“Inside Dee’s Miraculous Mind” Lecture In Conjunction With “Lost Library” Exhibit

As posted on this blog last year, the lost library of John Dee is being exhibited at the Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4LE through July 29 this year. In addition to the exhibition the College will host an evening lecture on May 9 ‘Inside Dee’s miraculous mind.’

The College’s site describes the exhibition thusly:

‘A revelatory show. As the visitor peers, he finds himself drawn ever more deeply not just into the historical world of the Tudors but into the labyrinthine mind of one of its most riveting denizens’ The Times, Let Tudor magician John Dee put you under his spell

Mathematician, magician, astronomer, astrologer, imperialist, alchemist and spy, John Dee (1527–1609) continues to fascinate and inspire centuries after he entered the court of Elizabeth I.

Our exhibition explores Dee through his personal library. On display for the first time are Dee’s mathematical, astronomical and alchemical texts, many elaborately annotated and illustrated by Dee’s own hand. Now held in the collections of the Royal College of Physicians, they reveal tantalising glimpses into the ‘conjuror’s mind’.

The authors and subjects of Dee’s books are wide-ranging, and reflect his extraordinary breadth of knowledge and expertise. They include diverse topics such as mathematics, natural history, music, astronomy, military history, cryptography, ancient history and alchemy.

These books give us an extraordinary insight into Dee’s interests and beliefs – often in his own words – through his hand-written illustrations and annotations. The books are identified as belonging to Dee by these annotations, by Dee’s distinctive signature and by evidence from both Dee’s and the RCP’s library catalogues. Details all the books at the RCP believed to have been Dee’s are available in the library catalogue and in the handlist to the collection and exhibition.

While Dee travelled to Europe in the 1580s, he entrusted the care of his library and laboratories to his brother-in-law Nicholas Fromond. But according to Dee, he ‘unduely sold it presently upon my departure, or caused it to be carried away’. Dee was devastated by the destruction of his library. He later recovered some items, but many remained lost.

We know that a large number of Dee’s books came into the possession of Nicholas Saunder. Little is known about Saunder, or whether he personally stole Dee’s books. He may have been a former pupil; the presence of multiple copies of some books in Dee’s library catalogue suggests that he kept additional copies for pupils. Saunder must have known that his books once belonged to Dee, because he repeatedly tried to erase or overwrite Dee’s signature with his own. Given that several books have part of the title page missing, we can also assume that Saunder probably cut and tore signatures from some books.

Saunder’s collections later passed to Henry Pierrepont, the Marquis of Dorchester: a devoted book collector. Dorchester’s family presented his entire library to the RCP after his death in 1680, where this exceptional collection of early printed books remains today.

READ MORE: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/events/scholar-courtier-magician-lost-library-jo


Thanks to Soror Hypatia for the tip!

Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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