Sir Thomas Browne (1683) Certain Miscellany Tracts. Tract XIII: Musæum Clausum, pp. 193-




Bibliotheca Abscondita:


Some remarkable Books, Antiqui-
ties, Pictures and Rarities of
several kinds, scarce or never seen
by any man now living.

Passages from MS. Sloane 1847 and “1874”, if that is not a mistake of Wilkin’s, are supplied from Wilkin’s edition and are marked in blue-gray


WITH many thanks I return that noble Catalogue of Books, Rarities and Singularities of Art and Nature, which you were pleased to communicate unto me. There are many Collections of this kind in Europe. And, besides the printed accounts of the Musæum Aldrovandi, Calceolarianum, Moscardi, Wormianum; the Casa Abbellita at Loretto, and Threasor of S. Dennis, the Repository of the Duke of Tuscany, that of the Duke of Saxony, and that noble one of the Emperour at Vienna, and many more are of singular note. Of what in this kind I have by me I shall make no repetition, and you having already had a view thereof, I am bold to present you with the List of a Collection, which I may justly say you have not seen before.

The Title is, as above,

Musæum Clausum, or Bibliotheca Abscondita: containing some remarkable Books, Antiquities, Pictures and Rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living.

I. Rare and generally unknown

A Poem of Ovidius Naso, written in the Getick Language,3 during his exile at Tomos, found wrapt up in Wax at Sabaria, on the Frontiers of Hungary, where there remains a tradition that he died, in his return towards Rome from Tomos, either after his pardon or the death of Augustus.

2. The Letter of Quintus Cicero, which he wrote in answer to that of his Brother Marcus Tullius, desiring of him an account of Britany, wherein are deescribed the Country, State and Manners of the Britains of that Age.4

3. An Ancient British Herbal, or description of divers Plants of this Island, observed by that famous Physician Scribonius Largus, when he attended the Emperour Claudius in his Expedition into Britany.5

An exact account of the Life and Death of Avicenna6 confirming the account of his Death by taking nine Clysters together in a fit of the Colick; and not as Marius the Italian Poet delivereth, by being broken upon the Wheel; left with other Pieces by Benjamin Tudelensis, as he travelled from Saragossa to Jerusalem, in the hands of Abraham Jarchi, a famous Rabbi of Lunet near Montpelier, and found in a Vault when the Walls of that City were demolished by Lewis the Thirteenth.7

5. A punctual relation of Hannibal’s march out of Spain into Italy, and far more particular than that of Livy, where about he passed the River Rhodanus or Rhosne; at what place he crossed the Isura or L’isere; when he marched up toward the confluence of the Sone and the Rhone, or the place where the City Lyons was afterward built; how wisely he decided the difference between King Brancus and his Brother, at what place he passed the Alpes, what Vinegar he used, and where he obtained such quantity to break and calcine the Rocks made hot with Fire.8

6. A learned Comment upon the Periplus of Hanno the Carthaginian, or his Navigation upon the Western Coast of Africa, with the several places he landed at; what Colonies he settled, what Ships were scattered from his Fleet near the Æquinoctial Line, which were not afterward heard of, and which probably fell into the Trade Winds, and were carried over into the Coast of America.9

7. A particular Narration of that famous Expedition of the English into Barbary in the ninety fourth year of the Hegira, so shortly touched by Leo Africanus, whither called by the Goths they besieged, took and burnt the City of Arzilla possessed by the Mahometans, and lately the seat of Gayland; with many other exploits delivered at large in Arabick, lost in the Ship of Books and Rarities which the King of Spain took from Siddy Hamet the King of Fez, whereof a great part were carried into the Escurial, and conceived to be gathered out of the relations of Hibnu Nachu, the best Historian of the African Affairs.

8. A Fragment of Pythæas that ancient Traveller of Marseille; which we suspect not to be spurious, because, in the description of the Northern Countries, we find that passage of Pythæas mentioned by Strabo,9a that all the Air beyond Thule is thick, condensed and gellied, looking just like Sea Lungs.

9. A Sub Marine Herbal, describing the several Vegetables found on the Rocks, Hills, Valleys, Meadows at the bottom of the Sea, with many sorts of Alga, Fucus, Quercus, Polygonum, Gramens and others not yet described.

10. Some Manuscripts and Rarities brought from the Libraries of Æthiopia, by Zaga Zaba, and afterward transported to Rome, and scattered by the Souldiers of the Duke of Bourbon, when they barbarously sacked that City.

11. Some pieces of Julius Scaliger, which he complains to have been stoln from him, sold to the Bishop of Mende in Languedock, and afterward taken away and sold in the Civil Wars under the Duke of Rohan.

12. A Comment of Dioscorides upon Hyppocrates, procured from Constantinople by Amatus Lusitanus, and left in the hands of a Jew of Ragusa.

13. Marcus Tullius Cicero his Geography; as also a part of that magnified Piece of his De Republica, very little answering the great expectation of it, and short of Pieces under the same name by Bodinus and Tholosanus.

14. King Mithridates his Oneirocritica.
Aristotle de Precationibus.
Democritus de his quæ fiunt apud Orcum, & Oceani circumnavigatio.
[A defence of Arnoldus de Villa Nova, whom the learned Postellus conceived to be the author of De Tribus Impostoribus.]
Epicurus de Pietate.
A Tragedy of Thyestes, and another of Medea, writ by Diogenes the Cynick.
King Alfred upon Aristotle de Plantis.
Seneca’s Epistles to S. Paul.
King Solomon de Umbris Idæarum, which Chicus Asculanus, in his Comment upon Johannes de Sacrobosco, would make us believe he saw in the Library of the Duke of Bavaria.10

15. Artemidori Oneirocritici Geographia.
Pythagoras de Mari Rubro.
The Works of Confutius the famous Philosopher of China, translated into Spanish.

