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The Anatomy of Melancholy (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – April 30, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

This edition retains the original Latin, while providing bracketed English translations.

About the Author

Burton was a passionate student of medicine, history, literature, and science.

William H. Gass is the author of four novels Omensetter's Luck, Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife, The Tunnel, and Middle C as well as two volumes of short stories and eight collections of essays. Gass was a professor of philosophy at Washington University from 1966-2000, and Director of the International Writers Center from 1990 until 2000. He has been the recipient of many awards, including the Pen-Nabokov Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, and National Book Critics Circle Awards for Criticism in 1985, 1996, and 2003, among others.
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 1382 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review Books; 1st edition (April 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940322668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940322660
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 2.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
First of all, one has a very difficult problem in defining exactly what this compendium is. Is it a book, a poem, a history, an epic? Well, I think it is all of those and many more. The Anatomy of Melancholy is, without a doubt, the best book ever written, bar none.
It was compliled from all the books of the 17th century and is not really about melancholy, per se. It is, rather, Robert Burton's view of mankind and mankind's condition. All mankind. And all conditions. It is about melancholia, sure, but it is about everything else as well. Melancholia was just Burton's excuse to write about everything under the sun in a strikingly original way and then have the nerve to remind us that there is nothing new under the sun. This is a book filled with both endless quotes and endless quotable material and, to the surprise of many, it is a comic masterpiece. Perhaps "the" comic masterpiece. Burton chose to publish this book as having been written by "Democritus Junior," and if that doesn't give you a hint regarding the humor that follows, then not much will.
If you like good literature, you'll love this book. If you like psychology, you'll love this book. If you want to seem pretentious, you need this book. Mostly, however, this is a book for people who love words. Burton may have seemed like a raving madman to some, but he was a man obsessed with a love for the English language...and it shows.
The Anatomy of Melancholy wasn't meant to be read from the first page to the last; I have never met anyone who did that and one would have to be more than a little mad to even try. Just pick up the book. Open it to any page. You may find lists, digressions, bits of 17th century prose, quotes, much Latin.
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Format: Paperback
Of all the editions of THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY that have ever been published, this may be the best for the general reader. The NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS CLASSIC edition wisely reprints the great 1932 Everyman's Library edition, with its wonderful introduction by the noted bookman Holbrook Jackson. (Readers are advised to skim or skip the rather pretentious new introduction by William H. Gass.)
Unlike the "all-English" edition referenced..., the Everyman/NYRBClassic edition gives the Latin tags as Burton scattered them through his work and translates each and every one, either in brackets immediately afterward, or (sometimes) in an endnote to each of the three volumes (now bound as one). I've tried to read the "all-English" edition, and it's disappointing, because it turns out that Burton wanted readers to read the Latin tags whether they could understand them or not. He included their syllables in the rhythm of his prose, so as you read this edition, you can almost hear him quote, then translate, then continue onward.
No booklover should skip this one, and this is the edition to have.
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Format: Paperback
The Anatomy of Melancholy may be a worthwhile read. However, the publication of this text by CreateSpace (check the publisher for the book you're considering) is awful! It's ugly, cheaply produced, and missing large quantities of text without reason or explanation.

To begin, the cover is an eyesore. The plain black text indicating the title and author is surrounded by a hideous orange border. "Voted #1" is emblazoned in the corner; a tacky, transparent marketing ploy. I would be embarrassed to have someone see this book on my bookshelf.

Opening this tastelessly bound book, after being warned that the contents may not be accurate due to the rapidly changing nature of the internet (???), you will find that the text appears to have been formatted in Microsoft Word. It is hideous and pretty much unreadable.

If one does make the mistake of trying to read it, one will find that most of the book is missing! I think that this book may actually be "Part 1" of The Anatomy of Melancholy. Is the publisher even aware of this? Who knows. There is no introduction, no translations for the Latin passages, nothing. For all appearances, the publisher googled _The Anatomy of Melancholy_, copied the text he found into Microsoft Word, and printed out copies using a book binding machine he bought off of Ebay.

Do yourself a favor and avoid this publication. CreateSpace (aka Helpful Solutions) is manufacturing kindling, not literature. Buy the book from another publisher.
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Format: Paperback
Don't be misled by the title of this book, nor by what others may have told you about it. In the first place, it isn't so much a book about 'Melancholy' (or abnormal psychology, or depression, or whatever) as a book about Burton himself and, ultimately, about humankind. Secondly, it isn't so much a book for students of the history of English prose, as one for lovers of language who joy in the strong taste of English when it was at its most masculine and vigorous. Finally, it isn't so much a book for those interested in the renaissance, as for those interested in life.
Burton is not a writer for fops and milquetoasts. He was a crusty old devil who used to go down to the river to listen to the bargemen cursing so that he could keep in touch with the true tongue of his race. Sometimes I think he might have been better off as the swashbuckling Captain of a pirate ship. But somehow he ended up as a scholar, and instead of watching the ocean satisfyingly swallowing up his victims, he himself became an ocean of learning swallowing up whole libraries. His book, in consequence, although it may have begun as a mere 'medical treatise,' soon exploded beyond its bounds to become, in the words of one of his editors, "a grand literary entertainment, as well as a rich mine of miscellaneous learning."
Of his own book he has this to say : "... a rhapsody of rags gathered together from several dung-hills, excrements of authors, toys and fopperies confusedly tumbled out, without art, invention, judgement, wit, learning, harsh, raw, rude, phantastical, absurd, insolent, indiscreet, ill-composed, indigested, vain, scurrile, idle, dull, and dry; I confess all..." But don't believe him, he's in one of his irascible moods and exaggerating. In fact it's a marvelous book.
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