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Selected Writings

Sir Thomas Browne

Edited by Claire Preston

Cover Picture of Selected Writings
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This title is available for academic inspection (paperback only).
ISBN: 978 1 857546 90 3
Categories: 17th Century, British
Imprint: FyfieldBooks
Published: April 2003
215 x 135 x 13 mm
168 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: Paperback
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  • We carry with us the wonders we seek without us; there is all Africa and her prodigies in us; we are that bold and adventurous piece of nature which he that studies wisely learns...
    from Religio Medici

     Elephant Errors

    ...of the elephant...there generally passeth an opinion it hath no joints; and this absurdity is secondeth to another, that being unable to lie down, it sleepeth against a tree, which, the hunters observing, do saw it almost asunder, whereon the beast relying, by the fall of the tree falls also down itself and is able to rise no more; which conceit is not the daughter of later times but an old and grey-headed error even in the says of Aristotle, as he delivereth in his book, De incessu animalium, and stands successively related by several other authors - Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Ambrose, Cassiodore, Solinus, and many more. Now herein methinks men much forget themselves, not well considering the absurdity of such assertions... 
    Pseudodoxia Epidemica III.i.157
    Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), said Coleridge, was 'rich in various knowledge, exuberant in conceptions and conceits; contemplative, imaginative, often truly great and magnificent in his style'. This selection of Browne's writings presents the full range of his exuberant enthusiasms and his richly textured, allusive language. Physician and philosopher, Browne lived through a period of intellectual ferment, and his works reflect the expanding horizons of the age. He was boundlessly curious about the world. Best known for Religio Medici and Urn Burial, he also wrote tracts, letters to antiquarians, notebooks and observations on natural history. John Evelyn, visiting Browne in 1671, called his house a 'cabinet of rarities', and Claire Preston's selection has that same quality. Here readers will encounter Browne discussing death and resurrection, sneezing, astronomy, ostriches, hieroglyphics, rainbows, and much else. The extracts are arranged thematically, and Browne's sonorous text is annotated, with a detailed introduction and list of further reading.
    Browne's Autobiography

    Introduction: 'Janus in the Field of Knowledge'
    A Note on the Text
    Further Reading

    Religio Medici: To the reader; reason and belief; The world as text; man and macrocosm; chaos; death; 
    last things;resurrection; election; learning; harmony; man and microcosm; avarice; precepts for dying

    Pseudodoxia Epidemica: To the Reader; poplar error; Credulity; adherence to antiquity; hieroglyphics; plant lore; animals real and fabulous; dietry law; astronomy; language; divination; sneezing; cosmology; rainbows; oracles; Biblical error

    Fossils; John Dee; Urn-Burial; a hidden museum 

    Things to investigate; thunder; whispering galleries; magnetism and electricity; swimming and floating; of various animals; animal antipathies; ostriches; storks; marine life; corruption

    Figures in nature; physiognomy; hieroglyphics; moles; the quincunx

    Veneral disease; medical gossip

    Tourist advice; financial prudence; charity; self-knowledge; sincerity; humility


    List of Proper Names
    Claire Preston
    ... read more
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