16. Josephus in Hebrew, written by himself.

17. The Commentaries of Sylla the Dictatour.

18. A Commentary of Galen upon the Plague of Athens described by Thucydides.

19. Duo Cæsaris Anti-Catones, or the two notable Books written by Julius Cæsar against Cato; mentioned by Livy, Salustius and Juvenal; which the Cardinal of Liege told Ludovicus Vives were in an old Library of that City.
Mazhapha Einok, or, the Prophecy of Enoch, which Ægidius Lochiensis, a learned Eastern Traveller, told Peireschius that he had found in an old Library at Alexandria containing eight thousand Volumes.11

20. A Collection of Hebrew Epistles, which passed between the two learned Women of our age Maria Molinea of Sedan, and Maria Schurman of Utrecht.12
A wondrous Collection of some Writings of Ludovica Saracenica, Daughter of Philibertus Saracenicus a Physician of Lyons, who at eight years of age had made a good progress in the Hebrew, Greek and Latin Tongues.

2. Rarities in Pictures.

1. A Picture of the three remarkable Steeples or Towers in Europe built purposely awry and so as they seem falling. Torre Pisana at Pisa, Torre Garisenda in Bononia, and that other in the City of Colein.

2. A Draught of all sorts of Sistrums, Crotaloes, Cymbals, Tympans, &c. in use among the Ancients.13

3. Large Submarine Pieces, well delineating the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, the Prerie or large Sea-meadow upon the Coast of Provence, the Coral Fishing, the gathering of Sponges, the Mountains, Valleys and Desarts, the Subterraneous Vents and Passages at the bottom of that Sea ; the passage of Kircherus in his Iter Submarinus when he went down about Egypt, and rose again in the Red Sea. Together with a lively Draught of Cola Pesce, or the famous Sicilian Swimmer, diving into the Voragos and broken Rocks by Charybdis, to fetch up the golden Cup, which Frederick, King of Sicily, had purposely thrown into that Sea.14

4. A Moon Piece, describing that notable Battel between Axalla, General of Tamerlane, and Camares the Persian, fought by the light of the Moon.

5. Another remarkable Fight of Inghimmi the Florentine with the Turkish Galleys by Moon-light, who, being for three hours grappled with the Basha Gallery, concluded with a signal Victory.

6. A delineation of the great Fair of Almachara in Arabia, which, to avoid the great heat of the Sun, is kept in the Night, and by the light of the Moon.

7. A Snow Piece, of Land and Trees covered with Snow and Ice, and Mountains of Ice floating in the Sea, with Bears, Seals, Foxes, and variety of rare Fowls upon them.

8. An Ice Piece describing the notable Battel between the Jaziges and the Romans, fought upon the frozen Danubius, the Romans settling one foot upon their Targets to hinder them from slipping, their fighting with the Jaziges when they were fallen, and their advantages therein by their art in volutation and rolling contention or wrastling, according to the description of Dion.

9. Socia, or a Draught of three persons notably resembling each other. Of King Henry the Fourth of France, and a Miller of Languedock; of Sforza Duke of Milain and a Souldier; of Malatesta Duke of Rimini and Marchesinus the Jester.15

10. A Picture of the great Fire which happened at Constantinople in the Reign of Sultan Achmet. The Janizaries in the mean time plundring the best Houses, Nassa Bassa the Vizier riding about with a Cimetre in one hand and a Janizary’s Head in the other to deter them; and the Priests attempting to quench the Fire, by pieces of Mahomet’s Shirt dipped in holy Water and thrown into it.16

11. A Night Piece of the dismal Supper and strange Entertain of the Senatours by Domitian, according to the description of Dion.17

12. A Vestal Sinner in the Cave with a Table and a Candle.18

13. An Elephant dancing upon the Ropes with a Negro Dwarf upon his Back.19

14. Another describing the mighty Stone falling from the Clouds into Ægospotamos or the Goats River in Greece, which Antiquity could believe that Anaxagoras was able to foretell half a year before.20

15. Three noble Pieces; of Vercingetorix the Gaul submitting his person unto Julius Cæsar; of Tigranes King of Armenia humbling presenting himself unto Pompey; and of Tamerlane ascending his Horse from the Neck of Bajazet.

16. Draughts of three passionate Looks; of Thyestes when he was told at the Table that he had eaten a piece of his own Son; of Bajazet when he went into the Iron Cage;21 of Oedipus when he first came to know that he had killed his Father, and married his own Mother.

17. Of the Cymbrian Mother in Plutarch who, after her overthrow by Marius, hanged her self and her two Children at her feet.22

18. Some Pieces delineating singular inhumanities in Tortures. The Scaphismus of the Persians. The living truncation of the Turks. The hanging Sport at the Feasts of the Thracians. The exact method of flaying men alive, beginning between the Shoulders, according to the description of Thomas Minadoi, in his Persian War. Together with the studied tortures of the French Traitours at Pappa in Hungaria: as also the wild and enormous torment invented by Tiberius, designed according unto the description of Suetonius. Excogitaverunt inter genera cruciatûs, ut largâ meri potione par fallaciam oneratos repentè veretris deligatis fidicularum simul urinæque tormento distenderet.23

19. A Picture describing how Hannibal forced his passage over the River Rhosne with his Elephants, Baggage and mixed Army; with the Army of the Gauls opposing him on the contrary Shore, and Hanno passing over with his Horse much above to fall upon the Rere of the Gauls.

20. A neat Piece describing the Sack of Fundi by the Fleet and Souldiers of Barbarossa the Turkish Admiral, the confusion of the people and their flying up to the Mountains, and Julia Gonzaga the beauty of Italy flying away with her Ladies half naked on Horseback over the Hills.24

21. A noble Head of Franciscus Gonzaga, who, being imprisoned for Treason, grew grey in one night, with this Inscription,25

O nox quam longa est quæ facit una senem.

22. A large Picture describing the Siege of Vienna by Solyman the Magnificent, and at the same time the Siege of Florence by the Emperour Charles the Fifth and Pope Clement the Seventh, with this Subscription,26

Tum vacui capitis populum Phæaca putares?

