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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 October 2013

Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge, CB2


At some point in or shortly after 1607, the opening passage of Francis Bacon's earliest surviving philosophical work, Valerius Terminus of the interpretation of nature – the first version of what ultimately became Bacon's Instauratio magna – was copied into the natural philosophical notebook of Edmund Leigh (c. 1585–1658), a Bachelor of Arts at Brasenose College, Oxford. Whereas contemporary scribal copies of Bacon's political, religious, and legal writings are common, copies of his unpublished philosophical writings are rare, and tend only to be found in unique exemplars with a direct Baconian association. As such, the Valerius Terminus has hitherto only been known from a single manuscript, with corrections in Bacon's hand, that was first printed in 1734. The discovery of a ‘user’ copy in a student notebook is therefore significant for what it suggests about the circulation of Bacon's earliest philosophical ideas. This significance is enhanced by the fact that the new copy appears to record an early draft of Bacon's work.

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I am grateful to Louis Caron for drawing my attention to Add. MS 102, to Mordechai Feingold for his invaluable improvements and corrections to this study, and to Elizabeth Boardman and Georgina Edwards of the Brasenose College Archives.


1 Vine, Angus, ‘Francis Bacon's composition books’, Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 14 (2008), pp. 132Google Scholar; Vine, ‘Commercial commonplacing: Bacon, Francis, the waste-book, and the ledger’, English Manuscript Studies, 1100–1700, 16 (2011), pp. 197218Google Scholar; Stewart, Alan, ed., with Harriet Knight, The Oxford Francis Bacon, i: Early Writings, 1584–1596 (Oxford, 2012)Google Scholar.

2 Woudhuysen, H. R., Sir Philip Sidney and the circulation of manuscripts (Oxford, 1996)Google Scholar; Beal, Peter, ‘John Donne and the circulation of manuscripts’, in Barnard, J. et al. , eds., The Cambridge history of the book in Britain (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 122–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 See further Blair, Ann and Yeo, Richard, eds., ‘Note-taking in early modern Europe’, Intellectual History Review, 20 (2010), pp. 301432CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and, for a parallel Parisian case-study, Blair, Ann, ‘The teaching of natural philosophy in early seventeenth-century Paris: the case of Jean-Cecile Frey’, History of Universities, 12 (1993), pp. 95158Google Scholar.

4 Costello, W. T., The scholastic curriculum at seventeenth-century Cambridge (Cambridge, MA, 1958)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kearney, Hugh, Scholars and gentlemen: universities and society in pre-industrial Britain, 1500–1700 (London, 1970)Google Scholar; Todd, Margo, Christian humanism and the puritan social order (Cambridge, 1987)Google Scholar; Feingold, Mordechai, The mathematician's apprenticeship: science, universities and society in England, 1560–1640 (Cambridge, 1984)Google Scholar; Tyacke, Nicholas, ed., Seventeenth-century Oxford (Oxford, 1997)Google Scholar.

5 An exception is the intensively studied notebook of the undergraduate Isaac Newton: Cambridge University Library (CUL), MS Add. 3996: see McGuire, J. E. and Tamny, Martin, eds., Certain philosophical questions: Newton's Trinity notebook (Cambridge, 1983)Google Scholar, and Buchwald, Jed and Feingold, Mordechai, Newton and the origin of civilization (Princeton, NJ, 2013), pp. 843Google Scholar. Another is the notebook of George Palfrey: see n. 30, below.

6 But see further the discussion in Sophie Weeks, ‘Francis Bacon's Science of Magic’ (Ph.D. diss., Leeds, 2007), p. 3 n. 8.

7 British Library (BL), MS Harley 6463, pp. 1–17 (i.e. ch. 1; quotations from pp. 1, 8). Cf. Bacon, Francis, ‘Valerius Terminus’, in Spedding, James, Ellis, R. L., and Heath, D. D., eds., Works (7 vols., London, 1857–64), iii, pp. 215–52Google Scholar, at pp. 217–20.

