Pseudodoxia Epidemica:




Very many received


And commonly presumed


By Thomas Brown Knight, M. D.

Based on The Sixth and Last Edition of 1672

Browne's notes;
{Browne's notes taken from other editions are in braces};
[Other notes are in brackets]

The text of this edition has been typed manually from the 1672 edition and carefully proofread. Please send any errors to me — Thanks. This page itself (the index page) has not been proofread and is still in progress. Thanks for bearing with me.

Page numbers (from the 1672 edition) are local anchors of the form <a id="page277"> etc. For instance, page 7 of the 1672 edition may be referenced as "". You may look at the source if you're interested.

Table of Contents

To the Reader

Book I: General Book II: Minerals and Vegetables Book III: Animals Book IV: Man Book V: Pictures Book VI: Geography and History Book VII: Scriptural and Historical

The First Book: Containing the General Part

Chapter I: Of the first cause of common Errors, the common infirmity of humane nature.Pages 1-4
Chapter II:A farther illustration of the same.Pages 5-8
Chapter III:Of the second cause of popular Errors, the erroneous disposition of the people.Pages 8-12
Chapter IV: Of the nearer and more Immediate Causes of Popular Errors, both in the wiser and common sort, Misapprehension, Fallacy, or false deduction, Credulity, Supinity, adherence unto Antiquity, Tradition and AuthorityPages 13-16
Chapter V: Of Credulity and Supinity.Pages 17-20
Chapter VI: Of obstinate adherence unto Antiquity.
Chapter VII: Of obstinate adherence unto Authority.
Chapter VIII: Of Authors who have most promoted popular conceits.
Chapter IX: Of Others indirectly effecting the same.
Chapter X: Of the last and great promoter of false opinions, the endeavours of Satan.
Chapter XI: A further Illustration.

The Second Book: Of sundry popular Tenents concerning Minerall, and vegetable bodies, generally held for trueth, which examined, prove either false, or dubious

Chapter I: The common Tenent, that Crystall is nothing else but Ice strongly congealed.
Chapter II: Concerning the Loadstone, of things particularly spoken thereof evidently or probably true; of things generally beleeved or particularly delivered evidently or probably false. Of the Magneticall vertue of the earth. Of the foure motions of the stone, that is, its verticity or direction, its coition or Attraction, its Declination, variation, and also of its Antiquity.
Chapter III:A Rejection of sundry opinions and Relations thereof, Naturall, Medicall, Historicall, Magicall.
Chapter IV:Of bodies Electricall in generall.
Of Iet and Amber in Particular, that they attract all light bodies, except Basil, and bodies oyled.
Chapter V:Compendiously of severall other Tenents.
1.That a Diamond is made soft, or broke by the blood of a Goate.
2.That Glasse is poyson, and of malleable Glasse.
3.Of the cordiall quality of Gold in substance or Decoction.
4.That a pot full of ashes will containe as much water as it would without them.
5.Of white powder that kils without report.
6.That Corall is soft under water, but hardeneth in the Ayr.
7.That Porcellane or China dishes lye under the earth an hundred yeares in preparation.
8.That a Carbuncle gives a light in the dark.
9.Of the Ægle-stone.
10.Of Fayrie stones.
11.Of some others.

Chapter VI:Of sundry Tenents concerning Vegetables.
1.That the roote of Mandrakes resembleth the shape of man.
That they naturally grow under Gallowes and places of execution.
That the roote givs a shreeke upon eradication.
That it is fatall or dangerous to dig them up.
2.That Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Mace, are but the parts or fruits of the same tree.
3.That Misseltoe is bred upon trees, from seeds which birds let fall thereon.
4.Of the Rose of Ierico that flowreth every yeare upon Christmas Eve.
5.That Sferra Cavallo hath a power to break or loosen Iron.
6.That Bayes preserve from the mischiefe of Lightning and Thunder.
7.That bitter Almonds are preservatives against Ebriety.

Chapter VII:Of some Insects, and the properties of severall plants.

1.Of the Dead-watch.
2.Of the presage of the year from the insects in oak Apples.
3.Of the seed of some plants.
4.Of the running of the sappe to the root.
5.That Camphire causeth impotency unto venery.
6.Of showers of wheat.
7.Of the names of plants.
8.Of mistakes arising from the same.
9.Of many others.