23. An exquisite Piece properly delineating the first course of Metellus his Pontificial Supper, according to the description of Macrobius; together with a Dish of Pisces Fossiles, garnished about with the little Eels taken out of the backs of Cods and Perches; as also with the Shell Fishes found in Stones about Ancona.27

24. A Picture of the noble Entertain and Feast of the Duke of Chaulnes28 at the Treaty of Collen, 1673. when in a very large Room, with all the Windows open, and at a very large Table he sate himself, with many great persons and Ladies; next about the Table stood a row of Waiters, then a row of Musicians, then a row of Musketiers.

25. Milltiades, who overthrew the Persians at the Battel of Marathon and delivered Greece, looking out of a Prison Grate in Athens, wherein he died, with this Inscription,29

Non hoc terribiles Cymbri non Britones unquam
Sauromatæve truces aut immanes Agathyrsi.

26. A fair English Lady drawn Al Negro, or in the Æthiopian hue excelling the original White and Red Beauty, with this Subscription,30

Sed quandam volo nocte Nigriorem.

27. Pieces and Draughts in Caricatura, of Princes, Cardinals and famous men; wherein, among others, the Painter hath singularly hit the signatures of a Lion and a Fox in the face of Pope Leo the Tenth.31

28. Some Pieces A la ventura, or Rare Chance Pieces, either drawn at random, and happening to be like some person, or drawn for some and happening to be more like another; while the Face, mistaken by the Painter, proves a tolerable Picture of one he never saw.

29. A Draught of famous Dwarfs with this Inscription,32

Nos facimus Bruti puerum nos Logona vivum.

30. An exact and proper delineation of all sorts of Dogs upon occasion of the practice of Sultan Achmet; who in a great Plague at Constantinople transported all the Dogs therein unto Pera, and from thence into a little Island, where they perished at last by Famine:33 as also the manner of the Priests curing of mad Dogs by burning them in the forehead with Saint Bellin’s Key.34

31. A noble Picture of Thorismund King of the Goths as he was killed in his Palace at Tholouze, who being let bloud by a Surgeon, while he was bleeding, a stander by took the advantage to stab him.35

32. A Picture of rare Fruits with this Inscription,36

Credere quæ possis surrepta sororibus Afris.

33. An handsome Piece of Deformity expressed in a notable hard Face, with this Inscription,37

Julius in Satyris qualia Rufus habet.

34. A noble Picture of the famous Duel between Paul Manessi and Caragusa the Turk in the time of Amurath the Second; the Turkish Army and that of Scanderbeg looking on; wherein Manessi slew the Turk, cut off his Head and carried away the Spoils of his Body.38

3. Antiquities and Rarities of several sorts.

1. Certain ancient Medals with Greek and Roman Inscriptions, found about Crim Tartary; conceived to be left in those parts by the Souldiers of Mithridates, when overcome by Pompey, he marched about the North of the Euxine to come about into Thracia.

2. Some ancient Ivory and Copper Crosses found with many others in China; conceived to have been brought and left there by the Greek Souldiers who served under Tamerlane in his Expedition and Conquest of that Country.

3. Stones of strange and illegible Inscriptions, found about the great ruines which Vincent le Blanc describeth about Cephala in Africa, where he opinion’d that the Hebrews raised some Buildings of old, and that Solomon brought from thereabout a good part of his Gold.101

4. Some handsome Engraveries and Medals, of Justinus and Justinianus, found in the custody of a Bannyan in the remote parts of India, conjectured to have been left there by Friers mentioned in Procopius, who travelled those parts in the reign of Justinianus, and brought back into Europe the discovery of Silk and Silk Worms.

5. An original Medal of Petrus Aretinus, who was called Flagellum Principum, wherein he made his own Figure on the Obverse part with this Inscription,

Il Divino Aretino.

On the Reverse sitting on a Throne, and at his Feet Ambassadours of Kings and Princes bringing presents unto him, with this Inscription,

I Principi tributati da i Popoli tributano il Servitor loro.

6. Mummia Tholosana; or, The complete Head and Body of Father Crispin, buried long ago in the Vault of the Cordeliers at Tholouse, where the Skins of the dead so drie and parch up without corrupting that their persons may be known very long after, with this Inscription,102

Ecce iterum Crispinus.

7. A noble Quandros or Stone taken out of a Vulture’s Head.103

8. A large Ostridges Egg, whereon is neatly and fully wrought that famous Battel of Alcazar, in which three Kings lost their lives.104

9. An Etiudros Alberti or Stone that is apt to be always moist: usefull unto drie tempers, and to be held in the hand in Fevers instead of Crystal, Eggs, Limmons, Cucumbers.

10. A small Viol of Water taken out of the Stones therefore called Enhydri, which naturally include a little Water in them, in like manner as the Ætites or Aëgle Stone doth another Stone.

11. A neat painted and gilded Cup made out of the Confiti di Tivoli and formed up with powder’d Egg-shells; as Nero is conceived to have made his Piscina admirabilis, singular against Fluxes to drink often therein.105

12. The Skin of a Snake bred out of the Spinal Marrow of a Man.106

13. Vegetable Horns mentioned by Linschoten, which set in the ground grow up like Plants about Goa.107

14. An extract of the Inck of Cuttle Fishes reviving the old remedy of Hippocrates in Hysterical Passions.

15. Spirits and Salt of Sargasso made in the Western Ocean covered with that Vegetable; excellent against the Scurvy.

16. An extract of Cachunde or Liberans that famous and highly magnified Composition in the East Indies against Melancholy.108

17. Diarhizon mirificum; or an unparallel’d Composition of the most effectual and wonderfull Roots in Nature.

Rad. Butuæ Cuamensis.
Rad. Moniche Cuamensis.
Rad. Mongus Bazainensis.
Rad. Casei Baizanensis.
Rad. Columbæ Mozambiguensis.
Gim Sem Sinicæ.
Fo Lim lac Tigridis dictæ.
Fo seu
Cort. Rad. Soldæ.
Rad. Ligni Solorani.
Rad. Malacensis madrededios dictæ an. ℥ij.