8 See esp. Farrington, Benjamin, The philosophy of Francis Bacon: an essay on its development from 1603 to 1609 (Liverpool, 1964), pp. 3844Google Scholar; Milner, Benjamin, ‘Francis Bacon: the theological foundations of Valerius Terminus’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 58 (1997), pp. 245–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gaukroger, Stephen, Francis Bacon and the transformation of early modern philosophy (Cambridge, 2001), pp. 77–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 155–6; Harrison, Peter, The fall of man and the foundations of science (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 27CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 169–73; Jalobeanu, Dana, ‘Bacon's brotherhood and its classical sources’, in Zittel, C. et al. , eds., Philosophies of technology: Francis Bacon and his contempories (Leiden, 2008), pp. 197230CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Georgescu, Laura, ‘Francis Bacon: the theological foundations of natural philosophy’, Studii de Ştiinţa şi Cultură, 23 (2010), pp. 7487Google Scholar; 22Lewis, Rhodri, ‘Francis Bacon, allegory and the uses of myth’, Review of English Studies, 61 (2010), pp. 360–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hartmann, Anna-Maria, ‘Light from darkness: the relationship between Francis Bacon's prima philosophia and his concept of the Greek fable’, Seventeenth Century, 26 (2011), pp. 203–20Google Scholar; Corneanu, Sorana, Regimens of the mind: Boyle, Locke, and the early modern cultura animi tradition (Chicago, IL, 2012), pp. 26–9Google Scholar, 34–7.

9 I am not aware that James Spedding's characteristically careful and perceptive discussion of the date of Valerius Terminus has yet been superseded (Bacon, Works, iii, pp. 206–13).

10 The exception to this generalization is the abandoned English treatise Filum labyrinthi siue formula inquisitionis (BL, MS Harley 6797, fos. 139r–146v; Bacon, Works, iii, pp. 496–504), effectively a translation of the opening portion of the Latin Cogitata et visa.

11 The full title also promises annotations by a different fictional persona, ‘Hermes Stella’, but as Bacon himself noted: ‘None of the Annotations of Stella are sett down in these fragments’ (BL, MS Harley 6463, fo. 1*v).

12 A list of the writings Bacon addressed directly to James in the aftermath of his accession would include: A brief discourse touching the happie union of the kingdomes (1603); Certaine considerations touching the better pacification and edification of the Church of England (composed, 1603; published illicitly, 1604); Of the proficience and advancement of learning (1605); ‘Of the true greatnes of the kingdome of Brittaine’ (c. 1607?); ‘Certain considerations touching the plantation in Ireland’ (1609).

13 BL, MS Harley 6463, pp. 1–70.

14 Francis Bacon, Remaines (London, 1648); Bacon, Resuscitatio, ed. William Rawley (London, 1657); Bacon, Baconiana, ed. Thomas Tenison (London, 1679).

15 Stephens, Robert, ed., Letters and remains of the Lord Chancellor Bacon (London, 1734), pp. 398450Google Scholar; see also p. vii. Modern editions of the Valerius Terminus include the German translation by Franz Träger (Würzburg, 1984) and the French translation by François Vert (Paris, 1986).

16 Peter Beal, Catalogue of English literary manuscripts (CELM), unpublished database at (consulted July 2009). I am grateful to Dr Beal for granting me pre-publication access to his remarkable catalogue, which expands upon his earlier Index of English literary manuscripts, i: 1450–1625, Part i: Andrewes–Donne (London, 1980), pp. 17–52 (IELM); the Harleian MS of Valerius Terminus is item *BcF 285 in both.

17 Evidence for this circulation is extensively documented in IELM/CELM.

18 Francis Bacon, Scripta in naturali et universali philosophia, ed. Isaac Gruter (Amsterdam, 1653). See further Graham Rees, ‘Introduction’, to Graham Rees, ed., The Oxford Francis Bacon, vi: Philosophical studies, c. 1611–c. 1619 (Oxford, 1996), pp. lxx–lxxxv.

19 BL, MS Harley 6463, fo. 1*v. (On the transcription conventions used here, see the ‘Textual note’ at the end of this article.)

