432. If This Be Magic, Let It Be an Art: John Dee

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Science, intrigue, exploration, angelic seances! It's the life and thought of Elizabethan mathematician and magician John Dee.



Further Reading

• W. Shumaker and J.L. Heilbron (eds), John Dee on Astronomy: Propaedeumata aphoristica (1558 and 1568) (Berkeley: 1978).

• J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps et al (eds), John Dee’s Diary, Catalogue of Manuscripts and Selected Letters (Cambridge: 2014).

• N. Clulee, John Dee’s Natural Philosophy: Between Science and Religion (Cambridge: 1988).

• S. Clucas (ed.), John Dee: Interdisciplinary Studies in English Renaissance Thought, (Dordrecht: 2006).

• P. French, John Dee: the World of an Elizabethan Magus (London: 1972).

• D.E. Harkness, John Dee’s Conversations with Angels (Cambridge: 1999).

• W. Sherman, John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the Renaissance (Amherst: 1995) 

• B. Wooley, The Queen’s Conjurer: the Science and Magic of Dr. John Dee, Adviser to Queen Elizabeth I (New York: 2001).


Luke on 12 November 2023


I've been waiting forever for you to dig into John Dee and Edward Kelley! Man Enochian magic is cool and so is the Lesser Key.

Luke on 12 November 2023

The Monas Hieroglyphica

Are you set on torturing yourself with that text for our sake? I have even seen people try to give accessible presentations of it, and they seemingly couldn't even begin to explain the mess that is John Dee's blurring of essence/existence, or the weird "Kabbalah" theories that don't look Kabbalistic.

Joshua Hillerup on 12 November 2023

Not writing a movie but...

I'm not writing a movie, but this is an episode I have been waiting for, as I found out about the History of Philosophy podcast from fans of the roleplaying game Mage the Ascension talking about it being a good source of inspiration for people running or playing in that game.

In reply to by Joshua Hillerup

Peter Adamson on 12 November 2023

Mage the Ascension

Makes sense. In D&D terms I reckon Dee is a level 7 Magic User (and Kelly a level 8 Thief).

dukeofethereal on 14 November 2023

Tentative list of episodes in Iberia/Italy

Hiya Professor, when will you be listing the revised episode count + interviews for us to look forward to when you're covering Renaissaince/Counter-Reformation thought in Iberia and Italy. 


Since we're a couple of episodes left of Renaissaince Britain. 

In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 14 November 2023


Oh yes, good point, I should put that up. I actually only just wrote the last Britain script (on Fludd) so this would be a good time to do so, I will get it up on the Blog soonish.

NK on 27 November 2023

Wait, where is this list of…

Wait, where is this list of upcoming episodes listed? I do like a good spoiler

Drew on 29 December 2023

Scrying mirror

Very interesting podcast and good timing for me to delve back into your monumentous series Peter! 

It happens that I've been doing quite a lot of research on Dee recently (for a potential novel rather than a movie...but close) and the Oxford based Elias Ashmole, who was also fascinated by Dee's library and tried to gather up its remnants. However being based in Oxford and also armed with a Bodleian readers card I found out about some very interesting connections between the Bodleian library and Dee's scrying mirror, which is in the British Museum. I found out that the Bodleian had acquired a codex through the donation of the Archbishop Laud which originated in Mexico, which had not long before been subject to the depredations of the Conquistadors. Somehow this clearly non-Christian document had come into the possession of the Archbishop and it must have been very valuable but around the same time there was also another import from the same region, which was a piece of highly polished stone used as a ritual object. It was this "mirror" rather than a crystal ball that Dee and Kelly relied on for their practice of scrying. As I mentioned it is available to view in the British Museum and even online:


In reply to by Drew

Peter Adamson on 29 December 2023


Wow, neat! Thanks for the correction - though I wonder if they also used a crystal ball? I am almost sure I remember reading that. But I'll change it for the book version to be on the safe side.

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