The Anatomy of Melancholy - Robert Burton, An Important Edition


“He desires a fine frontispiece, enticing pictures…”


The Anatomy of Melancholy

Robert Burton

Oxford, 1628


Folio(278 x 185 mm). Third Edition, corrected and augmented by the author - it boasts the first appearance of the famed engraved title-page executed by Christian Le Blon.


[4], 77, [11], 79, 78-208, [4], 209-374, [2], 375-584, 583-646, [10] pp. Signature 2*² misbound, colophon leaf lacking. Contemporary full calf, raised bands, red gilt leather label. Some cracking to joints, binding still sound. Title-page expertly reinforced, small tear to one image near gutter. Modest browning mainly on some early and later leaves, but overall largely clean and bright text. Numerous decorative woodcut headpieces and initials. Armorial bookplate.


Overall, a Very Good copy of an important edition featuring the frontispiece showing Burton and images relating to melancholy: jealousy, loneliness, hypochondria, superstition, madness, and two medicinal plants - borage and hellebore.


The classic study on depression by the Oxford clergyman scholar - but the book is much more than that. It’s a rich work that touches upon so many facets of life with great humor, compassion, and empathy. Burton leveraged every bit of ancient and contemporary knowledge he could from the fields of literature, philosophy, and science to create an encyclopedic tour de force. He dispenses practical, sage advice on keeping melancholy at bay that’s also simply a good way to live – don’t remain idle, keep up with friends, practice moderation, etc. We take this advice for granted today, but he was ahead of his time. Enormously popular in its day and released in numerous editions(Burton continually edited and expanded the work), it was a favorite of Keats, Byron, and Samuel Johnson(helping Johnson with his own relentless depression). The book evokes the poignancy of engaging in a deep, humorous, soothingly life-changing conversation about the various depressing aspects of existence with an empathetic, witty, learned friend. It’s one of the greatest achievements in the English language, an eminently quotable handbook of life, and simply a wonderful book.


Ref: Robert Burton's Frontispiece, William R. Mueller

Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy, Isla Macfarlane

The Anatomy of Melancholy - Robert Burton, An Important Edition