A profound and delightful jeu d’esprit of a book, mixing biography, etymology, cultural history and quixotic scientific experiments. Aldersey-Williams pulls the unfairly neglected yet enormously influential writer Thomas Browne out of the obscure pages of Pseudodoxia Epidemica and into the 21st century, to apply his generous curiosity and rational intelligence to the vagaries and contradictions of life today. Browne has had some impressive fans (Sebald, Woolf, Borges, Poe, Marias) but this book will revive him, bringing his extraordinary genius to a whole new audience.
“[A] delightfully eccentric homage to the 17th-century physician and writer Sir Thomas Browne…a triumph. With humour, humility (from the Latin humus, earth) and intelligent generosity, Aldersey-Williams brings Sir Thomas splendidly to life, urns and all.” - Ian Thomson, Financial Times
“Aldersey-Williams proves to be a sure guide, piecing together a delightful portrait of a man who “stands at the gates of modern science and yet remains happily in thrall to the ancient world and its mysteries.”” - Jim Holt, The New York Times Book Review
“I cannot conceive of a reader who will not find some nugget of delight in this, even if they do not go on to read Browne himself. Its sense of limitless curiosity is in keeping with its subject. Many of Browne's devotees have commented on his lightness of touch and it is a quality shared by this book.” - Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday