive account of the entire sweep of his thought and its enduring influence. Combining keen scholarly and psychological insights, Zagorin reveals Bacon as a man of genius, deep paradoxes, and pronounced flaws.
The book begins by sketching Bacon’s complex personality and troubled public career. Zagorin shows that, despite his idealistic philosophy and rare intellectual gifts, Bacon’s political life was marked by continual careerism in his efforts to achieve advancement. He follows Bacon’s rise at court and describes his removal from his office as England’s highest judge for taking bribes. Zagorin then examines Bacon’s philosophy and theory of science in connection with his project for the promotion of scientific progress, which he called “The Great Instauration.”…
Francis Bacon: The History of a Character Assassination – Nieves Mathews
Publisher description: Beyond his own country Francis Bacon is remembered as a great man, founder of modern science and philosophy, a just judge and a teacher of kings. In England and America, however, he is seen more as a cruel, corrupt and power-hungry politician. Which appraisal is correct? In this fascinating re-evaluation of one of Britain’s most significant figures, Nieves Mathews examines the charges against Bacon and reveals how distorted facts can be recast as historical truths.
In 1621 Bacon fell from power as Lord Chancellor, the highest position in the land. Charged with accepting bribes, he was convicted, fined, imprisoned and exiled from the Court. He died five years later, disgraced and deeply in debt. In this illuminating study of the Jacobean administration – a system which depended on corruption at every level – Nieves Mathews shows Bacon to have been among the least tainted of the King’s officials, the scapegoat in a political conspiracy aimed at dislodging the royal favourite….
The Cambridge Companion to Bacon – Markku Peltonen
Publisher description: Francis Bacon (1561–1626) is one of the most important figures of the early modern era. His plan for scientific reform played a central role in the birth of the new science. The essays in this volume offer a comprehensive survey of his writings on science, including his classifications of sciences, his theory of knowledge and of forms, his speculative philosophy, his idea of cooperative scientific research and the providential aspects of Baconian science. There are also essays on Bacon’s theory of rhetoric and history as well as on his moral and political philosophy and on his legacy. Throughout, the contributors aim to place Bacon in his historical context.
Francis Bacon: The Major Works – Francis Bacon
This authoritative edition brings together an extensive collection of Bacon’s writing–the major prose in full, together with sixteen other pieces not otherwise available–that reveals the essence of his work and thinking.
The New Organon – Francis Bacon
Publisher description: Francis Bacon’s New Organon, published in 1620, was revolutionary in its attempt to give formal philosophical shape to a new and rapidly emerging experimental science. It challenged the entire edifice of the philosophy and learning of Bacon’s time, and left its mark on all subsequent discussions of scientific method. This volume presents a new translation of the text into modern English by Michael Silverthorne, together with an introduction by Lisa Jardine that sets the work in the context of Bacon’s scientific and philosophical activities.
The Advancement of Learning – Francis Bacon
Publisher description: The Advancement of Learning (full title: Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, Divine and Human) is a 1605 book by Francis Bacon. It inspired the taxonomic structure of the highly influential Encyclopédie by Jean le Rond d’Alembert and Denis Diderot, and is credited by Bacon’s biographer-essayist Catherine Drinker Bowen with being a pioneering essay in support of empirical philosophy.
The following sources were used to build this list:
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Francis Bacon
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Francis Bacon
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Books on the History of Philosophy
- The Best Books on the Philosophy of Science
Or browse this collection of over 100 philosophy readings lists to find more philosophy book recommendations.
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A Collection of the Greatest Philosophical Quotations
A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.