BURTON, Robert.

BURTON, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy.

Oxford, John Lichfield and James Short for Henry Cripps, 1624.


Folio. 3 parts in one, pp. [4], 64. [4], 188, [4], 189-332, [2], 333-379, 370-557, [7]. Roma and Italic, occasional Greek, woodcut illustrated initial to introduction, typographic headpiece. Flyleaf missing outer half, very slight soiling to lower outer blank corner of first few ll., light larger water stain to some outer corners in parts 2 and 3, one upper margin soiled. Very good, well-margined thick paper copy in contemporary blind-ruled speckled calf, spine with raised bands, edges speckled red, early ms vellum stubs, contemporary autograph ‘John Ch(?)’ (inked over) to title, and annotations to index.

Very good, clean copy of the second and first folio edition of Burton’s (1577-1640) masterpiece. Ostensibly a medical textbook, Burton’s philosophical and sociological tangents create an in-character study of melancholy as well as ‘the first psychiatric encyclopaedia’ (Garrison & Morton 4891.1). Broaching topics such as lycanthropy and astrology, Burton asserts a much broader field of study than modern psychology, referencing ‘nearly 1000 authors’ (Hunter & MacAlpine 94), writing mostly in English with printed Latin marginal notes.

‘Burton had read much, and all that he had read, or nearly all, was refined and incorporated in the “Anatomy”. If it were objected that some of the matter was irrelevant, the reply would be that the anatomy of melancholy, like the study of jurisprudence, demands a knowledge of all things, human and divine. The whole book is elaborately divided and subdivided into partitions, divisions, sections, members and sub-sections. The first partition is devoted to the definition of his subject and its species and kinds, the causes of it and – at length – the symptoms: ‘for the Tower of Babel never yielded such confusion of tongues as the Chaos of Melancholy doth Symptoms’. The second deals with the cure, and Burton’s demonstration that it is necessary to live in the right part of the world to avoid melancholy occasions a long digression: a delightful account of foreign lands based – for Burton never travelled – on a wide reading of the cosmographers, and a powerful advocacy of the delights of country life. The third part deals with the more frivolous kinds of melancholy and the fourth with the serious, Religious Melancholy, with some moving reflections on the “Cure of Despair”’ (PMM).

This is the second of five editions revised and printed during Burton’s life. As well as enlarging the text to folio, it includes references to Shakespeare’s ‘Venus and Adonis’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ not found in the first edition. A contemporary autograph to the first titlepage has been crossed out, partially obscuring the identify of ‘John Ch(?)’ A later inscription to the second titlepage dates Burton’s death to 1639, not the conventionally agreed 1640, and identified the anonymous author.

STC 4160; ESTC S122247; Heirs of Hippocrates 406; Garrison-Morton 4818:1; Osler 4621; Nat. Lib. Medicine 1968; PMM 120 (1st ed.).
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