First Issued: 6 September 2012
Revised (substantive): 16 March 2013
Part I: Editor’s Introduction to Browne’s essay on the chameleon
IR Thomas Browne (1605–1682) wrote his Pseudodoxia Epidemica, or, Enquiries into Very Many Received Tenents and Commonly Presumed Truths (1st edn., 1646) at a time when what we would now call “popular science” flourished. The modern writer and publisher Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) marvelled at this distinctly early-modern phenomenon in her essay about John Evelyn (1620–1706), a founding member of The Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge:
... our modern view of happiness differs from his. Ignorance, surely, ignorance is at the bottom of it; his ignorance and our comparative erudition. No one can read the story of Evelyn’s foreign travels without envying in the first place his simplicity of mind, in the second his activity. To take a simple example of the difference between us — that butterfly will sit motionless on the dahlia while the gardener trundles his barrow past it, but let him flick the wings with the shadow of a rake, and off it flies, up it goes, instantly on the alert. So, we may reflect, a butterfly sees but does not hear; and here no doubt we are much on a par with Evelyn. But as for going into the house to fetch a knife and with that knife dissecting a Red Admiral’s head, as Evelyn would have done, no sane person in the twentieth century would entertain such a project for a second. Individually we may know as little as Evelyn, but collectively we know so much that there is little incentive to venture on private discoveries. We seek the encyclopaedia, not the scissors; and know in two minutes not only more than was known to Evelyn in his lifetime, but that the mass of knowledge is so vast that it is scarcely worth while to possess a single crumb. Ignorant, yet justly confident that with his own hands he might advance not merely his private knowledge but the knowledge of mankind, Evelyn dabbled in all the arts and sciences, ran about the Continent for ten years, gazed with unflagging gusto upon hairy women and rational dogs, and drew inferences and framed speculations which are now only to be matched by listening to the talk of old women round the village pump. ... So Evelyn, Fellow of the Royal Society, a gentleman of the highest culture and intelligence, carefully noted all comets and portents, and thought it a sinister omen when a whale came up the Thames.
(Virginia Woolf, “Rambling Round Evelyn,” 111–2)
Woolf’s essay on Evelyn implies that such hands-on natural inquiry was limited to gentlemen of “the highest culture and intelligence,” but curiosity about the natural world spread through the rank and file of the British citizenry, too. Because the natural sciences were directly related to 17th-century daily life in all sorts of utilitarian ways, there was “a remarkable interest in the elements of natural philosophy for its own sake.” Citizens sought out natural history to learn about the curative properties of drugs (vegetable, animal, and mineral); astronomy was of use to travelers; astrology taught the farmer, the kitchen gardener, and everyone with a social life about astral influences; and physiology helped citizens to understand the human condition (including our moods and mental states). All this enthusiasm for learning about science, and participating (as a developer and/or consumer) in technological advances, meant that “the average citizen of Tudor and Stuart England was probably better informed about the accepted facts of contemporary science than is the same type of person today.” (Wright, 550–1)
What Henry Bauer calls “textbook science” (the science we learn as fact) was, at the beginning of the 17th century,
a hodgepodge of classical and scholastic learning, the backbone of which was the teachings of Aristotle, overlaid with scholastic interpretations. From classical and medieval sources [the Elizabethan] inherited his scientific vocabulary, his established notions, and his method of approach. Aristotle, Galen, Ptolemy, Pliny, and the church fathers had all contributed to the heritage. From the schools and from popular books a fairly conventional body of knowledge about moral and natural philosophy percolated into the mass consciousness. Alchemists, astrologers, travelers, physicians, and quacks of one sort and another spread the information about “science” which the ordinary citizen picked up. From the Middle Ages, encyclopedic works had preserved a large amount of miscellaneous information which was absorbed into the common stock of learning and reappeared in Elizabethan outlines of knowledge.
(Wright, Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England, 550–1)
Elizabethan-era textbook science was also being reevaluated by a diverse group of inquiring minds, leading to growing intellectual and ideological turbulence, for which Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica was a stimulus.
This is the missing context for Browne’s essay on the chameleon, which may strike many of us today as unscientific, if not downright peculiar, in its associational logic. Browne begins by questioning the facts of Pliny’s natural history, then ranges into a lengthy digression about the nature of the air, and from here, the mysterious matter of combustion, before returning full-circle to the starting issue: whether the chameleon “liveth only upon ayre, and is sustained by no other aliment.” At least one of Browne’s modern editors, Simon Wilkin, thought Browne’s choice of “error” for the subject of his essay about the chameleon an odd one:
It is singular that Sir Thomas has not mentioned the vulgar opinion that this reptile undergoes frequent changes of colour according to that of the bodies near it. He has assigned some probable grounds for its being supposed to feed on air, viz. its powers of abstinence and its faculty of self-inflation. It lives on insects, which it catches by means of its long gluey tongue, and crushes between its jaws. It has been ascertained by careful experiment that the chameleon can live without eating for four months. It can inflate, not only its lungs but its whole body, including even the feet and tail. The frequent variations of colour observed in the chameleon are by no means determined by those of surrounding objects. They depend on the volition of the animal, or the state of its feelings, on its good or bad health, and are, besides, subordinate to climate, age, and sex.
(Wilkin, Sir Thomas Browne’s Works, 1835, ii. 482n7)
But “the air” was then a subject of pressing concern. Some thought air to be the “food of life,” as had been demonstrated in England by Cornelis Drebbel (who heated saltpetre in a retort to produce needed oxygen for the passengers and crew aboard his submarine, when it traveled underwater down the Thames, from Westminster to Greenwich, in 1620), while most regarded the quality of the air as indispensable to human health and well-being. Many an author, before and after Thomas Browne, tackled the subject (e.g., Robert Burton’s lengthy “Digression of Air” in his The Anatomy of Melancholy; Thomas Moffett’s two chapters on air quality in Healths Improvement: or, Rules Comprizing and Discovering the Nature, Method, and Manner of Preparing All Sorts of Foods Used in this Nation; and John Evelyn’s public-policy initiative Fumifugium: or, the Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoake of London Dissipated).
So there was nothing unusual about Browne’s decision to focus on whether or not the chameleon lived on air. Plus, his choice of which issues to investigate at length (air-as-food over color variations), may also have been determined by the fact that Browne had no direct experience with the changeling chameleon (“we have not had the advantage of our owne observation,” as he admits up front).
This meant that he was reliant on the printed word and picture, more than he would have liked, for what was but second-hand information on the chameleon. Like any good scholar, Browne began his essay on the chameleon with a literature review: on the one hand, the received “opinion that it liveth onely upon ayre,” long “affirmed by” such authorities as Solinus, Pliny, and Ovid, and by the time Browne wrote his essay, “being the common opinion, and generally received by all men”; and on the other hand, multiple eye-witness accounts to the contrary, plus the evidence of dissection and examination of the entrails:
But Bellonius [i.e., the French naturalist, Pierre Belon, 1517–1564] hath beene more satisfactorily experimentall, not onely affirming they feede on Flyes, Caterpillers, Beetles, and other insects, but upon exenteration he found these animals in their bellies; and although we have not had the advantage of our owne observation, yet have we received the like confirmation from many ocular spectators.
(Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1646, 157)
However, even this was not considered incontrovertible proof, because second-hand accounts could always be differently parsed, reinterpreted, and explained away, as did Browne’s nemesis, the intellectual conservative, Alexander Ross, who
so resolutely withstands [Browne’s] arguments against the common opinion, as even to assert that flies are eaten by the chameleon, “rather out of wantonness or for physic”. He adverts indeed to the fact, only as giving a reason for the animal being provided with digestive organs; but says that the slime on the tongue is not intended for catching the flies, but for destroying serpents, on whose approach the chameleon drops some of the slime on the head of the serpent, which presently dies.
(Wilkin, 1835, ii. 482n7)
The chameleon’s tongue was thus at the center of the dispute over how and what it fed on. In the first printed version of his chameleon essay, Browne noted that an unidentified text by the 16th-century Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi (aka Aldrovandus, 1522–1605) included an “exact delineation” of the chameleon’s tongue:
The figure of the tongue seems also to overthrow the presumption of this aliment, which according to the exact delineation of Aldrovand, is in this animall peculiar, and seemeth contrived for prey; for in so little a creature it is at the least halfe a palme long, and being it self very slow in motion, hath in this part a very great agility; withall its food being flyes and such as suddenly escape, it hath in the tongue a spongy and mucous extremity, whereby upon a sudden emission, it inviscates and tangleth those insects: And therefore some have thought its name not unsutable unto its nature ....
(Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1646, 158)
It’s possible that Browne was never able to confirm the source for this “exact delineation” of the chameleon’s tongue, because he removed the reference to Aldrovandi from the 2nd edn. (“corrected and much enlarged by the author”) of Pseudodoxia Epidemica, printed in 1650:
The figure of the tongue seems also to overthrow the presumption of this aliment, which according to exact delineation, is in this animall peculiar, and seemeth contrived for prey. For in so little a creature it is at the least half a palm long, and being it self very slow in motion, hath in this part a very great agility; withall its food being flies and such as suddenly escape, it hath in the tongue a mucous and slymy extremity, whereby upon a sudden emission it inviscates and tangleth those insects. And therefore some have thought its name not unsuitable unto its nature ...
(Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1650, 129–130)
And when the text is “corrected and enlarged by the author” yet again for the 6th edn., printed in 1672, there is still no reference to Aldrovandi as his source. Moreover, the length of the chameleon’s tongue has doubled, calling into question the “exactness” of the unspecified delineation from which Browne derived his information:
The figure of the tongue seems also to overthrow the presumption of this aliment, which according to exact delineation, is in this Animal peculiar, and seemeth contrived for prey. For in so little a creature it is at the least a palm long, and being it self very slow in motion, hath in this part a very great agility; withall its food being flies and such as suddenly escape, it hath in the tongue a mucous and slimy extremity, whereby upon a sudden emission it inviscates and tangleth those Insects. And therefore some have thought its name not unsuitable unto its nature ...
(Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1672, 174)
Browne also noted “the remarkable teeth” of the chameleon in the 6th edn. of his Pseudodoxia Epidemica, thus introducing a qualifier not found in any of the earlier printings of Pseudodoxia Epidemica. Compare the two passages from the 1st and 6th editions:
Beside the teeth, the tongue of this animall is a second argument to overthrow this ayrie nutrication, and that not only in its proper nature, but also in its peculiar figure; for indeed of this part properly taken there are two ends; that is, the formation of the voice, and the execution of taste ...
(Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1646, 158)
Beside the remarkable teeth, the tongue of this animal is a second argument to overthrow this airy nutrication: and that not only in its proper nature, but also its peculiar figure. For of this part properly taken there are two ends; that is, the formation of the voice, and the execution of tast ...
(Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1672, 173)
I surmise that the added emphasis on its “remarkable teeth” might have been inspired by the well-known effigy of a monstrous chameleon printed in Thomas Johnson’s Workes of that Famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey (recently reissued in 1665).
Other revisions of note include changes to the passage concerning the etymology of chameleon:
This exposition is favoured by some, especially the old glosse upon Leviticus, whereby in the Translation of Jerome and the Septuagint, this animall is forbidden; whatever it be, it seems more reasonable then that of Isidore, who derives this name a Camelo & Leone, as presuming herein resemblance with a Camell; for this derivation offendeth the rules of Etymology, wherein indeed the notation of names should be Orthographicall, not exchanging dipthongs for vowells, or converting consonants into each other.
(Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1646, 159)
Notwithstanding this observation, Browne spelled the word cameleon in every edition, causing at least one careful reader to criticize the spelling, and point to the inconsistency between Browne’s own theory and practice. That reader was the scholarly Dr. Christopher Wren (1589–1658), dean of Windsor, and father of the mathematician, astronomer and architect of St. Paul’s (Christopher Wren, 1632–1723). Dean Wren’s copy of the first edition of Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica is full of hand-written notes in the margins, documenting his critical engagement with the text. Wren’s marginalia for the essay on the chameleon range from the notation of Browne’s inconsistent orthography, to commentary on combustion, Homer, and leeches:
1. BROWNE WRITES in 1646:
How fire is stricken out of flints? that is, not by kindling the air from the collision of two hard bodies; for then Diamonds should do the like better then Flints: but rather from sulphureous ...
and WREN RESPONDS:
Itt is manifest to sense, that in the collision of the steele and the flint there is a sulphureous odour, which thoughe but fainte (in regard of the small splinters from whence it comes) yet to an acute and unobstructed braine is plainly perceptible.
(Wilkin, 1835, ii. 487n4)
2. BROWNE WRITES in 1646:
The like saith Jorden we observe in canes and woods, that are unctuous and full of oyl, which will yield fire ...
and WREN RESPONDS:
And with the fire a smel as of oylye substance fired.
(Wilkin, 1835, ii. 488n6)
3. BROWNE WRITES in 1646:
And this opinion surely possessed the Ancients; for when they so highly commended that water which is suddenly hot and cold, which is without all savour, the lightest, the thinnest, and which will soonest boil Beans or Pease, they had no consideration of nutrition ...
and WREN RESPONDS:
But only of puritye for refreshing the harte.”
(Wilkin, 1835, ii. 490n1)
4. BROWNE WRITES in 1646:
... we do not read of much blood that was drawn from Frogs by Mice, in that famous battel of Homer.
and WREN RESPONDS:
This passage was but a friske of his stile.
(Wilkin, 1835, ii. 492n4)
5. BROWNE WRITES in 1646:
... for Lizards and Leeches, as we have made trial, will live some months without sustenance ...
and WREN RESPONDS:
Leeches are kept by all apothecaryes in glasses of water, without any other nourishment: which can be little, or none at all. The often change of the water serving for two intentions, and both contrary to the worke of nourishment; viz. first to preserve itt from putrefaction, which is the principal aliment which they sucke from thick and muddye standing waters; and secondly, to cleanse them from that venome, which they had formerlye contracted, which nothing could soe properly or speedily effect as the dailye supply of fresh cleere water; by which consequentially they become the more hungry, and apte to catche holde, and to holde the faster when they are on: evident arguments that from the pure water alone they drew no aliment, but fedd on that store which they had formerlye contracted in putrified standing waters.
(Wilkin, 1835, ii. 492n5)
Whether Dean Wren’s commentary ever made its way to Browne and/or influenced his revisions to the text of Pseudodoxia Epidemica is not known. No doubt, Browne noticed on his own the inconsistency between his admonition and spelling of cameleon, since he dropped the troublesome clause about how the “derivation offendeth the rules of Etymology” from all subsequent editions of Pseudodoxia Epidemica, amending the passage to read:
This exposition is favoured by some, especially the old glosse upon Leviticus, whereby in the Translation of Jerome and the Septuagint, this animall is forbidden; whatever it be, it seems more reasonable then that of Isidore, who derives this name a Camelo & Leone, as presuming herein resemblance with a Camell.
(Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1650, 130)
More substantive revisions were made to the essay’s digression on the components of air, and the nature of combustion, as Browne took in and responded to contemporary scientific and technological advances.
For example, after Hooke’s account of the sparks of flint published in Micrographia (London, 1665), Sir Thomas corrected his own account of the matter [in the essay “Of the Cameleon”] for his edition of 1672. Although Athanasius Kircher’s Magnes sive de Arte Magnetica was published in Cologne in 1641, Browne had not seen it by 1646, when he first published Pseudodoxia, but in preparing his edition of 1650 (the second) he corrected his discussions of the variation of the compass and the attraction of red hot steel according to Kircher’s experiments. The additions to Pseudodoxia contain many corrections and enlargements derived from recent voyages, for example Frobisher’s, and the Iceland observations reported by Wormius and Bartholinus. The new book on America by Hernandez (Sale Catalogue, p. 18, has Franc. Hernandez Nova Plantar. Animal. & Mineral. Mexic. Hist à Jo Terentio, Jo. Fabro & Fabio Columna Notis & Addit. illustrata, cum fig. Rom. 1651) contributed in Browne’s sixth edition (1672) to his chapter on the two-headed serpent, Amphisboena. In the various additions which Browne made to Vulgar Errors he drew on new information gathered from books by Van Helmont, Johan Faber, Aldrovandus, and Dr. Harvey.
(G. K. Chalmers, 37n82)
The ongoing revisions and updates made Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica even more influential than before, as Browne struggled with the new learning; he did not, for example, accept the new astronomy, but along with Dean Wren, continued “a stout adherent to the falling fortunes of the Ptolemaic system of astronomy” (Wilkin, 1835, ii. 171). Nonetheless,
So valuable did its “particles of knowledge” appear to Dr. Johnson [i.e., the author and lexicographer, Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)] a whole century after it [Pseudodoxia Epidemica] first circulated, he regretted that Browne had not enlarged the work more than he did in subsequent editions. Johnson even proposed that it might be a good thing to reprint Pseudodoxia “with notes partly supplemental and partly emendatory, to subjoin those discoveries which the industry of the last age has made, and correct those mistakes which the author has committed, not by idleness or negligence, but for want of Boyle’s and Newton’s philosophy.”
I believe it was “the second edition, corrected and much enlarged by the author” of 1650 which prompted the Church of England clergyman and writer on philosophy, Alexander Ross (1591–1654), to issue his Arcana Microcosmi ... with a Refutation of Doctor Browns Vulgar Errors, and the Ancient Opinions Vindicated in 1651.
As the issues and arguments undergirding the Browne-Ross debate percolated through mainstream culture, previously unfamiliar species such as the chameleon and sloth took hold in the popular imagination. For example, I believe that the newly-forming cultural narratives about exotic creatures who feed only on air may well have inspired the allegorical character of Lady Phoenix — “She feeds only upon Thoughts.” — in Margaret Cavendish’s A Piece of a Play (Cavendish, Plays, Never Before Printed, 1668, 4).
I have chosen here to reproduce Browne’s original essay “Of the Cameleon,” as printed in the first edition of Pseudodoxia Epidemica (London, 1646), since I will also be providing electronic editions of Browne’s two revised versions of the essay (in 1650 and 1672) as part of a forthcoming study on Robert Hooke’s theory of combustion.
Of note, Browne mentions chameleon lore once again in Book 6, Chapter 8 (“Of the River Nilus”) of Pseudodoxia Epidemica, in a warning about faulty scientific method and communications:
Now this mistake ariseth from a misapplication of the bounds or limits of time, and an undue transition from one unto another; which to avoid we must observe the punctuall differences of time, and so reasonably distinguish thereof, as not to confound or lose the one in the other. For things may come to passe, Semper, Plerumq[ue], Saepè, or Nunquam, Aliquando, Raro; that is Alwayes or never, for the most part or Sometimes, Oftimes or Seldome: Now the deception is usuall which is made by the misapplication of these; men presently concluding that to happen often, which happeneth but sometimes; that never, which happeneth but seldome; and that alway[s] which happeneth for the most part: So is it said, the Sunne shines every day in Rhodes, because for the most part, it faileth not: So we say and believe that a Camelion never eateth, but liveth only upon ayre, whereas indeed it is seen to eat very seldome, but many there are who have beheld it to feed on flyes. And so it is said, that children born in the eighth moneth live not; that is, for the most part, but not to be concluded alwayes; nor it seems in former ages in all places; for it is otherwise recorded by Aristotle concerning the births of AEgypt.
(Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1646, Book 6, Chapter 8, 318–319)
A related concern with scientific method is voiced in his essay “Of the Cameleon” in Book 3, Chapter 21 (see Part 2 of this e-publication), when Browne argues that researchers tend to observe the chameleon during its “latitancy in the winter,” when the reptile “will long subsist without a visible sustentation,” and from this, too freely extrapolate about chameleon behavior at other times of the year, and over a lifetime.
Aldrovandi, Ulisse. Ulyssis Aldrovandi patritii Bononiensis de quadrupedibus digitatis oviparis. Libri II. Bartholomaeus Ambrosinus in patrio archigym. Bonon. simplicium medicamentorum professor, horti publici praefectus et musaei illustriss. senatus bpnon custos collegit. M. Antonio Bernia Bibliopola Bonon. in lucem edidit. Bononiae: Typis Nicolai Tebaldini, Superiorum permissu, M.DC.XXXXV .
Aldrovandi’s essay on the chameleon in his De Quadrupedibus Digitatis Oviparis Libri Duo is also available as a She-philosopher.com digital edition.
Bauer, Henry H. Scientific literacy and the myth of the scientific method. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1992.
(I can’t recommend this book enough! ;-) Bauer’s Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method also received a thumbs-up review in the trade journal, Publishers Weekly:
“To put some of the adventure back in everyday science, this study is the place to start. Bauer, chemistry professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, upends current contentions about science literacy in a small, dense book that could be the nucleus of a restructuring of how science works in our culture, or, in the author’s terms, how its reputation works. The call for more science literacy is a shibboleth in this STS-based (science, technology, society) exposition, which is a sort of deconstruction of the general image of science. Excising popular fallacies, Bauer argues that science is particular knowledge embedded in its time’s social context and, therefore, in continuous change. His critique is radical: demystify the science we learn as fact (‘textbook science’), keep ‘frontier science’ (research) from being overwhelmed by structural forces in technocracy, avoid ‘scientism’ as a basis of social policy. Science can be made to serve us better, stresses the author, but not as a new mythology.”
Belon, Pierre. Petri Bellonii cenomani De aquatilibus, libri duo cum conibus ad vivam ipsorum effigiem, quoad eius fieri potuit, expressis. Ad amplissimum Cardinalem Castillionoeum. Parisiis: Apud Carolum Stephanum, Typographum Regium, cum privilegio regis, M.D.LIII .
1st edn. Book 1 of Belon’s De Aquatilibus included the first printing of Belon’s influential portrait of the chameleon. The same woodcut was used in Belon’s Les Observations du Plusieurs Singularitez (Paris, Gilles Corrozet, 1554), thus establishing a pictorial tradition that would dominate early-modern bestiaries, or popular treatises on natural history.
Belon’s illustrated chapter on the “Chamaeleon” in De Aquatilibus is available as a She-philosopher.com digital edition.
Belon, Pierre. Les observations de plusieurs singularitez et choses memorables, trouvées en Grece, Asie, Judée, Egypte, Arabie & autres pays estranges, redigées en trois livres, par Pierre Belon du Mans. A monseigneur le Cardinal de Tournon. Le catalogue contenant les plus notables choses de ce present livre, est en l’autre part de ce fueillet. Bononiae: Typis Nicolai Tebaldini, Superiorum permissu, M.DC.XXXXV .
1st edn. Les Observations was not Belon’s first published write-up on the chameleon, but it was his most popular (thanks in large part to the Latin translation by Charles de l’Ecluse in 1589), and probably the book with which Sir Thomas Browne was familiar.
Belon’s multiple musings on the chameleon in the Observations are available as a She-philosopher.com digital edition.
