Hydriotaphia, Urne-Buriall
£1,800.00
London: For Henry Brome. 1658.

First edition. 8vo (164x107mm). pp. xiv, 1 plate, 202 (although final page misprinted 102). Contemporary calf, with some repairs to the joints. A little cracking to the hinge but the binding is sound. Light water staining to some leaves. Included are the rarely found last three leaves: "The Stationer to the Reader", "Books printed for Hen. Broome " and a page on which is printed sideways in large type: "Dr Browne's Garden of Cyrus". On the recto of the final blank leaf is the handwritten note: "Perfect (without the leaf of Errata found in only a few copies) H. Bernard Quaritch Ltd". Loosely inserted are two catalogue entries describing this book, the latter of which has a handwritten note: "Maggs 1958".

Despite its fame and influence, this strange, melancholy book remains hard to pin down. It begins as a work of East Anglian archaeology and antiquarianism but expands into a spiritual reflection on fate, death and immortality. "It is the heaviest stone that melancholy can throw at a man, to tell him he is at the end of his nature; or that there is no further state to come". It is tempting to see Browne's hope for the hereafter as consolation for the disorder of the years of the Civil War and Protectorate. His sympathies were with the King and, like many Royalists, his intellectual leanings, expressed in the most glorious prose, were spiritual, metaphysical and ethereal. Urne-Buriall reaches its climax with Browne's celebrated assertion that "Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible Sun within us".