Introducing the Memoirs

Lister’s memoirs are extant as Bodleian MS Lister 5, ff. 215-227, part of a larger folio volume of papers, notes, and extracts written by Lister about 1660-1710, chiefly concerning natural science, medicine, or botany. There are also miscellaneous papers bound within MS Lister 5, including (among others):

  • A legal document about an indenture of one of Lister’s servants
  • Lister’s tables of precious gems, organised according to the principles of Ramus
  • Lister’s queries about mining
  • A table of English Spiders that he compiled
  • His gardening plans and lists of bulbs for his retirement house in Epsom.
  • Observations of birds in Nottingham
  • Debates about the formation of fossils
  • Questions about circulation of plant sap
  • A list of books in ‘Lister’s study’, part of a cabinet of books he donated to the University of Oxford in later life
  • A list of engravings that Lister collected with valuations, as well as lists of artworks he espied in different French virtuosi’s cabinets during his visit of 1698
  • A statement of his position upon religious oaths of conformity
  • Family legal papers
  • Transcriptions from the works of Johannes Van Helmont (1579-1644)

A fully annotated transcription of the memoirs is available on this website. Particularly noteworthy are character sketches of people Lister encountered, and his opinions about French plays and literature.  We followed the editorial conventions below:

Original orthography, punctuation and capitalisation of the memoirs were reproduced, although the thorn (y) was expanded to “the” and modern practice was used for long ‘s’, where there is no ambiguity. ‘i’/’j’, ‘u’/’v were retained, as well as diphthongs in Latin or other ligatures, and accents in Latin and other languages. Titles of works published at the time or later (if the titles can be identified as such) referred were italicized, and where the original has underlining, it was replaced with italics.  In some cases where there was no punctuation in the letter extant, full-stops (periods) or paragraph breaks were placed between sentences for clarity, and these changes are indicated in the letter heading.

For alterations to the memoirs, illegibility or loss of text through damage to the document, we used the following editorial interventions:

[ ] = words that do not belong in the text

[roman] = author errors

[italic] = editorial insertions; examples might include [sic] or words necessary for sense but omitted in the manuscript

strikethrough = followed by words struck through

[[ ]] = illegibility or damage: in short instances we indicated by xxx how many letters are illegible; in longer instances we used [[several words]].

\ / = insertions above the line by the writer.  A footnote recorded insertions made by someone other than the writer.

\\ // = insertions in the margin by the writer

I wish to thank Professor Richard Sharpe for his suggestions about editorial conventions.

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