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Home Making the “round of knowledge” in Bacon’s wake: Naudé, Comenius, and Browne

MAKING THE “ROUND OF KNOWLEDGE” IN BACON’S WAKE: NAUDÉ, COMENIUS, AND BROWNE1


Christopher D. JOHNSON*

Abstract. This paper examines how three of Francis Bacon’s readers, Gabriel Naudé, Jan Amos Comenius, and Thomas Browne, rethink the humanist library, the genre of the silva, and Bacon’s call for a new kind of encyclopedism. Naudé adumbrates the organization and contents of the ideal library so that judicious readers may integrate the old and new learning. In calling for a single pansophist book, Comenius heralds Bacon’s inductive method and yet would restore metaphysics to the encyclopedia. And after his own efforts in Baconian encyclopedism in the Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Thomas Browne writes a catalogue of books and artifacts that is at once an elegy to the republic of letters and a ludic plea to include admiratio in “the round of knowledge.” This diverse reception history emblemizes the rich, often contradictory potential of Bacon’s encyclopedic vision.

Keywords: Francis Bacon, Gabriel Naudé, John Evelyn, Jan Amos Comenius, Thomas Browne, library, encyclopedia

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