A new Penguin Classics edition of Burton's masterpiece - ostensibly a guidebook to melancholia or depression, in reality an all-encompassing examination of the human condition.
The Anatomy of Melancholy is the vast and only work by Robert Burton, the 17th-century English priest and scholar. It 'opens and cuts up' the condition of melancholy, or depression as we know it today, and in doing so explores a dizzying range of additional topics, including goblins, beauty, the geography of America, digestion, the passions, alcohol and kissing. Burton believed that reading was a cure for melancholy, and so the book itself - one of the most unique and uncategorisable works of all time - can be seen as a tonic for the very condition it describes.
Robert Burton (1577-1640) spent most of his life in Oxford, first as a student and later as a scholar. His most famous work, the enormous Anatomy of Melancholy, was first published in 1621 and expanded in further editions throughout Burton's life.
Angus Gowland is a Reader in Intellectual History at University College London.