Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) is arguably the first major text in the history of Western cognitive science: not because Burton is the first to theorize the nature of cognition or engage in cognitive modeling, as is made plainly evident by the many quasi-plagiarisms and numerous references to other thinkers which appear in Burton’s text, but because of the thematic underpinnings and encyclopedic nature of Burton’s vision. Burton’s theories are based upon no contemporaneously new medical evidence about the anatomical workings of the human body or mind.  ( Carl Stahmer at the University of California, Santa Barbara)


319G Burton, Robert. 1577-1640

The Anatomy of Melancholy. What it is, with all the kinds, causes, symptomes, prognostickes, & severall cures of it. In three Partitions, with their severall Sections, members & subsections. Philosophicaly, Medicinally, Historically opened & cut. By Democritus Junior. With a Satyricall Preface conducing to the following Discourse. The fift Edition, corrected and augmented by the Author. Omne tulit punctum qui miscrit utile dulci.


Oxford: L. Lichfield for H. Cripps, 1638              $ SOLD

Folio, 11 x 7.2 inches. Fifth edition. [π]3, §2, A-K4, A-R4, S6, T-Z4, Aa-Hh4, Ii6, Kk4-Zz4, Aaaa-Eeee4, Ffff2, Gggg-Zzzz4, Aaaaa4.

DSC_0028This edition has the charming pictorial engraved title-page by C. Le Blon, which depicts types of melancholy. The edition also contains the “Argument of the frontispiece” leaf, quite often lacking. This copy is bound in modern full calf, . Some very light browning, occasional spotting, but overall a really nice copy with ample margins.

Burton’s classic study of depression, The Anatomy of Melancholy, “has been more frequently reprinted than almost any other psychiatric text, appearing in over seventy editions since its original publication. Burton believed depression to be both a physical and spiritual ailment. Prompted by his own bouts with the affliction, he employed his considerable erudition and wit to write what amounts to the first psychiatric encyclopedia, citing nearly 500 medical authors in the course of classifying the myriad causes, forms and symptoms of depression, and describing its various cures. The work is also a literary tour-de-force in the tradition of Renaissance paradoxical literature.” (Norman)


“Burton had read much, and all that he had read, or nearly all, was refined and incorporated into The Anatomy. The whole book is elaborately divided and subdivided into partitions, divisions, sections, members and sub-sections. The first partition is devoted to the definition of his subject and its species and kinds, the causes of it, and—at length—the symptoms: ‘for the Tower of Babel never yielded such confusion of Tongues as the Chaos of Melancholy doth of Symptoms.’ The second deals with the cure, and Burton’s demonstration that it is necessary to live in the right part of the world to avoid melancholy occasions a long digression: a delightful account of foreign lands based—for Burton never travelled—on a wide reading of the cosmographers, and a powerful advocacy of the delights of country life.

DSC_0030The third part deals with the more frivolous kinds of melancholy and the fourth with the serious, Religious Melancholy, with some moving reflections on the ‘Cure of Despair.’ The Anatomy was one of the most popular books of the seventeenth century. All the learning of the age as well as its humour—and its pedantry—are there.” (Printing & the Mind of Man)



Hypocondriacus leans on his arm, Wind in his side doth him much harm, And troubles him full sore, God knows, Much pain he hath and many woes. About him pots and glasses lie,
Newly brought from’s Apothecary. This Saturn’s aspects signify,
You see them portray’d in the sky.







As Osler notes, “this edition has the distinction – possibly unique for any book – of having been printed piecemeal in three cities.” According to Madan, pages 1-346 were actually printed at Edinburgh but that the Scottish edition was suppressed at the insistence of the Oxford printers, who then agreed to incorporate the pirated pages in the present edition; some 68 leaves, incorporating Burton’s latest changes, were actually reprinted in London. For an account of the printing history of this edition see further Oxford Bib. Soc. Proceedings & Papers I (1922-6), pp. 194-7.
Garrison-Morton 4908.1; Grolier, English, 18; Hunter & Macalpine, pp. 94-99; Jordan-Smith 5; STC 4163; Madan, Oxford books II # 881.



“The Anatomy was heavily indebted to the cento method of composition, in which the author’s own thoughts are woven together with a tissue of quotations from other writers—so, in outlining the nature and cure of melancholy, Burton engaged in what some modern critics have called a kind of ventriloquism, ostensibly allowing other authors to speak for him. Yet, Burton was not simply a retailer of second-hand learning. The Anatomy’s unique contribution lay not so much in its material, as in the meandering, ironic, playful and persuasive path he cut through it.”

{Mad world: Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy You have access
Michael Edwards}