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Richard Haydocke’s Oneirologia: A Manuscript Treatise on Sleep and Dreams, including the ‘Arguments’ of King James I

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image of Erudition and the Republic of Letters

Richard Haydocke’s manuscript treatise Oneirologia (1605) is a learned account in English of the medical nature of sleep and dreams. This article presents a commented edition of the manuscript, an account of the circumstances that led to its composition, and a commentary on its contents. Apparently composed on the orders of King James I (whose ‘arguments’ against rational discourse in sleep it includes), Oneirologia is a significant document in the history of early modern erudition. The treatise reflects the orthodox physiognomic and psychological explanations of sleep and dreaming expounded in the universities, as well as its author’s experience as a writer on and practitioner of the visual arts. A product of the febrile political climate in England around the time of the Gunpowder Plot, Oneirologia touches upon major themes in society and religion, including the nature of royal authority, mens rea, and divine revelation.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge, Trumpington St, Cambridge CB2 1PX, UK,


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