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'A cabinet of rarities': the curious collections of Sir Thomas Browne
Mon, 30 Jan 2017, 09:00 – Thu, 27 Jul 2017, 17:00 GMT
Collector of rarities, debunker of myths, inspiration to writers and doctors alike, conjuror of words and witness at a witch trial.
Sir Thomas Browne is probably the greatest British genius you’ve never heard of.
This new exhibition uncovers a man of unbounded curiosity who saw the extraordinary in the everyday. It is the story of a polymath who was ruled by logic, but believed in witches and testified in a notable witch trial at Bury St Edmunds. A conscientious physician who saw the divine everywhere in his work.
Thomas Browne’s life speaks of a tumultuous time in British history when science, faith, medicine and superstition were uneasy bedfellows.
One of the greatest coiners of words, he introduced over 700 to the English language that we still use today, from coma to computer, electricity to exhaustion, hallucination to herbaceous, medical to migrant. His publications and their elegant, ingenious prose have inspired celebrated literary figures from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Woolf and EM Forster to Armistead Maupin and Jorge Luis Borges.
The great diarist John Evelyn said ‘his whole house and garden is a paradise’ and described it as home to ‘the best collection’. Using manuscript letters and notebooks, animal and plant specimens, books, paintings and personal artefacts, a fragment of Sir Thomas Browne’s great ‘Cabinet of rarities’ will be reconstructed as the centrepiece of this celebration of his remarkable existence and exceptional achievements.
In 2017 discover one of the 17th century’s most remarkable and elusive figures.
Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm. See website for details of additional closure days.