Browne, Thomas, Sir. Pseudodoxia epidemica: or, Enquiries into very many received tenents, and commonly presumed truths. By Thomas Browne Dr. of Physick. London: Printed by Tho. Harper for Edward Dod, 1646.
1st edn. Browne’s popular “encyclopaedia of seventeenth-century misconceptions and new knowledge,” which established his reputation as a scholar and naturalist, was revised and enlarged in 1650, 1658, 1672; and the various revisions reprinted in 1658, 1669, and in the posthmously-published Works, 1686.
Browne, Thomas, Sir. Pseudodoxia epidemica: or, Enquiries into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths. By Thomas Browne Dr of Physick. The second edition, corrected and much enlarged by the author. Together with some marginall observations, and a table alphabeticall at the end. London: Printed by A. Miller, for Edw. Dod and Nath. Ekins, at the Gunne in Ivie Lane, 1650.
Browne, Thomas, Sir. Pseudodoxia epidemica: or, Enquiries into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths, together with the Religio medici. By Thomas Brown knight, M.D. The sixth and last edition, corrected and enlarged by the author, with many explanations, additions and alterations throughout. Together with many more marginal observations, and a table alphabetical at the end. London: Printed by J. R. for Nath. Ekins, 1672.
6th edn., with a frontispiece portrait of Browne, engraved by Frederik Hendrik Van Hove (c.1630–af. 1715).
Browne, Thomas, Sir. The works of the learned S[i]r Thomas Brown, Kt. doctor of physick, late of Norwich. Containing I. Enquiries into vulgar and common errors. II. Religio medici: with annotations and observations upon it. III. Hydriotaphia; or, urn-burial; together with The garden of Cyrus. IV. Certain miscellany tracts. With alphabetical tables. London: Printed for Tho. Basset, Ric. Chiswell, Tho. Sawbridge, Charles Mearn, and Charles Brome, MDCLXXXVI .
The posthumously-published Works featured a different frontispiece portrait of Browne, engraved by Robert White (1645–1704).
The 7th edn. of Pseudodoxia Epidemica (alternately known as Enquiries into Vulgar and Common Errors) comprised part 1 of the folio Works.
Burton, Robert. The anatomy of melancholy, what it is. With all the kindes, causes, symptomes, prognostickes, and severall cures of it. In three maine partitions with their severall sections, members, and subsections. Philosophically, medicinally, historically, opened and cut up. By Democritus Junior. With a satyricall preface, conducing to the following discourse. At Oxford: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, Anno Dom. 1621.
1st edn. of a popular and influential work, which would be revised and reprinted 5 times during Burton’s lifetime, and posthumously reissued many times after Burton’s death in 1640.
Excerpts from Burton’s Anatomy concerning the beneficial effects of scholarship and a habitual practice of arts and sciences are available as a She-philosopher.com digital edition.
Cavendish, Margaret. A piece of a play. In Plays, never before printed. Written by the thrice noble, illustrious, and excellent princesse, the duchess of Newcastle. London: Printed by A. Maxwell, in the year M.DC.LX.VIII .
Margaret Cavendish is one of She-philosopher.com’s featured “Players.” Learn more here.
Chalmers, G. K. “Sir Thomas Browne, true scientist.” Osiris 2 (1936): 28–79.
Evelyn, John. Fumifugium: or the inconveniencie of the aer and smoak of London dissipated. Together with some remedies humbly proposed by J. E. esq. to His Sacred Majestie, and to the Parliament now assembled. London: Printed by W. Godbid for Gabriel Bedel and Thomas Collins, and are to be sold at their shop at the Middle Temple Gate neer Temple-Bar, MDCLXI .
The first English book on pollution. Evelyn here attributed London’s choking air pollution — by which “one half of them who perish in London, dye of Phthisical and Pulmonic distempers” and “the Inhabitants are never free from Coughs” — to the breweries and a few other polluting industries (“Brewers, Diers, Lime-burners, Salt, and Sope-boylers, and some other private Trades”).
