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Author: Browne, Thomas:

Title: Pseudodoxia Epidemica: or Enquiries into Very Many Received Tenents, and Commonly Presumed Truths. The Second Edition, Corrected and much Enlarged by the Author. Together with some Marginall Observations, and a Table Alphabeticall at the end.

Publication: London: printed by A. Miller, for Edw. Dod and Nath. Ekins, at the Gunne in Ivie Lane, 1650.

Description: 2nd ed. Folio, pp. [xvi], 329, [xi]. Imprimatur to leaf B4, verso; woodcut initials and head- and tail-pieces. A few small annotations. Sporadic light dampstaining at gutter widening out, and then at bottom margin pp.65-84 and again pp.113-7. Occasional wax spots and ink smudges, small closed tear to gutter leaf C4 and leaf 2O, not affecting text. Contemporary dark brown calf, raised bands, plain triple-filet borders to boards. Rubbed with a few small patches of surface loss and faint marks, spine a bit creased, small repair to headcap, endpapers renewed, very good. To front paste-down, small bookplate of Robert Montgomery, Convoy (County Donegal) with crest and motto, and his ownership inscription to title-page. Also to the title-page, ownership inscriptions of: Josua Edisbury; Samson Archer; (Sam. or Dan.?) Law; Robt. Ball. The names appear almost as a list, and 'to' has been added between each to give a sense of the book being passed on. To head margin of p.121, inscription of Charles Archer dated 1717/1718. Josua Edisbury (d. c.1718) was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1653) and became Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1682. Two years later he began building work on an ambitious new hall at Erdigg, running into severe financial trouble in the process. Robert Montgomery of Brandrim inherited an estate in Convoy from his cousin Sandy Montgomery in November of 1807.

Pseudodoxia, first published in 1646, was Sir Thomas Browne's (16051682) most substantial work: 'almost an encyclopaedia of seventeenth-century misconceptions and new knowledge, Browne took up numerous false beliefs particularized in the Apology of George Hakewill; and, with a larger number of his own finding (some already mentioned in Religio medici), he put them in the framework suggested by Francis Bacon in his Advancement of Learning (as translated by Gilbert Watts, 1640) of "a calendar of falsehoods and of popular errors now passing unargued in natural history and in opinions, that sciences be no longer distempered and embased by them". Browne still had religious motives: to "repaire our primarie ruins" (I.5), the loss of Adam's universal knowledge of the natural world by the fall, and "to enforce the wonder of its Maker" (II.3), and theology as well as philosophy figure in the first book's systematic survey of the causes of error, from the fall of man, through logical and verbal misunderstanding, laziness, deference to antiquity and authority, to the wiles of the Devil. In the following six books, he subjects to "the three determinators of truth, Authority, Sense and Reason" (III.5) [...] a host of misbeliefs concerning the natural world, human physiology, pictorial representation, geography, history, biblical interpretation, and classical antiquity. While he records about a hundred personal experiments on subjects animal, vegetable, and mineral (ranging from amber, ants, and bitterns to toads, turkeys, and yew berries), he cites twelve times as many authors: in Certain Physiological Essays (1661) Robert Boyle accordingly respects him as both "the learned Dr Brown" and "so faithful and candid a Naturalist". The science and learning are sharpened with witty irony as Browne disposes of the "misapprehension, fallacy or false deduction, credulity, supinity, adherence unto Antiquity, Tradition and Authority" of two millennia, which have conceived a world of shrieking mandrakes, lopsided badgers, griffins, phoenixes, mermaids, ominous owls, the wandering Jew, Pope Joan, and Aeschylus brained by a tortoise, through to the last chapter, in which he points out a bright side to the all too believable account of necrophiliac embalmers in Egypt: "Surely, if such depravities there be yet alive, deformity need not despaire; nor will the eldest hopes be ever superannuated, since death hath spurres, and carcasses have beene courted" (VII.19).' (ODNB)

Bibliography: ESTC R2160

Reference Number: [52270]

Price: £600


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