The Third Book: Of divers popular and received Tenents concerning Animals, which examined, prove either false or dubious

Chapter I: That an Elephant hath no joints.
Chapter II:That an Horse hath no gall.
Chapter III: That a Pigeon hath no Gall.
Chapter IV: That a Bever to escape the Hunter bites off his testicles or stones.
Chapter V: That a Badger hath the Legs of one side shorter than of the other.
Chapter VI: That a Bear brings forth her Cubs informous or unshaped.
Chapter VII: Of the Basilisk.
Chapter VIII: That a Woolf first seeing a man, begets a dumbness in him.
Chapter IXIV: Of the long life of Deer.
Chapter X: That a King-fisher hanged by the bill sheweth where the wind is.
Chapter XI: Of Gryphins.
Chapter XII: Of the Phoenix.
Chapter XIII: Of the pissing of Toads, of the stone in their head, and of the generation of Frogs.
Chapter XIV: That a Salamander lives in the fire.
Chapter XV: Of the Amphisbæna or Serpent with two heads moving either way.
Chapter XVI: That young Vipers force their way through the bowels of their dam.
Chapter XVII: That Hares are both male and female.
Chapter XVIII: That Moles are blinde and have no eyes.
Chapter XIX: That Lampries have many eyes.
Chapter XX: That Snayles have two eyes, and at the end of their hornes.
Chapter XXI: That the Chamæleon lives onely by Aire.
Chapter XXII: That the Ostridge digesteth Iron.
Chapter XXIII: Of the Unicornes horne.
Chapter XXIV: That all Animals in the land are in their kinde in the Sea.
Chapter XXV: Concerning the common course of Diet, in making choice of some Animals, and abstaining from eating others.
Chapter XXVI: Of Sperma-Ceti, and the Sperma-Ceti Whale.
Chapter XXVII: Compendiously of some others.
1. Of the musicall note of Swans before their death.
2. That the flesh of Peacocks corrupteth not.
3. That Storkes will onely live in Republicks and free States.
4. Of the noyse of Bitterne by putting the bill in a Reed.
5. That Whelps are blind nine dayes, and then begin to see.
6. Of the antipathy between a Toade and a spider,
7.       a Lion and a Cock.
8. That an Earewig hath no wings.
9. Of wormes.
10. That Flyes make that humming noyse by their mouths or wings.
11. Of the Tainct or small red Spider.
12. Of the Glowweworme.
13. Of the providence of Pismires in biting off the ends of Corn.
Chapter XXVIII: That the Chicken is made out of the yolk of the egge
That Snakes sting; with many others.

The Fourth Book: Of many popular and received Tenents concerning Man.

Chapter I:That man hath onely an erect figure and that to looke up to Heaven.
Chapter II:That the heart of a man is seated on the left side.
Chapter III:That plurisies are onely on the left side.
Chapter IV:Of the fourth finger of the left hand whereon we weare our Rings.
Chapter V:Of the right and left Hand.
Chapter VI:Of swimming: that some men swimme naturally, that men drowned do float the ninth day when their gall breaketh, women prone and men supine or upon their backs.
Chapter VII:That men weigh heavier dead then alive, and before meate then after.
Chapter VIII:That there are severall passages for meate and drinke.
Chapter IX: Of the custome of saluting or blessing upon sneezing.
Chapter X: That Iews stinke.
Chapter XI: Of pygmies.
Chapter XII: Of the great Climactericall yeare, that is 63.
Chapter XIII: Of the Canicular or Dog-dayes.

The Fifth Book: Of many things questionable as they are commonly described in Pictures

Chapter I: Of the picture of the Pelecan.
Chapter II: Of the picture of Dolphins.
Chapter III: Of the picture of a Grashopper.
Chapter IV: Of the picture of the Serpent tempting Eve.
Chapter V: Of the pictures of Adam and Eve With Navels.
Chapter VI: Of the pictures of the Iews and Easterne Nations at their feasts, and our Saviour at the Passeover.
Chapter VII: Of the pictures of our Saviour with long haire.
Chapter VIII: Of the pictures of Abraham sacrificing Isaac.
Chapter IX: Of the pictures of Moses with hornes.
Chapter X: Of the Scutcheons of the twelve Tribes of Israel.
Chapter XI: Of the pictures of the Sibyl.
Chapter XII: Of the picture describing the death of Cleopatra.
Chapter XIII: Of the pictures of the nine Worthies.
Chapter XIV: Of the picture of Iephtha sacrificing his daughter.
Chapter XV: Of the Picture of John the Baptist in a Camels skin.
Chapter XVI: Of the Picture of the Christopher.
Chapter XVII: Of the Picture of S George.
Chapter XVIII: Of the Picture of Jerome.
Chapter XIX: Of the Pictures of Mermaids, Unicornes, and some others.
Chapter XX: Of the Hieroglyphicall pictures of the Ægyptians.
Chapter XXI: Of the picture of Haman Hanged.
Chapter XXII: Compendiously of many popular customes, opinions, pictures, practises, and observations.
1. Of an Hare crossing the high way.
2. Of the ominous appearing of Owles and Ravens.
3. Of the falling of salt.
4. Of breaking the Eggeshell.
5. Of the true lovers knot.
Of the cheek burning, or eare tingling
6.Of speking under the Rose
7. Of smoak following the fairest
8.Of sitting crosse-leg'd
9.Of the set time of payring of nayles
10.Of haire upon Molls
11. Of Lions heads upon spouts and cisternes
12. Of the saying ungirt unblest.
13. Of the picture of God the Father
14. Of the picture of Sun, Moone, and the Winds.
15. Of the silly Howe or covering about some childrens heads.
16. Of being drunk once a month.
17. Of the appearing of the Devill with a cloven hoofe.
Chapter XXIII: Compendiously of many popular customes, opinions, pictures, practises, and observations.
1.Sundry divinations vulgarly raised upon spots in our nails.
2.That Children would naturally speak Hebrew.
3.Of refraining to kill Swallows.
4.Of lights burning dimme at the apparition of spirits.
5.Of the wearing of Corall.
6.Of Moses his rod in the discovery of Mines.
7. Of discovering of doubtfull matters by booke or staffe.
8.Of the nominall observation of the severall daies of the week.
9.Of many other.