M. fiat pulvis, qui cum gelatinâ Cornu cervi Moschati Chinensis formetur in massas oviformes.

18. A transcendent Perfume made of the richest Odorates of both the Indies, kept in a Box made of the Muschie Stone of Niarienburg, with this Inscription,109

— — Deos rogato
Totum ut te faciant, Fabulle, Nasum.

19. A Clepselæa, or Oil Hour-glass, as the Ancients used those of Water.110

20. A Ring found in a Fishes Belly taken about Gorro; conceived to be the same wherewith the Duke of Venice had wedded the Sea.

21. A neat Crucifix made out of the cross Bone of a Frogs Head.111

22. A large Agath containing a various and careless Figure, which looked upon by a cylinder representeth a perfect Centaur. By some such advantages King Pyrrhus might find out Apollo and the nine Muses in those Agaths of his whereof Pliny maketh mention.112

23. Batracchomyomachia, or the Homerican Battel between Frogs and Mice, neatly described upon the Chizel Bone of a large Pike's Jaw.113

24. Pyxis Pandoræ, or a Box which held the Unguentum Pestiferum, which by anointing the Garments of several persons begat the great and horrible Plague of Milan.114

25. A Glass of Spirits made of Æthereal Salt, Hermetically sealed up, kept continually in Quick-silver; of so volatile a nature that it will scarce endure the Light, and therefore onely to be shown in Winter, or by the light of a Carbuncle, or Bononian Stone.115

He who knows where all this Treasure now is, is a great Apollo. I’m sure I am not He. However, I am,

Sir, Yours, &c.


Original marginalia are in green.

1 Wilkin notes: “this curious Tract is well characterised by Mr. Crossley, as ‘the sport of a singular scholar. Warburton, in one of his notes on Pope, is inclined to believe that this list was imitated from Rabelais’s Catalogue of the Books in the library of St. Victor; but the design of the two pieces appears so different, that this suggestion seems entitled to little regard.’ — Preface to Tracts, 18mo. Edin. 1822.” [It was this Crossley who perpetrated upon Wilkin the joke (or fraud) of Fragment on Mummies, and I suspect he may well be the author of the parody On the Welsh Rabbit, although the latter be not nearly so polished a product as the former.]

Wilkin continues: “Bishop Warburton’s opinion seems to me, nevertheless, highly probable. It had been suggested to me by a passage in Religio Medici (Part I, § 21); and seems to be in perfect consonance with Sir Thomas’s character as a writer. He delighted, perhaps from the very originality of his own mind, to emulate the singularities of others. The preceding Tract [‘A Prophecy Concerning Several Nations’] was occasioned by some similar production which had been submitted to his criticism. His Christian Morals appears to have been written on the model of the Book of Proverbs; see an allusion, in his 21st section.”

I believe Crossley has the better of this argument, although certainly Rabelais’ list might have “suggested” Browne’s; but the contents and design of the two are so vastly different in intent, tone, and detail that it is dubious whether the idea is worth pursuing.

2 Wilkin quotes from d’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature 7th ed. vol. ii, 250: “The Irish antiquaries mention public libraries that were before the flood: and Paul Christian Ilsker, with profounder erudition, has given an exact catalogue of Adam’s!”

3 Ab pudet & scripsi Getico sermone Libellum. Tomis = modern Costanza in Romania; Ovid was exiled in 9 AD, for unknown reasons.

4 In 55 or 54 BC, when Quintus accompanied Julius Cæsar on his expedition to Britain. Browne laments the loss of this letter in Urn-Burial as well.

5 This too is mentioned in the Chapter II of Urn-Burial. We have begun to move away from works that almost certainly did exist once to works that may have existed (and eventually to works that Browne only wishes for).

6 Keynes notes that this “is probably an error for Averrhoes”, citing a fragment of Browne’s (“De peste”), but it was Avicenna who died of cholic in 1037, after vain attempts to treat himself. On the other hand, the story of being broke on a wheel is told of Averrhoes, who died in 1198 after having been persecuted for some years by the clerics and jurists of Morocco, who were trying to purify the country à la Khomeini (nothing is ever new).

7 Once again, Browne has (no doubt purposely) created a hash. “Abraham Jarchi, famous Rabbi of Lunet” = “Solomon Jarchi” (or Isaacites or Rashi, but that name seems to be a compound of the initials of his name, R. Salomon Isaacites, according to some, who also claim that Jarchi is the same name, turned about). He was probably born at Lunel and was possibly a Rabbi at Troyes. Details on his life are very much debatable; indeed, some authors give 1105 as the year of his birth, and others give that as the year of his death. Benjamin of Tudela (who died in 1138) mentions a rabbi Solomon (without giving another name) in his Itinerary, while praising the Jews of Lunel; but it is, I suppose, possible that he is praising a dead rabbi, rather than a living one. In any case, if Benjamin of Tudela placed anything in the hands of a rabbi Jarchi, he was not a “famous rabbi”. He is mentioned by his correct name in Pseudodoxia Epidemica VI.vii. The walls of Montpellier, largely constructed in the 13th century (and thus not available for Tudela to have planted any manuscripts in, but that is another question) were destroyed, along with a major part of Montpellier’s suburbs, under Louis XIII/Richelieu in 1622. Two towers remain of the walls, the Tour de Babelote, now a museum of astronomy, and the Tour des Pins, housing some of the city archives. Nostradamus is said to have predicted the city’s destruction “when there is no longer a tree” on this tower. Such a clear prediction is on the face of it not likely to be Nostradamus’s. (In an interesting twist, Louis XIII a few years later built “La Citadelle”, now a lycée, inside Montpellier: the world had moved from a place where cities defended themselves against armies to a place where armies defended themselves against cities.)

