The Anatomy of Melancholy: Robert Burton's masterwork

Cover of the original book and portrait of the author
Book now

Celebrating the 400th anniversary of an extraordinary book

This is an online-only event hosted on the British Library platform. Bookers are sent a viewing link shortly before the event and are able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

Robert Burton's labyrinthine, beguiling, playful 1621 masterpiece The Anatomy of Melancholy is his attempt to 'anatomize and cut up' every aspect of the condition of melancholy, from which he had suffered throughout his life. It ranges over beauty, digestion, the planets, alcohol, demons, kissing, poetry and the restorative power of books, among many other things. Constantly amended by Burton, in numerous editions, it has fascinated figures from Samuel Johnson and Laurence Sterne to Jorge Luis Borges since the 17th century, and remains an incomparable examination of the human condition in all its flawed, endless variety.

The landmark new Penguin edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy features an introduction and notes by Dr Angus Gowland, who discusses Burton’s extraordinary work at this event with Dr Mary Ann Lund. The event includes a look at some early editions of the book, with British Library curator Tanya Kirk. 

Buy a copy of The Anatomy of Melancholy at checkout for £45 (UK orders) and watch the event at no extra cost.* 

Angus Gowland is a Reader in Intellectual History and University College London and a specialist in early modern European psychology, medicine, and natural and moral philosophy. In his work on Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy, he has written about early modern theories of melancholy, the ways in which these related to contemporary philosophical, religious, and political contexts, and their literary expression. He is also interested, more broadly, in early modern ideas about human nature and selfhood, and the various forms in which these were expressed.

Mary Ann Lund is Associate Professor in Renaissance English Literature at the University of Leicester and a specialist in the history of medicine and religion. Her acclaimed new A User's Guide to Melancholy (Cambridge University Press, 2021) is an acclaimed introduction to Robert Burton’s encyclopaedic masterpiece, Her other books are The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne, Vol. 12 (OUP, 2017) and Melancholy, Medicine and Religion in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

*Prices include postage and packaging (£3 for UK orders and £7.50 for non-UK orders). Books will be dispatched after the event, normally within 7 days. Please ensure your postal address is up to date on your British Library account before placing your order. 

The British Library is a charity. Your support helps us open up a world of knowledge and inspiration for everyone. Donate today.


Name: The Anatomy of Melancholy: Robert Burton's masterwork
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Online Full Price: £5.00
Online Member: £5.00
Online Event w/Book (The Anatomy of Melancholy) (UK postage): £45.00
Online Event w/Book (The Anatomy of Melancholy) (Non-UK postage): £47.50
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
Book now