'Who is not a Foole, who is free from Melancholy?’, asked Robert Burton, 400 years ago, and answered his own question: ‘all the world is mad, is melancholy, dotes’.
Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, first published in 1621, is a huge and innovative encyclopaedia of mental and emotional disorder, as understood in the late Renaissance.
A scholar and clergyman in Christ Church, Oxford, Burton was one of the early users of the Bodleian Library and left many of the books in his own substantial collection to the Bodleian.
The Anatomy examines the causes and symptoms of melancholy or, as we would call it today, depression. Its remedies range from good food and exercise, to laughter, reading, friends, and music. Its closing page recommends that the reader
‘be not solitary, be not idle’, and the distraction provided by reading the Anatomy itself is one suggested cure.
Four hundred years later – as our mental health faces many challenges – this exhibition revisits the Anatomy, using objects from the Bodleian Libraries to highlight common experiences and connections over time.
NOTE: Closed on Thursday 30 September from 8.30am – 2pm
Treasury, Weston Library
Melancholy: A New Anatomy