The impediments which have been in the times, and in diversion of wits, being the 5th chapter, a small fragment in the beginning of that chapter.
For as for the uttermost antiquity which is like fame that muffles her head and tells tales, I cannot presume much of it; for I would not willingly imitate the manner of those that describe maps, which when they come to some far countries whereof they have no knowledge, set down how there be great wastes and deserts there: so I am not apt to affirm that they knew little, because what they knew is little known to us. But if you will judge of them by the last traces that remain to us, you will conclude, though not so scornfully as Aristotle doth, that saith our ancestors were extreme gross, as those that came newly from being moulded out of the clay or some earthly substance; yet reasonably and probably thus, that it was with them in matter of knowledge but as the dawning or break of day. For at that time the world was altogether home-bred, every nation looked little beyond their own confines or territories, and the world had no through lights then, as it hath had since by commerce and navigation, whereby there could neither be that contribution of wits one to help another, nor that variety of particulars for the correcting of customary conceits.
And as there could be no great collection of wits of several parts or nations, so neither could there be any succession of wits of several times, whereby one might refine the other, in regard they had not history to any purpose. And the manner of their traditions was utterly unfit and unproper for amplification of knowledge. And again the studies of those times, you shall find, besides wars, incursions, and rapines, which were then almost every where betwixt states adjoining (the use of leagues and confederacies being not then known), were to populate by multitude of wives and generation, a thing at this day in the waster part of the West-Indies principally affected; and to build sometimes for habitation towns and cities, sometimes for fame and memory monuments, pyramids, colosses, and the like. And if there happened to rise up any more civil wits; then would he found and erect some new laws, customs, and usages, such as now of late years, when the world was revolute almost to the like rudeness and obscurity, we see both in our own nation and abroad many examples of, as well in a number of tenures reserved upon men's lands, as in divers customs of towns and manors, being the devices that such wits wrought upon in such times of deep ignorance, &c.
[@ Works III, 224-6]