The Sixth Book: Concerning Sundry Tenents Geographicall and Historicall.

Chapter I: Concerning the beginning of the world, that the time thereof is not precisely knowne, as commonly it is presumed.
Chapter II: Of mens enquiries in what season or point of the Zodiack it began, that as they are generally made they are in vaine, and as particularly, incertaine.
Chapter III: Of the divisions of the seasons and foure quarters of the yeare, according unto Astronomers and Physitians, that the common compute of the Ancients, and which is still retained by some, is very questionable.
Chapter IV: Of some computation of dayes, and diductions of one part of the yeare unto another.
Chapter V: A digression of the wisdome of God in the site and motion of the Sunne.
Chapter VI: Concerning the vulgar opinion that the earth was slenderly peopled before the floud.
Chapter VII: Of East and West, and properties respectively ascribed unto Countries.
Chapter VIII: Of the seven heads of Nile.
Of the greatnesse of Nile.
Of its Inundation and certaine time thereof.
That it never rayneth in Ægypt.
That divers Princes have attempted to cut the Isthmus or tract of land which parteth the Arabian and Mediterranean Sea.
Chapter IX: Of the Red Sea.
Chapter X: Of the blacknesse of Negroes.
Chapter XI: Of the same.
Chapter XII: A digression of Blacknesse.
Chapter XIII: Of Gypsies.
Chapter XIV: Of some others.

The Seventh Book: Concerning many Historicall Tenents generally received, and some deduced from the History of holy Scripture.

Chapter I: Of the Forbidden fruit.
Chapter II: That a man hath one Rib lesse then a woman.
Chapter III: That Methuselah must needs be the longest liver of all the posterity of Adam.
Chapter IV: That there was no Rainebow before the floud.
Chapter V: Of Sem, Ham and Iaphet.
Chapter VI: That the Tower of Babel was erected against a second deluge.
Chapter VII: Of the Mandrakes of Leah.
Chapter VIII: Of the three Kings of Collein.
Chapter IX: Of the food of John the Baptst in the wildernesse.
Chapter X: Of the conceite that John the Evangelist should not dye.
Chapter XI: Of some others more briefly.
Chapter XII: Of the cessation of Oracles.
Chapter XIII: Of the death of Aristotle.
Chapter XIV: Of the wish of Philoxenus to have the neck of a Crane.
Chapter XV: Of the lake of Asphaltites, or dead Sea.
Chapter XVI: Of divers other Relations.
1. Of the woman that conceived in a Bathe.
2. Of Crassus that never laughed but once.
3. That our Saviour never laughed.
4. Of Sergius the second, or Bocca de Porco.
5. That Tamerlane was a Scythian shepheard.
Chapter XVII: Of some others.
1. Of the poverty of Belisarius.
2. Of fluctus Decumanus or the tenth wave.
3. Of Parysatis that poysoned Statyra by one side of a knife.
4. Of the woman fed with poyson that should have poysoned Alexander.
5. Of the wandring Jew.
6. Of Pope Joane.
7. Of Frier Bacons Brasen head that spoke.
8. Of Epicurus.
Chapter XVIII: More briefly of some others.
1. That the Army of Xerxes drank whole Rivers dry.
2. That Haniball eate through the Alpes with Vinegar.
3. Of Archimedes his burning the Ships of Marcellus.
4. Of the Fabii that were all slain.
5. Of Milo, who by daylie lifting a Calfe, attained an ability to carry it being a Bull.
6. Of the death of Æschylus.
7. Of the cities of Tarsus and Anchiale built in one day.
8. Of the great ship Syracusia or Alexandria.
9. That the Pamphilian Sea gave way unto Alexander.
10. Of the Spartan boyes.
11. Of the speech of Balams Asse, and some others.
12. Of Cocles, Scævola and Curtius, and some others.
13. Of the strange Antiquities delivered by historians.
Chapter XIX: Of some Relations whose truth we feare.

Chapter Z: Of the Welsh Rabbit: An anonymous parody

This page is by James Eason.