20 Bacon, Scripta in naturali et universali philosophia, sig. x2v: ‘intra legitima & optata ingenia clausa’.

21 Spedding, James, Letters and life of Francis Bacon (7 vols., London, 1861–74), iv, p. 64Google Scholar.

22 Ibid., iii, pp. 363–6, iv, p. 141, iii, p. 256.

23 See ibid., iii, p. 256, iv, pp. 132–3, 135–6, 137, 139.

24 Ibid., iv, pp. 8–9.

25 This copy was identified by the author in October 2012. The provenance of the manuscript remains uncertain: A catalogue of the manuscripts preserved in the library of the University of Cambridge (5 vols., Cambridge, 1856–67), v, p. 569, merely describes the early Additional Manuscripts as those ‘which have previously had no shelf-mark’.

26 Feingold, Mathematician's apprenticeship, p. 100; Feingold, Mordechai, ‘The occult tradition in English universities of the Renaissance: a reassessment’, in Vickers, B., ed., Occult and scientific mentalities in the Renaissance (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 7394CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at p. 78.

27 For this reason it is difficult to be absolutely confident that the copy of the Valerius Terminus was made by the same scribe as the one whose hand is found elsewhere throughout the volume.

28 Presentation manuscripts of some of Bacon's writings also exist with this mixture of humanist minuscule titles and formal italic text, although none is in the same hand as this one. See Queen's College, Oxford, MS 280, pp. 205–33 (‘Cogitata et visa’, c. 1607); and Huntington Library, San Marino, MS EL 1721, and National Library of Ireland, MS 2582 (‘Certaine considerations touching the plantation in Ireland’, 1609).

29 In establishing this list on the basis of the author's rather cryptic references I have benefited from the fine new Universal short-title catalogue: Dates are of first publication, which is not necessarily the edition that was being read.

30 See the parallel instance of the notebook kept by the MA student George Palfrey at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in the earlier 1620s (Cook, C. J., ed., The Palfrey notebook: records of study in seventeenth-century Cambridge (Woodbridge, 2011)Google Scholar); the students share an interest in Franciscus Toletus's Commentarius de anima.

31 On the structure of disputations see Costello, Scholastic curriculum, pp. 14–31. Cook, ed., The Palfrey notebook, pp. 138–40, 150–2, also records disputations, though in a more telegraphic fashion.

32 Bacon, Francis, De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum (London, 1623)Google Scholar, sigs. 2F1r–2F2r; Bacon, Sylva sylvarum (London, 1626/7), sigs. 2I1v–2L3v. See further Corneanu, Sorana and Vermeir, Koen, ‘Idols of the imagination: Francis Bacon on the imagination and the medicine of the mind’, Perspectives on Science, 20 (2012), pp. 183206CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

33 Nichols, John, The progresses … of King James the first (4 vols., London, 1828), i, pp. 536–7Google Scholar. It should be noted that the thesis ‘Imaginatio producit reales effectus’ was also disputed at the philosophy tripos in Cambridge in 1609; see Hall, J. J., Cambridge Act and Tripos verses, 1565–1894 (Cambridge, 2009), p. 134Google Scholar.

34 On this kind of neo-classical debate on laughter, see Skinner, Quentin, ‘Why laughing mattered in the Renaissance’, History of Political Thought, 22 (2001), pp. 418–47Google ScholarPubMed.

35 See further Mordechai Feingold, ‘The humanities’, in Seventeenth-century Oxford, p. 303.

36 See further Feingold, Mathematician's apprenticeship, p. 100.

37 The very few other appearances of the English language in the manuscript are fragmentary in nature: see the front paste-down (not, I think, in the hand of the main scribe); fo. 236r; and the penultimate leaf, fo. 293v.

38 On the intellectual trajectory implied here, see further Serjeantson, Richard, ‘Becoming a philosopher in seventeenth-century Britain’, in Anstey, P., ed., The Oxford handbook of philosophy in seventeenth-century Britain (Oxford, 2013), pp. 938Google Scholar.

39 On the formal exercises of early modern English university study, see further Costello, Scholastic curriculum, esp. pp. 7–35.

