Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 Ancient World
3 Late Roman Empire/early Christian era
4 Renaissance and Contemporaries
5 Medical
6 Esoteric
7 Natural History
8 Literature
9 Miscellaneous
10 Source
11 References


No single document gives better evidence of the learning of Sir Thomas Browne, the man, encyclopedist, and philosopher, than the 1711 Sales Auction Catalogue of his library. It provides an insight into the proliferation, distribution and availability of books printed in increasing number throughout 17th century Europe, purchased by the intelligentsia, aristocracy, priest, physician or educated merchant-class.

The 1711 Sales Auction Catalogue lists the reading material of an individual's lifetime. It records the contents and volume of one of 17th century Europe's most wide-ranging, private libraries as well as some of the sources for the encyclopaedia Pseudodoxia Epidemica more commonly known as Vulgar Errors. It also highlights the inter-relationship between science, religion and the arts in the seventeenth century, albeit through the microcosm perspective of the private library of one of its leading thinkers; as once remarked:

to the student of the history of ideas in its modern sense of the inter-relationship between philosophy, science, art and philosophy, Browne is of great importance.

Browne graduated from the University of Leiden in 1633, having previously studied at the Universities of Montpellier and Padua for his medical degree. Upon his establishment in Norwich as a physician he was able to begin a lifetime's bibliophilia, building a private library, acquiring and no doubt reading many of an estimated 1500 titles. Adept in no less than five contemporary languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Danish), as well as Latin, Greek and Hebrew, the 1711 Sales Auction Catalogue reflects the wide scope of Browne's amateur hobbies, who, following the translation of his Religio Medici and encyclopaedia Pseudodoxia Epidemica into French, Latin and Dutch, was acknowledged as one of the great intellects of seventeenth century Europe.

Browne's erudite learning is reflected in the fact that the Classics of the ancient world as well as theology, history, geography, philology, philosophy, anatomy, antiquities, Biblical scholarship, cartography, embryology, medicine, cosmography, ornithology, minerology, zoology, travel, law, mathematics, geometry, literature, both Continental and English, the latest advances in scientific thinking in astronomy, chemistry as well as esoteric topics such as astrology, alchemy, physiognomy and the Kabbalah are all represented in the Catalogue.

It was the American scholar Jeremiah Stanton Finch, Dean Emeritus at Yale University, who completed the indexing of the books of Sir Thomas and his son Edward Browne's libraries, "after many years in many libraries" in 1986. J.S. Finch noted that the Catalogue advertised books of Sculpture and Painting, which somehow never made it to the Auction. In the event, the Auction held upon January 8th-10th, 1711 was attended by Jonathan Swift and buyers working on behalf of Sir Hans Sloane. Thus an unknown percentage of books auctioned from the Library of Sir Thomas Browne subsequently formed the foundation for the future British Library.

The one-time blind librarian Jorge Luis Borges, a life-long admirer of Browne, considered paradise itself to be a Library. The following titles represent only a fraction of the total volume of Library of Sir Thomas Browne and have been selected as a thumb-nail sketch of the omnivorous reading material and bibliophilia which Browne engaged upon over a half century.

Ancient World

Late Roman Empire/early Christian era

Renaissance and Contemporaries


Contemporary science


  • René Descartes, Discours de la méthode, 1637, 1st edition
    • Descartes, Meditations 1644
    • Descartes, Method for the well-guiding of Reason 1649
  • Francis Bacon Advancement of Learning 1628
    • Bacon Natural History 1628
    • Bacon Opuscula Philosophica 1658
  • Thomas Hobbes Elementorum Philosopiae Sectio Secunda de Homine 1658
    • Hobbes Elementa Philosophica de Cive 2nd edit. Amsterdam 1647
  • Erasmus, Preparations for death, Basle 1532
  • Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica Paris 1638
  • Justus Lipsius Opera 4 Tomi in 3 vol. Antwerp 1637
  • Jan Gruter Inscriptiones antiquae totius orbis Romani 1603 2 vols. Heidelberg
  • Martin Luther Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians 2nd edit. 1577


