London: J. Cuthell et al. 1821. 12th edition. Hardcover. Large octavo (8 1/2 x 5 1/2"). XXIV, 121, , 461, pp (Vol. 1); , 612pp (Vol. 2). Original gilt-stamped full calf, with gold lettering and tooling to spines. Raised bands.
Originally published in 1621, "The Anatomy of Melancholy" is Robert Burton's magnum opus.
On its surface, the work is presented as a medical textbook in which the author applies his vast and varied learning, in the scholastic manner, to the subject of melancholia (which includes, although it is not limited to, what is now termed clinical depression).
Though presented as a medical text, "The Anatomy of Melancholy" is as much a work of literature as it is a scientific or philosophical text, and Robert Burton addresses far more than his stated subject. In fact, the book 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 marshalled into service of this goal. It is encyclopedic in its range and reference.
In his satirical preface to the reader, Burton's persona Democritus Junior explains, "I write of melancholy by being busy to avoid melancholy." This is characteristic of the author's style, which often supersedes the book's strengths as a medical text or historical document as its main source of appeal to admirers. Both satirical and serious in tone, the "Anatomy" is vitalized by the author's pervading humour which, along with Burton's digressive and inclusive style, consistently informs and animates the text.
In addition to the author's techniques, the "Anatomy"'s vast breadth - addressing topics such as digestion, goblins, the geography of America, and others - make it a valuable contribution to multiple research disciplines.
Much of the book consists of quotations from various ancient and medieval medical authorities, beginning with Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen. Hence the Anatomy is filled with more or less pertinent references to the works of others. A competent Latinist, Robert Burton also included a great deal of Latin poetry in the "Anatomy," and many of his inclusions from ancient sources are left untranslated in the text.
The text of "The Anatomy of Melancholy" is divided into three major sections plus an introduction:
The introductory text of this edition is composed of the half-title and title page (I-IV), the Dedication (pp. V-VI), an Advertisement from the publishers (pp. VII-VIII), a poem explaining the original frontispiece (titled "The Argument of the Frontispiece," pp. IX-X), "The Author's Abstract of Melancholy" (pp. XI-XII), a Latin poem titled "Democritus Junior ad Librum suum" (Democritus Junior to His Book - pp. XIII-XIV), a biography of the author titled "Account of the Author" (pp. XV-XXIV), the author's note titled "Democritus Junior to the Reader" (pp. 1-114), a text in Latin titled "Lectori male feriato," (pp. 115-116), and the Synopsis of the First Partition (pp. 117-121).
The following three sections proceed in a similarly exhaustive fashion:
The first section focuses on the causes and symptoms of "common" melancholies, while the second section deals with cures for melancholy, and the third section explores more complex and esoteric melancholies, including the melancholy of lovers and all varieties of religious melancholies.
Minor shelf wear. Closed tears along joints of first volume. Bindings in overall good to good+, interior in very good condition. g to vg. Item #42037
About the author: Robert Burton (1577-1640) was born in Leicestershire and educated at Oxford, where he became librarian of Christ’s Church College, a position he held for life. He was also the vicar of St. Thomas, Oxford, and the rector of Seabrave, Leicestershire. The first edition of "The Anatomy of Melancholy" appeared in 1621 and was an immediate popular success. Burton continued to revise and add to his great book, which went through a further five editions, until his death.