“A man very well studyed”: New Contexts for Thomas Browne


For many years, scholarship on Thomas Browne (1605-1682) saw him as tangential to his period’s thought and writing: an obscure and quaint stylist, detached from the turbulence of mid-seventeenth century England. This volume contributes to the current reevalution of Browne’s involvement in his times: identifying his political commitments, milieu, reading, and readers. The essays collected in this volume place Browne’s works in unexpected contexts – in Holland, Poland and Germany, in Restoration politics, in publishing history and medical theory. It presents new research into his reputation in the later seventeenth century, his manuscripts, medical dissertation, association with the Hartlib circle and habits of revision. Essays on familiar works place them in new light, while readings of his letters, notebooks, and lesser works broaden our understanding of Browne as a writer. The result is a fuller picture of Browne’s significance in seventeenth-century European culture. Contributors include: Eric Achermann, Hugh Adlington, Reid Barbour, Harm Beukers, Siobhán Collins, Louise Denmead, Karen Edwards, Doris Einsiedel, Kevin Killeen, Mary Ann Lund, Philip Major, Antonia Moon, Kathryn Murphy, Brent Nelson, and Claire Preston.
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Biographical Note

Kathryn Murphy is Junior Research Fellow in English at Jesus College, Oxford. She writes on early modern literature, particularly prose. Richard Todd is Professor of British literature at after 1500 at Leiden University. He has published on many aspects of the early modern period, most recently on textual scholarship, and on contemporary British fiction.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements Note on the Text Abbreviations List of Contributors INTRODUCTION ‘Between the Paws of a Sphinx’: The Contexts of Thomas Browne, Kathryn Murphy I. BROWNE IN LEIDEN Discipline and Praxis: Thomas Browne in Leiden, Reid Barbour Studying Medicine in Leiden in the 1630s, Harm Beukers II. READING AND WRITING ‘A Fresh Reading of Books’: Some Note-Taking Practices of Thomas Browne, Antonia Moon Divination in Pseudodoxia Epidemica: Thomas Browne’s Habits of Revision, Hugh Adlington III. FORM AND CONTENT Curious Readers and Meditative Form in Thomas Browne’s Urne-Buriall, Brent Nelson ‘There is all Africa … within us’: Language, Generation and Alchemy in Browne’s Explication of Blackness, Siobhán Collins and Louise Denmead Of Cyder and Sallets: The Hortulan Saints and The Garden of Cyrus, Claire Preston IV. THE TURBULENCE OF THE TIME ‘In the Time of the Late Civil Wars’: Post-Restoration Browne and the Political Memory of Repertorium, Kevin Killeen Urne-Buriall and the Interregnum Royalist, Philip Major Thomas Browne and the Absurdities of Melancholy, Karen L. Edwards V. READING AND TRANSLATING BROWNE The Christian Physician: Thomas Browne and the Role of Religion in Medical Practice, Mary Ann Lund Order in the Vortex: Christian Knorr von Rosenroth as Compiler and Translator of Thomas Browne, Jean d’Espagnet, Henry More, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Antoine le Grand, Eric Achermann (trans. Kathryn Murphy and Doris Einsiedel) ‘The Best Pillar of the Order of Sir Francis’: Thomas Browne, Samuel Hartlib and Communities of Learning, Kathryn Murphy Bibliography Index Nominum


All those interested in seventeenth-century literature, intellectual history, the Republic of Letters, history of medicine, reading and the book, and early modern literary relations between England and mainland Europe.