The breadth of this 17th-century polymath's writings is extraordinary, and the work involved in collecting them together was clearly Herculean, since these 3 volumes appeared over a period of 4 years. As a source of ideas and interesting trains of thought, his works offer a rich seam to be mined by anyone with an interest in the period, the 'hot topics' of the time (geography, the natural world, medical matters, archaeology, architecture), or the mere fact of one man having so wide a range of expertise and such skill in setting down his thoughts.
Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682) was an English polymath and author of varied works displaying his wide learning in such diverse fields as science & medicine, religion & the esoteric. His deep curiosity about the natural world was clearly influenced by the scientific revolution of Baconian enquiry. The writings are full of references to Classical and Biblical sources as well as to his own idiosyncrasies. Although somewhat melancholic, his writings
also contain wit and subtle humour, while his literary style is varied, according to genre, resulting in a rich, unique prose ranging from rough notebook observations to polished Baroque eloquence. Born in London, educated at Winchester and Oxford, Browne trained in medicine in Italy, and practised in Norwich from 1637 until his death. Having fallen somewhat out of fashion, his writings were rediscovered by the Romantics in 19th century, and influenced many, so that he is now one of the most frequently-cited sources listed by the OED. Once described as "an instance of scientific reason lit up by mysticism in the Church of England", his labyrinthine thought processes, highly stylised language, and frequent biblical, classical, and somewhat esoteric allusions have all contributed to his becoming now little-read and thus, misunderstood.
Our set is in very good condition, and proudly state that it was printed by 'T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty'. Bound in grey-brown/drab boards with tan cloth spines and brown leather text labels with gilt lettering, all three volumes show only moderate signs of wear externally, with a little shelf wear to top & bottom of the spines, some wear and loss to the title labels of Vols 2 and 3, and some fading of the cloth spines along angles and edges. Top edges all gilt (age-darkened), pages untrimmed on other 2 edges. No foxing, but endpapers are somewhat browned. Very slight (?worm) damage to front spine angle internally in Vols 2 & 3, and a small (<1cm) area of visible webbing in Vol 1. Occasional (light) pencil annotations. Overall a very nice set, and eminently collectable.