The Digital Ark

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Browne's Coffin Plate

Sir Thomas Browne's Coffin Plate [Photograph].
Click image for full-size.
Subject of/in a documentThomas Browne (19 Nov 1605-19 Oct 1682) In Print: Souvenir of Sir Thomas Browne, With Twelve Illustrations, and Notes, n.p. Description:"An impression taken from the coffin plate commemorative of Sir Thomas Browne. It is in the form of an heraldic scutcheon, seven inches in length by six in breadth. It had been carefully preserved by the late Mr. Robert Fitch, and after his death it was restored by his relatives to the Church of St. Peter Mancroft, in the vestry of which it is now placed.

On opening the vault belonging to the Browne family in the chancel of the Church of St. Peter Mancroft, in August, 1840, the workmen
accidentally broke the lid of the coffin containing the skeleton of Sir Thomas Browne. Mr. R. Fitch, who was present at the time, observes:
‘This circumstance afforded me an opportunity of inspecting the remains of that great man. The bones of the skeleton were in good preservation, particularly those of the skull; the brain was considerable in quantity, quite brown and unctuous; the hair profuse and perfect, of a fine auburn colour. The coffin plate, which was also broken into two nearly equal halves, was of brass, and in the form of a shield; it bore the following inscription:

Amplissimus Vir
Dns Thomas Browne Miles Medicinae
D Annos Natus 77 Denatus 19 Die
Mensis Octobris, Anno Dni. 1682.
Hoc loculo indormiens, Corporis Spagirici
Pulvere Plumbrun in Aurum

Sleeping in this coffin, by the dust of his alchemic body,
he converts the lead into gold" (Williams, n.p.)