The Physician’s Religion and salus populi: The Manuscript Circulation and Print Publication of Religio Medici
Abstract

Abstract:

Some notes in the diary of the London intelligencer Samuel Hartlib constitute the first and hitherto only evidence we have, beyond the extant manuscripts themselves, for the manuscript circulation of Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici. This article explores the implications of these recently uncovered notes, which place the manuscript in the milieu of Hartlib, of the Puritan Essex noblewoman Lady Judith Barrington, and of the clergyman John Gauden, and allow consideration of who may have wished to publish Religio Medici, and why, and in particular whether Gauden may have been involved. After developing the implications of Browne’s connections with the individuals who we now know were involved in circulating the manuscript, the article turns to what these connections suggest about the significance of the first edition of Religio Medici, especially its engraved title page; the association of Religio Medici with contemporary political debates over the meaning of the Ciceronian tag salus populi suprema lex; and what this contributes to our understanding of the contemporary reception and potential political application of Religio Medici.