8 Most still questions of controversy. Browne mentions Livy, but many of his questions are in fact aroused by Polybius. The island, described as “rich and fertile”, may well not have been near or at Lyons, but rather at the confluence of the Isère, or possibly the Aygues, and the Rhone. Hannibal also crossed the Durance; he crossed the Rhone, possibly near Arles, in jetties and boats, and sent an advance party across somewhere further up to attack from the rear hostile tribes who were occupying the left bank. “King” Brancus and his unnamed brother were engaged in a civil war; Brancus aided Hannibal in return for Hannibal’s help in dealing with the brother. On the vinegar question, see Pseudodoxia Epidemica VII.xviii. Later, Browne says that he would also like a picture describing Hannibal’s passage over the Rhone.

9 Several commented versions of the Periplus are to be found on line. See Hanno for instance. On the possibility of Carthaginians in the new world, see the pages noted in section E (“Nationalists and Nuts”) of Hanno’s Periplus On the Web. About the explorer Hanno of Carthage. The page also mentions Browne’s Musæum Clausum.

9a Strabo II.4.1.

10 “Chicus Asculanus” = “Esculanus Cicchus” or Cecco d'Ascoli, 1269-1327.

11 “Ægidius Lochiensis” = Gilles of Loches. The story is told in Gassendi’s Life of Peiresc, englished by W. Rand in 1657 as The Mirrour of True Nobility & Gentility. Being the Life of the Renowned Nicolaus Claudius Fabricius Lord of Peiresk, Senator of the Parliament at Aix, pp. 89-90:

But [Peiresc] conceived great hopes of obtaining out of the East, both Coptic, and other rare Books … ; when about the very same time [1633], that very good man Ægidius Lochiensis a Capucine, returned out of Ægypt, where he studied the Oriental Languages, seven whole years together. For he being received with great exultation by Peireskius, from whom he had no small assistance in that Countrey; he told him of rare Books, which were extant in divers Covents and Monasteries. And memorable it is, how he saw a Library of eight thousand Volumes, many of which bore the marks of the Antonian Age. And because among other things, he said he saw Mazhapha Einock, or the Prophecie of Enoch, foretelling such things as should happen at the end of he World, a Book never seen in Europe, but was there written in the Character and Language of the Æthiopians or Abyssines, who had preserved the same: therefore Peireskius was so inflamed with a desire to purchase the same at any rate, that sparing no cost, he at length obtained it.

The text goes on to describe Gilles’ idea that all volcanos communicate underground.

12 Anna Maria Schurman of Utrecht, who published works in several languages, 1607-1678; Maria Molinea,

13 See also the Miscellany Tract “Of Cymbals” and the various articles in Smith’s Dictionary (e.g., Crotalum, Cymbalum, etc.).

14 “Cola Pesce” or “Nicholas the Fish”; see Salimbene: On Frederick II, 13th Century, or for Italian variants see I riflessi catanesi della storia di Cola Pesce (since the text on that page is hard to read, I have reproduced it here).

15 John Evelyn added a note in the MS: “Of Charles the First, and one Osburn, an hedger, whom I often employ.”

16 This fire occurred in November of 1607. Nassa or Nassus Basha was a great enemy of the Janizaries, and they of him.

17 In Dio Cass. LXVII, chap. 9.

18 A vestal virgin who broke her vows was entombed alive according to a specific formula. See Smith’s Dictionary (1875), s.v. The Vestal Virgins.

19 Elephants are shown dancing on ropes on some Roman coins. See also Pseudodoxia Epidemica III.1 on dancing elephants.

20 Pliny HN II.149 (in Holland's translation, Book II, Chap. 58).

21 On Bajazet’s cage and his use as a footstool, see Knolles.

22 In Plutarch’s Caius Marius27:

Here [a plain near Vercellæ] the greatest part and most valiant of the enemies [the Cimbri] were cut in pieces; for those that fought in the front, that they might not break their ranks, were fast tied to one another, with long chains put through their belts. But as they pursued those that fled to their camp they witnessed a most fearful tragedy; the women, standing in black clothes on their wagons, slew all that fled, some their husbands, some their brethren, others their fathers; and strangling their little children with their own hands, threw them under the wheels and the feet of the cattle, and then killed themselves. They tell of one who hung herself from the end of the pole of a wagon, with her children tied dangling at her heels. The men, for want of trees, tied themselves, some to the horns of the oxen, others by the neck to their legs, that so pricking them on, by the starting and springing of the beasts, they might be torn and trodden to pieces. Yet for all they thus massacred themselves, above sixty thousand were taken prisoners, and those that were slain were said to be twice as many.

23 Scaphismus (“boating”), is described by Plutarch in his Life of Artaxerxes: “They take two Boats made of purpose so even, that the one is neither broader nor longer then the other, and then lay the offender in one of them upon his back, and so cover him with the other, and do sow both Boats together: so that the feet, hands, and head do come out at holes made of purpose for him, the rest of his body is all hidden within. Now they give him Meat as much as he will eat, and if he will not eat, they force him to it, by thrusting Awles in his eyes: then when he hath eaten, they give him Honey to drink mingled with Milk, and they do not onely pour it into his mouth, but also all his face, over, turning him full into the Sun, so that his face is all covered with Flies: and furthermore, being driven to do his needs in that Trough, of his excrements there ingender Worms that eat his body to the very Privities. Then, when they see the man is dead, they take off the uppermost Boat, and find all his flesh devoured with Vermine ingendred of him, even to his very entrails. So, when Mithridates had miserably languished in this manner, seventeen days together, at length he died in extream torments.” (North’s translation, from the edition of 1676, p. 793.) The “living truncation” of the Turks explains itself. The “hanging sport” is described in a marginal note in Urn-Burial. Giovanni Thomaso Minadoi da Rougio describes the flaying of the “Macademo” of the Druse in his “Historia della guerra fra Turchi, et Persiana”, englished by Abraham Hartwell as “The History of the Warres betweene the Turkes and the Persians” (1595); pp. 310-311 of that edition:

