The Anatomy of Melancholy (Robert Burton)
Robert Burton was an English scholar at Oxford University, whose Anatomy of Melancholy is his best-known work and one of the seminal texts on humoural science. The canonical nature of the Anatomy is well-known, with modern scholars recognizing that Burton had a voice on the concept “pre-eminent among scholars in the period.”
For Burton perhaps more than his contemporaries, melancholy exists not just as a scientific ailment, but also as an analogy for “anything imbalanced and excessive – whatever is not normal.” Breitenberg theorizes that melancholy in the text becomes an analogy for an Other or otherness more generally – one that is “not beyond the pale but more insidiously present within.”
Considering recent speculation that Burton wrote the Anatomy to help himself overcome his own depression, it is possible that he felt a particular intimacy with the subject. By seeking to anatomize melancholy, he not only endeavoured to help sufferers overcome its symptoms, but may have attempted to give a physical shape and definition to an (at the time) otherwise abstract condition.
A Look Inside
This copy is missing much of its front matter, including the engraved title page present in other copies. The first page, depicted above, is the dedication page. Still, the page was inset after the book was produced, and its binding is clearly visible.
The book's pages are highly creased and torn, and the small holes near the inner margins of each leaf suggests that it was rebound from its original setting.
THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY: WHAT IT IS. WITH ALL THE KINDES, CAV-SES, SYMPTOMES, PROGNOSTICKS, AND SEVERALL CVRES OF IT. IN THREE MAINE PARTITIONS, with their seuerall SECTIONS, MEM-BERS, and SVBSECTIONS. PHILOSOPHICALLY, MEDICI-NALLY, HISTORICALLY opened and cut up, BY DEMOCRITVS Iuniour. With a Satyricall PREFACE, conducing to the following Discourse.
PUBLISHER: Printed by JOHN LICHFIELD and JAMES SHORT, for HENRY CRIPPS. Ao Dom. 1624.
ITEM TYPE: Book
CALL NUMBER: PR 2223 .A1 1624
NOTE: STC records 10+ copies. ESTC records 31 copies. Additional copy at Fisher. See Kiessling (1989) Vol. 1, xlv.
(folio) A-G4 H6, 2A-4D4 [$3 (-A1, 2A2; +H4; N2 and N3 have been switched; G2, G4, 2B3, 2Q2-2S1 all wanting)].  1-64  1-46, 49-50, 53-94, 97-98, 95-96, 99-188  191-298, 315-332  333-379, 370-382, 389-391, 386-557 . 63 misnumbered as 93, 126 as 125, 371 as 372, 457 as 455, 512 as 511. Boards measure 27.2 x 18.5 cm. Leaves measure 26.8 x 18.2 cm.
TYPE: Roman; Italic; Greek
LANGUAGES: English; Latin; Greek
DEDICATIONS: 1. George Berkeley, Knight of the Bath. 2. Democritus Junior to the Reader.
TABLES AND INDEXES: Index (at back); "synopses" throughout.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Ornamented and historiated initials; head and tail pieces. Printer's device, McKerrow #336 (unlisted).
PRINTED MARGINALIA: Heavy.
WATERMARK: Shield(?) Centre.
Late 17th c. speckled dark brown calf over pasteboards has triple fillets in blind (Pearson, EBS, p. 180 #6). Rebacked spine in darker calf has six compartments, five raised bands. Title in compartment 2, author in compartment 4, and date of publication in compartment 6 all tooled in gilt. Speckled edges in red; later pastedowns and flys. Thong supports present on backboard.