40 CUL, MS Add. 102, fos. 19r–20v (deriving from Charles de Bovelles, Elementorum physicorum libri decem (Paris, 1512), sigs. G6v–H1v); see also fo. 46v for the preface to an oration in laudem visus drawing on this material.

41 Bacon, Sylva, sig. Z2r (vii. 694) (Scaliger); Olivieri, G. T., ‘Galen and Francis Bacon: faculties of the soul and the classification of knowledge’, in Kelley, D. R. and Popkin, R. H., eds., The shapes of knowledge from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (Dordrecht, 1991), pp. 6181CrossRefGoogle Scholar (Huarte); Rees, Graham, ‘Bacon's Sylva sylvarum: prelude to remarks on the influence of the Magia naturalis’, in Giovan Battista della Porta nell'Europa del suo tempo (Naples, 1990), pp. 261–72Google Scholar (Della Porta); Spedding, Letters and life, iv, p. 65 (Panciroli).

42 Quotation from Spedding, Letters and life, i, p. 109 (Bacon to Lord Burghley, n.d., c. 1592).

43 In fact the ‘e’ in the surname of the signature is both caudate (indicating the dipthong æ) and carries a dieresis (indicating that the two syllables should be pronounced separately), but it has not proved typographically possible to represent this here.

44 The online manuscript catalogue of the CUL, Janus (, consulted Oct. 2012), assigns the volume to an ‘Edmund Lee’; as we shall see, however, this is not quite correct.

45 Or Lea, Ley, Legh, Leghe, Leigh, or Leighe. See A Cambridge Alumni Database (ACAD) (consulted Oct. 2012).

46 Foster, Joseph, Alumni Oxoniensis: the members of the University of Oxford, 1500–1714 (4 vols., Oxford, 1892), iii, p. 897Google Scholar.

47 Crook, J. Mordaunt, Brasenose: the biography of an Oxford college (Oxford, 2008), pp. 25Google Scholar, 48.

48 Clark, Andrew, Register of the University of Oxford, ii: 1571–1622, Part 2: Matriculations and subscriptions (Oxford, 1887), p. 242Google Scholar. Stephen Porter, ‘University and society’, in Seventeenth-century Oxford, p. 56, notes that in 15 per cent of cases the age given at matriculation was not accurate.

49 Oxford University Archives, SP/38, fo. 100v.

50 Oxford University Archives, SP/E/6/1, fo. 6r (he evidently corresponds to one of the three appearances of ‘Leigh’ on this list).

51 Bodleian Library records e. 533. Leigh's name appears instead in the preliminary list of ‘Graduati ex Coll: Æneo n[aso]’, again in a scribal hand (fo. 5r). I am grateful to Dr William Poole for drawing my attention to this document.

52 Porter, ‘University and society’, p. 67. A glimpse into life at Brasenose during Leigh's period as a student is offered by Edward Bagshaw in Bolton, Robert, Last and learned worke of the foure last things (London, 1632)Google Scholar, sigs. a6r–b6v.

53 [Heberdon, Charles Buller], Brasenose college register, 1509–1909 (2 vols., Oxford, 1909), ii, p. 97Google Scholar, and further Wakeling, G. H., ‘History of the college, 1603–1660’, in Brasenose College quatercentenary monographs (3 vols., Oxford, 1909)Google Scholar, ii, Part 1, monograph xi, p. 22.

54 [Heberdon], Register, ii, pp. 88, 95, 92 (s.n. ‘Lea, Edmund’), and further Philip, I. G. and Morgan, Paul, ‘Libraries, books, and printing’, in Seventeenth-century Oxford, p. 678Google Scholar.

55 Wakeling, ‘History of the college, 1603–1660’, p. 67; Newman, John, ‘The architectural setting’, in Seventeenth-century Oxford, pp. 136, 171Google Scholar.

56 Foster, Alumni Oxoniensis, iii, p. 897; [Heberdon], Register, i, p. 92.

57 Salter, H. E. and Lobel, Mary D., eds., A history of the county of Oxford, iii: The University of Oxford (London, 1954), p. 209Google Scholar.

