Special Collections and University Archives

Oxford: Anthony Stephens, 1683

Called by critic David Furley “the most complete analysis of the atomic composition of matter prior to twentieth-century nuclear physics,” DE RERUM NATURA is a brilliant poetic rendering of the Epicurean philosophy of natural science and the moral responsibility of man.

Written in hexameters with an emphasis on alliteration and assonance, DE RERUM NATURA was published in an unfinished state shortly after Lucretius’ death (c. 55 BC).

In DE RERUM NATURA, Lucretius attempts to show (as did Epicurus) the path to an ideal life. The only way to attain the ideal life is to understand the true nature of things. A basic assumption of Lucretius is that all things are attributable to
natural causes.

Early in the poem Lucretius expounds the Epicurean system of “primordia rerum,” the “first things”; i.e., atoms. Divided into ten books, DE RERUM NATURA denies supernatural control of man’s life and speaks out against organized religion, which
Lucretius saw as instilling unrealistic fear in man’s mind. Books I and II deal essentially with the basic nature of matter—atoms. Book III considers the nature of man’s soul. Book IV concerns experience through the senses, while Books V and VI deal with the formation of the world and the universe, the origin of life, and such natural, explainable phenomena as thunder and earthquakes.

This 1683 Oxford printing is the second edition in English.

– William K. Finley

Collector’s Talk and Reception
October 19th, 2010
4 -6 PM

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