Lot 121
  • 121

Browne, Sir Thomas

5,000 - 7,000 USD
3,750 USD
bidding is closed


  • Browne, Sir Thomas
  • Letter signed ("Tho Browne"), to Sir William Dugdale
  • paper
Discussing the history of embanking and drainage in the English fens and elsewhere, discussing the practices of the ancient Britons ("...had good inducement to cleare their grounds of water, yet how indisposed they were for works of so high a nature, seems probable from their insufficiencie in minor Acts..."), Romans, Dutch, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Mexicans, with a three-line autograph subscription ("Sir I am Your very respectfull freind And well-wisher"), 4 pages, folio (310 x 192 mm), Norwich, 11 December 1658

[with:] autograph note by Browne, discussing land reclamation in Holstein, 1 page, 4to (195 x 150mm), c. January–February 1659

Both with contemporary marginal markings, notes, and underlining, presumably by Dugdale; damp damaged with nicks and tears, professionally conserved

[also with:] Two letters to Dr Eli Moschowitz, following his publication of the letter, 1925–1927; in a blue collector's slipcase and matching box.


Dr. Eli Moschcowitz (1879–1964) — Sotheby's, 2 March 1965, lots 474 and 475. acquisition: Purchased at the foregoing sale through Dawson


The Works of Sir Thomas Browne, ed. G. Keynes (1964), pp. 341-345

Catalogue Note

"...The Cawsie observed over the fennes, from Denver [in Norfolk] unto Peterborough, makes probable proofe of ancient Roman labours; for waters were to be turned, bankes and sluces contrived, before it could well be raysed..."

A fine example of scholarly antiquarianism in a letter written between two of the greatest historians of their time. This letter and the related manuscript show the keen collaboration between the two men when Dugdale was engaged in his History of Imbanking and Drayning, which was published in 1662. The history of land drainage features prominently in their surviving correspondence of the period, and Browne acknowledged receipt of the "excellent Note ... touching the Drayning made of late years by the Duke of Holstein" in a letter of 24 February 1659. Dugdale's book was published with an acknowledgement to Browne, "from whom I ... received much direction for my better guidance." Browne's surmise, quoted above, that the 24-mile Fen Causeway was of Roman origin has been confirmed by modern archaeology.