John Aubrey (1626-97) was one of the best-connected scholars and antiquaries in the great decades of the British scientific revolution. Immersed in the intellectual fervour of the era, he is best remembered today for his Brief Lives, a collection of compelling portraits of a generation of eminent thinkers.
While Aubrey gained a reputation in his own time as a pioneer antiquary and archaeologist, his full intellectual range was much broader. Sociable by nature, he was one of the Founding Fellows of the Royal Society of London and acquainted with all the leading scientists of the generation of Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton. Aubrey championed Hooke's radical ideas on geology and the origin of fossils, and with Hooke he also worked on the construction of a workable artificial language. A pioneer archaeologist too, Aubrey produced the most profound analysis of ancient megaliths undertaken at that time. In addition, Aubrey was an early donor of books, manuscripts, and many other items to both the Bodleian Library and the recently opened Ashmolean Museum.
John Aubrey and the Advancement of Learning presents all of Aubrey's varied interests and pursuits within the intellectual context of his times. Published to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society, this is the first accessible and illustrated guide to Aubrey's many diverse achievements as a biographer, antiquary, mathematician, `natural philosopher' and all-round virtuoso.
William Poole is a Fellow of New College, Oxford. His interests lie in early-modern intellectual and literary history. His recent books include The World Makers (2010), and he is currently editing the correspondence of John Aubrey.