This exhibition looked at the experience and ideas of death, the corpse and posthumous life in 17th–century England. Its starting point was the writing of Norwich physician and author Sir Thomas Browne, whose extraordinary essay Urne-Buriall is an extended meditation on death, and particularly on what is left of us after we are gone: decaying remains, scraps of memories, and the possibility of eternal life. It looked at deaths, funerals, and resurrections as described in the sonorous language of the Book of Common Prayer and in the works of Shakespeare, Donne and Milton.
Alongside these, Death and the Doctor: presented the 17th-century fascination with funerary customs of other cultures, from pyramids to catacombs to funeral pyres. Through contemporary illustrations, it explored the use of the dead body in the rapidly developing science of anatomy and introduced Browne’s remarkable writings through Eton College Library’s fine collection of editions of his works.
Curated by Dr Lucy Gwynn, Deputy Director of Collections, Eton College.