The antiquary: John Aubrey’s historical scholarship

Kelsey Jackson Williams

Research output: Book/ReportBook


John Aubrey (1626-1697), antiquary, natural philosopher, and virtuoso, is best-remembered today for his Brief Lives, biographies of his contemporaries filled with luminous detail which have been mined for anecdotes by generations of scholars. However, Aubrey was much more than merely the hand behind an invaluable source of biographical material; he was also the author of thousands of pages of manuscript notebooks covering everything from the origins of Stonehenge to the evolution of folklore. This work studies these manuscripts in full for the first time and in doing so explores the intricacies of Aubrey’s investigations into Britain’s past.

As such, the present volume is both a major new study of an important Early Modern writer and a significant intervention in the developing historiography of antiquarianism. It discusses the key aspects of Aubrey’s work in a series of linked chapters on archaeology, architecture, biography, folklore, and philology, concluding with a revisionist interpretation of Aubrey’s antiquarian writings. While covering a wide variety of scholarly territory, it remains rooted in the common thread of Aubrey’s own intellectual development and the continual interaction between his texts as he studied, discovered, revised, and rewrote them across four decades. Its conclusions not only substantially reshape our understanding of Aubrey and his works, but also provide new understandings of the methodologies, ambitions, and achievements of antiquarianism across early modern Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages206
ISBN (Electronic)9780191827808
ISBN (Print)9780198784296
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2016

Publication series

NameOxford English monographs


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