BURTON, Robert.

BURTON, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy.

Oxford, for Henry Cripps, 1638


Folio pp. (x) 78 (vi) 723 (x) with two additional unnumbered ll. after 218. Roman letter, splendid engraved t-p by Christoffel le Blon (Johnson 35:1) depicting allegorical figures of solitude, jealousy, love, mania, superstition, hypochondria etc, with portraits of Democritus (in a garden) and the author, woodcut ornaments and initials. Fore edges of early ll. somewhat frayed (not affecting text or engraved title), some marginal yellowing, light browning in places. Contemp. autograph of William Feilder of Croundall on front bd. repeated, dated 1st August 1646 on fly, ‘Charles Cranley’ in same hand below. A good, clean copy in contemp. dark calf, rebacked, spine remounted.

Fifth edition, ‘corrected and augmented’ – in this case truly so as the author made corrections and additions to each edition published during his lifetime. The Anatomy is divided into three partitions, which are subdivided into sections, members, and subsections. Prefixed to each partition is an elaborate synopsis as a sort of index (there is a full index at the end), in humorous imitation of the practice common in books of scholastic divinity of the day. Part I deals with the causes and symptoms of melancholy, its species and kinds, part II with its cures, part III with the more frivolous kinds of melancholy and part IV with love melancholy and religious melancholy, with some moving sections on the ‘Cure of Despair’. It was one of the first works in English to consider in depth human psychiatric problems, of which it shows considerable understanding, and was an immediate bestseller, encompassing all the charm, humour and learning of the age. As a work of literature it has something in common with More’s ‘Utopia’, Rabelais and Montaigne and like these exercised a considerable influence on the thought of its own and later times. Dr Johnson said it was the only book that took him out of bed two hours earlier than he intended, ‘Tristam Shandy’ was penetrated with it, Charles Lamb modelled his style on it and Milton gathered hints from the verses prefixed to it. Although humorous, on every page is the impress of a deep and original mind. Burton never travelled abroad, and hardly outside Oxford, but he was fascinated by geography and cosmography and there are numerous references to foreign lands, especially the Americas. To live in the right part of the world for one’s humours, Burton rightly held, was one of the best ways of avoiding melancholy. Burton was also a serious scholar and a great bibliophile; most of his collection is now in the Bodleian. Madan concludes that pp 1-346 was actually printed at Edinburgh but that the Scotish edition was suppressed at the insistence of the Oxford printers, who then agreed to incorporate the pirated pages in the present edn., though some 68 leaves, incorporating Burton’s latest changes, were actually reprinted in London.

STC 4162. Lowndes I 328. Pforzheimer I 119 ‘all early editions are of interest textually’ and Printing and the Mind of Man 120 (1st edns). Madan I 204:3. Alden 632/24. Norman 381 (1st) ‘the classic study on depression’. Osler 4625 ‘This edn. has the distinction - possibly unique for any book - of having been printed piecemeal in three cities.’, ‘A great medical treatise’. Heirs of Hippocrates 252 (2nd) ‘Almost half of the thousand references to other authors are medical’.SNL228
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