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Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars

on 8 January 2007
This is a very complete and detailed Life of Elias Ashmole. It examines all of his interests in considerable depth, and as such there is something to be gained from this book whatever your particular interest. There is plenty of detail about Freemasonry in the seventeenth century, some very interesting insights into Alchemy, some of the reasons behind the founding of the Royal Society and so forth, as well as the basic biographical content.

My interest was mainly in the book as a biography, and as I reached the end of it I felt that I had an understanding not only of what Ashmole did and where he spent his life - the sort of information provided by other shorter missives - but because the author attempts to draw sensible conclusions about Ashmole's reasoning as he deals with the various challenges in his life, I also obtained a feeling for his personality. This is not easy to do and the author is to be congratulated on this achievement.

At a time when some of the wealthy had their private "cabinets of curiosities", Ashmole created the world's first public museum, and the book provides an intriguing insight into Ashmole's motivation for doing this.

If I'm really critical, one aspect that was not so good and that I found annoyed me as I read, was the use of too many metaphors, some of them excruciating - "While Ashmole's wisdom was well rooted and watered in the past, he delighted in the flora of futurity". Or possibly worse, when the author describes something that "...provided the golden thread in the velvet of his life". There are more, but I can't bring myself to repeat them.

In my paperback edition, some of the illustrations were too dark, particularly of houses, churches, view across fields and the like - making it difficult to make out any significant detail in them to the extent that the point of including them was lost.

However this is minor detail and probably only annoying to me because excessive metaphor usage is a pet hate of mine!

Overall a very worthwhile read about a significant seventeenth-century personality who has been neglected in favour of better-known individuals.
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