John Evelyn

Alternative Title

John Evelyn engraving by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1689?)
Diary and correspondence of John Evelyn, v.1

Date Created




H.G. Bohn: London


John Evelyn was born in Wotton, Surrey, in 1620. He spent most of his early life in Lewes, Sussex. After being educated at Balliol College, Oxford, he spent several years travelling in Europe. Evelyn was a supporter of Charles I and after the King's execution in 1649 he went into exile. Evelyn returned in 1652 and eventually became a Fellow of the Royal Society. After the Restoration Evelyn joined the royal court of Charles II. In 1661 he published a book on pollution, The Inconvenience of the Air and Smoke of London Dissipated. This was followed by A Disclosure of Forest Trees (1664). After the Great Fire of London in 1666 Evelyn submitted proposals for the rebuilding of the capital. He also published Navigation and Commerce (1674). He died in 1706. His diaries covering the years 1641-1706 were found in an old clothes-basket in 1817 and provide vivid portraits of public figures of the period.

On his death, one major work by John Evelyn remained unpublished. It was an encyclopaedia prepared during the 1650s which he entitled Elysium Britannicum. Evelyn later extracted and published various sections from it, for example Sylva, and Acetaria, and continued to enlarge the manuscript throughout his life. However he lost confidence in his ability to finish the work, believing that the amount of information it should contain was beyond the ability of one man to assemble.

There have been several attempts to bring the work to publication, but the poor condition of the manuscripts, the absence of various sections referred to, and the multiple versions of other sections, made the task very difficult. This modern printing is the first edition of this complex work.




Kneller, Godfrey, “John Evelyn,” | OUR Heritage, accessed February 6, 2023,