An earthly paradise in Norwich
21.08.2021 Ruth Scurr
Thomas Browne

The Norfolk-based writer, physician and antiquary, Sir Thomas Browne (1605–82), deserves to be much better remembered and not only for his many contributions to the vocabulary of science – “electricity”, “medical”, “deductive”, “anomalous” and “coma”, among them. When John Evelyn visited Browne in 1671 at his home in Norwich opposite the church of St Peter Mancroft, he found Browne’s house and garden, “a Paradise & Cabinet of rarities, & that of the best collection, especially Medails, books, Plants, natural things”. 

Evelyn noticed, “amongst other curiosities, a collection of the Eggs of all the foule & birds he could procure . . . as Cranes, Storkes, Eagles . . . & variety of waterfoule”. In collaboration with researchers at Queen Mary University working on The Complete Works of Sir Thomas Browne for Oxford University Press, curators at the Royal College of Physicians have resurrected Browne and his enthusiasms in a small but exquisitely constructed exhibition. Visiting it is as close as anyone can get today to the paradise Evelyn encountered.
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