Anatomy of Melancholy What It Is, With all the Kinds of Causes, Symptomes, Prognostics & Severall Cures For It

Anatomy of Melancholy What it is, With all the Kinds of Causes, Symptomes, Prognostics & Severall Cures for it. In Three Partitions with Their Severall Sections, Members and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically Opened & Cut Up. by Democritus Junior. With a Satyricall Preface Conducing to the Following Discourse. The Fifth Edition, Corrected and Augmented by the Author.

BURTON, Robert

Oxford Henry Cripps, 1638.


5th ed. Folio. Bound in contemporary English smooth paneled calf. Rebacked. Iconic engraved title. Edges stained red. Collated. Scattered spotting. Light, mostly marginal dampstaining. Provenance: Early signature of Will Westby on title, Armorial bookplate of William Westby on front paste down. From the estate of the noted American industrialist, Alfred I. duPont.


First published in 1621, The Anatomy of Melancholy was a landmark book in psychology. This edition was the last to appear in Burton's lifetime. The book was presented as a medical textbook on the subject of melancholia (clinical depression). The Anatomy of Melancholy is as much a sui generis work of literature as it is a scientific or philosophical text, and Burton addresses far more than his stated subject. In fact, the Anatomy uses melancholy as the lens through which all human emotion and thought may be scrutinized, and virtually the entire contents of a 17th-century library are marshaled into service of this goal. It is encyclopedic in its range and reference.


"This deeply serious work by a layman was said by Osler to be "a great medical treatise" (Osler 4621). The author, under the assumed name of Democritus Junior, offers many causes for melancholy, discusses the cure of its many forms and, in his studious discussion, throws much light on the customs and social attitudes of the day. It is a medical work in that, in all its seventy and more editions, it has continued to express the author's understanding of human psychiatric problems. Almost half of the thousand references to other authors are medical. The work was one of Dr. Samuel Johnson's favorites." - Heirs of Hippocrates No. 406.


"Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy (1638) begins with a magnificent confection, a title page of ten compartments each corresponding to a numbered stanza in the prefatory poem 'The Argument of the Frontispiece.' The diagram shows how image and stanza are linked. The poem, which repays study, is at right [transcribed in Tufte]. Compartment 10, for example, portrays Burton, not out of vanity of the author but rather at the insistence of the printed, at least according to the amusing stanza 10. This design is very special information display. The title page and accompanying poem reflect the book's argument, organization, and intellectual method. That method -- the cutting and pasting of images and words -- is announced in the opening lines: Ten distinct Squares here seene apart, And joyn'd in one by Cutters art. Moreover, the confectionary design of the title page reproduces the intellectual architecture of The Anatomy of Melancholy: about one-third of the book consists of quotations and another third of paraphrases. A busy cutter indeed, and Burton disingenuously comments: Marke well: If't be not as't should be, Blame the bad Cutter and not me" (Tufte, Visual Explanations, pp.134-5).


Refs: STC 4163. Madan II, 881. Printing in the Mind of Man 108; Garrison-Morton 4918 (both citing 1st ed).


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Tags: History of Medicine, Printing in the Mind of Man, Psychology, Social Science, Philosophy, Antiquarian, Featured