As soone as this massacre [of the Druse soldiery] was finished, Ebrain [the Turkish leader] would have the death of the Macedomo to follow, and causing him to bee brought before him, he commaunded that without any delay he should be stripped, & flayed quick. The Macademo stoutely upbraided Ebrain with his promise, and his oath, and among divers speeches, that sometimes smiling, and somtimes threatning he uttered whiles they stripped him: Cut me off (quoth he) my members, and first putting them into the privities of that infamous Ebrains wife, put them afterward into the mouth of himselfe. For so (I trow) he will be contented and satisfied with my flesh. And pursuing his threates, he spake thus to those, that were to be the executioners of his dolorous death. It is your great good fortune in deed (quoth he) that with such violence, and so needlesse deformitie yee are now resolved to drink up my blood, and to take my life from me. For I do not think that any of you all, either had bin hable or durst, man to man, to draw one drop of my blood from me, no not to have endured my countenance: But go to, proceed in your wicked and unsatiable desire, and follow the impious commaundements of your Visier: for in the end there will light also upon you, the worthy punishment of this villanous fact. With these and divers other speeches, which the Macedomo thundred out of his inflamed brest, the miserable wretch (having been too credulous) was stripped, and three great slashes made on his back, where they began to flea him, he in the mean time not ceasing to blaspheme their Religion, and to curse their King, and their false Prophet also. And then the barbarous souldiers, pursuing their cruell action, made certaine other gashes upon his brest, and upon his stomake, and so drawing his skinne downeward, they could not bring it to his Navel, before he was dead, with most dolorous paines.

“French Traitours” at Pápa in Hungary: in 1600. Howell’s 1664 translation of János Nadányi's “Florus Hungaricus” describes the incident, pp. 225-226:

As the distempers of the Great ones were monstrous, so was the malign dispositions of the Souldiery. The French Garrison of Papa mutyning for their Pay, had seized and secured the Governour Michael Marechi, and slew all that opposed them, Conditioning with the Turk, for their Arrears, to deliver them the Castle; but the Turk, either mistrusting them, or too tenacious of his money, made no use of the advantage. News hereof being brought to Swarzenburg, he laid Siege to them, losing a great many men by a fierce Eruption of the French, who knew what they might trust to if taken, wherein himself also was slain by a Bullet. Kederus succeeded him in the Supreme Command, who beat the French back into the Town and there closely shut them up; but he also died of a sudden Disease before the surrender, and left the Atchievement to Nadasi; who having reduced them to a dog-hunger, and starved them to skin and bone, made them yield the place; at which time some few were by the pittyful Souldiers knockt on the head, the rest were tortured to death with most Exquisite Cruelties, some of them Choaked to death upon the Wheels of a Water-mill, after many Descents and Ascents; some Roasted with a slow Fire; and others given to the Dogs.

Knolles gives a more detailed and gruesome description, probably the one Browne has in mind. Suetonius, see Tiberius LXII:4.

24 See Rome and Neighbourhoods - Fondi (about midway down the page) for the story (in Italian).

25 This “inscription” appears as well in some notes of Browne’s (Sloane MSS. 1862-1866), collected by Wilkin as “Classical passages selected for mottoes”. Wilkin notes on this collection that in manuscript “1843, there occur several Anagrams sent me by my ever honored friend Sir Philip Wodehouse, and others; some, however, are not altogether fit for publication; and Sir Thomas’s own exclamation immediately following, Valete anagrammata! Nil mihi vobiscum! — shows his estimation of such things.” Martial Epig. IV.7.4.

26 In 1530, three years after the sack of Rome by the emperor's troops had inspired the citizens of Florence to a last attempt at what is usually termed “a republic”. The subscription is Juvenal Sat. XV.23.

27 Macrobius, Saturnalia III.13.12.

28 “Chausue” in the printed edition.

29 After Marathon, Miltiades was put in command of a fleet whose mission was to conquer islands that had sided with the Persians. The mission was unsuccessful and Miltiades was fined and imprisoned, where (probably) he died of a wound in about 488 B.C. The inscription is after Juvenal, XV: 124-125.

30 Martial Epigrams I, 115:4. The line is quoted as well in Queries Relating to Fishes, Birds, Insects.

31 Not an easy feat; see his (apparently accurate) portrait by Raphael at theWeb Gallery of Art.

32 Martial IX:5.

33 This episode, which occurred in 1613, is described in Knolles’ History of the Turks, p. 1332:

The Grand Seigniour [“Achmet, eighth Emperour of the Turks”] being returned to Constantinople after the great Plague, notwithstanding the Turkes hold a firme opinion of Predestination, and that they shall not die before their appointed time, and that the time of their death is written in their foreheads; yet apprehending the infection, by the advice of some about him, hee commanded all the dogges in the City of Constantinople, to bee transported unto Scutary in Asia (a Towne antiently called Chrisopolis) and for the due execution thereof, every housholder was to bring in his dogge first to the Cadi (which is the Iudge of the place) and to receive from him a Tuscany or Ticket for his passage, or else hee was to pay foure Chequines; by which meanes there were transported to the number of fifty thousand dogges. The reason of his sending them away, was, for that reading the Acts of his father, hee found that thirty yeares before, hee had sent away all the dogges for feare of the infection. The Sultan commanded allowance of bread and flesh to be carried every day to sustaine them, which not sufficing, the inhabitants were much oppressed, and ready to fall into mutiny; but by the advice of his Muphti, they were at length transported from thence to an Island that was not inhabited, some sixteene miles from Constantinople, where they all perished. Before their sending away, the Grand Seigniour had propounded to his Muphti, to have them all slaine: who made answere, That every dogge had a soule, and therefore it was not fit to kill them.