58 Tyacke, Nicholas, ‘Religious controversy’, in Seventeenth-century Oxford, pp. 574Google Scholar, 579.

59 MS Brasenose 2 [consigned to the Bodleian]. A contemporary printed slip at fo. 7v records the gift: ’ … ex dono Edmundi Leigh, S. Theol. Bacc. & ejusdem Collegij Socij’. Cf. STC 3368.5, s.n. ‘Leigh, Edmund’, which records this gift-plate (dating it to c. 1635), but which erroneously has Leigh as ‘b. 1594 or 5’.

60 Wood, Anthony, The history and antiquities of the University of Oxford, ed. John Gutch (Oxford, 1796)Google Scholar, ii, p. 294 (Annals, 1608). Bodleian Library, MS Wood D. 10, fo. 89r, records that Leigh received: Ennius, Quae supersunt fragmenta, ed. Girolamo Colonna (Naples, 1585/1590/1599); Apostolios, Arsenios, ed., Scholia in septem Euripidis tragœdias (Venice, 1534)Google Scholar; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Diodorus Siculus, Appian of Alexandria, and Cassius Dio, Fragmenta, ed. Fulvio Orsini (Antwerp, 1582); and an octavo edition of Silius Italicus (I am grateful to Mordechai Feingold for the reference to this manuscript).

61 Rainolds, John, Th'overthrow of stage-playes (Middleburg, 1599)Google Scholar.

62 Clergy of the Church of England database (CCEd), s.n. ‘Leigh, Edmund 1613–1613’ (consulted Oct. 2012).

63 CCEd, s.n. ‘Leigh, Edmund (1629–1630)’ (consulted Oct. 2012), citing Lambeth Palace Library, Abbot's Register, vol. iii. See also [Heberdon], Register, ii, p. 9; A. J. Butler, ‘The college estates and advowsons’, in Quatercentenary monographs, i, monograph vi, p. 48.

64 [Heberdon], Register, i, p. 92; Twigg, John, ‘College finances’, in Seventeenth-century Oxford, p. 775Google Scholar.

65 CCEd, location ID 2058 (consulted Jan. 2013).

66 The National Archives, Kew, PROB 11/282/322. The proprietor of the advowson was John Holloway, who had last presented to it in 1640 (Ditchfield, P. H. and Page, William, eds., A history of the county of Berkshire, iii (London, 1923), p. 504Google Scholar); this ‘John Holloway, of the Citty of Oxon, Gent’, is also a beneficiary of Leigh's will.

67 Oxfordshire History Centre, Oxford Diocescan Papers e. 9 (Subscription Book), fo. 55r.

68 Foster, Joseph, The Register of Admissions to Gray's Inn, 1521–1889 (London, 1889), p. 121Google Scholar.

69 J. H. Baker, ‘Egerton, Thomas, first Viscount Brackley (1540–1617)’, Oxford dictionary of national biography (ODNB); [Heberdon], Register, i, p. 25. My analysis of the list of over sixty of Egerton's clients given by Heltzel, V. B., ‘Sir Thomas Egerton as patron’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 11 (1948), pp. 105–27 (pp. 124–7)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, identifies six members of Brasenose. Leigh also entered Brasenose at the same time as a young Cheshire gentleman also named Thomas Egerton (Clark, Register, p. 242) who, though not a descendant, may have been a kinsman of the lord chancellor.

70 Quoted in Webster, Tom, Godly clergy in early Stuart England: the Caroline puritan movement, c. 1620–1643 (Cambridge, 1997), p. 174CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

71 A. Gordon, ‘Twisse, William, D. D. (1578?–1646)’, Dictionary of national biography; E. C. Vernon, ‘Twisse, William (1577/8–1646)’, ODNB; Tyacke, N., ‘Anglican attitudes: some recent writings on English religious history, from the Reformation to the Civil War’, Journal of British Studies, 35 (1996), pp. 139–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at p. 160 .

72 William Twisse, ‘A preface’, to Mede, Joseph, The key of the Revelation, trans. Richard More (London, 1643)Google Scholar, sig. A3r.

