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EDITOR’S PRIEFA C E.
IT is very remarkable that notwithstanding their close relationship these two Treatises by Sir Thomas Browne have never been linked together in the same volume until now. RELIGIO MEDICI was the earliest production of his pen; that admirable Sequel CHRISTIAN MoRALs the last which fell from it. It is delightful to perceive the perfect harmony that reigns in both works although well nigh half a century rolled away between the respective periods of their composition. The pure and lofty thoughts which dwelt in his heart in the pensive evening of life were but the same that the author had cherished and avowed in the bright morn of early manhood.
RELIGIO MEDICI was at first surreptitiously published, in 1642. Even in those ‘dissonant times’ (to use the gentle phrase of Harry Lawes who lived in them) this piece of serene wisdom found so many readers that two editions were immediately disposed of. It came out under the author's sanction in the following year, and numerous reimpressions were called for in his lifetime. Some of his other works Sir Thomas Browne greatly altered and enlarged, but a majestic self-esteem led him to make no change whatever in this confession of faith after he had once delivered it to the world.
Its fate in one respect has been peculiarly untoward, for it has been constantly printed with great incorrectness. A table of errata prefixed to the authentick edition of 1643, shows that it underwent a nice examination by the author; who seems thenceforward to have left the care of the press to others, by whom the trust was discharged with singular indiligence. The subsequent editions were printed without any reference having been
made to that table ! A few of the errours pointed out in it were occasionally detected; but many have been constantly overpassed which mar the author’s meaning, and some that contradict and reverse it. The impression of 1682 (the year in which Sir T. B. died) is the faultiest of any, for it not only continues those important blunders but is deformed by many new ones. The latter have been avoided in the folio of 1686, but it leaves the others untouched. The reprint of 1736 cannot
claim even this modified praise.”
* There have been three modern editions of RELIGIO MEDICI. The first of these was printed at Oxford in 1831. The editor states that “every former edition is so corrupt, and so full of errata, as in many places to be utterly unintelligible.” But he himself never saw the table mentioned above, and he perpetuates errours which should have been cured by it.
The second modern edition appeared in the valuable collection of Sir Thomas Browne's Works printed at Norwich in 1835. Mr. Wilkin, the editor, candidly confesses that he did not discover until the last sheet had been worked off, that the errours enumerated in the table of 1643, had passed through every subsequent edition, his own included. He cancelled some, and gave an accurate account of the whole at the end of his preface.
The third was published in London in 1838. The editor did not consider it needful to undergo the fatigue of collating the
earlier impressions; he has not even used the information he