34 Or Saint Peter’s Key, really. “Mme de Créquy” tells of one way to cure rabies in humans, Book III, Chap. 5, involving St. Hubert, whose career involved attempting to halt a plague of rabies by marking all dogs with the sign of the cross. The cure for humans is somewhat more involved. The equivalent in Italy is St. Bellino or Saint Donino; in Provence, St. Dennis. According to the 1762 Nouvelle maison rustique, ou Économie générale de tous les biens de campagne “donnée ci-devant au publicpar le Sieur Liger”, page 603:

Suivant certaines personnes, pour empêcher que les chiens, qui auront été mordus de chiens, ou de loups enragés, n'en deviennent malades, on doit d’abord mener les chiens à Saint Hubert : si c'est en Italie, à Saint Donin & Saint Bellin, & en Provence, à Saint Denis. Lorsqu'on est trop éloigné des lieux qu'on vient de nommer, il y a assez de villages, où Saint Pierre est le Patron. On y tient une clef, qu'ils appellent la clef de Saint Pierre, qui est faite exprès pour flâtrer & brûler les chiens & bestiaux au milieu du front, leur brûlant le poil & le peau ; car, il faut que l'escarre en tombe: après on les ira jetter & plonger trois fois dans un étang, ou riviere, & on mettra le feu à l'endroit du corps, où il aura été mordu, pourvû que ce ne soit pas sur des nerfs ; & ensuite, on y appliquera une emplâtre de poix de Bourgogne, qui attirera tous le venin.

Warcupp in his 1660 Italy in its Original Glory, Ruine, and Revival, pp. 38-39:

[Rovigo] hath a Church dedicated to Saint Bellino, heretofore Bishop of Padua, the Priests whereof with miraculous success restore to health such as are bit by mad Dogs, whom they as suddainly cure as indubitably, with a certain exorcism, which if malignity proceeded in a natural course of Physick, would not only require the best skill but length of time. Whosoever reads the 36th Ch. of the 6th. Book of Diosc. and those other Tractates writ on that infirmity, may comprehend how great this miracle is. Mathioli in the cited fol. of Diosc. owned the success, and willing to deduce it from some natural cause, saith, that possibly these Priests might intermix some medicinal herb or secret with that bread which they are wont to bless for Dog-bitten Mad Persons: but this may easily be answered, For this Church is governed by two poor Priests who many times desert it; nor are they of a selected condition; and twere strange if since the time of Saint Bellino to this day none should arrive there but he must bring that medical secret with him. Secondly, they give but one little morcel of that blessed bread to a person, and it can scarce be imagined enough of the medicine should be conteyned in so small a parcel of Bread, for so wonderfully a dangerous disease. Thirdly the Nuns of Saint Petro in Padova, have an antient Key which was San Bellinos, which Key heated, and its sign made on the head of he mad Dogg, he never after that is troubled with the least sign of madness: Which being, to a certainty concluded, and the Physicians must per force confess, that tis a pure Miracle wrought by God at the intercession of San Bellino, who by the instigation of certain evil People, was torn in pieces by Doggs, and his glorious Corps layed up in the said Church of Polesne [i.e., in Rovigo].

35 Thorismund, A.D. 453. According to Jordanes, XLIII.228:

Now after the bands of the Huns had been repulsed by the Alani, without any hurt to his own men, Thorismud departed for Tolosa. There he established a settled peace for his people and in the third year of his reign fell sick. While letting blood from a vein, he was betrayed to his death by Ascalc, a client, who told his foes that his weapons were out of reach. Yet grasping a foot-stool in the one hand he had free, he became the avenger of his own blood by slaying several of those that were lying in wait for him.

36 After Juvenal, Satura 5, 152ff.

37 Martial Epig. X.xcix:

Si Romana forent haec Socratis ora, fuissent
Iulius in Saturis qualia Rufus habet.

38 The story is in Knolles’ History of the Turks, pp. 312-313.

101 Vincent Leblanc, Voyages fameux. Leblanc does not “opinion” this. nor is it at Sofala; he reports the opinion of others. See Stones of Cephala.

102 Juvenal, Satur. 4: 1.

103 Trevisa’s Bartholomaeus, Book XVI:84, “Quandros is a stone of vile coulour, but it is of a great vertue, as Diosc. saith, and is found in the head of a vulture: and helpeth against all evill causes, and filleth teates full of milke” is a close translation of the original: Quandros est lapis colore quidem viles, sed eximiæ virtutis, ut dicet Diosc. Et invenitur in capite vulturis. Vale contra quaslibet causas nociuas, & ubera lacte replet. I cannot find this in Dioscorides, nor is it in the extant remains of the original source of much of Bartholomaeus. Quandros is an odd word, especially if it is supposed to be Greek.

104 In 1578. According to John Polemon's Description of the battle, “These dead bodies of three kings being brought into one Pavillion, made an horrible spectacle, and wrong teares from the beholders. For what more sorrowfull and horrible a sight could there bee, than to beholde three most mightie kings, that died in one battaile, lying together. The armie of one of whom was vanquished when he lived, & after he was dead did straight waie overcome the armie of the other two kinges: and whereas all three did aspire to the kingdome of Marocco, none of them helde it.” Sir Thomas Browne had seen an ostrich “in the latter end of James his dayes, at Greenwich, when I was a schoolboy”, and later kept one in his garden, where “it soon ate up all the gilliflowers, tulip-leaves, and fed greedily upon what was green”.

