A Wayfarer’s Reading List

Lister’s journal was reflective of his aggressively exploratory, yet disciplined, intellect. Month by month, Lister noted the texts in his pocketbook that he had read or had been assigned in his medical studies, his reading list reflecting the medical school’s mixture of established works and those of the ‘new science’. In addition to the traditional medical texts by Hippocrates and Galen, as well as Dioscorides’ De Re Medica, Lister was exposed to the novel theories of chymical medicine, vitalism and Cartesian philosophy. He perused  the first issues published of the Philosophical Transactions and the Journal Des Sçavans.

His journey to France was not just to study medicine, but was part of the ‘grand tour’ of a gentleman. In 1661, Sir Thomas Browne wrote to his son advising him to lose his pudor rusticus abroad by practising a ‘handsome gard and Civil boldness which he that learneth not in France travaileth in vain’. 1.

It was thus not surprising that in addition to observations about his studies, Lister made detailed notes in his pocketbook and memoirs about his journeys, visits to gardens and libraries in Paris, French manufacturing methods, viniculture, French literature and drama, and rules of politesse and art connoisseurship.

For instance, Lister noted that he had read the Latin poems of Martial, the letters of Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac (1597-1654), comedies of Corneille, and even a historical account of the Council of Trent in 1545. Also under the heading of Lectiones Achevées, he recorded several French versions of conduct books akin to Baldassare Castligione’s Courtier; he studied de Cailliere’s La Fortune des Gens de Qualité as well. As Robert Iliffe has commented, ‘the cultural education of the scholarly gentlemen required both social and philosophical accomplishments’. 2

Lister’s Complete Travelling Bibliography

If Lister did not indicated the particular edition that he read, the first edition is listed when appropriate.

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  1. Thomas Browne,  The Letters of Sir Thomas Browne, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (London, 1946), vol. 4, 4-5.
  2.  R. Iliffe, ‘Foreign bodies: Travel, empire and the early royal society of London’, Canadian Journal Of History 33 (1998) 357-385, on p. 362.

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