73 Webster, Charles, The great instauration: science, medicine and reform, 1626–1660 (2nd edn, Bern, 2002; first publ. 1975), pp. 21–3Google Scholar; Bacon, ‘Valerius Terminus’, in Works, iii, p. 221 (BL, MS Harley 6463, p. 10). I am most grateful to Mordechai Feingold for recalling my attention to Webster's research on this point.

74 Milton, Anthony, Catholic and reformed: the Roman and Protestant churches in English Protestant thought, 1600–1640 (Cambridge, 1995), p. 433CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

75 On Twisse's philosophical commitments, see further Hutton, Sarah, ‘Thomas Jackson, Oxford Platonist, and William Twisse, Aristotelian’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 39 (1978), pp. 635–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar. It is possible that the very Baconian address ‘To the venerable Artists and younger Students in Divinity, in the famous Vniuersity of Cambridge’ by William Watts (adm. Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, 1606; BA 1611; MA 1614; incorp. Oxford 1618), in The strange and dangerovs voyage of Captaine Thomas Iames (London, 1633), also draws (sig. S2v) on this passsage of the Valerius Terminus.

76 See further Love, Harold, The culture and commerce of texts: scribal publication in seventeenth-century England (Boston, MA, 1998)Google Scholar.

77 BL, MS Harley 7021, fos. 25r–42v (CELM, BcF *232); Graham Rees, ‘Introduction’, to Rees, Graham, ed., The Oxford Francis Bacon, xiii (Oxford, 2000), pp. lxxiilxxiiiGoogle Scholar (Abecedarium); ‘De vijs mortis’, in Rees, ed., Oxford Francis Bacon, vi, pp. 269–359; quotation from Spedding, Letters and life, vii, p. 536 (Bacon to the Marquis d'Effiat).

78 BL, MS Harley 6463, unfoliated page prior to fo. 1*r.

79 On this point see also the discussion at n. 12, above.

80 CUL, MS Add. 102, fo. 29r; BL, MS Harley 6463, p. 4; Kiernan, Michael, ed., The Oxford Francis Bacon, iv: The advancement of learning (Oxford, 2000), pp. xxxixxlGoogle Scholar, 8, 209. See also Bacon, Francis, Cele două cărţi despre excelenţa şi progresul cunoaşterii divine şi umane, ed. and trans. Dana Jalobeanu and Grigore Vida (Bucharest, 2012), p. 70Google Scholarn. 43. I am grateful to Dr Jalobeanu for suggesting this point.

81 I am grateful to Dr Kathryn Murphy for suggesting this calculation.

82 We might recall in this connection that the English translation of Bacon's De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum published at Oxford in 1640 was made by Leigh's contemporary Gilbert Watts (BA 1611; MA 1614; BD 1623), a fellow of Lincoln College.

83 See n. 19, above.

1 Valerius … Stella] Of the Interpretacion of nature 〈¶〉 Cap. 1. Of the limites and end of knowledge. Ha

2 dominion] kingdome Ha

3 godes] om Ha

4 goodnes] goodnes or ‹lawe› `love´ (which is one thing, for ‹lawe› `love´ is nothing els but goodnes Ha

5 hath] ever hath Ha

6 like] like to Ha

7 that] which Ha

8 did] did most Ha

9 to] into Ha

10 this suggestion offered to him] offered vnto him this suggestion Ha

11 would] should Ha

12 creatures] inferiour creatures Ha

13 so] om Ha

14 &] or Ha

15 fitt] fittest Ha

16 his] this Ha

17 further] father Ha

18 of] in Ha

19 confessed ever] euer confessed Ha

20 like] you like Ha

21 who] that Ha

22 fall] fall both Ha

23 vnjust] the vniust Ha

24 yee] you Ha

25 consider] consider it Ha

26 excesse of ill] all accesse of evil 〈¶〉 Ha

27 haue] om Ha

28 guide & rule] rule and guide Ha

29 position] position or firmament, namely Ha

30 &] or Ha

31 nature] natures Ha

32 admiration] wonder Ha

33 resembled] resembleth Ha

34 〈Correction made in a different ink.〉

35 creatures] creature Ha

36 in] as in Ha

37 hee] om Ha

38 the impression of] om Ha