105 Properly confetti di Tivoli, gravel from the Teverone at Tivoli.

106 Browne accepts the possibility of this kind of generation, grudgingly, in Pseudodoxia Epidemica III.7, page 132.

107 Linschoten, in the 1598 English translation of his Discours of Voyages into the East & West Indies, Chapter 51 (page 110):

Also there is a thing to bee wondered at, and seemeth unpossible to such as have not seene it: and this it is within towne and Iland of Goa, at the one end of the towne, where the Kine, Oxen, Shepe, and all kind of cattle are killed and slaine, to be solde for meate for the inhabitants, called Matauaquas: in that place there lye all the hornes of the saide beastes scattered and throwne about, as if they were altogether unprofitable, because the Portingalls and Indians use them not, and it is likewise a great dishonour, and injurie to the Spaniardes and Portingales, to have anye hornes, or once to shew a horne ech to other, or to throw it before his doore, for revenge of which act, they would kill each other, and there is sharpe Justice used, if any man doe offend in that sort, by shwing his neighbour the horne, or naming it unto him, for that thereby they meane he is a man that is made cookolde by his wife. These hornes having laine there a certaine time, doe sticke fast in the earth, (I meane the inner part of the horne) and there it taken roote as if it were a tree, as I my selfe have seene and pulled forth many of them, that had rootes of two or three spannes in length, which was never seene in any place of the world. The cause whereof hath been sought and searched by many curious speculations of strange things, but they could never find it out, and yet the earth is verie stonie. Whereby those of Goa, most oftentimes take it in good part, to heare them selves reported to be the greatest Cornudos, or wearers of hornes in all the world, because hornes in other places may at once be put off but theirs of Goa have taken roote, and therefore it is imopssible to cut them cleane away, for that because of the rootes, they will presently growe up againe, so that they must with patience beare them as long as they live.

In the 1667 History of the Royal Society, page 161, Philibert Vernatti denies the story:

Q. 8. What ground there may be for that Relation, concerning Horns taking root, and growing about Goa?

A. Inquiring about this, a Friend laught, and told me it was a Jeer put upon the Portugues, because the Women of Goa are counted much given to lechery.

Now, that the women of Goa are much given to lechery, Linschoten is in perfect agreement; indeed, the account of horns taking root comes just after a long description of ways that the wives of Goa use plants to drug their husbands to allow opportunities to indulge their criminal lechery. The answer, however, is not completely satisfactory: Linschoten, who was certainly no fool, claims to have seen the phenomenon frequently, while “a Friend” simply laughs. It would be useful to make the experiment, though probably hopeless in these days. I’d also have appreciated a description of the plant that grew from the horn, which might help in resolving the mystery, but it is a little late to be writing to Linschoten for further particulars.

108 Cachunde exists in Spanish, taken from the Portuguese and ultimately, it is alleged, from Malay: Pasta compuesta de almizcle, ámbar y cato, de la cual se forman unos granos que se llevan en la boca y sirven para fortificar el estómago. Some dictionaries add “by the Chinese”, others “in India”, and so forth. The word is supposed to be related to cato, an extract obained from vegetables. In Linschoten, this is connected again to the lechery of the women of Goa; Chapter 31 (page 61):

...for their common work is to sit all day, when their husbandes are out of doores, behind the mat, which hangeth at the window, alwaies chawing the hearbe Bettele, seeing those that passe by in the streetes, and no man seeth them: but as any man passeth by which liketh them, & they will let them have a sight, they lift up the mat, whereby they doe the passinger a great favour, and with that manner of shewing themselves and casting lookes, they make their beginnings of love, which by their slavish women they bring to effect: to the which end they do practise nothing elsee, but make it their onely worke, and to make nature more lively to abound and move them thereunto, they do use to eate those Betteles, Arrequas & chalk, and in the night it standeth by their bed sides, this they eate whole handfulls of Cloves, Pepper, Ginger, and a baked kind of meat called Chacunde, which is mixed and made of all kindes of Spices and hearbs, and such like meates, all to increase their leachery.

(Annotat. D. Pall.[udanus]) Cachunde in my opinion is made of the mixtures called Galiæ Moscatæ, with the sape of sweet wood: they are blacke cakes whereon certaine characters are printed, at the first very bitter of taste, but in the end verie pleasant and sweet, they strengthen the hart & the mawe, and make a swet breath.

109 Catullus XIII "ad Fabullum"13-14, with change.

110 Clepselæa: on the clepsydra, see Smith’s Dictionary. One of the chief problems with simple water clocks is that water will run faster or slower with different temperatures. I would think this effect would be magnified with an oil clock, though other problems (evaporation, for instance) might be avoided.

111 To understand what prompted this, look at the image on the right at Frog Skulls.

112 Pliny HN XXVII.iii.5

113 Why? This one stumps me, at least. For more of this kind of stuff, in the real world, see Edward Browne's description of the curiosities in the Imperial Library of Vienna. Browne’s silliness factor goes up and down in this tract, but hardly ever reaches the level of the silliness of real collections.

114 The great plague of Milan in 1630 was alleged to have been set in motion by the actions of a Milanese barber and the Commissioner of Public Health. The two were executed. The officials of Milan then erected a column and performed one of the last recorded damnatio memoriæ. The column was blown down in a storm 150 years later. It had inscribed on it:

Here, where this plot of ground extends, formerly stood the shop of the barber Giangiacomo Mora, who had conspired with Guglielmo Piazza, Commissary of the Public Health, and with others, while a frightful plague exercised its ravages, by means of deadly ointments spread on all sides, to hurl many citizens to a cruel death. For this, the Senate, having declared them both to be enemies of their country, decreed that, placed on an elevated car, their flesh should be torn with red-hot pincers, their right hands be cut off, and their bones be broken; that they should be extended on the wheel, and at the end of six hours be put to death, and burnt. Then, and that there might remain no trace of these guilty men, their possessions should be sold at public sale, their ashes thrown into the river, and to perpetuate the memory of their deed the Senate wills that the house in which the crime was projected shall be razed to the ground, shall never be rebuilt, and that in its place a column shall be erected which shall be called Infamous. Keep afar off, then, afar off, good citizens, lest this accursed ground should pollute you with its infamy. August, 1630.

115 Stones that glow with their own light, or in the dark. See, on bononian stone, The Bolognian Stone.

This page is by James Eason.