Thomas Browne: De Quincunx, or The Garden of Cyrus

(1084 words)

No work of the mid-seventeenth century better illustrates the variety of world-views available to the naturalist and the experimental philosopher than Thomas Browne's The Garden of Cyrus(1658). Also known as de Quincunx (from the diamond figure of four points plus the centre-point), its ostensible purpose was to discover quincunxes, or figures of five, in the natural and the artificial world – in plants, in battle-formations, in the angle of incidence in which light strikes the retina. These examples alone indicate the eccentricity of the project, a quality which has both delighted and bothered Browne's readers. Although it is true that Cyrus is a catalogue of quincunxes, or “emphaticall decussations”,…

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Preston, Claire. "De Quincunx, or The Garden of Cyrus". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 04 July 2003
[, accessed 01 December 2015.]