The title-page for Fumifugium included an environmentalist quote from Lucretius (Carbonúmque gravis vis, atque odor insinuatur / Quam facile in cerebrum?), whose philosophical poem, De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things], Evelyn translated c.1656.
Lucretius promoted a materialist epidemiology by theorizing the existence of certain atoms of substances that were “a cause of disease and death” in Book VI of De Rerum Natura. The idea took root within Europe’s medical community, with many still arguing in the 17th century that pestilential air was the source of plague. In his 1657 inaugural address at Gesham College (when accepting the chair of astronomy), Christopher Wren outlined his plan for the compilation of a complete meteorological record which would relate weather to epidemics — a suggestion which he was to repeat later before the Royal Society.
Grew, Nehemiah. Musæum Regalis Societatis. Or A catalogue & description of the natural and artificial rarities belonging to the Royal Society and preserved at Gresham Colledge. Made by Nehemiah Grew M.D. Fellow of the Royal Society, and of the Colledge of Physitians. Whereunto is subjoyned, the Comparative anatomy of stomachs and guts. By the same author. London: Printed by W. Rawlins, for the author, 1681.
1st edn. Grew’s catalog entry for the two chameleons (of unknown provenance) in the Royal Society’s museum collection is also available as a She-philosopher.com digital edition. Of note, Sir Thomas Browne is listed by Grew among “those who have Contributed to this Musaeum.”
Johnson, Thomas, trans. The workes of that famous chirurgion Ambrose Parey translated out of Latin and compared with the French. By Tho: Johnson. Whereunto are added three tractates out of Adrianus Spigelius of the veines, arteries, & nerves, with large figures. Also a table of the bookes and chapters. London: printed by E: C: and are to be sold by John Clarke at Mercers Chappell in Cheapeside neare ye great Conduit, 1665.
3rd printing. (The editio princeps of The Workes was printed in 1634.) Johnson’s English version of Ambroise Paré’s illustrated essay on the chameleon, located at the end of chapter 22 in Paré’s treatise Of Monsters and Prodigies, is also available as a She-philosopher.com digital edition.
Moffett, Thomas, and Christopher Bennet. Healths improvement: or, Rules comprizing and discovering the nature, method, and manner of preparing all sorts of food used in this nation. Written by that ever famous Thomas Muffett, Doctor in Physick: corrected and enlarged by Christopher Bennet, Doctor in Physick, and fellow of the Colledg of Physitians in London. London: Printed by Tho: Newcomb for Samuel Thomson, at the sign of the white Horse in Pauls Churchyard, 1655.
This was a posthumous publication (Moffett, born in 1553, died in 1604).
Ross, Alexander. Arcana microcosmi: or, The hid secrets of mans body disclosed; first, in an anatomical duel between Aristotle & Galen, about the parts thereof. Secondly, by a discovery of the strange and marvellous diseases, symptomes, and accidents of mans body. With a refutation of Doctor Browns Vulgar errors, and the ancient opinions vindicated. By Alexander Ross. London: Printed by Thomas Newcomb, and are to be sold by George Latham at the Bishops Head in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1651.
1st edn. Ross’s animadversion on Browne’s essay on the chameleon is also available as a She-philosopher.com digital edition.
Wilkin, Simon. Sir Thomas Browne’s works including his life and correspondence. 3 vols. London: William Pickering, 1835–6.
Woolf, Virginia. “Rambling Round Evelyn.” In The Common Reader: First Series. 1925. London: Hogarth, 1948. 110–20.
Wright, Louis B. Middle-class culture in Elizabethan England. 1935. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1958.
NOTE: This original She-philosopher.com e-publication is
one of several digital editions relating to our ongoing
Study: The Natural and Cultural History of the Chameleon.
go up a level: Table of Contents page for the She-philosopher.com LIBRARY