John Dee - The Private Diary of Dr John Dee (3.4 MB)
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This volume (published in 1841-2 by the council of the Camden society) holds two documents, his private diary and his library catalogue (compiled by himself before his house was plundered by the populace). His private diary was written in very small illegible hand on the margins of old almanacs and was discovered by Mr. W. H. Black, in the library of the Ashmolean museum at Oxford. The diary covers the years between 1554-1601. The entries are often short and to the point, even when discussing the philosopher's stone or his s... More >>>
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This volume (published in 1841-2 by the council of the Camden society) holds two documents, his private diary and his library catalogue (compiled by himself before his house was plundered by the populace). His private diary was written in very small illegible hand on the margins of old almanacs and was discovered by Mr. W. H. Black, in the library of the Ashmolean museum at Oxford. The diary covers the years between 1554-1601. The entries are often short and to the point, even when discussing the philosopher's stone or his sporadic meetings with his monarch, Queen Elizabeth. It is quite a fascinating read, for it flits between the mundane and yet necessary tasks of running a household, such as settling wages, to the more extreme sides of life such as hauntings and suicides.
One such event, the death of his nurse Anne Frank, is chilling to read. He states that she 'had long byn tempted by a wycked spirit'. (Aug 22nd 1590) After Dee saves her from drowning herself in a well, (Sep 8th 1590) she eventually takes her life on September 29th of the same year: 'Nurse Anne Frank most miserably did cut her owne throte, afternone abowt four of the clok, pretending to be in prayer before her keeper...'
Nestled between these life changing events are references to the weather which blends the landscape with emotions. Subject matter covers everything from bear baiting to the Northwest Passage. His entry on January 24th 1583 notes a meeting with the likes of John Davis (Davys) regarding this matter: '...where onely we four were secret, and we made Mr. Secretarie privie of the N.W. passage, and all charts and rutters were agreed upon in generall'.
When the NorthWest passage or the deaths of others, such as noting the passing of 'good Sir Francis Walsingham' (April 16th 1590) are not occupying his thoughts, Dee recounts his ailments and the ways in which he combats them. The cure for the passing of his kidney stone is documented on March 31st 1594 as: '..but I drunk a draught of white wyne and salet oyle, and after that, crab's eyes in powder with the bone in the carp's head...' Entries such as the passing of a eclipse (Feb 25th 1598) and of a comet (Nov 22nd 1581) are duly noted alongside accounts of the births and christenings of his many children. This diary is a living reminder that Dr John Dee embraced the mundane and the magical throughout his life and it should be read and treasured by any Dee enthusiast.
John Dee (July 13, 1527 - 1608) was a noted British mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, occultist, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He also devoted much of his life to alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy.
Dee straddled the worlds of science and magic just as they were becoming distinguishable. One of the most learned men of his age, he had been invited to lecture on advanced algebra at the University of Paris while still in his early twenties. Dee was an ardent promoter of mathematics and a respected astronomer, as well as a leading expert in navigation, having trained many of those who would conduct England's voyages of discovery. In one of several tracts which Dee wrote in the 1580s encouraging British exploratory expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage, he appears to have coined the term "British Empire."
Simultaneously with these efforts, Dee immersed himself in the worlds of magic, astrology, and Hermetic philosophy. He devoted much time and effort in the last thirty years or so of his life to attempting to commune with angels in order to learn the universal language of creation. A student of the Renaissance Neo-Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, Dee did not draw distinctions between his mathematical research and his investigations into Hermetic magic and divination, instead considering both ventures to constitute different facets of the same quest: the search for a transcendent understanding of the divine forms which underlie the visible world.
Dee's status as a respected scholar also allowed him to play a role in Elizabethan politics. He served as an occasional adviser and tutor to Elizabeth I and nurtured relationships with her two leading ministers, Francis Walsingham and William Cecil.
In his lifetime Dee amassed the largest library in England and one of the largest in Europe.