  • Hippocrates Aphorismi & Prognost in Greek and Latin ed. Jo.Butino 1625
    • Hippocrates Coacae Praenotiones notes by John Johnson Amsterdam 1660
  • Avicenna Opera 2 vols. 1608 Venice
  • Vesalius De humana Corporis fabrica 8 Books 1555
  • Fallopius Opera Frankfurt 1600
  • Marcello Malpighi De viscerum structura London 1669
    • Malpighi de formatione Pulli in Ovo London 1673
    • Malpighi de Viscerum Structura London 1669
  • Gerolamo Cardano Opera 10 vol. Leyden 1663
  • Jan Swammerdam Uteri Muliebris Fabrica London 1680
    • Swammerdam of Respiration Leyden 1667
  • Thomas Bartholin Anatomia Reformata Leyden 1651
    • Bartholin de Medicina Danorun Domestica Hannover 1666
    • Bartholin de Luce Animalium Leyden 1647
    • Bartholin Historiar. Anatomic. rarior. Cent. VI 3 vol. Hannover 1654
    • Bartholin de Pulmonum Substantia et Motu Hannover 1663
    • Bartholin de Lacteis Thoracicis London 1652
    • Bartholin de Ovariis Mulierum & Generat. Historia 1678
  • Thomas Sydenham Observations Medical London 1676
    • Sydenham de Podagra & Hydrope London 1683
    • Sydenham Schedula Monitora de nova Febris Ingressu London 1686
    • Sydenham Epist. duae de Morbis Epidem. & de Lue Venera London 1680
    • Sydenham Differtatio Epistolaris London 1682
  • Caspar Bauhin Pinax theatri botanici Basle 1633
  • Walter Charleton
  • Henry Martini anatomia Urinae Galeno-Spagyrica Frankfurt 1659
  • Francis Glisson De ventriculo London 1677
  • Franz de la Boe a.k.a. Franciscus Sylyius
  • Hieronymus Fabricius Opera Anatomica Paris 1625
  • Charles Estienn De dissectione Corporis humani 1545
  • Jean Fernel Cosmotheoria 1528
  • Galen Opera 5 books in 3 vols. Basle 1538
  • Pierre Gassendi Vita Epicuri Leyden 1647
    • Gassendi de apparente magnitudine solis humilis et sublimis Paris 1642
    • Gassendi Instit. Astromia item Galileo et Kepler 1683
  • William Harvey De Generatione London 1651
    • Harvey Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus 1648


  • Athanasius Kircher, Oedipus Aegyptiacus Rome 1652
    • Kircher China illustrated Amsterdam 1667
  • Gaffarel Unheard-of Curiosities Paris 1650
  • Elias Ashmole ed. Theatrum Chemicum Brittanicum 1652
  • Giambattista della Porta Natural Magic 1644
    • J.B. Porta Villa 12 Books Frankfurt 1592
    • J.B.Porta Phytognomica Naples 1588
    • J.B.Porta Coelestis Physiogranonia Naples 1603
    • J.B.Porta de Miracoli & Maravigliosi Effetti dalle Natura prodotti Venice 1665
  • Martin Ruland Dictionary of alchemy 1612
  • Franceso Giorgio Harmonia Mundi Venice 1525
  • Paracelsus Opera Medico-ChimicaFrankfurt 1603
  • Arthur Dee Fasciculus Chemicum
  • Thomas Vaughan 'A Hermeticall Banquet drest by a Spagyrical Cook'
  • Tommaso Campanella 7 Astrological books Frankfurt 1630
  • Marin Mersenne Quaestiones Celeberrimae in Genesim 1st ed. Paris 1623
  • Vossius De Idolatria (1642)
  • Archangulus Cabalistarum Selectiora Obscurioraque Dogmata Venice 1569
  • Henry Ranzovus Astrologia Scientiae Certitudo 1585
  • Petrae Nosologia Harmonica Dogmatica and Hermetica 1615
  • Helvetius Miraculo transmutandi Metallica Antwerp 1667
  • Sendivogius The true secret Philosophy Castille 1651
  • Raymund Lull Vademecum, quo sontes Alchemica Art 1572
  • Theatrum Chemicum 5 vols. Strasbourg 1613
  • Basil Valentine Currus Triumphalis with fig. Amsterdam 1671

Natural History




  • A Facsimile of the 1711 Sales Auction Catalogue of Sir Thomas Browne and his son Edward's Libraries. Introduction, notes and index by J.S.Finch pub. E.J.Brill Leiden 1986


  • Music, mysticism and Magic - A sourcebook ed. Joscelyn Godwin pub. Arkana 1986
  • The Strategy for Truth-Leonard Nathanson Chicago University Press 1967
  • The greatest benefit to Mankind. A medical history from antiquity to the present. Roy Porter Harper and Collins 1999